In a time when experiencing art in crowded galleries and museums is challenging and everyone from all walks of life needs a morale boost, public art has never been more important. The Johannesburg inner city lays claim to hundreds of pieces of public art, created both as part of a government art policy and donated by corporate and private investors. It’s hard to pick just a few, but for all the William Kentridge fans, Fire Walker, located just off the Queen Elizabeth Bridge, is a must-see. The 11m-high fragmented sculpture depicts a female street hawker with a burning brazier on her head.
The Newtown Precinct is home to hundreds of wooden heads, created by sculptor Americo Guambe and a team of artisans. Originally installed nearly two decades ago, and then refurbished in 2018, the artworks were created using repurposed railway sleepers and depict the diverse people who call the City of Gold home.
Drive along Bertrams Road on a sunny day and you cannot miss a glistening mosaic by inner-city artist and resident Andrew Lindsay. This eye-catching red, white and black artwork, located on a row of historic mining houses near Ellis Park Stadium, pays tribute to the 1922 miners’ strike.
Situated in the former heart of Johannesburg’s jewel-and-diamond precinct and neighbouring the artistic Maboneng Precinct, Jewel City is a new billion-rand investment from Atterbury. Comprising of mixed-use retail, commercial and residential spaces, this large pedestrianised city space also boasts some beautiful murals by leading Johannesburg artists Dbongz and Dekor One.
While most cities see pigeons as a hindrance, Johannesburg creates a sculpture to honour them. Part of the government art programme and designed by artists Gerhard Marx and Maja Marx, the origami-inspired Paper Pigeons are located in the historic Ferreirasdorp neighbourhood. Standing at about 3m high, the sculptures include perching rods for the local pigeon community that is fed on the site daily.
And an honourable mention for graffiti and street art… On top of Joburg’s more official artworks, the city is fast becoming known as a graffiti and street-art destination. Drawing in top local and international artists, including Shepard Fairey and Vhils, vibrant, crazy throw-ups, stencils, tags, and stickers snake their way across the walls of many downtown neighbourhoods including Newtown, Braamfontein, and Jeppestown.
• From the September issue of Wanted 2020.