Art & Culture

South Africa may be known for its incredible wildlife and scenery, but the country is also home to a thriving arts and culture scene. From the ancient rock art paintings of the San Bushmen to the conceptual pieces of the apartheid era, the arts have always had a major presence in South African culture.

Africa’s oldest known collection of art originated in the Drakensberg mountains over 4,000 years ago, where the native San Bushmen created the largest, most concentrated group of rock paintings in sub-Saharan Africa until they were driven out by colonialists in the 19th century. The country’s art scene continued to evolve, with the apartheid years of 1948-1994 seeing a diverse art scene emerging, ranging from landscape paintings to abstract art. There were European and American influences, but also a fiercely local sense of what it meant to be a South African artist during this troubled period.

South Africa has so much to offer the art aficionado – from the street art & urban workshops of Johannesburg and the numerous must-see museums, galleries and design studios of Cape Town, to some of the country’s finest private collections and Dylan Lewis’ extraordinary Sculpture Garden – there is something for all tastes and interests. Africa’s largest art fair, the Investec Cape Town Art Fair, is also held every February and brings a diverse range of creative pieces to the city.

Where to go on your South Africa art tour?


Any South African art tour really should begin in Johannesburg, and specifically the renowned Art Strip located on Jan Smuts Avenue, which gives visitors easy access to the city’s vibrant contemporary art scene. The galleries form a comprehensive grouping of modern art venues, exhibiting and selling work in all disciplines by established and emerging artists. Warren Siebrit’s Modern & Contemporary Art Gallery deals predominantly in works by black pioneers of South African art, including such artists as Gerard Sekoto & Gerard Bhengu whilst next door David Krut Projects exhibits prints by contemporary South African artists like Penny Siopis & William Kentridge.

Across the road, the Goodman Gallery is a leader in contemporary art and sculpture, representing artists such as David Goldblatt & David Koloane, whilst further along the Kim Sacks Gallery exhibits ceramics and artefacts from across Africa, as well as cutting-edge South African designer pieces.

The nearby Everard Read Gallery is the country’s largest commercial gallery and exhibits a range of national and international artists, and just a few blocks further down is Gallery Momo, an alternative art venue for artists of an experimental bent. The contemporary Lizamore & Associates and CIRCA on Jellicoe galleries are also well worth visits.

Johannesburg also boasts some of Africa’s best pieces of street and resistance art. Any downtown walking tour will allow the South African art tour participant the opportunity to view installations such as the imposing Firewalker by William Kentridge and Gerard Marx, a sculpture of a woman carrying a brazier on her head, and Paper Pigeon by Gerhard and Maja Marx, three 3m-tall oragami-style pigeon sculptures. The metal trees created by Stephen Hobbs and Claire Regnard, the Miners' Monument by David MacGregor, and Clive van den Berg’s Eland, which stands more than 5 metres and weighs over 20 tonnes can also be viewed, as can the three stories-high Banner of Hope steel sculpture of the South African flag, created by Truus Menger to symbolise South Africa's celebration of freedom.

Maboneng is a multicultural, urban regeneration precinct with Soho-inspired work spaces and artist’s studios whilst the Johannesburg Art Gallery is renowned for its collection of Flemish and Dutch paintings, its works by Picasso, Pissarro, Monet and Degas, as well as its large South African art collection featuring the work of, amongst others, Gerard Sekoto, Alexis Preller, Maud Sumner, Sydney Kumalo and Ezrom Legae.

A priceless collection of South African contemporary and historical art, plus art from West and Central Africa can be viewed at the nearby Wits Art Museum, whilst the well-balanced art collection at the Amalgamated Banks of South Africa (ABSA) dates back to 1900 and is believed to be the largest corporate art collection in the world, all original and all South African.

One hour outside the city sits the Cradle of Humankind, a World Heritage Site and it's richest hominin site - home to approximately 40% of the world's human ancestor fossils. The Maropeng Visitor Centre and Exhibition is fascinating, and is the NIROX Sculpture Park, a 15-hectare private park and artist residency set within an exceptional nature conservancy and filled with arresting sculptural objects in a purpose-designed space. It provides a unique platform for artists to realize and exhibit outdoor sculpture and installations, and for collectors and visitors to enjoy these in nature.

