This exhibition curated by Simona Bartolena presents a selection of 64 works of extraordinary artistic value, from the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the largest art gallery on the African continent. The entire collection numbers over one hundred works comprising oils, watercolours and graphic art by some of the grand masters on the international art scene in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from Degas to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Corot, Boudin and Courbet, Monet and Van Gogh, Mancini, Signac, Picasso, Bacon, Liechtenstein, and Warhol, through to more recent names on the South African art scene, principally William Kentridge. An unexpected series of masterpieces that take visitors on an accurate journey into the history of art in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, ranging from Europe to the United States, through to South Africa.
The exhibition opens with a painting by Antonio Mancini, a portrait of Lady Florence Phillips, the founder of the Johannesburg Art Gallery, and continues with nineteenth-century English works, through the Impressionist masters to the revolutionary movements in the 1900s. One section is dedicated to contemporary African art, which is reserved an important role in this exhibition: a true discovery, a chance to explore a world of painting little known to a European audience.
Open to the public since 1910, the Johannesburg Art Gallery has been funded by generous donations from South African collectors sensitive to art, with the intention of promoting the museum as a benchmark centre of cultural aggregation for their country. The person mainly responsible for creation and shaping of the collection was Lady Florence Philips, who was helped in her endeavour by Sir Hugh Percy Lane, art expert and English-Irish