The Circular Gallery
The collections of the Durban Art Gallery, located on the second floor of the City Hall, include a large range of work, from colonial portraits to cutting edge post-apartheid installations. Anonymous carvings and exquisitely constructed craftwork sit side by side with the works of internationally recognised artists such as Andrew Verster and Trevor Makhoba. When it opened in 1892, this municipal art museum focused on the kind of work one would find in galleries in Europe.
Today the DAG reflects the rich multicultural life of South Africa and the many realities of life in Durban, while frequently playing host to national and international travelling exhibitions. The collections include current and historical art and artefacts of KwaZulu-Natal to English masterpieces, from carvings, clay pots and beadwork to the works of celebrated South African artists like Penny Siopis.The Gallery celebrated its centenary in 1992.
Cathcart William Methven, Harbour Engineer of the day, gave one of his paintings to the Town Council in 1892. Various donations and purchases were subsequently made, and in 1920 Colonel R.H. Whitwell, art connoisseur and philanthropist, presented over 400 works to the Gallery, including British, French and Dutch paintings, objects d’art such as French and Chinese ceramics, early glass vases by Lalique and bronzes by Rodin. This established the character of the foreign collection. From the 1970s on, many works of local artists and crafts-people were added to the collection, and the Gallery’s collecting focus is now largely concentrated on works which reflect the rich multi-cultural diversity of Durban and South Africa. The holdings now include over 3500 works.
More than a collection
The Durban Art Gallery is more than just a collection of works of art. It promotes an awareness of art in general, and of the art and culture of KwaZulu-Natal in particular, through a variety of activities including workshops and films. It also regularly hosts travelling exhibitions of works which do not belong to the Gallery, such as the Images of Human Rights Exhibition.
“Artworks from Europe, the East and Africa, dating from the 15th century to the present, make the gallery a microcosm of the many histories represented here,” says former Art Gallery Director, Carol Brown.
The Gallery has a comprehensive collection of artworks, and constantly rotates displays from its permanent collection, interspersing them with traveling exhibitions of contemporary and historic pictures and artifacts.
One of the most dramatic manifestations of the Gallery’s process of reinvention is Red Eye Art. Featured on Friday evenings during the month of September, Red Eye has been going strong for over five years, drawing crowds of up to 2000 people at a time. It attracts a young, trendy crowd and features the work of up-and-coming South African artists, designers and performers.
2nd Floor Smith Street, City Hall, Smith Street
Monday – Saturday 8.30am – 4.00pm
Sunday 11am – 4.00pm