4 Cape Town art exhibitions to visit this January - Bubblegum Club

4 Cape Town art exhibitions to visit this January

As the weeks of January roll by, the excitement and promise that a new year brings begin to fade and the reality of work sinks in.

However, art always has a way of revitalising us. Whether it’s watching that nouveau film your friends have recommended or a book that’s collecting dust on your shelf, engaging with stories brings us a profound sense of empathy and love for people and the world. And with the busyness of our everyday lives, adjusting to back-to-work schedules and overwhelming deadlines, finding activities that bring us tranquillity and relaxation feels impossible.

Popping into an art gallery or museum to check out an exhibition during your lunch break is a great way to bring some inspiration to your day. So, here are a few exhibitions to bring you a (renewed) sense of appreciation for the world around you.

When We See Us: A Century of Black Figuration in Painting

Taking inspiration from the 2019 Netflix miniseries, When They See Us, this exhibition features the artworks of Black artists from the past 100 years exploring and celebrating Black self-expression and subjectivities. The exhibition focuses on paintings highlighting the political charge of Black Joy, centred around the six themes: The Everyday, Joy and Revelry, Repose, Sensuality, Spirituality, and Triumph and Emancipation. The exhibition showcases the works of Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Danielle McKinney, Sungi Mlengeya and more. 

Why should you see it?

The presence of Black artists in the Western art scene remains under recognised and underrepresented. In particular, themes of struggle and pain have come to dominate the works of artists of colour and other marginalised groups. Whereas moments of joy and celebration have become lost in the stories of marginalised people.

Where: Zeitz MOCAA

Dates: Until 3 September 2023

I’ve Been Here for Days

Frida Orupabo’s first solo exhibition, I’ve Been Here for Days, explores the invisibility of Black life. Orupabo draws on the theories of Toni Morrison and Kimberlé Crenshaw to present the different experiences of womanhood. Depicting moments of waiting and stasis, Orupabo displays a collage of images from colonial archives, canonical artworks and fashion shoots, of women at rest and in battle. She also displays the intimate and personal moments of a woman’s life through an installation of items from a vanity closet, such as bras and underwear, as a way of presenting the lived experience of women.

Why should you see it?

Orupabo engages with the erasure of Black women. Through collage, sculpture and film, this exhibition brings together different aspects and perspectives of the lives of Black women to create a new narrative. Orupabo presents different aspects of Black women’s lives, from painful, prejudicial experiences such as childbirth and discrimination, to joyous displays of love, to present both Black resilience and rejuvenation.

Where: Stevenson Gallery

Dates: Until 28 January 2023


This group exhibition showcases the works of artists engaging with the passage of time. Featuring artists such as Jonathan Silverman, Emma Aspeling, Marolize Southwood and more, the collections capture moments in time and present reflections on the fears and anxieties of the future. Through different artworks and mediums of expression, each artist displays their own unique stories, encouraging the viewer to reflect on their own personal story.

Why should you see it?

This time of the year, we’re all thinking back on our past and planning the year ahead. The artworks centre around reflections, leaving you to ruminate on your own life.

Where: 99 Loop

Dates: Until 21 January 2023

The Cult of Ugliness

As part of her residence at the Irma Stern Museum, Georgina Gratrix created a collection of artworks that revel in the ‘ugliness’ of life. Drawing from the German philosopher, Karl Rosenkranz’s theory of The Aesthetics of the Ugly (1853), Gratrix examines the ideals of beauty society holds. Through a display of paintings and sculptures, Gratrix’s work engages in conversation with the works of Imra Stern, from whom she gained endless inspiration during her residency in the artist’s former home.

Why should you see it?

Gratrix challenges society’s understanding of beauty, or rather, ugliness. As a way of countering society’s obsession with beauty, this exhibition reconsiders the notions of ugliness and its role in art. “You can’t have one without the other,” Gratrix explains. The artworks toy with boundaries of the desirable and the grotesque and urge the viewer to reflect on their own ideals of beauty and find pleasure and joy in unconventional and ‘ugly’ art.

Where: Irma Stern Museum

Dates: Until 21 January 2023

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