Tour 13 artists' studios with Contra.Joburg 2024

24 Apr 2024
Visit 13 artist spaces across Joburg's City Centre and meet close to 170 working artists during Contra.Joburg 2024. The two-day festival is South Africa's biggest open studios event. Book tickets for Sat, May 25 and Sun, May 26.

Now in its third year running, Contra.Joburg (formerly OpenStudios.Joburg) is an arts festival unlike any other. A must for anyone interested in the inner workings of Joburg's art world, where instead of seeing a curated selection of finished works on gallery walls, you get to see directly where the magic and mayhem happen. It's a unique way to interact with the work of artists you're familiar with, and an exciting chance to discover new practitioners in their natural habitat – the studio space.

With a wonderfully packed two-day programme, Contra.Joburg celebrates Joburg as one of the world's art cities fuelled by a network of studio spaces throughout the City Centre. Each day of the fair focuses on a different route through the city, visiting a selection of the 13 participating studio spaces. Shuttle transportation included in the ticket price ensures you can navigate between artists' studios with ease.
Contra.Joburg is a unique art experience in the historic City Centre. Photo: Supplied.
Contra.Joburg is a unique art experience in the City Centre. Photo: Supplied.

For the 2024 edition, Contra.Joburg welcomes new spaces to its line-up including Oovookoo, WLM, and 11 Alexander Street. These newcomers join stalwarts August House and Bag Factory, two of Joburg's most prolific artists' studios with impressive alumni, as well as smaller-scale, but no less interesting spaces like Victoria YardsCreative Uprising Hub, and more.

Art buildings, spaces, or projects across Joburg's City Centre take centre stage in this year's edition of Contra.Joburg. Visitors are invited to meet the artists, interact with the works, and enjoy a programme of walkabouts, performances, and demonstrations. There will be live music at select venues and a dedicated kids' area with activities, making this a family-friendly art fair. 

Giving South Africans access to culture

Sara Hallatt is the co-founder and director of the META Foundation, a non-profit visual arts company and the force behind Contra.Joburg. As the manager of August House and director of the Bag Factory – one of South Africa's first collective artists’ studios – her experience working within Joburg's art studio space is extensive.

Contra.Joburg was born to give South Africans real and substantive access to culture. Hallatt believes that artists are the backbone of the economy in the City Centre, saying, "Not only do they work in a plethora of buildings that otherwise might be neglected, but they also develop a business economy around themselves through the service providers they hire. They bring energy into the city and literally leave their mark in the form of public artworks. The creative economy contributes to our GDP and our souls. We must not forget how important the consumption of culture is to the psyche of human beings." 

Meet the city's artists in their natural habitat during Contra.Joburg's two-day festival. Photo: Supplied.

Reflecting on Contra.Joburg's trajectory, Hallatt says, "In 2022, we welcomed more than 2,100 people to 11 spaces across the city, and gave visitors access to more than 100 working artists. As this event comes into its own in its third year, we are excited about our new branding and direction. We have moved from OpenStudios.Joburg to Contra.Joburg. We see this as a different kind of art fair. We are contra. This event is a celebration of culture in the city, and an opportunity for visitors to foster connections with the creative heart of Joburg." 

Art opposites attract 

While Contra.Joburg is your chance to see works-in-progress with the paint still wet on the canvas in the gritty city, few art experiences in Joburg are quite as refined as the RMB Latitudes art fair, which takes place at the magnificent Shepstone Gardens. Each supports access to markets for artists, but from opposite ends of the spectrum, the two art fairs are continuing their partnership for 2024. 

Shepstone Gardens provides the magnificent backdrop for RMB Latitudes. Photo: Alexander Smith.

RMB Latitudes has made a name for itself as one of the city's premier art experiences. It's an artist-forward fair celebrating the creative spirit of Joburg’s art world and creating new opportunities by connecting artists and galleries to buyers and the public. In addition to traditional art fair booths and galleries, curators and artists are encouraged to create their own unique exhibition spaces in response to the unexpected and intimate venue.

The 2024 edition of RMB Latitudes takes place from Fri, May 24Sun, May 26, coinciding with Contra.Joburg. While tickets for each event are sold separately, a shuttle will run between RMB Latitudes at Shepstone Gardens and Contra.Joburg's different venues in the City Centre. Book your tickets for RMB Latitudes here.

Meet 170 artists across 13 studio spaces at Contra.Joburg

This wide-reaching art fair lets you travel around Joburg's historic City Centre, encompassing 13 artists' studio spaces in a two-day programme. Here's the full line-up for this year's event, along with a few of the many participating artists to look out for.

