August House is a vibrant art hub in Joburg

Several contemporary artists have their studios here

Edward Tsumele

To some people that part of inner city Johannesburg is probably a no go area, especially for those who do not know this part of the city’s artistic beat. To those not in the know, the area probably looks like nothing more than a haven for the lowlifes and the poor.

 Yes, in nearby apartments, some renovated and a good number still needing some paint, brick and steelwork, you might not find a top class German sedan parked there.

But boy, this is an area those that have been collecting art, good art for that matter, have been going to for years since this art haven was established in the mid 2000s. It is here where one will find some of the most interesting creatives, as they have made August House their home, and art collectors  and those loaded, have been going quietly, for years now, visiting this place and enjoying viewing of the art.

Some even adding  to theircollectiong away from the public gaze of the gallery or at art auctions. That is August House on End Street, East of Johannesburg, only a walking distance from bustling Maboneng and the newly launched multi-billion Rand Development, Jewel City on Fox Street.

August House provides a creative home to 45 local and international full time practising artists. Established as an enclave for artists in 2006 by Bie Venter and Maria Svane. Its notable tenants over the years, have included artists such as Mary Sibande, Dineo Seshee Bopape , Lawrence Lemaoana,  Mbongeni Richman Buthelezi, Gordon Froud, Joseph Gaylard, Nontobeko Ntombela, Gabi Ngcobo, Gonçalo Mabunda, Jacki McInnes, Nelson Makamo, Bie Venter,, Kudzanai Chiurai and Nicholas Hlobo, among others. Some of course have relocated to  set up studios in other parts of the city and the country, and yet others have remained there, while new artists are also coming in all the time to take residence there as practicing artists.

On Sunday, September 27, when I made my way there, invited by Sara Hallatt, who since March this year is managing this hub of artists’ studios, I found  the place a hive of activity with artists working in their studios, and visitors viewing art works that were part of a group exhibitions involving Sizwe Khoza, Lindo Zwane, Kealeboga Tlalang, Vusi Beauchamp, Jibril Linjoum and Siphiwe Makgoka.

Sanctuary exhibition at AH

These Upper Ground Floor Artists  collectively hosted this pop exhibition entitled Sanctuary, showcasing their most recent work. Sanctuary denotes a place that provides refuge or safety from danger. In a time of a global pandemic, these artists have taken sanctuary in the production of art. Allowing them to deal with the realities of everyday life while looking forward to a better world.

This is the first exhibition at August House since the beginning of the pandemic. Many artists have found themselves in precarious positions because of lockdown but that does not mean that they have stopped working. This exhibition will shined a light on their new work. In keeping with the theme of the exhibition, the artists are donating a portion of sale proceeds to Door of Hope ( whose mission it is to save abandoned babies, providing them with a home and helping create a bridge to a better world. During the pandemic, Door of Hope has seen a considerable rise in the number of abandoned babies and needs all the support it can get.

“This is an artist curated show, not necessarily an exhibition, rather more like an art market. This is a once of event for today, but should the artist wish to do so, the work may remain on the walls for longer for public viewing and buying. This is more like an art market. The whole idea is to have such events on every floor from time to time, say once every three months as artists need to sell their works,” added Hallatt.

August House comprises of four floors with a number of artists owning a studios on each floor, making the place rate as one of the biggest art hubs for practicing  contemporary artists in the country at the moment.

And so each time you drive past that part of the city, the August House building from the outside may look like it needs a bit of paint work, but hey inside it houses some of the most interesting  artists at work, and it is worth visiting this place as you may find what you may need to collect among these artists. It is worth stopping by to check out August House.

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