Southern Guild, the pioneering South African contemporary art and design gallery, is making waves as it gears up for its much-anticipated expansion to Los Angeles, California in February 2024.
Known for propelling functional art and collectable design on the African continent, Southern Guild is about to achieve another milestone by becoming the first South African gallery to establish a permanent presence in the United States.
A New Home in Melrose Hill
Southern Guild’s new home in the heart of Los Angeles will be located on Western Avenue, within a historic 1920s building situated in the vibrant neighbourhood of Melrose Hill. This 5,000 sqft gallery space is a testament to architectural brilliance and is designed by the renowned Evan Raabe Architecture Studio (ERĀS).
ERĀS is celebrated for their work on iconic projects such as the Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles flagship and Christie’s Beverly Hills. The gallery’s location, complete with an adjoining courtyard and restaurant, is set to become a cultural hub, inviting the public to immerse themselves in a rich and immersive artistic experience.
A Flexible Showcase of Global Talent
The gallery’s interior has undergone a remarkable transformation to accommodate its ambitious vision. Featuring three expansive exhibition spaces, alongside dedicated meeting and viewing rooms, it offers a versatile platform to present an extensive array of artists.
Southern Guild takes pride in representing artists not only from South Africa but also from countries like Benin, Congo, Iran, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and beyond. This eclectic mix of artistic voices promises to captivate and inspire visitors from all walks of life.
Co-founder Trevyn McGowan reflects on this momentous step forward: “Over the past 16 years Southern Guild has grown tremendously, from a single gallery in Cape Town and a small roster of artists to include numerous exhibition spaces, artists studios, a residency programme, and regular participation in art fairs around the world, but our expansion to the United States is truly a milestone. We are thrilled to broaden our reach by providing a permanent platform to showcase our artists’ unparalleled work in the United States.”
A Decade and More of Excellence
Founded in 2008, Southern Guild has forged a reputation for its rigorous curatorial programme. It places emphasis on groundbreaking methods of artistic creation, fostering cross-disciplinary collaborations, and celebrating the human touch. With its 5,000 sqft gallery at the V&A Waterfront and an impressive 8,000 sqft office and studio space in a nearby precinct, Southern Guild actively collaborates with artists, supporting them in both artwork production and exhibition-making.
This dedication aids in advancing their careers and amplifying their voices on a global stage. Rooted in principles of community and collaboration, Southern Guild’s mission is to inspire new works, forge connections across diverse disciplines, and explore the essence of humanity through art.
Co-founder Julian McGowan adds his perspective: “While many of our artists are self-taught, they are also masters of their chosen discipline, having honed their skills for decades if not generations. Craft and design are rooted in Africa’s cultural fabric, as the site of the very first toolmakers and artisans, the continent has a unique artistic legacy that exists at the intersection of those roots and a global artistic discourse. The art coming out of the region is thus unlike anything else and these are the pioneering creative voices we seek to champion.”
Inaugural Exhibitions with a Global Message
Southern Guild’s inaugural exhibitions in Los Angeles will convey the gallery’s commitment to art that resonates on a global scale. “Mother Tongues” will celebrate outstanding artists from the gallery’s roster, offering a profound exploration of African art’s historical significance. This exhibition, featuring artists like Zanele Muholi, Andile Dyalvane, Porky Hefer, Manyaku Mashilo, Madoda Fani, Kamyar Bineshtarigh, and Oluseye, among others, brilliantly marries personal narratives with Africa’s contemporary geopolitical, economic, cultural, and ecological contexts.
Complementing “Mother Tongues” is a solo exhibition by Zizipho Poswa, showcasing her monumental ceramic sculptures. Poswa’s work, some reaching heights of over 8 feet, represents the culmination of her recent summer-long residency at the Center for Contemporary Ceramics at California State University in Long Beach (CSULB). Her creations exemplify the profound connection between African art and its social fabric, while also addressing the intersection of personal stories with the broader context of Africa’s present.
Los Angeles: A Vibrant Canvas
Trevyn McGowan explains the choice of Los Angeles: “We were drawn to Los Angeles because its palpable vibrancy is similar to that of Cape Town and believe it will be perfectly suited to our particular brand of innovative art space. Our gallery model is a rather disruptive and progressive one and focuses on cultural preservation in all its forms, which in addition to rich craft traditions includes spirituality, ancestral knowledge, and ecology.”
Before officially opening its doors in Los Angeles, Southern Guild will make its presence felt at The Armory Show in New York from September 8-10. Here, they will unveil a new large-scale bronze sculpture by Zizipho Poswa, alongside works by Kamyar Bineshtarigh, Manyaku Mashilo, and Oluseye. These artists embody a shift towards a new African vanguard that seeks to renegotiate purpose and representation, bringing vital agency to their creative expressions. Their work serves as a testament to the power of art to transcend historical traumas and envision a world filled with healing, unity, and abundance.
A Tribute to Resilient Women
In addition to their main fair booth, Zizipho Poswa’s art will be featured in Armory Off-Site at the US Open. Poswa’s work from her “Umthwalo” series, meaning “load,” pays homage to Southern Africa’s rural women who bear the weight of heavy burdens, often walking long distances on foot. It is a powerful tribute to the strength and resilience of these women, reflecting Southern Guild’s commitment to storytelling through art.
As Southern Guild embarks on its journey to Los Angeles, it carries with it a profound commitment to preserving and celebrating the rich tapestry of African art and design. With its innovative approach and dedication to fostering artistic voices, the gallery promises to make an indelible mark on the contemporary art scene in the United States, amplifying the voices of artists from across Africa and beyond.