Two must-see South African art galleries | Tunde Folawiyo

Art enthusiasts such as Tunde Folawiyo may be familiar with many of South Africa’s art galleries; this country is home to an incredible variety of both traditional and contemporary artistic spaces. Two of its most well-known exhibition centres are the Johannesburg Art Gallery, and the Goodman Gallery.

Tunde FolawiyoThe former can be found in Joubert Park, and was opened to the public in 1915. The building, in and of itself, makes this gallery worth a visit ; created by the world-renowned architect Edward Lutyens, it is made of a series of 15 beautifully-designed exhibition halls, as well as an elaborate sculpture garden.

The woman who is credited with establishing the gallery is Lady Philips; having spent several months in Europe, she noticed that cities such as Rome, Paris and London were far more culturally rich than the cities of South Africa. Disturbed by this, she decided to take action, commissioning the construction of an art gallery in Johannesburg.

Over time, the gallery’s collection has expanded significantly; today, it contains 9,000 pieces of art, although just one tenth of these are displayed at any one time, with the remainder being kept in a storage facility. Most of the art here consists of Dutch paintings from the 17th century, South African pieces from the 19th century, and European works from 18th and 19th centuries.

Having visited South Africa many times, Tunde Folawiyo is aware of the Goodman Gallery. This space serves as a refreshing contrast to the Johannesburg Art Gallery, as it exhibits primarily contemporary artwork. Most of the pieces which you will come across here have been created by South African artists. The gallery was opened during the mid-sixties, by a woman named Linda Goodman, who wanted to encourage local artists to display their work, in spite of the restrictions presented by apartheid. Goodman arranged for the gallery to be involved in the 1985 exhibition, entitled ‘Art Against Apartheid’, which included artwork that rejected the regime.

Today, this space houses works by over 40 African artists, including David Goldblatt, Kendell Geers, and William Kentridge. Much of the art here reflects the debates and the issues being experienced by the country’s youth democracy, and as such, is likely to be of great interest to anyone who wishes to learn more about the current state of South Africa as a nation.

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