Joburg itinerary: Artist studios you need to visit

more than a year ago

As you move through Johannesburg, its contradictory layers and histories become evident. We believe that if you want to get a fuller picture of the city, you need to get up close with the creative energies held within its concrete boundaries. The best way to do this is to visit the places where creation, and often magic, happens. For us it's found in the many artist studios dotted across Jozi. 

Home to some of Joburg's most ground-breaking, sometimes controversial, and ever innovative art-making, these are nine studios you need to visit. While many are open by appointment only or on select open days, this year's OpenStudios.Joburg offers a unique opportunity to see all nine in one weekend. Plus, it's a chance to buy art directly from the artists. 

Find out more about this immersive event taking place on Sat, May 27 and Sun, May 28 here. Different studios will be open on these two days, so be sure to book when you want to attend. On each day, there will also be a shuttle service available. The shuttles operate in two loops as a hop-on, hop-off service and should be available every 15-20 minutes. There is a shuttle available at every participating venue, and the first shuttle will leave at 10:30am. The last shuttle will leave its venue at 4pm and do one complete loop.

Being an ardent supporter of the city's creative economy, Johannesburg In Your Pocket is once again a media partner for this event, so, here's a rundown of the studios that'll be participating during OpenStudios.Joburg 2023

Asisebenze Art Atelier Studios

MADMadolo's works-in-progress for OpenStudios.Joburg 2023 at Asisebenze Art Atelier Studios.

Asisebenze Art Atelier Studios at 28 Plein Street, in the wild heart of Hillbrow with its multitude of traders and taxis, host a range of artists who are as dynamic as the city they create in. With a gallery, studio space and art dealership, Asisebenze extends their mission of fostering innovative art and focusing on creating an environment for artists to thrive. A few of the artists currently in residence are Siphamandla Ex, Stephen Langa, Mbali Tshabalala, and Fumani Maluleke, amongst others. This venue has underground, secure parking, and shuttles will drop and collect visitors from the parking entrance on Sun, 28 May

August House

Learn about the image-making process from the artists at August House.

August House in Doornfontein used to be an industrial warehouse, but now it's home to the studios of 48 artists from across South Africa, the continent, and the world. With five storeys of private art studios, it's the city's largest artist studio space. Inside you'll find a warren of studios, small and large, and a dynamic community of new artists and more established names living and working together, sometimes as neighbours and friends, and often as established art collectives, too.

Some of the most in-demand contemporary artists currently working from August House include Lindokuhle Zwane, Fathema Bemath, and Terence Maluleke, all of whom have shown at South Africa's most prestigious galleries.

Open studio days at August House present an opportunity to dive right into the artistic process, and to buy art directly from the artists. As you wander around you'll invariably be invited in to pull up a pew inside an artist's studio, perhaps with a cup of wine, and engage with their inspirations. On open studio days there's also always entertainment adding to the atmosphere, be it a performance, live music or afternoon drinks on the rooftop with a view of the city.

August House has limited on-street parking outside of the studio, but on Sun, 28 May, visitors can use the underground parking space at Access City (located at Gate 1, Lower Ross Street, Doornfontein). If you choose to park in the underground parking, you can then use the shuttle to come to August House.

Bag Factory Artists’ Studios

Kagiso 'Pat' Matloua chats to visitors about his paintings.

One of South Africa's first collective artists’ studios, Bag Factory, launched in 1991 in an old factory in colourful Fordsburg, on the edge of the inner city. Since its inception the non-profit artist studio's aim has always been to provide a supportive infrastructure and inspiring space in which artists from an array of backgrounds can thrive.

Over the years Bag Factory's 18 studio spaces have fostered the talents of some of South Africa's most celebrated contemporary artists. A strong affinity to the studio's ethos often sees these famous alumni returning to mentor new artists or to donate works to be sold in the annual fundraising Salon Sale. The hall of fame is an impressively long roster of names that includes artists such as co-founder David Koloane, Sam Nhlengethwa, Kagiso Patrick Mautloa, Mmakgabo Helen Sebidi, Tracey Rose, Kendell Geers, Lady Skollie, Blessing Ngobeni, and Bronwyn Katz.

An emphasis on collaboration and regular international artists' residencies means there's always something different to see, with each artist free to express themselves across their studio space in print, paint, sculpture, light, sound, or any medium takes their fancy. Resident artists are drawn here from across the country and beyond so there's an intriguingly broad mix of themes to explore, from feminism to the environment; consumerism to spirituality. Debate and cultural dialogue between artists and audiences is encouraged, and a visit is not only an opportunity to discover new art, but also to engage in thought-provoking conversations.

Located at 10 Mahlatini Street, Fordsburg, you are welcome to park outside on the street on Sat, 27 May. The shuttles will collect and drop visitors at the main entrance to the building.

The Creative Uprising (at Transwerke)

Learn about printmaking with TACS at the Creative Uprising Hub (at Transwerke).

