Forget galleries: bike right up to artists' front doors on the Jozi Art Tour
Sanet Oberholzer gets a workout as she explores the workshops of several local artists by bicycle
Shopping for art need not be an exclusive, elaborate process. In fact, with so many artist studios and platforms right on our doorstep in downtown Johannesburg, sometimes buying art really is as easy as riding a bicycle.
If you're not sure where to start, a Jozi Art Tour from Kennedy Welani Tembo of Microadventure Tours is the guy to turn to.
I meet him at Victoria Yards, where his tour starts over a mandatory coffee from Foakes Coffee Roastery to feed his coffee addiction and wake me up properly.
"The idea is not to go into the galleries," he says. "I want people to be up close and personal with the artists and hear their stories of how they got started and how it informs their work."
Tembo arranges with the artists beforehand so that they're ready to welcome visitors to their studios. You can watch them work, inquire about their art, buy directly from them or even commission a piece.
If nothing else, it offers a fresh space to appreciate the immense talent of this city.
JAMES DELANEY STUDIO
First stop: James Delaney's studio in Victoria Yards. Delaney was one of the first tenants to move into the space when it opened. He's a contemporary artist working in print, paint, charcoal, photography and sculpture, and his work has been shown in more than 50 group and solo exhibitions worldwide.
Delaney is the mastermind behind the colourful metal animal sculptures placed throughout The Wilds city park. You can find those same sculptures in his studio - or commission a piece for your collection - but it's his impressionistic tree paintings that really make me wish my pockets were deeper.
Also based at Victoria Yards, Hannelie Coetzee is a visual artist with a focus on ecological and sustainable practices. A fascinating aspect of what she does is her vertical gardens. During lockdown, she researched the medicinal properties of indigenous plants and created a vertical medicinal wall in her studio with plants that are used for muthi.
At the time of our visit, she was getting ready to unveil her latest work, a growing Wild Wall at a new development in Sandton called Sandton Gate. Throughout this month she'll be hosting walkabouts every Friday (see @hanneliecoetzee).
You can also find out about the work she's doing with Water for the Future or browse through her collection of scaffold engravings made from recycled waste materials.
LIVING ARTISTS EMPORIUM
My favourite stop of the day was Living Artists Emporium (LAE), which offers a platform to develop emerging artists. Located at the Ellis Park Tennis Stadium, it provides the materials, workspace, resources, exhibition space and guidance that have launched the careers of many local artists, including popular street and graffiti artist Dbongz.
You can browse the work of more than 30 artists or meet the artists who work onsite, many of whom are self-taught.
A short cycle from LAE is Ellis House, where Russian artist Elizavrta Rukavishnikova and South African artist Sandile Radebe have their studio. Both artists look at writing systems and ideas of how we formulate our notions of reality.
Radebe uses language as a metaphor and mediator of reality. He's a graffiti artist who paints, draws and designs some of the big installations you can see in the city. During our visit he was working on a commissioned clay sculpture.
Rukavishnikova has become celebrated for creating artworks out of satellites, but the essence of what she does centres on her own writing systems that offer her a way of interpreting the world. "Any object you can see can be written in its own way. It's my way of seeing the world," she explains. Each symbol is assigned a meaning and together they create a story.
Artist, lecturer, curator and gallerist Gordon Froud calls himself an equal opportunity offender. On a visit to his studio, home and art gallery you can be sure to find something to disgruntle anyone and everyone.
He welcomes visitors to his expansive studio space in Nugget Square, where you can browse his miniature art collection, painting collection, Alice in Wonderland collection, movie collection, book collection, ceramic collation, vinyl collection and the oddities he's collected along the way.
His collections boast mostly South African artists, but you'll find some international ones - like Yoko Ono - in the mix, too. He's also working on opening an exhibition space soon for artists and creatives to use.
JOZI ART CYCLE TOUR
Tembo offers his art tours as a Covid-friendly, cycle-only tour for groups of up to eight. Each tour can be customised depending on your interests and includes four to five stops.
Even though my legs were jelly by the end, I found it manageable given the short distances between each stop and despite my shocking fitness level.