Into the archives

There’s something about getting into not-so-public places that makes me as excited as a Jack Russell in a field of bunnies. (Shame, maybe that’s a bad example, I like bunnies.) This time around I didn’t have to ask (read: harass) a security guard or someone’s brother’s cousin’s friend to turn a ‘no go’ into a ‘yes go’.

The Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) in Joubert Park actually does tours of its archives on request. So, my friend, always willing side-kick and awesome artist, Maja Maljevic (the blurry ‘model’ above) and I made an appointment and headed over.

With close to 10 000 works on JAG’s books, there’s no way that all of its artworks can be displayed at the same time. The archive tour basically gives you a sneak peek into the works that aren’t on exhibition – from local and international contemporary pieces to African art and works by the Great Masters. Getting up close to them behind locked doors and a whole lot of security is just wow. And I mean this place has some amazing treasures – we checked out prints, paintings and sculptures.

Love the Claudette Schreuders shorts-wearing guy in the middle - he reminds me of my dad!

Only those wearing these special purple gloves can handle the prints and no flash photography is allowed hence the slight fuzziness but as this is an art-related write-up, I'm going to call it 'intentional' and 'for effect' - ha!

Visiting the gallery is a must do in any case – for the art on display and if you’re into all things Joburg, the sense of history. The gallery (the building will soon celebrate its 100th anniversary) was the brain-child of Lady Florence Phillips, the wife of a mining magnate. She didn’t take dinges from anyone in the dusty mining town that was Johannesburg in the beginning of the 1900s. In fact, it’s believed that she sold a gemstone given to her by her husband to start the collection!

Here’s a bit about her from a gallery brochure:
“Lady Phillips, spending each spring and summer of the early 20th century in Europe, became aware of the contrast between the cultural riches of the European capitals and the barrenness of Johannesburg. She resolved to enrich this mining town by giving it an art gallery. The collection was started circa 1910 and the gallery opened in 1915.”

Find out more about the gallery tours by emailing You can also like JAG on Facebook for the latest news or just go check out the latest exhibition – the address: corner Klein and King George streets in Joubert Park.

Outside the gallery.

Just a quirky angel detail in the architecture - and a reflection of a bit of new in the old.

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