Exploring Cape Town’s artistic side is every bit as exciting as it is thrilling. Arguably the creative capital of South Africa, Cape Town’s vibrant creative energy and open-minded approach to all things artistic has transformed it into the ultimate mecca for artists and creatives from around the world. It’s therefore no surprise that people travel from all corners of the globe to witness the Mother City’s bold, boisterous and captivating artistic pursuits in action.
Boasting an incredible wealth of galleries showcasing a variety of genres by artists from across the continent, there really is something for everyone to admire and enjoy. Here are some of the top art galleries in Cape Town that will without a doubt capture your creative soul and art-loving heart and keep you coming back for more:
Zeitz MOCAA Museum of Contemporary Art Africa
Named one of TIME Magazine’s Top 100 destinations of 2018, Zeitz MOCAA Museum of Contemporary Art Africa is a true artistic and architectural stroke of genius. Boasting the largest display of contemporary African art in the world, Zeitz MOCAA spans over 9 floors and is home to over 100 galleries situated within the museum dedicated to displaying art from more than 50 African artists. This iconic Cape Town gallery also includes German-born businessman Jochen Zeitz’s renowned private collection of African artworks and installations, as well as cutting-edge contemporary art from around the continent.
With its glorious artistic display, the building within which the Zeitz MOCAA is housed truly is a work of art itself. Built in 1921 the Grain Silo is an icon of the Cape Town Skyline and hast fast become one of the main attractions in the city. The architectural design of the Grain Silo not only pays tribute to its original industrial design, but has established itself as one of the leading not-for-profit cultural institutions in the world. Housing the most significant collection of contemporary art from Africa and beyond, the Zeitz MOCAA is without a doubt one of the top art galleries to visit in Cape Town.
Michael Stevenson Gallery
Located in Buchanan Square in the trendy and artistic suburb of Woodstock, the Michael Stevenson Gallery is considered as one of the most respected contemporary galleries in the country. Boasting perfectly curated international collections in a unique industrial setting, this top Cape Town gallery is known to draw art lovers from all around the world.
Th gallery is taking the local art scene by storm with its creative spaces in both Cape Town and Johannesburg, and it has certainly positioned itself as a leading contender in the global art world too. Participating in Frieze New York, Art Basel, Frieze London, Paris Photo and Art Basel Miami Beach, it is one of South Africa’s most internationally acclaimed galleries.
Another top Cape Town gallery is the Eclectica Contemporary that is situated close to the vibrant and culturally diverse neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap. This incredible art gallery prides itself on showcasing a carefully selected and focused collection of African art that is both thought-provoking and raw. Positioning itself as an African gallery with an international vision, it aims to both celebrate the diversity and depth of art making on the African continent, while contextualizing it for a growing global market. This beautifully laid out gallery offers solo shows and group shows as well as experimental and project-based exhibitions. Therefore, offering something for every art lover to enjoy.
Known as one of South Africa’s leading contemporary art galleries, this exciting space represents a diverse group of both local and international artists. SMAC gallery was established in 2007 in Stellenbosch and has since expanded to its current flagship space in the trendy Cape Town neighbourhood of Woodstock. SMAC prides itself on offering its visitors a broad selection of artwork from artists at various points in their career. You can therefore expect exciting contemporary pieces from emerging local up and comers as well as awe-inspiring collection from established international artists.
In addition to its contemporary programme, the gallery regularly presents large-scale historical exhibitions and projects that offer a critical re-evaluation of South African art history within a global dialogue. It has also participated in art fairs such as The Armory Show, artmonte-carlo, Artissima, Art Brussels and Miart.
With a great deal of focus on local talent, Gallery MOMO represents a growing number of international and locally based contemporary artists. With a focus on African art and art from the diaspora, Gallery MOMO has developed a strong creative and intellectual platform for showcasing a substantial portfolio of South African, continental and international contemporary art.
Apart from establishing itself as one of Cape Town’s top art galleries, it is known to offer their visitors the very best combination by supporting both up-and-coming local artists as well as internationally acclaimed collections. The fact that it is located in the buzzing inner city on Buitengracht Street also means it’s a regular fixture on the First Thursday itinerary.
Iziko South African National Gallery
The Iziko South African National Gallery is one of the oldest galleries in the country as well as one of the foremost art museums in South Africa. Located in Cape Town’s leafy Company Gardens with Table Mountain as the backdrop, this Cape Town art gallery has become one of the Mother City’s main attractions and a fan-favourite amongst locals and tourists alike. Featuring a variety of artwork from acclaimed local and international artists as well as a large collection of South African, British, French, Dutch and Flemish art, there truly is something for everyone to enjoy and admire.
This iconic Cape Town gallery also operates on a regularly changing schedule in order to allow for temporary exhibitions of paintings, works on paper, photography, sculpture, beadwork, textiles and architecture. While Iziko South African National Gallery is one of the top galleries to visit in Cape Town, the beautiful Company Gardens is also great for picnics and a family day out exploring the Mother City.
