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SSouth Africa is home to many excellent art galleries in all 9 provinces, but the award-winning new kid on the block in downtown Johannesburg is the Wits Art Museum, the leading museum of African art on the continent. Don’t miss it.
In the heart of buzzing Braamfontein in downtown Johannesburg, a stone’s throw from the iconic Nelson Mandela Bridge, you’ll find South Africa’s newest art museum, the Wits Art Museum, where huge glass windows show off changing displays of its classical, modern and contemporary African artworks from all over the continent.
Inside, you can step into any of the different galleries – try the Gertrude Posel Core Galley (she was the inspiration behind the original collection), and then walk up the sweeping ramp (shades of the Guggenheim) to the gracious Mezzanine Gallery, before descending the elegant stairs to the Strip and Basement galleries. Everywhere is wheelchair-friendly.
The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) next door has been building this world-class collection since the late 1920s, and what you’ll see are unrivalled South African works, as well as fascinating and important collections from West Africa and Central Africa.
Stop to admire old maps, artefacts from South African mines, masks and ceremonial ritual objects from ancient peoples, photographs, paintings, tapestries, sculptures, etchings and drawings.
If you’ve time, attend a lecture, film screening, music event or art performance; or take one of the regular weekend walkabouts, each individually geared to adults, children and families. You can even practise your skills at the monthly ‘Drop-in drawing class'.
When you need rest or refreshment, pop into the WAM café and watch the world go by as you munch freshly baked goodies and sip your coffee or cold drink.
The museum attracts locals as well as international visitors – it’s easy to get here and it’s one of the stops of the red open-top City Sightseeing bus. Wits Art Museum has up to 8 or 10 fascinating temporary exhibitions a year, so there’s always something new and exciting going on, as well as artworks from the permanent exhibition always on display.
You’ll soon discover why it is the leading museum of African art on the African continent.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Wits Art Museum
Tel: +27 (0)11 717 1365
How to get here
By car, taxi or the City Sightseeing bus.
Best time to visit
Opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm. The museum is closed on public holidays and for 3 weeks over the Christmas and New Year period.
Things to do
Check out the 70 Juta Street Precinct in Braamfontein, which is a hip part of town with shops, coffee bars and offices. Newtown abounds with sites of historical and cultural interest, including the Market Theatre, Mary Fitzgerald Square, Museum Africa, Constitutional Hill and the Joburg Theatre.
Tours to do
The Johannesburg City Sightseeing Bus has 12 stops, including the Wits Art Museum, and is the best way to see the city’s main attractions.
On foot. The museum is also wheelchair- and guide dog-friendly.
What will it cost?
Entry is free. Donations are very welcome.
What to pack
Where to stay
The Four Seasons Westcliff is close by if you’re looking for something luxurious. Alternatively, investigate the funky suburb of Melville or Parkhurst.
What to eat
There’s good food in the WAM Café; or wander across to 70 Juta Street and take your pick from one of the eateries.
Braamfontein is home to a number of attractions, including the popular Neighbourgoods Market every Saturday. There are often cultural events taking place at Constitution Hill – check their website.
Catalogues of past exhibitions.
- Wits Art Museum
- Play Braamfontein
- City Sightseeing Bus
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