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Johannesburg Art Gallery - Johannesburg

johannesburg art galleryThe Johannesburg Art Gallery is an art gallery located in Joubert Park, in the central business district of Johannesburg, South Africa. The building was designed by Edward Lutyens and consists of 15 exhibition halls and sculpture gardens. It houses collections of 17th century Dutch paintings, 18th and 19th century British and European art, 19th century South African works, a large contemporary collection of 20th century local and international art and a print cabinet containing works from the 15th century to the present.

The core functions of the Gallery are to collect works of art-historical importance, conserve them, display permanent and temporary exhibitions, and educate the public around these. It is committed to preserving and providing access to our national heritage and giving due recognition to South Africa’s neglected artists through its exhibitions, publications and education programmes.

The initial collection was put together by Sir Hugh Lane, and exhibited in London in 1910 before being brought to South Africa. Florence, Lady Phillips, an art collector and wife of mining magnate Lionel Phillips, established the first gallery collection using funds donated by her husband. Lady Phillips donated her lace collection, and arranged for her husband to donate seven oils and a Rodin sculpture to the collection. The current collection includes works by Auguste Rodin, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Pablo Picasso, Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Henry Moore, and South Africans such as Gerard Sekoto, Walter Battiss, Alexis Preller, Maud Sumner, Sydney Kumalo, Ezrom Legae and Pierneef. It also houses an extensive collection of the work of contemporary local artists.

The Johannesburg Art Gallery collection was opened to the public in 1910, before the gallery itself had been built, and was housed at the University of the Witwatersrand. The architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, came to South Africa in 1910 to examine the site and begin the designs, after Lady Florence Phillips had secured funding from the city for a purpose-built museum. The building was built with a South-facing entrance, but was not completed according to the architect's designs - no part of the museum was broken down to let in the light. It was opened to the public, without ceremony, in 1915 - just after the start of the First World War. The gallery was extended during the 1940s with East-West wings along the South galleries according to the Lutyens' design. The present North facade and galleries were constructed during the 1986/7 extension.

In recent times the Gallery has undergone rejuvenation under the directorship of Clive Kellner. The museum’s ongoing strategy is to attract audiences and it has made sustained efforts to improve the facilities, and to upgrade the building and security. As a major focus of urban regeneration programmes, the gallery provides the base for the Joubert Park Public Art Project and is developing links with awareness groups and community centres based in the surrounding urban area. The Johannesburg Art Gallery was voted Best Gallery in 2004, 2005 and 2007 in The Star Readers’ Choice Awards.


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