Christopher Moller Gallery
Situated in the charismatic and cool neighbourhood of Gardens, the Christopher Moller Gallery offers visitors a tranquil artistic escape. It truly provides visitors with a peaceful, contemplative environment to admire the remarkable collection of fine art housed within. It’s also known to host regular exhibitions and participates in both local and international art fairs. The gallery features a collection of contemporary art, and specialises in art from the African continent. It also strives to build and foster relationships between the artists and clients; thus, making it a more personalised and intimate experience. In addition to showcasing an exceptional collection of paintings, sculptures and photography, the building is also located on a heritage site in the heart of the Cape Town city bowl. This adds an extra authentic element to an already incredible artistic experience.
Goodman Gallery is one of the most distinguished and longest-standing international contemporary art galleries. It is also regarded as one of the most renowned galleries in the country due to its support of resistance art during the Apartheid era. The gallery has certainly continued to forge the path with its bold and impactful artistic displays. It also focuses on contemporary art within the African context by both local and international artists.
Goodman Gallery prides itself on working with artists who are contemporary, influential and strive to shift perspectives and engender social transformation. It is therefore known to provide artists with a platform to explore territory such as unequal power structures and socio-political constructs. Many of which have been exhibited in South Africa at the Goodman Gallery for the first time.
Tucked away in the pedestrian walkway on Church Street in the Central Business District, Worldart is another one of Cape Town’s top art galleries. Known to showcase some of the country’s best young talent, this captivating Cape Town gallery boasts a collection that features mainly contemporary urban and street art by local artists. It thereby introduces a fresh perspective to Cape Town’s artistic landscape. Worldart also holds regular events and artist showcases to be enjoyed by the public and specialises in sourcing unique pieces for collectors around the world. While it might be smaller than some of its other art gallery contenders, this gallery is definitely one to watch.
34FineArt is known for regularly showcasing some of the city’s most cutting-edge artwork by the country’s best local artists. While this top and trendy Cape Town gallery places a great deal of focus on providing local artists with a great platform to showcase their work, it includes an incredible selection of international artists too. It has also featured noteworthy artists like Esther Mahlangu, Asha Zero, Jade Doreen Waller, Norman Catherine and Mr. Brainwash, to mention just a few.
34FineArt is located in Buchanan Square and is certainly one of the most cutting-edge and on-trend art galleries in the Mother City. The works on display take on many forms and cover a variety of genres, but all are thought-provoking, moving, inspiring and in some cases even entertaining. Thereby ensuring an artistic adventure you won’t soon forget!
The Cape Gallery
The Cape Gallery is one of the oldest galleries of its kind in Cape Town and therefore an absolute must-visit for any art enthusiast visiting the Mother City. Situated on Church Street in the heart of the old city off the Church Street walking mall and flanked by the colourful Georgian and Dutch facades built by the 18th and 19th century settlers, the Cape Gallery’s location is every bit as authentic as it’s artistic display.
Featuring the works of art that invoke Africa’s cultural identity, this beloved artistic gem pays tribute to the Cape’s history, culture and diversity. Central to the tradition of South African painting is the abiding love of the land, therefore much of the work here is in the form of classic landscapes paintings and sculptures. However, the recent emergence of Cape Town’s vibrant street art scene has added an essentially African character to the work on display.
One of Cape Town’s younger art galleries, Whatiftheworld located in the artistic and forward-thinking Woodstock has made quite a splash on the local art scene. Tapping into the vibrant energy of a range of local creatives, Whatiftheworld’s focus is primarily on showcasing innovative contemporary work by emerging South African up and comers. Featuring everything from drawings and sculptures to installation art and performance pieces, the gallery prides itself on representing influential artists who critically engage with both global and local contemporary art and socio-political contexts. They further strive to provide artists with an artistic environment that will allow them the freedom to create significant exhibitions, solo projects and multi-disciplinary installations. And they are eager for as many people as possible to witness and enjoy all their creative pursuits and displays by holding regular functions and events to showcase new work and performance art.
Everard Read Gallery
Originally founded in Johannesburg in 1913, the Everard Read Gallery is South Africa’s oldest commercial gallery and has therefore become somewhat of a beloved institution. This celebrated and cherished local Cape Town art gallery has earned a reputation for discovering and supporting a wide range of local artists, painters and sculptors and provides them with a grand platform to showcase their work.
Located in the bustling V&A Waterfront area, it has recently been expanded to include an additional exhibition space and sculpture garden across the road. The Everard Read is therefore dedicated to maximising the exposure of fine contemporary paintings and sculptures to a broad audience. Boasting dynamic exhibitions, a stunning space and an unwavering support of local talent, the Everard Read/CIRCA maintains a strong and unique identity as one of the top art galleries to visit in Cape Town.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes the Smith Studio was reimagined from a run-down warehouse into the beautiful gallery it is today. This beautiful and unique contemporary Cape Town art gallery boasts a truly captivating and interesting space that is housed in a 230-year-old heritage site. Founded in 2014, SMITH has showcased a number of the country’s outstanding emerging artists. The gallery disregards convention and favours artists producing brave, joyous and timeless work that values and contributes to the discourse of contemporary art in South Africa. This is one unique artistic adventure that absolutely everyone should get to experience on their visit to Cape Town. The fact that it located in the vibrant and bustling Church street also makes the Smith Studio a fan-favourite on Cape Town’s iconic First Thursdays.
Boasting some of the most renowned galleries in the world, showcasing the very best existing and emerging local talent the vibrant continent of Africa has to offer, witnessing and exploring the Mother City’s thriving artistic scene deserves to be on everyone’s Cape Town bucket-list.
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