Google now lets you explore Africa’s largest art collection from your smartphone

The Johannesburg Art Gallery has become the latest museum to showcase on Google’s virtual museum tours. The museum is home to over 10,000 objects, many of which “cannot be seen often because of the number of internal and external exhibitions we host,” said Tara Weber, the museum’s registrar, according to a release on their page.

“As a museum we are interested in finding new modes of display and engagement, with collaborative projects such these as a key to increasing access”, she continued. Along with the museum’s collection of Picasso’s and Manet’s, the museum will showcase a wide range of South African artists who may not yet have had exposure outside of the country.

Google’s Cultural Institute is an innovative partner for the cultural sector and puts more than a thousand cultural institutions at the public’s fingertips by offering virtual tours to museums and the ability to discover artworks, collections and stories from all around the world—all by downloading the Google Arts and Culture app. Virtual visitors can explore in detail, the corridors of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City or the Tate Modern in London from a smartphone and share findings with friends. It is a new and immersive way to explore art, history and world wonders.

And now the corridors of the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) can be explored too.  

The gallery’s doors have been open since 1915
Johannesburg Art Gallery

The Johannesburg art gallery (JAG) joined the list of 50 cultural institutions worldwide whose collections of contemporary art, encompassing more than seven thousand works, are now available to explore on Google art & culture online. The biggest gallery in sub-Saharan Africa, JAG boasts over 9,000 works of art, displayed in 15 exhibition halls and sculpture gardens. In fact, the collection is so large that only 10% of the exhibits are ever on display at any one time, the rest are kept in storage. Now, anyone with a smartphone or computer can gain access to new collections, exhibitions, artists and stories  to explore contemporary art from Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia like never before.

The Johannesburg Art Gallery is located in the centre of Joubert Park in downtown Johannesburg. The building, designed by British architect, Edward Lutyens, is a huge point of interest for all who love art and history, something that South Africa offers in abundance.

Johannesburg art gallery surrounded by the city.


For its online debut, the gallery shared its recent interactive thought-provoking exhibitions: The Evidence of Things Not Seen, which features the role photography played as a weapon of anti-apartheid protest and the museum’s contemporary selection of work exclusively produced by artists of color, The evidence of things not seen: Performing gendered and queer identities in South African art which centres on works from the JAG collection exclusively by artists of colour and takes a look at the performance of gendered and queer identities in contemporary South African art, and a solo exhibition Bleek by Johannesburg based artist Richardt Strydom, which interrogates the performance of white masculinity in contemporary South Africa. 

The African collections on the virtual museum tour include the Kenya National Archives, and Nairobi’s GoDown Arts Centre and also hosts archives from the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and the Robben Island Museum, where Mandela was held.

Despite its impressive collection amassed since 1915, the Johannesburg Art Gallery has struggled to attract funding to maintain basic necessities, majorly being funded by its community, Friends of JAG. The museum’s patrons hope that global access will bring new friends to the museum that has struggled in recent years.

“Along with our regular online platforms, the Google Cultural Institute provides a great vehicle for the Friends of JAG to reach new and more diverse audiences and showcasing JAG’s impressive collections”, says the Friends’ Eben Keun.

JAG’s extensive collections of art ensures that it’s one of the major tourist attractions in South Africa, with something new to see each time you visit.