New exhibits at Iziko (and some regular faves)

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New exhibits at Iziko (and some regular faves)

What to see right now at the South African National Gallery

If your memories of the South African National Gallery and Company’s Garden, the gorgeous, green public grounds that the gallery overlooks, are limited to school field trips and 50-cent bags of nuts to feed the squirrels, you’re missing out. 

The collection of classical and contemporary art at the gallery is updated frequently, so there’s always something new to discover. And spend a couple of hours in the gardens and you’ll soon remember why it’s a national treasure.



1. Disquieting domesticities, vestiges of violence (or the ghost in the house): An exhibit by the University of Johannesburg’s Professor Leora Farber, is a creation of bioart: the use of biomaterials such as bacteria in the art-making process. The biomaterials used in this exhibit also reference specific design styles from objects derived from Chinese porcelain, Dutch 'Delft Blue' porcelain, and English bone china, that mimic ‘impressions’ of objects that has been instilled into many post-settler colonies. You can catch this exhibit until May 2022. 


Photo by Michael Hall © Iziko Museums of South Africa

 2. Dream as R-Evolution: Artist Coral Bijoux looks at humans’ ability to converse about rethinking ideas of self and environment through engaging multiple art forms and materials, which provide a space to see the world from a different perspective. Bijoux's work also provokes imagining the world differently and self-introspection. Is there any other way for us to be human, she asks? The exhibit will be on display until May 2022.

Photo by Nigel Pamplin © Iziko Museums of South Africa

3. Tribute: The Tribute exhibit is an active display in the gallery where learners and teachers are able to engage with the art, intentionally chosen from the museum's Permanent Collection, to enhance the classroom experience. The exhibit will be on until the end of April 2022.




1. African Art: The African Art collection shows the diversity of South African culture over the past 200 years. The collection comprises works that were donated or repatriated and include mid-20th century beaded and traditionally engraved Nguni cattle horns depicting scenes from the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879.

2. Ceramics: The ceramics collection is home to  pieces from around the world, with a particular focus on Chinese works. As a celebration of South Africa’s history of ceramic making, the gallery launched the Fired exhibition in 2012, which showcases more than 200 ceramics, from the earliest pottery to latest contemporary works and focuses on local potters and ceramicists.



3. Contemporary Collection: The gallery’s contemporary collection is constantly changing. The  current collection dates back to the 1960s and 1970s and features mostly South African art. The collection is home to a number of famous works, including The Butcher, a sculpture by Jane Alexander, and other works by celebrated artists such as David Koloane, Marlene Dumas and Willie Bester.



The South African National Gallery, built from around 1914 to 1930, opened on 3 November 1930 to house paintings from the estate of Thomas Butterworth Bayley, a British magistrate, agriculturist and philanthropist. Seven years later, the building was expanded to make room for more art collections from several African, French, British and Belgian artists.

Today, the gallery is operated by Iziko Museums of South Africa, under which there are 11 in total, including the Bo-Kaap Museum and The Planetarium. It’s an enriching place of a wide variety of historical, modern, and contemporary art from different eras.

here’s more than 10 000 artworks in its permanent collection and an array of temporary collections that are exhibited on rotation through various themed programmes.

It's exhibits indigenous art, works on paper, textiles, beadwork, architecture, sculptures, paintings and photography from established and upcoming artists.

Photograph: Nigel Pamplin. © Iziko Museums of South Africa

The Company’s Garden, the public park where the gallery is situated, is equally historic. Originally planted in the 1650s it was fertile ground and used as a refreshment station for settlers taking a break from their sea travels.

You’ll find the Rutherford Fountain, which has been in the Company’s Garden since 1864. There’s also the oldest cultivated tree in the country, the 363-year-old Saffron Pear. Other highlights include the Ginkgo Tree, the Paddock Lane and the Lion’s Gate, which real lions used to lurk behind in the 1800s.

Photograph: Marla Burger. © Iziko Museums of South Africa


It's open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 5pm. On commemorative days such as Worker’s Day and Human Rights Day entrance is free. On regular days, adults pay R30, kids from ages 6–17 pay R15 and 5-year-olds and younger pay R5. Pensioners and students pay R15 and are eligible for free entry on Fridays if they provide valid cards. While school groups who book in advance pay R5 per student, groups who don’t book in advance will pay R8 per student.

Image by Nigel Pamplin. © Iziko Museums of South Africa

The Garden is home to an aviary of different types of birds. You’ll also find the legendary squirrels, pigeons, Egyptian geese, and herons roaming around. Or take a break at the Company’s Garden Restaurant. 


Take on more adventures with these 15 more inner-city gems to discover

Here are more options for things to do over the weekend

Just around the corner from the South African national Gallery is the Planetarium, which Africa’s most advanced digital dome

A little further on is the Bo-Kaap Museum

If you love museum in general, here’s our list of the most interesting in Cape Town

Did you know you get free entry to Iziko museums during Heritage Month  or about Museum night


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