The Mother City of Cape Town, South Africa is well-known for its contemporary, eclectic and edgy atmosphere. The city is a place of remarkable beauty, with spectacular ocean and mountain scenery, and along with the lively streets of roaming creative folk, a thriving art scene. From graphic designers, tattoo artists, and painters to graffiti artists, sculptors, and contemporary designers, the city is bursting with inspiring ingenuity. Because Cape Town does host such an array of exquisite artwork, one list could not include them all, but in the meanwhile, here is a guide to some of the finest art galleries in the city.
1. What? Blank Projects
Where? 113 – 115 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock
When? 10h00-17h00 (Tuesdays), 10h00-13h00 (Saturdays)
The gallery was initially established by artists Liza Grobler and Jonathan Garham in a space as about as big as a janitor’s storage cupboard, but since its opening in Bo-Kaap in 2005, Blank Projects has since relocated to Woodstock to accommodate bigger crowds and displays. Garham wished to create an area in which artists could exhibit their work at no cost, allowing both emerging and established artists a place to develop and display. Blank Projects has hosted nine residents for international artists, as well as more than 60 projects and exhibitions. By now, plenty of aspiring Cape Town artists have already held their solo exhibitions in this lovely space, with each show being on for a month, showing the rest of the city their incredible talents that the public would most likely never have had the opportunity to view otherwise.
2. What? Luvey ‘n Rose
Where? 21 Rose Street, Bo-Kaap
When? 07h00-18h00 (Mondays-Fridays), 08h00-18h00 (Saturdays & Sundays)
This lively art salon is a hidden gem in Cape Town, providing a particularly unique and enchanting atmosphere for visitors – specifically those who enjoy art, coffee, and quaint old buildings. Luvey ‘n Rose acts as a coffee shop, an art gallery, an antique store, and an exhibition space. The idea is to make the experience of shopping for new art or antique furniture much more personal and consumer-friendly – this is achieved through displaying the pieces in a comfortable lounge setting as opposed to a sleek, impersonal gallery. Here, you can relax in one of the numerous seating areas on the ground and first floors, and you can purchase some delicious coffee and snacks from Deluxe Coffeeworks (the product suppliers), as well as fresh spring water, fruit juices and teas from TWG Tea Company. The top floor contains a studio, where both established and aspiring artists can display their works of art. A new resident is brought in each month, and if you’re in luck you’ll be able to meet the artist downstairs for a drink. Almost everything is for sale in Luvey ‘n Rose, including the owner’s bed! Luvey ‘Rose website
3. What? Iziko South African National Gallery
Where? 21 Rose Street, Bo-Kaap Government Avenue (off St John’s Street), The Company’s Garden
When? 10h00-17h00 (Daily)
This is the country’s premiere art museum, displaying exceptional collections of South African, British, French, Dutch, and Flemish art. These worldly pieces include intricate lithographs, etchings and some early 20th century British paintings. Modern artworks showcased in the gallery are chosen from many communities around South Africa, and change frequently to allow for a full programme of more than 8000 artworks, including temporary painting exhibitions, works on paper, photography, sculpture, beadwork, textiles, and even architecture. Museum’s historical and contemporary overview of South African art makes it a must-see for art enthusiasts travelling through Africa. Keep an eye out for the teak doors found in the courtyard, known as the Lieberman Doors – caved by Herbert Vladimir Meyerowitz, denoting the global wanderings of the Jewish people.
4. What? 34 Fine Art
Where? 160 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock (Second Floor of The Hills Building in Buchanan Square)
When? 10h30-16h00 (Tuesdays-Fridays), 10h30-13h30 (Saturdays)
Founded in 1997, 34 Fine Art has become quite famous, both locally and internationally, for the incredible quality of the artworks displayed on their walls. The spacious gallery features fine art by some of the foremost creatives of South Africa, with a constantly changing assortment of pieces in an array of media, including acrylic, oil, and sculpture. The local pieces by well-established artists, such as William Kentridge, Norman Catherine, Paul du Toit, Noria Mabasa, Willie Bester, and more, are only further complemented by a variety of artworks by international artists like Marlene Dumas and Japanese artist Takushi Marukami. Expect to be enchanted by the magic of 34 Fine Art, one of the most prominent artistic platforms of Cape Town.
5. What? WHATIFTHEWORLD
Where? Argyle Street (corner of Argyle Street and Albert Road), Woodstock
When? 10h00-17h00 (Tuesdays-Fridays), 10h00-14h00 (Saturdays)
Established in 2008, located in a decommissioned synagogue in a suburb of Cape Town, WHATIFTHEWORLD is an emerging gallery that has become a favourite destination amongst curators and collectors seeking out original African contemporary work. The incredible pieces displayed here include installations, drawings, sculpture, performance pieces, and much more. The gallery gives a voice to up-and-coming talents, encouraging critical debates within the local art community, and inspiring people to talk and discuss amongst each other. Most of the young, contemporary artists that have exhibited here have ended up transforming the South African art landscape, giving modern South African art fresh twists and takes.
