The Johannesburg Art Gallery is situated in Joubert Park, one of the oldest parks in the inner city. The mission of this institution is to contribute meaningfully to the appreciation of visual culture in a multicultural society.
The core functions of the Gallery are to collect works of art-historical importance, conserve them, display permanent and temporary exhibitions, and educate the public around these. It is committed to preserving and providing access to our national heritage and giving due recognition to South Africa’s neglected artists through its exhibitions, publications and education programmes.
The Gallery owes its existence to the vision and dedication of Lady Phillips, wife of mining magnate Sir Lionel Phillips. Lady Phillips, spending each spring and summer of the early 20th century in Europe, became aware of the contrast between the cultural riches of the European capitals and the barrenness of Johannesburg. She resolved to enrich this mining town by giving it an art gallery. The collection was started circa 1910 and the Gallery opened in 1915. During the course of the 20th century the collection has expanded and its emphasis has changed.
The Gallery was designed by renowned British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Although the foundation stone was laid in 1911, construction was delayed and the still unfinished building opened in 1915.
In 1938 to 1940, side wings were added according to Lutyens’ original design and in 1986, enabled by a significant contribution from the Anglo American Corporation, the City of Johannesburg extended the Gallery to the north of the original building as part of the centenary celebrations of the city.
In recent times the Gallery has undergone rejuvenation under the directorship of Clive Kellner. The museum’s ongoing strategy is to attract audiences and it has made sustained efforts to improve the facilities, and to upgrade the building and security.
The Johannesburg Art Gallery was voted Best Gallery in 2004, 2005 and 2007 in The Star Readers’ Choice Awards.