What was once the Queen Victoria Maternity Hospital and then flats for Transvaal provincial staff, is now Constitution Hill’s Creative Uprising Hub (at Transwerke). Inside Transwerke’s unassuming walls, more than 60 visual artists, makers, artisans and supporting organisations are creating and changing the landscape of Johannesburg.

You'll be left with a charge of energy after visiting. In a place where few spaces foster the freeing environment needed for culture to thrive, The Creative Uprising Hub (at Transwerke) offers a glimpse of a city where community, creativity and autonomy are prioritised. We’re excited to see how the hub continues to develop.

On Sat, 27 May, park in the underground parking at Constitution Hill. From there is it a short walk down to Transwerke. The shuttles will collect and drop visitors at the main entrance to the building.

Ellis House

Ellis House during OpenStudios.Joburg 2022.

Ellis House Art Studios is a five-storey building housing a mix of emerging and established artists. Established in 2012 by Ian Blacher, Ellis House is home to over 30 artists as well as The Labyrinth Project: a platform for artistic exchange and interdisciplinary experiment. Ellis House features multiple exhibition and workshop spaces and audio-visual facilities. With all programming being artist-led, it offers unique ways of engaging with the works created within its walls.

On Sun, 28 May, visitors can park on-street at 23 Voorhout St, Bertrams. The shuttles will drop and collect visitors from the main parking entrance to the studio building located in Dawe Street.

Lilian Road Studios

Lilian Road Studios captured by 2summers.

Lilian Road Studios was established in Fordsburg for career artists, writers and filmmakers to have a space to create freely. The historic property is unassuming from the outside, but inside it's a heady mix of creative energies that you need to experience in-person. This is a space where you can encounter the work of Gordon Froud and Ada-Ruth Kellow, among others. On Sat, 27 May, visitors can get to know the studios of nine artists from a variety of cultural and international backgrounds. The studios are also within walking distance of Fordsburg's busy market square, one of the city's the best (and most flavourful!) budget food attractions. 

Lilian Road Studios is located at 38 Lilian Road, Fordsburg. On Sat, 27 May, there will be on-street parking with a car guard on hand. The shuttles will collect and drop visitors at the main entrance to the building.

Living Artist Emporium

Living Artists Emporium's walls burst with colour for their open studios.

One of the most novel art spaces, the Living Artists Emporium (LAE) is located in the historic tennis club at Ellis Park. In a world of conformity and over-seriousness, LAE is a refreshing antidote with its humorous and avant-garde approach to art. “Send us the rules of art and we will break them” is LAE’s motto. In their founding ethos, the studio explains that they decided to follow their own path by pushing the boundaries – and breaking any supposed 'rules' of art that is prescribed to them. "Today there are so many new and diverse ways of artistic expression that we asked the question of what the rules of art are, and who is making them?" reads their manifesto. 

The focus is firmly on supporting emerging artists on their journey towards becoming successful full-time artists, by providing space and materials to create their art, and a gallery to display and sell their works. If you are looking to support an artist in the early stages of their career, this is a welcoming, fun, and rule-breaking space to visit.

Located at Bertrams Road, corner Miller Street at the Ellis Park Tennis Club, New Doornfontein, this venue has ample safe, off-street parking. On Sun, 28 May, the shuttles will collect visitors from the main entrance of Living Artists Emporium.

Play Braamfontein

Okay Now Studio at Play Braamfontein.

Play Braamfontein is best known for The Playground Market, but aside from being a stop for good food, drinks and music, the building on Juta Street houses artist studios and pop-up exhibitions throughout the year. As the team at the forefront of shaping Braamfontein's future, Play Braamfontein's artist studios provide young and emerging artists with the opportunity to expand their practise within one of the city's most interesting neighbourhoods.

Play Braamfontein is a precinct, but on Sat, 27 May, everything will happen at the intersection of Juta and De Beer Streets, Braamfontein. Parking is limited, so Ubering is recommended. The shuttles will collect and drop visitors at the corner of Juta and De Beer Streets. 

Victoria Yards

Go behind the scenes at Victoria Yards.

Once a derelict complex of light industrial buildings, this sprawling site in Lorentzville in eastern Joburg has undergone a spectacular re-imagining. Underlying this development was the vision for a complex of makers, artists and artisans, that has infused new life into this gritty neighbourhood. Located between the Maboneng Precinct and Cyrildene's Chinatown, a commitment to greening the area has resulted in a lush, urban garden, perfect for winding your way amongst the artist studios and galleries, retail and food tenants, and regular open day vendors, who all call Victoria Yards home.

The landscape and tenants at Victoria Yards are constantly changing which makes each visit one to look forward to. A few of the artists and makers currently calling it home are James Delaney, Hannelie Coetzee, and visual alchemists the Magolide Art Collective. You can visit them monthly during First Sundays, or hop on the shuttle to enjoy all the studios participating in OpenStudios.Joburg.

Located at 16 Viljoen St, Lorentzville, there is limited off-street parking. Once that is full, there is on-street parking available. The shuttles will collect visitors from the main parking entrance on Sun, 28 May.

Looking to do more Joburg exploring? Click here for more of our itineraries.


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