By Dave Mann
Johannesburg’s Keyes Art Mile, situated in the ever-expanding commercial and residential suburb of Rosebank, is fast becoming the art and design darling of the city. Known for its hub of galleries, shops and restaurants, as well as the regular Pantry Markets, Art and Design Saturdays, and Talking Art events, the Keyes Art Mile has become a popular hangout for Jozi’s young and old. If you’re not yet familiar with Keyes, here’s a rundown of what’s on offer.
Shelflife was first founded in Cape Town as a streetwear store. 10 years later, they opened their second physical store on the Keyes Art Mile. Shelflife are perhaps best known for their sneakers and clothing, but they also stock a wide range of graffiti and street art products, as well as books and magazines on the artform.
Okapi produces and sells high-quality, locally designed products, the majority of which are artisanal handbags and clutches. Founded by the painter Hanneli Rupert, Okapi has a global presence, and its store on Keyes is a stand-out on the strip.
On the design front, True Design provides a wide range of bespoke décor and interior design items through Kartell and Cassina, two stores under the True Design umbrella. Interior design-lovers can also browse the showroom of Anatomy Design, which focusses on bespoke products with crafted detailing. A vacant showroom reserved for pop-up stores and activations also sits along Keyes and has been home to various fashion and art-related pop-ups featuring emerging and established local designers and artists.
If you’re looking for a quick bite, BGR churns out burgers, fries, milkshakes and more. Their build-your-own burgers, however, are the main attraction. And if you’re in the mood for a sit-down meal, Milkbar is a firm favourite. Known for their great coffee and locally-inspired menu, Milkbar also has a well-stocked bar and regularly hosts live music events that spill out of their doors and onto the street.
If you’re more of a luxurious wine-and-dine type, the Trumpet Building’s own Marble restaurant should do the trick. The restaurant boasts an open-fire grill overseen by top SA chef David Higgs, lavish design, fine artworks from a host of local artists, and a balcony that’s perfect for sundowners.
And if you’re at Keyes so often that you’re practically a member, consider joining The MESH Club, a curated member’s club for entrepreneurs. But if members clubs aren’t your thing, you can always head through to their bar for after work drinks and bespoke cocktails.
In terms of galleries, SMAC is one of the highlights of the Keyes Art Mile. The gallery, which also has spaces in Stellenbosch, and Cape Town, has hosted a variety of shows from its collection of artists, including Asha Zero, Marlene Steyn, and Georgina Gratrix. The space is currently relocating to another venue within the Trumpet Building and is set to re-open this month. SMAC also features an impressive number of publications on sale at the front desk and their Saturday morning openings, which are never without a steady supply of mimosas, are also an excellent way to begin your day.
A building that’s been witness to the rapid change of Keyes and surrounds, Everard Read is something of a landmark in the area, having celebrated its centenary in 2013. In the late 70s, the gallery left the city centre, where it was first built, and established its new premises on the corner of Keyes and Jellicoe. The space itself is grand – vast rooms with high ceilings, wooden floors, and a number of secret gardens which see the gallery’s sculpture works spilling out onto the grass. Many will know the large-scale sculptures that occupy the top of Keyes, which also belong to the gallery, courtesy of artists such as Norman Catherine and Brett Murray.
Just across the way from Everard Read is its partner gallery, CIRCA. One of the most well-photographed galleries in the city, CIRCA has been called one of Joburg’s best examples of innovative architectural design. The gallery is split up into a small exhibition and front desk space on the ground floor, while its spiral walkway leads towards an expansive exhibition space further up. On the top of the gallery, which looks out onto a bustling main road and a view of the leafy suburbs, is another small gallery space which is used for workshops and lectures. Lastly, you’ll find the newest and most exciting addition inside the Trumpet Building: The Mixed Reality Workshop, or TMRW for short. The space was established to make existing, immersive and interactive digital technology more broadly accessible to both artists and audiences. The best example of this was Mary Sibande’s exhibition, A Crescendo of Ecstasy which opened earlier this year. Through a collaboration with Digital Foundry, Sibande’s well-known work ‘The purple shall govern’ was both expanded upon and given new life through a blend of installation and virtual reality.