Destination Johannesburg: ArtEye Gallery Co-Director

Interviews | 31st Aug 2017

In the vibrant, lofty surroundings of ArtEye Gallery, we speak to Co-Director Sanele Manqele about Johannesburg’s buzzing contemporary art scene.

Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am Sanele Manqele, co-director for ArtEye Gallery, and owner and director of AE The Projectroom which exists in the same space. We are a contemporary art gallery, and we also develop young artists helping them to develop their brand and build their market.

Is that working with Johannesburg-based artists?
It is, but we also work with artists around the world. We’re finding a lot of people want to work in our residency space. Neda Tavallaee is one of our international artists who lives and work in Tehran, Iran. We are planning on having her come to South Africa for a residency in out space next year and injecting a different kind of perspective to the process of art making.

Can you tell us about any aspiring artists or projects you’ve been part of?
We’ve got an emerging artist who is very interesting, intricate and spiritual: Thokozani Mthiyane. We bumped into his work in Melville, loved it and brought him in. Strength by strength he’s getting an incredible collector base. The work is amazing; it looks different, there’s a real incredible spiritual connection that he has when making the work – he lies on the canvas before he’s done anything to it, just to transfer his energy onto it.

How has the Johannesburg art scene changed?
A few years ago we had a lot of art buyers wanting traditional African artwork or landscapes, or abstract works. Now, people are breaking out of traditional methods of collecting and engaging with artwork. Art buyers are looking for artwork that has a contemporary edge, and that’s giving South African artists a freedom to create what it is they feel is natural or honest, or real to them.

The gallery is in New Doornfontein, one in a string of neighbourhoods that have been developed for sophisticated young urbanites. Is now the time for city-lovers to come to Johannesburg?
Definitely. There are a lot of things popping up; the Wits Art Museum was completely revamped and has become this inspiring space; Johannesburg Art Gallery houses an incredible collection of work. People are also getting past their apprehensions of the city and they’re coming. Definitely now is the time, there’s so much going on in different ways.

Can you recommend any local artists that art-lovers should seek out?
Thokozani Mthiyane.

Where’s best to see street art in Johannesburg?
Maboneng, and Braamfontein has included public sculpture which I think is quite beautiful – there’s the William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx Fire Walker and the Eland sculpture by Clive van den Berg.

What should more people know about Johannesburg?
It’s buzzing. It’s a creative, energetic hub where the people are friendly, amazing, wonderful and lovely. There’s so much to experience, aided by the passion that people feel for what they do.

Where would you sit and watch the world go by?
I’m a big hiker so we go to Magaliesberg mountain range, and that for me is where I watch Johannesburg go by; watch it go quiet and watch it get busy.

How would you spend 48 hours in Johannesburg?
I’d start with yoga in the morning, then head to the art galleries – Standard Bank Gallery, Stevenson, Goodman, Everard Read – then Market Theatre in the evening. The next day I’d go on a hike, followed by a farmers’ market with lunch there – like Arts on Main, or the Fourways Farmers Market. Then I’d end it off with The Orbit for a beautiful afternoon of jazz.

Away from ArtEye Gallery, where would you go for a dose of culture?
I would go to Jan Smuts Avenue where a lot of galleries are gathered, popping by the David Krut Bookstore too.

Where would you take out-of-town friends for a drink?
I’m feeling a Melville revival, so I would start at this beautiful Italian restaurant that makes the most amazing gnocchi called Pico Bello, then head on to Hell’s Kitchen.

We often overlook what’s on our doorstep – is there anything you still need to do in Johannesburg?
I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie, so I need to go to Soweto and do the Orlando Towers bungee jump.

And finally, three words to describe Johannesburg?
Eclectic, romantic, fresh.

Like the sound of ArtEye Gallery? The Saxon Concierge is on hand to assist with immersive city and art tours. Enquire today:

Tel: +27 (0)11 292 6000

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