Review: Whatiftheworld & Southern Guild’s New Gallery


The Southern Guild and Whatiftheworld new johannesburg galleryThere is definitely room on the Johannesburg art scene for a new injection of energy on the gallery front. Happily, The Southern Guild and Whatiftheworld have combined forces in one brand-new 300m2 gallery space in Johannesburg’s Rosebank area to help up the ante.

Both founded in 2008, these are well established and highly regarded art platforms from Cape Town.  The Southern Guild is an independent body championing South African design and Whatiftheworld supports both established and up-and-coming African art talent.

Although the space will generally contain two separate exhibitions, the inaugural show is a collaborative showcase, which runs until 1 October 2016.   Cleverly curated, the two platforms have worked in partnership to present a seamless marriage between an eclectic selection of art and design works for their opening act.

It’s a commercial gallery space and in relative terms some of the pieces will be affordable, however with the calibre of artists and designers and the fact that many of the works are either limited edition, or unique one-offs, for many it’s more of an eye-shopping experience (but a very enjoyable eye-shopping experience) leaving the bulk of the buying to more serious collectors.

The gallery itself is a pleasant and unintimidating space.  It’s small enough to be intimate and yet large enough to showcase a satisfying variety of works. With exhibitions regularly changing, roughly every four weeks, it warrants return visits.

The current exhibition includes many playful works, from the pair of golden bunnies that look like they have escaped from the Lindt factory, to an angular modern twist of a grandfather clock.

Materials such as wood, marble and metal are used in a conventional way, but other materials are used in more unexpected contexts.  There is a chair made of steel and cow horn, a swinging nest woven from recycled rubber tyres and a cabinet of wood and leather.

The exhibitors are some of the brightest and best on the African continent. Lakin Ogunbanwo’s photography doesn’t disappoint with his signature splashes of colour.  Anthi-Patra Ruga impresses with a bright and zany tapestry and although not immediately clear what’s going on in Mahau Modisakeng’s prints, they are absolutely striking.  There is a selection of elegant Gregor Jenkin furniture on display and the covetable Vogel and Plunkett Loves me, Loves me Not sectional table is deceptively simple.

Many of the design pieces blur the lines between sculpture and functional furniture. Notable pieces include a stunning life-size ostrich by Bronze Age that could double as distinctive drinks table, and a gorgeous tactile bronze bench sculpture by Driaan Claassen, which is unfortunately too large, weighty and expensive to stash in your bag.

You can find The Southern Guild and Whatiftheworld cohabiting in their new Johannesburg home on the first floor at The Trumpet, 19 Keyes Avenue, Keyes Art Mile, Rosebank.

The Trumpet building is spanking new and in addition to this exciting new gallery venture, it contains cafes, design shops and new restaurant Marble involving former Saxon head chef David Higgs.

Gallery Viewing Hours:
Tues to Fri 9.30am to 5pm | Sat 9.30am to 4pm or by appointment

Nicola Beach

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