Walking Street, new urban sculpture park in Maboneng

There is an exciting new addition to the Maboneng precinct: a public art project conceptualized by Kim Lieberman.

From warehouse to Arts on Main to Maboneng – gentrification spreads 

Arts on Main courtyard . Source:
Arts on Main courtyard . Source: Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

Arts on Main was the first development in the ever-increasing neighbourhood of Maboneng.  In 2008/9 Jonathan Liebmann bought a block of warehouses (the old Corlett Construction offices) bounded by Main, Fox, Berea and Kruger Streets in eastern downtown Joburg. It gathered momentum  as a creative hub when William Kentridge took a studio there.  Propertuity, Liebmann’s company gradually (or not so gradually) bought more and more buildings. And so 12 Decades hotel opened in Main St Life building, as well as shops, restaurants, apartments and in 2011, Market on Main. The area was renamed Maboneng.  The gentrification has continued to spread northwards – not without a great deal of controversy as so many people get displaced in the process.

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From smelly canal to sculpture park thoroughfare

Unprepossessing entrance off Fox St into the Arts on Main courtyard
Unprepossessing entrance off Fox St into the Arts on Main courtyard

Despite its name,  Arts on Main’s entrance is on Fox Street. And there has always been a bit of a disconnect between the north side (Fox St) and south side (Main St) of the Maboneng buildings.  For several year there was a grotty smelly canal of stagnant water and detritus running from Fox to Main St between Revolution House and Urban Fox. Propertuity and the City of Johannesburg in a joint project have recently covered this canal and converted it into a thoroughfare (known as the ‘walking street’) cum urban sculpture park. This will connect the two sides of the Arts on Main complex. The artist who has conceptualized the sculpture is Kim Lieberman.

Kim Lieberman’s Human Intersection

Walking Street with sculptures by Kim Lieberman, Maboneng  Source of Photo: SA Jewish Reporter

For many years Kim was interested in lace making as a metaphor for the connections and intersections between human beings. In 2011 Kim attended the opening of the Love Lace exhibition in Sydney where she met the Dutch lacemakers and designers, Joep and Joroen Verhoeven from the design studio Demarkersvan House. After this Kim began making much larger scale lace pieces using cable. And so the seeds for Kim’s first public art installation were formed.  Over the next 6 years she worked from photographs to make silhouettes of significant people in Maboneng’s history. The figures were then embellished with lace collars. The initial set of sculptures includes famous faces such as:

  • William Kentridge
  • Jonathan Liebmann
  • Mikhael Subotzky
  • David Krut
  • Given Giyani
  • Shruthi Nair
  • Kim Lieberman herself.

The second phase includes images of other significant people in the making of Maboneng:

  • Deone Billings, principal of Spark School in Maboneng
  • Jarlyne Joel, founder of the Chef School
  • Bheki Dube, founder and owner of Curiocity and Main St Walks
  • Kasa from the Ethiopian restaurant Little Addis
  • Ziggy from Patapata
  • and others.

So apart from another public sculpture installation (which Kim has called Human Intersection), this area also provides yet another little jewel of public space, the Walking Street. And furthermore, it will provide a connecting thoroughfare between the buildings on Fox and Main streets.


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