Beyond the gallery: Unusual places to see art in Joburg

17 Jan 2024
Our weekly exhibitions round-up is your go-to guide for art in Joburg. For those who feel like a change of scenery from regular gallery spaces, there are plenty of opportunities to engage with the city's art beyond the gallery walls. From a sprawling park in the Cradle of Humankind to Africa's tallest building, we've put together a list of some unexpected places to get your art fix. For even more art outside the usual spaces, check out our guide to some of Joburg's best public art.


You'll feel immensely privileged to join the Art and Justice Tour at the Constitutional Court for an opportunity to view the incredible art collection belonging to South Africa's highest court. You are guided through the collection by members of the curatorial team and also get access to the private areas of the court that are otherwise never open to the public. The Constitutional Court Art Collection (CCAC) comprises more than 600 works: a collection both awe-inspiring for its breadth of media and diversity within each, and its confrontation of issues related to justice.
Norman Catherine’s ‘Speaker of the House’ (1989)
Norman Catherine’s Speaker of the House (1989) is part of the Constitutional Court's astounding art collection. Photo: CCAC.

Email to book a guided Art and Justice Tour, a bi-monthly event open to no more than 15 people, or visit the grounds of Constitution Hill to walk through the amazing art collection at your own pace.


An unlikely collaboration between contemporary sculptor Anton Smit and grafitti artist MARS can be found at Nelson Mandela SquareUrban Echoes is presented by Artyli Gallery, in which eight giant, Easter Island-inspired sculptures by Smit are given the full MARS treatment where old meets new. Smit's three-metre sculptures take their cue from the monumental statues known as moai, created between the 13th and 16th centuries by the inhabitants of Easter Island, a remote volcanic island in Chilean territory. Smit's been making work in this vein for more than 20 years. 
Look out for Anton Smit's collaboration with MARS at Nelson Mandela Square. Photo: Artyli Gallery.

"The idea was to take Smit's sculptures and give them an urban Joburg makeover," MARS tells us. "I did all the different forms of graffiti and street art on them, with some portraits in my own style." Although not based on anyone in particular, MARS's portraits call to mind quintessential Joburg characters. "I wanted them to resemble people you may know: quite fashionable, youthful and relatable, like people you'd see in Joburg's urban landscape." You can see the Urban Echoes installation in Nelson Mandela Square alongside other large-scale sculptures by Smit until May 2024


The meticulously landscaped, 15-hectare Nirox Sculpture Park in the Cradle of Humankind is a magnificent setting for a regularly changing collection of contemporary sculptures created by local and international artists. More than 50 permanent sculptures are scattered throughout the park, popping up beneath willow trees and among shady groves, lying in wait amid the rolling lawns, and emerging from the wetlands that meander through the space. It makes for a wondrous walk any time of the year. In winter, the park hosts its annual sculpture fair where even more temporary works are installed across the sprawling grounds. 
Willem Boshoff's Stone Circle is one of the permanent installations at Nirox Sculpture Park. Photo: Nirox Foundation.
Blending into its surroundings, Willem Boshoff's Stone Circle is part of Nirox Sculpture Park's long-term collection. Photo: Nirox Foundation.

Also on the premises, the Villa-Legodi Centre for Sculpture is a generative space for artists, curators, writers and cultural practitioners, and there are various project and exhibition spaces. The park is run by the Nirox Foundation, which has hosted more than 300 artists-in-residence since its inception including Io Makandal, Noria Mabasa, Jonathan Freemantle, and Serge Alain Nitegeka. Once you've taken it all in, wind your way back around to the dedicated restaurant And then there was fire. Describing itself as a "tapas café and farm table", the restaurant is the work of one of the co-founders of Che Argentine Grill (one of only two Argentine restaurants recommended by the Argentinian Embassy in South Africa) and focuses on flame-grilled dishes paired with lush salads. Bookings are essential. 


Ever wanted to sleep in a gallery? Two Joburg favourites, edgy Kalashnikovv Gallery and Pablo House boutique hotel, have teamed up for Gallery Nights – a more intimate encounter with art than we're used to. This clever collaborative project lets artists stretch their legs beyond the traditional gallery space. With eight rooms done up in total, they're all gorgeous. Works by Boemo Diale, Richard Hart, Io Makandal, Seth Pimentel, Maja Maljević, Nokukhanya Charity Vilakazi, and more grace the walls. All of these are up for sale too, so if you spot a piece you simply can't live without you have the option of taking it home with you. 
Eight rooms at Melville's Pablo House boutique hotel get an art makeover by Kalashnikovv Gallery. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket. 

Gallery Nights is on show at Pablo House in Melville over the summer months of 2024 and viewings are open to the public by appointment only; contact to arrange. Definintely book a table at the excellent on-site restaurant Pablo Dos Manos to round out your visit. 


This is the kind of place where your lunch counter on the terrace doubles as a ping pong table, where you will find a pinball machine in the conference room, and a DJ set on the rooftop. Adding to Rosebank's art gallery DNA, Radisson RED Rosebank is a consciously art-focused hotel. Until June 2024 the walls are alive with the vibrant portraits of Harare-born artist Tafadzwa Tega, and it's well worth seeing in person. Tega resides in Cape Town where he draws inspiration from his personal story of relocation in pursuit of new opportunities. The playful, neon-coloured exterior of Tega's work belies his reflections on the migration of culture, products and bodies from the African continent over the centuries.
See Tafadzwa Tega's striking work in-situ at Radisson RED Rosebank. Photo: Patrick King.

In front of the hotel, marking its space in the Oxford Parks precinct, a huge, red angel-wing sculpture made from old domestic irons by local artist Usha Seejarim has already become a major selfie spot. Use our guide to the wonderful district of Rosebank and make a day of your visit. 


There's more to The Leonardo in Sandton than its title as Africa's tallest building; it has an astonishing art collection too. Over 100 artists were commissioned to create works especially for the building and The Leonardo contains almost 1,500 unique artworks by African contemporary artists. At the entrance (where you'll be greeted by Sandton's most stylishly dressed doormen) look up at the immense chandelier work titled The Ancestor, a giant metal swirl constructed from half a tonne of glittering copper, brass and stainless steel, a reference to the City of Gold, the origins of Johannesburg. 
From trash to treasure, Mbongeni Buthelezi's repurposed plastic mural at The Leonardo. Photo: The Leonardo.
From trash to treasure, Mbongeni Buthelezi's repurposed plastic mural at The Leonardo. Photo: The Leonardo.

Inside the grand lobby, an impressive floor-to-ceiling mural by Mbongeni Buthelezi greets you at the entrance and stretches across a voluminous area leading up to the hotel reception area. Buthelezi's signature style of heating plastic to create an oil-painting-like effect represents a slice of South African history. There are specially commissioned pieces in the lifts and stairwells, inside the conference rooms, and in all of the apartment suites managed by The Leonardo. Among the many notable large-scale works that feature prominently in the reception area are sculptural works by artist Bronwyn Lace, an incredibly intricate hedge-like wooden sculpture by artist Winston Luthuli, and some breathtaking textile works.

Email to book a guided art tour of the building's contemporary art collection. It's a great way to start your visit before drinks or a meal at Aurum restaurant

Love to know what's happening in Joburg's art scene? Bookmark our weekly exhibitions round-up to stay in the loop.

Aurum at The Leonardo Sandton

The Leonardo (7th floor), 75 Maude St, Sandton Central


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