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Goodman Gallery – 50 with a youthful spirit




Founded by Linda Givon during the era of apartheid in 1966, Goodman Gallery “offered a non-discriminatory space in a time when museums served the agenda of the government (of the day)” says Liza Essers, who purchased the gallery from Givon in 2008. Essers is a national NEC member of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies.

The gallery has remained true to its policy of exhibiting artists who are contemporary, influential and strive to shift perspectives and engender social transformation, says Essers.

“There is no doubt that (Linda) is a visionary and responsible for initiating the journey we are all on,” Essers told guests at a gala dinner in Johannesburg on June 4 to celebrate the anniversary – as well as open Liza’s comprehensive “New Revolutions” programme (the Cape Town launch had been held two days earlier).

Givon, said Essers, had “built a non-discriminatory space, stood up to the law, and offered her home to artists-in-hiding.” Her support and generosity for her artists had been incredible, and was ongoing, said Essers. “Thank you Linda, for entrusting me with the Goodman Gallery (and its legacy) eight years ago.”

Essers, too, has left an indelible mark on the Goodman Gallery. She has promoted a global outlook, while initiating unconventional interventions both within and outside of the traditional gallery space.

This approach has dovetailed with a three-tiered focus: working with southern Africa’s most significant artists (established and emerging); those from the greater African continent; and international artists who engage in a dialogue with the African context.

EXCLUSIVE download to JR Online users:

Essers Liza BookThe Gallery has also produced a limited edition of 1000 copies of this 124-page hand-stitched high quality coffee-table book which will be sold from their galleries.

They have given SAJR the rights to offer the complete book as a PDF to our readers and users. CLICK HERE to SEE, DOWNLOAD or FORWARD this stunning collector’s piece – and if you like it as much as we did you can buy the full-size original!

Liza’s speech from the Gala dinner

Liza Essers’ speech delivered at Goodman Gallery’s 50th anniversary Gala dinner:


Good evening everyone!

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this celebratory dinner recognising 50 years of the Goodman Gallery. We’re here celebrating five decades of a gallery that has changed the face of the art world thanks to a phenomenal collaboration between artists, collectors, curators and museum professionals, many of whom are here in the room tonight. 

Essers Liza
Linda Givon founded the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg in 1966 and there is no doubt that she is a visionary and responsible for initiating the journey we are all on. She built a non-discriminatory space. She stood up to the law. She offered her home to artists-in-hiding. Linda’s support for her artists, and her generosity, is incredible and ongoing. Thank you Linda, for entrusting me with the Goodman Gallery (and its legacy) 8 years ago.

What struck me about the space and the role of contemporary art in society at that time is its ability to affect social change through an exchange of ideas and possibilities. I wanted to work with conscious individuals committed to challenging the status quo and to personally find ways make a difference.

LEFT: Liza Essers at the opening
of “In Context” in 2010

Goodman Gallery artists have always in some way questioned, de-constructed and challenged unequal power structures and on a personal level I feel truly grateful and blessed for the experience of working with each and every one of you. You have impacted my life positively in so many ways, and continue to contribute towards my growth. Thank you!


When I first took over the gallery I immediately recognised the importance of continuing its legacy and I was privileged to inherit an incredible stable of artists: David Koloane, David Goldblatt, William, Sam, Pat, Sue, Minette, Tracey, Moshekwa, Brett, Dianne, Clive, Jeremy, Robert, Willem, Hasan & Husain, Mikhael, Lisa, Kendall and Walter.

At the same time, I wanted to ensure that the programme and dialogue expanded and evolved into a global conversation of shared histories and experiences. As important as it was to recognise the next generation of SA’s most significant artists: Gerhard, Carla, Jabulani, Gabrielle, Haroon, Thabiso, Jessica, Nolan, Neli and The Brother Moves On – so it was equally important to represent artists from the continent including Kudzi , Mishek, Tabita, Gerald, ruby, Kipwani, Kiuanji, Ghada and Mounir and international artists engaged in a dialogue with the African context: Alfredo, Liza, Rosenclaire, Hank, Siemon, Candice, Adam and Ollie, Shirin, Paulo and Sonia. To this extent more than 26 new artists have joined the GG family in the past 8 years.

Apartheid structures and cultural boycotts had made it difficult to look beyond South Africa, and although major exhibitions in the 90s aimed at opening South Africa up to the rest of the continent and the world, sadly important events such as the Johannesburg Biennale were short-lived.

This coupled with a lack of funding for our existing museums and institutions has placed a self-imposed responsibility on the Goodman Gallery to partner with museums and institutions on both a curatorial level, and to help realise important exhibitions.

Speech continues after pictures…

Broomberg & Chanarin (2)


Broomberg & ChanarinABOVE AND RIGHT: Broomberg & Chanarin’s “Spirit is a bone – Series 3” in glass, paint, C-type print and string, which was exhibited in 2013 – complete and detail


In light of this, we have started a series of on-going curatorial initiatives: the most significant of these being In Context, which began in 2010. In Context confronts the dynamics and tensions of place and many refer to the 2010 edition as a mini-biennale. It featured major installations by international artists, many of whom had never been seen in SA before like Jenny Holzer, Kara Walker and Michelangelo Pistoletto. This was in partnership with the Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), Iziko National Gallery and Goethe Institute, and took place in various venues across the city.


The next edition of In Context ‘Africans in America’ will be in November 2016. This will bring a major exhibition to JAG and Goodman Gallery with artists such as Theaster Gates and Julie Mehretu, and there will be an extensive academic conference in partnership with NYU and Harvard at Wits. It has been incredible to initiate these major projects and this has cemented our place within the global art world, making it possible for us to shape international art history, as well as contribute significantly to the local art scene.

I feel privileged to be the custodian of the Goodman Gallery. The Goodman Gallery belongs to each and every one of you. It is a space that exists beyond the physical. A place for dialogue and for the generation of ideas, memory and relationships. It is a space for possibility – it is a space about everything that has happened and for all that lies ahead.

Living in one of the most unequal societies in the world, where people are going to the radical extent of burning art at universities in protest makes it particularly important for us to all look beyond merely carrying on with our daily lives. The extremity of destroying the art of others is a terrifying retort to deep imbalances, and freedom of expression is being derailed in the process.

I feel that as an art community we need to help students find alternatives to challenging the system. Now, more than ever, is the time for the gallery to offer a space for exchange, free to the public and presenting work by artists who are, in a more sophisticated way, challenging social disparities and generating cognition. We need to grow audiences from all economic and cultural backgrounds both in the gallery and in our museums. And of course support education. ‘The first revolution is when you change your mind’ as said Gil Scott Heron.

This year, the Goodman Gallery established an annual scholarship fund for potential MA Fine Art candidates, who do not have the means to cover their fees. I am grateful to those of you who have contributed to this fund to date.

To the artists who make up the programme, thank you again for your passion and ingenuity, and for so powerfully commenting on the state of the world. You are the soul of the gallery.

To our collectors and patrons of the arts, thank you for your engagement and on-going support. Thank you for being so forward-thinking and for not just buying art to decorate your walls, but for being committed to supporting the commodity of ideas.

To all the Goodman Gallery staff in Johannesburg and Cape Town, thank you for your dedication, hard work and excellence always. The huge effort that has gone into making tonight possible is thanks to each and every one of you.

Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy tonight and let’s celebrate this extraordinary moment together. And here’s to the next 50 years!


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