With the biggest art scene on the continent, South Africa boasts three contemporary art fairs, and the much-anticipated Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art is set to open its doors next year. Of course, it’s the galleries that keep the industry afloat, and the country is peppered with cutting-edge spaces that are constantly on the lookout for new talent, and creating platforms for the country’s rich portfolio of artists.
We’ve rounded up seven of the best contemporary art galleries in South Africa.
With spaces in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, a jam-packed international fair schedule, and names such as William Kentridge Sam Nhlengetwa, Diane Victor and Clive van den Berg on their books, the Goodman Gallery is without a doubt one of the doyens of the local scene. Active since 1966, and not without its fair share of political controversy over the years, the Goodman continues to defend freedom of speech and opinion and to foster new and established talent alike.
Installation picture [Sam Nhlengethwa / The Past and the Present … Now is the Time / 2016]
Johannesburg’s Gallery MOMO has been pushing boundaries on the art scene since 2002, and recently expanded its presence to Cape Town. The gallery supports local and international young-and-upcoming talent through a residency programme, and also pursues its international presence by participating in art fairs around the world. Artists presented with Gallery MOMO constantly feature in international biennales such as Venice Biennale, Beijing Biennale, Havana Biennale, Lyon Biennale and many more.
Der Heilige Berg II Jonathan Freemantle 3 Dec. 2015 – 23 Jan. 2016, Gallery MOMO Cape Town
When WHATIFTHEWORLD first opened in 2008, the Cape Town gallery identified a group of young contemporary southern African artists who have, to a large degree, gone on to transform the South African art landscape. The gallery now continues to represent these established artists while beginning to nurture its second generation of young African based talent. What’s more, WHATIFTHEWORLD recently opened a new shared space in Johannesburg, together with Southern Guild, South Africa’s premier high-end design gallery.
Stevenson was founded in 2003, and has established itself with spaces in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and a list of cutting-edge artists such as Nandipha Mtambo, Zanele Muholi, Nicholas Hlobo, Penny Siopis and Serge Alain Nitigeka on its books. The gallery also prides itself in bringing international talent to South Africa, and has brought the work of artists such as Francis Alÿs, Rineke Dijkstra, Thomas Hirschhorn, Glenn Ligon and Walid Raad to South Africa, often for the first time.
Nicholas Hlobo, Sewing Saw, 8 December 2016 – 21 January 2017
SMAC Gallery opened in 2007 in Stellenbosch and quickly became known for presenting large, museum-quality modern and contemporary exhibitions. The gallery represents a number of established and emerging artists, both from South and abroad, particularly from other African countries. SMAC encourages international exchange by hosting and exhibiting well-known international artists, and organising artist residencies in Cape Town as well as exchange programmes, which provide opportunities for South African and African artists abroad.
David Krut Projects
David Krut goes well beyond the realm of a traditional art gallery, with exhibition project spaces, arts bookstores and print workshops in Johannesburg, Cape Town and New York. David Krut Print Workshop (DKW) produces fine art editions with William Kentridge, Diane Victor, Deborah Bell and a number of other prominent South African and international artists, and through their print workshops they aim to bring skills to the arts in South Africa.
Relative newcomers to the scene, the Joburg-based Kalashnikovv Gallery was established in 2013 in reaction to the prevailing “white cube” gallery concept in South Africa. The gallery is a hybrid space, that moves comfortably between being an independent artist-run space, a project space and a commercial gallery space. Kalashnikovv’s mission statement is to question the status quo and as such they ‘strive to create exhibitions and scenarios that will cause artists, curators and the public to question their own place in this ever-evolving art world.’ The formula clearly works, as the young gallery has recently opened up a second gallery, in Berlin, Germany.
“No Lack of Void / The Gulag Rim”, an exhibition of new works by Jason Bronkhorst and Andrew Kayser.