The original Lutyens building of the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) is officially one hundred years old in 2015, and the institution is planning a number of significant events and interventions to celebrate the auspicious occasion.
The building was designed by prominent British colonial-era architect Edwin Lutyens, and finally opened in November 1915 to house the magnificent Foundation Collection of the gallery.
Johannesburg Art Gallery
This collection had already been assembled by Sir Hugh Lane, and had been housed in temporary premises at the South African School of Mines in Eloff Street, Johannesburg.
While the Lutyens building was not the first gallery or museum in SA, 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.
The significant Foundation Collection is currently on show (until the end of May) at the gallery for the first time in many decades in its original setting. This show will surprise many with the depth and sophistication of the Collection, and forms a precursor to the Centenary celebrations of the Gallery building itself.
The Lutyens building has over recent times required major investment in maintenance and refurbishment. The Johannesburg City Council has now approved a grant of some R24m to ensure the building restoration work can be done in time to restore the building to its full glory, a suitable setting for not only the Foundation Collection of Hugh Lane, but the many contemporary and educational exhibitions the Gallery regularly houses.
World-renowned Johannesburg artist William Kentridge has just shown his most recent multimedia work The Refusal of Time in the Gallery. In addition to these individual shows by prominent contemporary artists, the Gallery houses semi-permanent collections of work by canonical South African artists like Jackson Hlungwane and Gerard Sekoto, as well as a substantial collection of art, artefacts and ritual objects from the rest of the African continent.
As part of its ongoing and vital place in the Johannesburg and South African arts community, JAG also has a varied and intriguing programme of international exhibitions running throughout its centenary year, all of which will be announced in due course.
The Gallery’s place in its local downtown location, as well as in the national and international art landscapes, is cemented, and the upcoming Centenary is one to be thoroughly celebrated and enjoyed in the magnificent building restored to its former glory.
The Johannesburg Art Gallery building is situated in Joubert Park, King George Street (between Wolmarans and Noord).
Admission is free and free, secure parking is available in the Gallery grounds.