No aspect of Joburg’s early history – and probably the city’s contemporary life too – makes sense without understanding that the place rose up from a mining camp and is still fuelled by its beginnings. The landmark Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) is no exception, established by Florence Phillips in 1910, the wife of mining magnate Lionel after she sold off a blue diamond that he had given her.
The building that houses the gallery today first opened in November 1915 and was designed by prominent British colonial-era architect Edwin Lutyens to house an impressive Foundation Collection. While it cannot claim the title as the first gallery or museum in South Africa, or the first to exhibit work by living artists, it was unique at the time in bringing together contemporary European art in a custom-designed setting, in a colonial urban centre.
Over the decades the museum’s collection has continued to grow, although the decline in the area surrounding the museum has meant it does not hold quite the same prestigious location in the country’s artistic life as it did 100 years ago. However, a recent grant of R42-million has helped restore the building to former glory and the recently upgraded exhibition spaces are intended to allow for more of the museum’s impressive collection to remain on permanent display, attracting new visitors.
The gallery celebrates its 100th anniversary with six major exhibitions of precious artworks from the museum’s outstanding collection taking place concurrently.
(Picture: Works by William Kentridge are on display)
The JAG Centenary exhibition programme includes:
• South African art from 1940-1975
• Digital Underground: Taking up the entire basement level of the museum, this exhibition of contemporary digital art includes works by Mohau Modisakeng, Donna Kukama and William Kentridge.
• Moments In A Metropolis: In honour of the gallery’s urban location this exhibition is devoted to works on paper and photography that celebrate and interrogate city life including artworks by Sam Nhlengethwa, Ernest Cole, David Hockney and Richard Estes.
• Encore: Public favourites selected by the JAG curators.
• Pastoral Pieces: Significant objects from the gallery’s extensive African Traditional collection.
Pre-Raphaelites And Their Circle: A presentation of the museum’s large pre-Raphaelite collection, which includes Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s famous ‘Regina Cordium’.
* The Johannesburg Art Gallery is situated on Cnr Klein and King George Streets, Joubert Park.
Admission is free and free, secure parking is available in the Gallery grounds.
Call 011 725 3130 for more information.