i’m in Joburg at the moment on a spontaneous week long trip, and yesterday we visited the Johannesburg Art Gallery. it was quite an eye opening experience for me. JAG is situated in Joubert Park, right in the thick of inner city Joburg. which, to the uninitiated, is quite an intense part of town. it houses one of the largest collections of art in Africa, but only displays 10% of the work at any one time.

you’d think that an art gallery that has Rodin, Picasso, Kentridge, Monet, Boldini etc etc in its collection would be bustling on a Sunday. but we were the only people there. it is an extraordinary & beautiful place that seems to be falling apart at the seams. walking through it made me quite sad, but also hopeful that one day it will be restored to its former glory.

Johannesburg Art Gallery
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Johannesburg Art Gallery

16 Comments

  1. What a beautiful place, I love those kind of forgotten buildings, there’s something nostalgic and magical about them, like echoes of a splendorous past.

  2. Sazi Enicker Reply

    The JAG is a beautiful place with treasures in it. It is not so much of a forgotten building. I attended a discussion there a few months back as to how to restore the building, particularly the roof. It is also in a location that needs to be thought about carefully, e.g. how does it integrate better with the community and space that it’s in? (the high walls and fences create very much an us and them feeling), what identity does it have (an European style gallery in an urban African context), how does it attract more visitors and how can they get there (there is a BRT station right outside of the museum)? etc.

    Great to see you in Johannesburg!x

    • yes i am sure that there are so many things that need to be considered in order to revitalise it!

  3. It is such an incredible resource for the city of Johannesburg. So sad that it is so underutilised. I hear that apparently repairs are in the pipe works though….

  4. Brings back beautiful memories. I was born and raised in Joburg and used to visit that gallery quite often. I remember when they purchased their (FIRST) Picasso. It caused a huge scandal as it was so ‘modern’. An outrage ensued as I recall. :)

  5. Antoinette Murdoch Reply

    My name is Antoinette Murdoch and I am the head of JAG. Displaying 10% of the collection is international practice. First of all there is simply not enough space and secondly it is conservation practise to let artworks “rest” from exposure to light. The building is not forgotten and thousands of people pass through here monthly. There are active educational programmes even in spite of the fact that we have no Education Officer. The staff is committed to doing way more than what is in their job descriptions. While the fight with the “council” is ongoing (we have 25 frozen vacancies). We have been advertising the fact that you can take the Gautrain to Park Station and then grab the Rea Vaya bus to the gallery stop. Please make use of this convenience. The ceiling of the Meyer/Pienaar building has been an issue from the first day that the building was completed and Stephen Hobbs made some installations to draw attention to the problems that have been ignored by the “council” for 27 years. Subsequently money has been made available for renovations and these are eminent. Please contribute. Invite your friends to the current exhibition.

    • hi Antoinette. i realise that displaying only 10% of the collection is standard practice – i did not say anything to the contrary. i was merely relaying a fact to people who might not know anything about the gallery.

      i appreciate that you took the time to comment but i am quite puzzled by your defensive tone. this post is meant to highlight the beauty of the gallery and encourage people to go see it. my observations of the state of the building is not something that would go unnoticed by anyone who passes through it.

      i’m happy to know that there is a committed staff and art programmes available to the public, something i did not doubt to begin with.

      • Hi Miss Moss, Marianne Fassler and I have been reviving the FriendsofJAG over the last 18 months and am happy to report that the repair of JAG is well underway with the old regime gone and great support from the new city council and interim chief curators. Would love to take you around our summer exhibition “The Evidence of Things not Seen” that you can read about on our FoJ website.
        Eben Keun for the Friends of JAG.

  6. Antoinette Reply

    Not at all meant to be defensive, Just to explain the reality. I might have misinterpreted your piece as an accusation. Guess we just misinterpreted one another.

  7. Gary Peterson Reply

    I love the JAG. I own a building around the corner from it and I often pop in to see what’s going on there. I was there last week. Saddened to see that the wonderful space downstairs seemed so underutilised – perhaps it was between exhibitions. I wish it were possible to have more of a connection between the gallery and the park itself.

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