Goodman Gallery is one of the most distinguished and longest-standing international contemporary art galleries. Established in Johannesburg in 1966, the gallery works with artists who are at once contemporary, influential and strive to shift perspectives and engender social transformation.
Founded during the era of apartheid, Goodman Gallery offered a non-discriminatory space when museums served the agenda of the autocratic government. Since 2008, under the directorship of Liza Essers, Goodman Gallery has expanded on this legacy, shifted its focus, and introduced numerous pivotal curatorial initiatives and partnerships. Essers has promoted a global outlook, while initiating unconventional interventions both within and outside of the traditional gallery space. This approach has dovetailed with an incisive three-tiered focus: working with southern Africa’s most significant artists, both established and emerging; those from the greater African continent; and international artists who engage in a dialogue with the African context.
Essers has conceptualised three ongoing major curatorial initiatives. The first is In Context, which presents collaborative curatorial projects confronting the dynamics and tensions of place. South-South is a project – its title adopted from Brazil’s foreign policy aimed at reinforcing integration between major powers of the developing world – that places common histories and experiences at its core. Working Title offers a platform for emerging, new and independent production and thinking.
In 2009 the Goodman Gallery initiated Goodman Projects and to date has presented over twenty progressive and innovative exhibitions, installations and performances. This programme, essentially a ‘third space’, provides a platform for non-commercial initiatives, aimed at containing an aesthetic of change and disruption. Goodman Gallery’s programme also extends beyond the walls of the gallery to include collaborative projects with major educational and institutional museums in South Africa and internationally. Local initiatives have a non-profit focus, and have arisen from a lack of institutional funding for arts programmes in South Africa.
The gallery represents artists who have shaped the landscape of contemporary art in southern Africa, while working with already eminent younger artists. Furthermore, the programme takes into account the experience of artists based both on the continent and within the Diaspora, as well as colonial era divides that have distanced sub-Saharan Africa from its northern counterparts. Artists based outside of Africa, exploring territory such as unequal power structures and socio-political constructs, have been exhibited in South Africa at the Goodman Gallery for the first time.
In five decades, the Goodman Gallery has played a vital role in forging change through artistic production and dialogue, shaping contemporary art within and beyond the continent.