Goodman Gallery and the so-called Jan Smuts Art Strip
The doyen of contemporary South African art in Johannesburg is the Goodman Gallery. Started by Linda Givon in 1966 it provided a stable for critically informed , contemporary artists in a time of Apartheid repression and then cultural isolation. The Gallery was bought by Lisa Essers in 2008 and has remained one of the leading cutting-edge contemporary galleries.
Several years ago there was an attempt to brand the group of galleries clustered around the Goodman Gallery as the Parkwood art strip, the Jan Smuts art strip and later the Rosebank Mile or ROAM. These galleries included David Krut, Lizamore and Associates, Res Gallery , Gallery 2. Down the road were Circa and Everard Read and then Moma on 7th Ave. But the branding never crystallized into anything.
First Thursdays never really took off in Rosebank
In mid 2015 the successful Cape Town concept of First Thursdays, when galleries stay open until late in the evening, was started in Braamfontein. It was soon adopted by the Jan Smuts art strip. But there were several drawbacks.
- Firstly the ‘Jan Smuts strip’ was too spread out : from the Goodman cluster to the Circa/Everard Read pair; to Moma on 7th Ave, the distances were too far to walk at night.
- Plus, apart from a little Indian restaurant in Parkwood there were no places to eat, have a drink, and just hang out.
In late 2016 two things happened
- The Bolton Road Collection opened on the infamous corner of Jan Smuts and Bolton Rd – infamous because so many businesses had tried to make a go of it here and never quite succeeded
- the Trumpet building opened next to Circa with, appropriately a great fanfare, branding itself (along with Circa on Jellicoe and Everard Read Gallery) as the Keyes Art Mile
And in true Joburg style, both became an instant hit with Joburg hipsters. More on Trumpet in another blog.
The Bolton Road Collection – first Thursdays now buzz
The Bolton Road Collection is a patisserie, restaurant and bar – sophisticated and upmarket. The tables outside where the crowd can spill out onto the pavement on this prominent corner spot, make it a very visible meeting place. And behind the building is the huge elephant mural visible from Bolton Rd. An added bonus is the good parking behind the building.
The restaurant and pub are very well frequented and it has meant that First Thursdays around the Goodman Gallery are now a buzzy affair. But there is more.
Around the corner in Bolton Rd is the Coalition Pizza . It’s a small hole in the wall with a counter onto the street and a few tables and what I was told in hushed tones was a ‘secret bar’. I mustn’t tell anybody. I asked if it was legal and was assured it was, it was simply a ‘secret’. What better way to market something than to tell people it is their secret place! And as if that is not enough, next door is another funky spot. Be warned – this venue can get very crowded on #FirstThursdays.
Bar Ber Blacksheep
I popped in to this little space late one afternoon not knowing what to expect.
And the retro look with tiled ceiling sections, stunning leather studded couches and a feature wall with memorabilia from a bygone ear was certainly unexpected. I tried to make sense of the barber section on the one side with beautiful big leather salon chairs and a fully stocked working bar in another corner. But hey – why not have a whisky or a cocktail while having your haircut – might make for real adventurous makeovers! And you can even order a pizza from Coalition. The barber shop opens from 7 am to 7pm and the bar from whenever till late!
So while First Thursdays at the Jan Smuts Art Strip is not quite the street party it is at Keyes Miles, it is still a buzzy affair. And one which is way more manageable in terms of crowds, queuing for food and a drink and being able to sit down and relax.
So these three little social spots are welcome additions to the area.