The Leonardo in Sandton will thrill art lovers with its incredible collection

The mixed-use building, famed for being the tallest in Africa, also has an art collection spanning over 800 pieces, writes Atlehang Ramathesele

27 December 2020 - 00:00
By Atlehang Ramathesele
'Fusion' by Mbongeni Buthelezi and Mike Hlabangwane.
Image: Courtesy The Leonardo 'Fusion' by Mbongeni Buthelezi and Mike Hlabangwane.

I've always felt intimidated by people who have an appreciation for art. In between the murmurs of fancy jargon about brushstrokes and the uncanny ability to interpret the nuances of meaning within a blob of colour on a canvas — I've avoided it deliberately, content with being the layman I am.

It was only until recently when I went on an art tour at The Leonardo that I realised how beautiful and accessible art could be.

Already boasting the accolade for "tallest building in Africa", the newly erected mixed-use property The Leonardo in Sandton is quite the spectacle. All 57 floors of it. Whether you're indulging in the beautifully plated deliciousness that floats out of the kitchen of their signature restaurant or languishing in their spa, it is every bit as fancy as its address in Africa's richest square mile. But a lesser-known fact about The Leonardo is that in the midst of the grandeur and marble, lies an incredible art collection spanning over 800 pieces.

Unlike a typical art gallery where the artwork almost exclusively adorns the walls, The Leonardo has works in every crevice of the building. Everything from the ceilings to the elevators is covered with all kinds of work from paintings to installations making the building an art gallery in and of itself.

Inspired by the four elements earth, wind, fire and water — it is a curation of commissioned local and original works by emerging and established visual artists. Guided by an expert, we walked through the Leonardo and savoured an art journey. Here are some highlights:


Canvassing the entire stretch of wall leading up the escalators, this double volume artwork (above) by Mbongeni Buthelezi and Mike Hlabangwane is created by melting plastic. It uncovers the socio-political journey of South Africa as you see representations of everything from our political icons to warriors. The hues of the melted plastic mimic brushstrokes and you will notice the packaging of popular cold drinks and sweet wrappers in the intricacies of the artwork.


Engineering marries art as an orb of brass, copper and steel hangs in the main entrance way. Described as "forged in fire", it's also a nod to Earth. Weighing over half a ton, it's quite a marvel to see something so majestic and visibly heavy suspended seemingly in mid-air as the metals dance in the light.

The team behind this work includes Ciara Struwig, Andries Sefuno, Bongumenzi Gamede, Mxolisi Mkhonto,Yoliswa Mbobisa, Nkosinathi Mthombeni, Paul Setate and Jacques Nel.


It is impossible to ignore this abstract representation of clouds floating above the columns of Arum restaurant. Made from anodized aluminium, it is a celebration of flight and movement as it is likened to the spirals of wind swirling in a tunnel.

Image: Courtesy The Leonardo. Murmuration.

The team behind it includes Ciara Struwig, Marcus Neustetter, Paul Setate, Jacques Nel and The Trinity Session.


Covering the expanse of the lobby of the fifth floor is a striking tapestry of copper, brass and steel wire fashioned to look like DNA in a fusion of art and science. It's an exciting representation of our interconnectedness.

The artists here are The Trinity Session, Ciara Struwig, Nkosinathi Mthombeni, Paul Setate and Jacques Nel.


Lining the passage of the conference rooms is a spectacular sensory explosion of fluorescent colour and hand embroidery.

Spanning 17 metres, Lerato Motau's work is a playful and bright mingling of textiles, paint and random objects. The sheer scale of it is overwhelming in the best way.

Leonardo Majestic Art Tours run on Wednesdays and Fridays, R200. Visit