Accepted paper:

Imagining the inner-city peripheral of Johannesburg's art world


Sarita Jarmack (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

Galleries and art studios are now a main part of Johannesburg's inner-city revitalization, but as the 'core' art world resides in the suburbs, this paper examines how the inner-city peripheral is understood and utilized in a South African contemporary art scene.

Paper long abstract:

This paper seeks to examine how the inner-city peripheral is imagined in relation to a more 'core' art scene located in the suburbs of Johannesburg. I draw on ethnographic material collected in 2017 with gallerists and artists as residents in the peripheral of Johannesburg's Central Business District developing area. To rejuvenate this post-industrial area of the inner city, the city's development agencies assisted in property tax incentives to lure private property investors, which gave way to the start of initiatives such as the Maboneng Precinct in 2008. This is a privately controlled property development that aimed to facilitate a creative industry, a trending approach in making a 'good city' that invokes the "creative class" in processes of urban revitalization. These initiatives aim to attract middle- and upper-class suburbanites back into an area that is otherwise understood to be affected by economic stagnation of predominantly black inner-city communities. In this paper, I highlight the relationship between the art world and the city's development plans to ask what does it mean to be a representative of the edge of the art world in the inner city of Johannesburg? Moreover, I focus on how the politics of the peripheral as a space of promoting, displaying, creating, categorization of emerging (black) artists point to certain privileges in the South African art industry.

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The politics of life on the urban margins in South Africa