Sat, May 15 from 10:30 – 17:00

An independent artist community sharing building space in Ferreirasdorp. Established in 2019 by Dorothee Kreutzfeldt and Nolan Oswald Denis, 11 Alexander offers studio space at an affordable rate to emerging and established artists with a meaningful desire to foster a creative community.

Post-Covid, an organic merging of artists from various backgrounds have found one another thanks to their platform and a strong community of practice has been brewing ever since. The black and white building with the special rooftop currently houses emerging and established artists, each working to uplift Johannesburg’s creative economy.

Participating artists are Bev ButkowMankebe Seakgoe, Nikiwe Dlova, Phumlani Ntuli, and Tamara Osso.

Based at 11 Alexander, Bev Butkow weaves fabrics and city stories. Photo: Anthea Pokroy.

A Joburg institution, Bag Factory is a non-profit contemporary visual art organisation in Newtown. With a pioneering 33-year history of providing a supportive infrastructure for artists, Bag Factory is unique in combining art-making with cultural debate and art exhibitions. The work of Bag Factory creates a fertile global environment for experimentation, innovation, and cultural dialogue between creatives in South Africa and the world. 
Bag Factory provides studio space to a cross-generational community of Johannesburg-based artists and hosts prestigious international artist and curator residency programmes. They also offer artist and curatorial skills development workshops through the annual Young Womxn Studio Bursary and the David Koloane Award. All programming is accompanied by a public programme encouraging greater understanding of contemporary visual art practice while stimulating interaction between artists and the local community.

Participating artists include Buqaqawuli NobakadaGail BehrmannJoe TurpinKagiso Pat Mautloa, and Nadine Mathenjwa.

A slice of Bag Factory resident artist Buqaqawuli Nobakada's studio life. Photo: Buqaqawuli Nobakada.
A slice of Bag Factory resident artist Buqaqawuli Nobakada's studio life. Photo: Buqaqawuli Nobakada.

The Queen Victoria Hospital heritage Art Deco building has been transformed into the Creative Uprising Hub (at Transwerke). Creative Uprising Hub offers makers and visual artists affordable office spaces and runs programmes to support enterprises from a market access, business, and product design perspective. The Hub aims to form a network that will drive the growth of creative industries in the province, providing more jobs, education, and opportunities.

Participating artists and makers include The Arts Company SowetoBlvck Block, Homegrown ShandisNazo Arts, and Shemet Jewellery.
An old Art Deco hospital is home to a creative uprising in Joburg's City Centre. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket.

Grayscale was the first Johannesburg gallery to represent alternative street and previously considered 'lowbrow' art forms. Founded by three graffiti artists including local legend Rasty Knayles, it provides a platform for young emerging artists with backgrounds in graffiti and street art, illustration, tattooing, and other sub-culture-based art. For Contra.Joburg there will be an exhibition, a street art tour, and live graffiti.

Participating artists are Ali Bate, Chow Mein Tattoos, Rekso Le Hond, Rasty Knayles, and Stew.

A niche property development company spearheading culturally-driven urban transformation in Johannesburg. Play Braam is headed by Adam Levy, and the company focuses on creating unique and aspirational environments using commercial space. By doing so, they connect people, showcasing art and creative talent, and transforming spaces into key city attractions. Several spaces fall under their purview, including a new set of artist studios at 7 De Beer Street.

Founded in 1887 in the fledgling days of Johannesburg, Rand Club is the city's most enduring social institution and finest heritage venue. Celebrate the history of the city while experiencing the creativity within its walls. Access members-only areas of the club during Contra.Joburg, like a portion of the First Rand Art Collection, as well as David Tlale's studio.
South African artist Philip Bawcombe, depicts the entrance to the Rand Club.
A piece from the First Rand Art Collection, South African artist Philip Bawcombe depicts the entrance to Rand Club. Photo: Rand Club.

This new Marshalltown space partakes in Contra.Joburg with Express: On, an experimental exhibition curated by Khaya Madungandaba for emerging and established artists. 

Participating artists include Mncedisi King Nkosi, Sakhumzi MngomeniTumisho RamokonyanaBongani Khumalo, and Olwethu Mashinini.

Sun, May 26 from 10:30 – 17:00

Asisebenze Art Atelier is a gallery space, artists' studios, and art dealership in the heart of the Johannesburg City Centre. Since 2021, the atelier has holistically embraced its environment and the cosmopolitan identity that accompanies it.

Participating artists include Fumani MalulekeMbali Tshabalala, Stephen LangaTawanda MuAfrika, and Zamani Xaba.