Cape Town

Down in Cape Town, one of the major attractions for art lovers is the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, (Zeitz MOCAA), the first major museum in Africa dedicated to contemporary art which rivals the likes of the Tate Modern, MoMA in New York and Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid. Housed in a unique re-imagining of what were once grain silos in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Zeitz MOCAA is a public not-for-profit museum which consists of nine floors and 80 different galleries, of which 6500m2 is dedicated to white cube exhibition space.

Cape Town's newest art precinct, Woodstock, has the highest concentration of design studios and art galleries in the country and it is where visitors can expect to find the city's trendiest design and art collective. The Goodman Gallery is at the forefront of contemporary art in South Africa, focussing on artists who engage in a dialogue with the African context, whilst the Stevenson Gallery aims to give South African artists access to the rest of the world but has also regularly debuts the work of international artists in South Africa. WHATIFTHEWORLD is a fast-rising young gallery which has become a destination point for curators and collectors to experience innovative work and the Smac Gallery is an exciting space showing modern and contemporary South African art which has earned acclaim for successfully hosting a series of thought provoking exhibitions.

Central Cape Town is home to such gems as the Christopher Moller Gallery, Salon 91, Gallery MOMO and the Michaelis Art Collection, which is renowned for its selection of 17th century Nederlandish art from artists such as Frans Hals, Jan Steen and Anthony van Dyck. The country’s premier art museum, the South African National Gallery, which houses outstanding collections of South African, African, British, French, Dutch and Flemish art; World Art & EBONY also worth visiting. There is also the renowned Barnard Gallery; the Montebello Design Centre, home to David Krut Projects which is an independent arts resource aiming to encourage careers in the arts and literature; and the Irma Stern Museum, the former home and museum of the foremost expressionist and top selling artist.

The Cape Peninsula also possesses a few jewels for the South African art lover – in Hout Bay there is the contemporary Red Room Gallery & the Sembach Gallery which is housed in one of the oldest restored cottages in the Cape, and in quirky Kalk Bay, with its working harbour, antique shops and galleries are the Kalk Bay Gallery, and Kalk Bay Modern, the enigmatic home of an eclectic mix of South African modern art and quality crafts from developing community groups. The Norval Foundation Art Museum is also nearby on the Steenberg Estate.

The Winelands

Cape Town’s wine region is rightfully renowned as being home to some spectacular scenery and wine estates, but anyone with a passion for African art should definitely spend a few days exploring the area’s art offerings.

The charming village of Franschhoek is stuffed full of galleries. The Roubaix House Gallery is the home, studio and gallery of distinguished South African potter, David Walters, whilst the African Art Gallery has a large selection of authentic pieces. The elegant Vineyard Gallery is housed within a fully renovated old Victorian home surrounded by mature oak trees and has a selection of South African landscape & township art, and Sénéchal-Senekal is an exclusive gallery showcasing the works of the renowned South African-born artist Junaid Sénéchal-Senekal, famed for his secret silver technique. Everard Read Franschhoek, in partnership with Leeu Collection, is a considered space showing the best modern and contemporary artworks by southern African artists. Adjacent to Le Quartier Français, the gallery includes a sculpture garden for monumental works interspersed with herbs and vegetables, the first of its kind in South Africa.

Located in neighbouring Klapmuts is the Glen Carlou Vineyards and the Hess Art Collection. The Swiss entrepreneur and wine-producer Donald M. Hess is one of the world’s major collectors of contemporary art and his impressive collection spans five decades of recent art history from Abstract Expressionism through current positions. It contains works by 65 international artists including Magdalena Abakanowicz, Georg Baselitz, Gilbert & George, Franz Gertsch, Andy Goldsworthy, James Turrell and Ouattara Watts.

Stellenbosch, South Africa’s oldest university town, is also home to a number of noteworthy galleries and museums. The SASOL Art Museum is run by the University of Stellenbosch and houses a collection of historical works by Cape artists as well as temporary curated and solo exhibitions, and the Rupert Museum of Art is home to the unique private art collection of Anton and Huberte Rupert. Regarded as the premier collection of contemporary South African art from the period 1940 to 1970 the collection includes over 350 paintings, sculptures and tapestries from South African artists such as Anton van Wouw & Walter Battiss, and major European works by leading sculptors such as Auguste Rodin and Käthe Kollwitz.

