Open studios – JHB

By Carol Brown – Curate.a.Space

After 2 years of low-key activity the Meta Foundation opened its doors to showcase the results of over 100 artists at the last weekend of May. What a triumphant return it was.

The 2 days were over subscribed and I can’t think of a single event held recently which had such an enormous and joyous following. The atmosphere was that of a carnival where the crowds spilled onto the streets to wait for next free shuttle which took them to each of the 7 studios. The sites visited were August House, Bag Factory Artists’ Studios, Ellis House, Living Artists’ Emporium, LAPA at Breezeblock Transwerke Studios and Victoria Yards.

Collectors mingled freely with students, tourists, art critics, children and I even saw the biggest and most elegant dog I have ever seen cross paths with the smallest in someone’s pocket. Anything Goes. The atmosphere was highly charged and equal to that of opening night at a large Art Fair. But it was not about the commercialism of the Art Fairs but rather the love of art and connecting with the artists all of whom were present and approachable.

The studios are home to a wide-ranging group of artists both South African as well as from other countries in Africa. There were sculptors, photographers, performance artists, textile artists and, although I spend a lot of time visiting art galleries and events, I was excited to encounter new artists as well as see the latest creations by well-known artists all of whom seem to have a renewed energy after the lockdown years.

I was so drawn into the event that 6 hours in the 4 floors of August House meant that it was time for refreshment so I never made the other venues except for catching a fish and chips and glass of wine at Victoria Yards where most of the participants ended up sitting in the sun and wandering around green and leafy garden and a few more studios to the sounds of local musicians.

Here’s hoping the organisers repeat this event but if you are coming to Joburg on an ArtRoute Tour we can organise a special appointment to visit the studios and experience the magical vibes hidden in the inner city.

Often gallery’s treasures are behind the scenes. As one recent American collector commented, ‘’they keep the best art for their offices’’ – indeed one of the pieces he liked most was behind the desk of director Charles Shields – an oil of the statue of liberty, called Construction by Nigel Mullins.

The fun is often in the store-rooms; a German art buyer spotted one of Nic Bladen’s intricate botanical sculptures just about to be shipped by Everard Read (they hope to find something similar for her soon). Another German art lover, amusingly commented whilst being showed the art back of house at Stevenson “so this is your pension fund”, a few moments later the quick witted gallerist commented ‘’this is the artist’s pension fund”.

Photos by El Herve

More about the event here: