#139. Head downtown to Arts on Main. It’s not often that you have an opportunity to witness a random conversation between two generations of South Africa’s most talented artists whose work is collected by the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and other major global art institutions. There I was walking through the courtyard at Arts on Main watching William Kentridge lean out of his studio window to talk to photographer Mikhael Subotzky.
My first instinct was to think someone had called casting central and requisitioned two famous artists: “We’re sending Kentridge and that Magnum guy Subotzky. They can handle this gig.”
There’s been a buzz about Arts on Main. And now I know why.
The development is the brainchild of 20-something Jonathan Liebmann who has a full head of hair and the confidence that goes with it. He has been instrumental in turning a complex of industrial buildings from the early 1900s into a chic cultural hub for the city. Arts on Main, located in the Maboneng District (Place of Light) in the eastern part of Joburg’s Central Business District is now home to a number of offshoots of Joburg galleries and cultural institutions including The Goethe, The Goodman Gallery and David Krut. William Kentridge has a studio there as does Mikhael Subotzky who will be taking up residence in the precinct. Designer label Black Coffee will be moving in together with my favourite T-shirt brand Love Jozi. There’s also a funky looking store that sells reconditioned furniture and a “canteen” that serves great coffee and looks like a worthwhile lunch spot.
On the day I was there Joburg’s sky was broody (Spring arrived a day later) and the Kentridge tapestry exhibition (astounding) was being hung at the Goodman.
The property originally housed a liquor store for one William Mcbain, says the Arts on Main website. After that it was the front office for the construction company of DF Corlett, “master builder and mayor of JHB from 1931-32”. That’s DF Corlett of Corlett Drive fame said to be responsible for building landmarks such as St Stithian’s School and the Rand Airport.
The signage still bears his name.
The place has this city’s signature all over it. Vision, ambition and guts. Across the inner city new developments are springing up, buildings carry “sold” or “for rent” signs and city blocks are under construction as developers seek their fortune much the same way as the dusty miners once did.
It bodes well. After years of neglect Joburg is getting a heart transplant.
As for the two famous artists, I thought about throwing myself on the ground in front of them and yelling “I love your work” but instead mustered a nonchalant expression and carried on walking. Another day, another piece of gold.
* To contact Arts on Main, get directions, or information on what’s on, click here. Arts on main is between Fox Street and Main Street, next to Jewel City