Finally, all South African art lovers should enjoy a private guided walk around the extraordinary Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden. One of South Africa's most famous living artists and one of the foremost figures in contemporary animal sculpture, Dylan has spent over 10 years creating and fine-tuning his outdoor showroom.

On the slopes of the Stellenbosch Mountain looking out over vineyards towards the ocean, over 60 sculptures constitute a comprehensive record of Lewis's full artistic development, and they have been carefully placed in harmony with the landscape: the human form, shamanic figures, monumental abstracted fragments and his iconic great cats.

Where to stay on your South Africa art tour?

Wherever you’re planning to visit for your art tour of South Africa, Africa Travel will arrange for you to stay in the most comfortable and luxurious accommodation that is tailored to your requirements. Our dedicated staff listen to each of your needs and preferences before recommending the best accommodation for you, which is always based on their own personal experiences.

In Cape Town, lovers of South African art really should try to stay at the extraordinary Ellerman House. Overlooking the sea in upmarket Bantry Bay, this regal residence is home to a magnificent private art collection that encompasses an intriguing cross section of genres and subject matter, representing an overview of South Africa over the last hundred years. Originals span from the 1910 Volschenk of an undeveloped Camps Bay, to the contemporary new art forms of Vusi Khumalo, and include works by Thomas Bowler, Maggie Loubser, Irma Stern and William Kentridge amongst others.

Another must-stay in Cape Town is found in the heart of the Waterfront Development. Offering five-star service, luxurious accommodation and a roof top bar and pool, arguably The Silo Hotel’s biggest calling card is the fact that it is housed in the same former grain silo tower as the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, (Zeitz MOCAA), offering South African art-lovers phenomenal access to one of the continent’s finest art museums.

Out of the city in the magnificent Wine Region are two special stopover options for anyone travelling on a South African art tour. The first is the Delaire Graff Wine Estate, which is home to an ever-growing private art collection which represents some of South Africa’s finest artists including William Kentridge, Deborah Bell, Dylan Lewis, Sydney Kumalo and Anton Smit. Meanwhile down in the heart of the Fraschhhoek Valley sits Leeu Estates, an uber-luxurious property with grounds that are home not only to large statement sculptures by the likes of Deborah Bell, Otto du Plessis, Angus Taylor & Guy du Toit, but also to an outpost of the renowned Everard Read Gallery.

Travellers on any tribal art or cave painting tour really should include a stay at the Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness. Located within the Cape Floral Kingdom in Clanwilliam, this award-winning property in the foothills of the Cederberg Mountains offers access to more than 130 sites of ancient Bushmen rock art and Bushmen paintings.

Johannesburg art galleries can easily be visited when staying at the city’s premier hotel – the Saxon Hotel, which houses an impressive art collection showcasing a mix of established and emerging artists. The hotel is a highly respected patron of the arts and it believes in supporting South Africa’s most promising emerging artists whilst also taking pride in displaying the work of established artists. Nelson Mandela chose to reside here whilst he completed his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, and some of his drawings are on show alongside a series of original sketches by acclaimed artist Dean Simon of some of the hotel’s most celebrated guests.

Wherever you choose to reside, we will ensure your stay is ideally located for your South African art tour.

Why choose Africa Travel for your arts holiday to South Africa?

Africa Travel has 30 years of expertise arranging travel to many destinations in Africa, and thanks to our personal connections with local and international experts on the art scene, we offer bespoke South African art tour itineraries to show you the very best art galleries in Cape Town and Johannesburg, bushman cave paintings, and African tribal arts that South Africa has to offer. We are constantly in contact with some of the leading art experts and specialist art guides in the country to curate the most informative art and culture experiences, allowing our clients to fully explore this fascinating side of the country and enjoy an outstanding South African art tour.

For more information on the very art tour options, why not speak to one of our experts on +44 (0) 20 7843 3500 or email 


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