The Circa Gallery

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The Circa Gallery

A sparkling new art gallery has landed on the streets of Rosebank in Johannesburg; but does the striking presence of this gallery actually detract from the art that it houses?


The newest art gallery in Johannesburg is the Circa gallery on Jellicoe in Rosebank— a medium sized gallery with remarkable presence. The architectural design of the building is done by studioMAS architects + urban design as part of the Everard Read.
An Edwardo Villa guards the entrance and a long slab of polished, worded stone wiggles around a mesh of concrete, glass and shrubbery to shape its little garden. Clear glass forms a barrier between you and the art inside until you find the discreet opening that lets you walk into the concrete space. Once you’re done with these rooms, you walk around the characteristic spiral of the building, which wraps itself around the viewing rooms, catching little glimpses of the outside traffic through thin aluminium louvres.
Two statues stand on water reaching for one another, as they glance over the edge of the building onto the busy streets below. Every pool of water and slab of polished rock in the gallery plays with fluttering light and shadows; creating a tranquil but declarative ambience as you move through the building. Up and around you walk until you reach the top of the gallery. It is a small, stark room that creates a sophisticated base for attention-grabbing pieces of art.
Even though the architectural design of the Circa affects the senses in such an incumbent way— it is itself a piece of modern art, after all— it does not steal attention from the artworks on display. It knows its place and it keeps quiet when the Angus Taylor speaks. But it is as you walk along its corridors, that things become still enough for you to take notice of the building’s presence. And a profound and subtle presence it is. 

It’s a difficult thing with architecture; creating something both astonishingly beautiful that carefully affects your disposition from the moment you walk up to it, that is also brilliantly functional. The Circa gallery in Rosebank is both a pleasing complementary frame to the South African art on display there and a thing of beauty in and of itself.


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