6. What? Goodman Gallery
Where? 176 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock (Third Floor of Fairweather House)
When? 9h30-17h30 (Tuesdays-Fridays), 10h00-16h00 (Saturdays)
The Goodman gallery (also in Johannesburg) showcases modern South African art and concentrates on artists from Mzansi, greater Africa, and other countries that engage in African context. A broad array of artworks can be found here, including paintings, sketches photography, installations, and more. The Gallery has transformed into the foremost contemporary art establishment in the whole of Africa, and has featured at both Art Basel and Art Basel Miami since 2013. It now takes part in various art fairs all over the world, impressing with unique content in original styles. The Goodman Gallery also brings in international artists from time to time, to display alongside local artists which are only enhanced by their top-quality surroundings. Goodman Gallery Website
7. What? Stellenbosch Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery (SMAC)
Where? Church Street, Stellenbosch (First Floor of De Wet Centre)
When? 09h00-17h00 (Mondays-Fridays), 09h00-15h30 (Saturdays)
Situated in the picturesque town of Stellenbosch and one of the biggest commercial exhibition spaces in the Western Cape, SMAC offers a series of displays that aid in the procedure of reviewing South African art, focusing on the importance of historical and modern art movements in Mzansi. The gallery features work from local artists, as well as lesser-known pieces of contemporary abstract art, art of the protest era, and South African art of the post-war period. SMAC is passionate about local art and its history, and puts an emphasis on supporting and guiding international relationships through the facilitation of collaborative ventures with international artists, galleries and establishments. Expect to see everything from works on paper to paintings in this fascinating gallery, with exhibits changing every 2-3 months.
8. What? Stevenson Gallery
Where? 160 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock (Buchanan Building)
When? 09h00-17h00 (Mondays-Fridays), 10h00-13h00 (Saturdays)
This modern gallery, with branches in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, showcases a collection of both solo and group exhibitions, and concentrates on providing South Africa and its artists with access to the rest of the world via participation in international art fairs. The gallery also frequently features the work of overseas artists for their first South African exhibitions. One of the gallery’s foundations is its active publication programme that includes catalogues for plenty of its displays and artists. Stevenson has taken part in various art fairs all over the world, including Berlin, Paris Photo, Art Basel Miami Beach, and the Armory Show in New York. Stevenson Gallery Website
9. What? The Lovell Gallery
Where? 139 Albert Road, Woodstock
When? 10h00-18h00 (Tuesdays-Fridays), 10h00-14h00 (Saturdays)
The Lovell Gallery is a modern fine arts commercial gallery, dedicated to exhibiting serious, contemporary art pieces in a way that serves to inspire both understanding and appreciation. The gallery was started in 2009 as a small artist’s gallery by Tamzin Lovell. From its foundation until 2011, the area presented small solo exhibits of artists in Cape Town working in mediums of photography and painting. However, in June of 2011 the gallery moved to a bigger space, allowing an installation and sculpture into the programme, and later in the year a second floor to the gallery was added. The gallery concentrates on assisting art enthusiasts in becoming collectors, specialising in fresh, top-quality artworks by emerging local artists. This space makes contemporary fine art, encompassing everything from installations to paintings, available to collectors while it is still reasonably affordable. The main gallery boasts curated displays of both group and solo work, whilst the upstairs gallery (which can also be used for workshops, courses, and other events) is characterised by a broader range of quality.
10. What? Absolut Art Gallery
Where? Carl Cronje Drive, Bellville (Shop 43 in Willowbridge Shopping Centre)
When? 09h00-18h00 (Mondays-Saturdays), 09h00-17h00 (Sundays)
The Absolute Art Gallery in Bellville focuses on providing customers with great value for money. The owners of the gallery, Gerrit Dyman Senior and Junior, each have more than 30 years of experience in the art field that they put to good use. The gallery hosts a comprehensive variety of original, top-quality investment art by the South African masters (such as Irma Stern, Adriaan Boshoff, William Kentridge, and Pierneef, as well as emerging modern artists). It is here that you will be able to find exquisite landscapes and portraits, along with impressionist, abstract and decorative pieces. Showcased styles here include impressionistic, expressionistic, abstract, contemporary, decorative and African art. Art in oil, pastel, acrylic, charcoal, 3D and ceramic is available for purchase here.