Stephen Langa in studio. Photo: Thokozani Arthur Dlamini.
Asisebenze resident artist Stephen Langa joins Contra.Joburg's roster. Photo: Thokozani Arthur Dlamini.

An exclusive art building in Johannesburg’s City Centre, August House is home to more than 40 independent, pan-African contemporary artists in private art studios. Known as ‘The Artists’ Playground’, this 1940s light industrial warehouse space is the site of the largest artist community in Joburg and perhaps South Africa.
In 2024, August House celebrated 18 years as a well-established, local and international contemporary African artists community. Started as an enclave for artists in 2006 by Bie Venter and Maria Svane, its notable tenants have included artists Mary Sibande, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Lawrence Lemaoana, Mbongeni Buthelezi, Gordon Froud, Gabi Ngcobo, Kudzanai Chiurai, and Nicholas Hlobo. The space continues to thrive, even as the city outside undergoes change.

Participating artists include Blessing BlaaiItumeleng Koloko, Lindo ZwaneSamantha Impumelelo, and Solomon Omogboye.

Detail of City View II by Blessing Blaai, who has his studio at August House. Photo: Blessing Blaai.
Detail of City View III by Blessing Blaai, who has his studio at August House. Photo: Blessing Blaai.

Established in 2012 by Ian Blacher, this light industrial warehouse – previously a textile factory – has been transformed into private studio spaces. Ellis House is home to more than 30 artists as well as The Labyrinth Project, a platform for artistic exchange and interdisciplinary experimentation. Ellis House features multiple exhibition and workshop spaces, audio-visual facilities, and prides itself on its artist-led creative programming.

Participating artists include Cassius KhumaloPhumzile ButheleziSiyabonga MlambiKeke Nkadimeng, and N'Lamwai Chithambo.

Siyabonga Mlambi transforms recycled car tyres into vibrant artworks. Photo: Siyabonga Mlambi.

Known to many as LAE, Living Artist Emporium is a creative project space and contemporary art gallery providing a platform for artists to create and exhibit work. A lack of resources, artistic guidance, and direction are all factors faced by emerging artists. LAE addresses these challenges by providing the necessary infrastructure, studios, and exhibition channels enabling artists to build their careers. LAE seeks to create new ground in the art industry by offering high-quality contemporary art as an investment for the future and the opportunity to invest in the early stages of an artist’s career.

Participating artists include Conrad BoNisty ChathaBen TugeKelvin Dube, and Pro Thusi.

Meaning 'uprising', Oovookoo is a hybrid studio-gallery space in Village Deep that provides affordable and accessible spaces for creatives to work out of. 

Participating artists include Reginald Teys, Ramotoana Richard MokgommeSolomon MugutsoFrans Thoka, and Samkelo Matomela.

This uniquely integrated urban complex is as much about social development as it is a commercial enterprise. A market space, events venue, and a collection of artisans and artist studios set among edible gardens, Victoria Yards seeks to inspire, educate, and provide an uplifting space for visitors and tenants alike. 

Participating artists include Mandy ShindlerJames DelaneyDario ManjateSimone Marie Farah, and Arlindo Maunde.

You've spotted them at The Wilds, now see where James Delaney's whimsical creatures have their origin at his Victoria Yards studio.
You've spotted them at The Wilds, now see where James Delaney's whimsical creatures are made at his Victoria Yards studio. Photo: James Delaney.

Navigating the festival

From 10:30 on Sat, May 25 and Sun, May 16, a shuttle service will operate from every venue on the line-up. The service is designed as a hop-on-hop-off shuttle with two loops – in both a westerly and an easterly direction – allowing visitors to seamlessly move from space to space. Shuttles depart every 20 minutes. The last shuttle will depart from its space at 17:00 and will complete one loop. After that, guests will need to make personal use of e-hailing services.

On both days, the shuttle service will also connect to the RMB Latitudes art fair at Shepstone Gardens. On Saturday, Transwerke at Constitution Hill will be the hub for transport to the fair, and on Sunday, the shuttle will run from Victoria Yards.

For visitors travelling by car, see all parking options available here

Food and drinks will be on sale, with different studios offering different catering options. Note that no outside alcohol, beverages or food are permitted to be brought into any of the venues. 

Security will be on-site at all venues, ensuring a safe and hassle-free experience for all. 

Book tickets for Contra.Joburg 2024

All in all, this is an immersive, two-day art experience you don't want to miss. Buy your tickets for Contra.Joburg on Sat, May 25 and Sun, May 26. For more, visit Contra.Joburg's website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram


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