at home: Artists in Conversation | Gavin Jantjes

July 7, 2023

Gavin Jantjes in conversation with Gilane Tawadros, director, Whitechapel Gallery, London. Jantjes will discuss his artistic practice and political activism.

About Gavin Jantjes

Born in Cape Town, South Africa, in the year the apartheid regime came to power, Gavin Jantjes is a graduate of the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Art and the Hamburg Art Academy in Germany. He has spent much of his professional life in exile, and his nomadic life in Europe is echoed by his many roles in the arts. Regarded as one of South Africa’s most important artists, he has worked as an artistic director, curator, educator, and historian in England, Germany, Norway, and South Africa. Jantjes has exhibited internationally, and his paintings and prints have become reference points in discussions of apartheid, cultural reciprocity, and freedom of expression. His work is in collections including the Hayward Gallery, Tate, and the Victoria and Albert in England; the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the National Museum of African Art in the United States; the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg; the National Museum of World Cultures, Amsterdam; the South African National Gallery, Cape Town; and private and corporate collections worldwide.

Jantjes is also recognized internationally as a human rights activist and advocate of cultural diversity and has received numerous commissions from the Nobel Peace Center, the United Nations Refugee Agency, and the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid. As a member of the Arts Council of Great Britain (now Arts Council England), he structured the United Kingdom’s national policy on cultural diversity. 

In his positions as artistic director for Henie Onstad Art Center and senior curator of the National Museum in Oslo, he created more than thirty contemporary exhibitions. He was a member of the finding commission for Documenta 12 and has served as a trustee of the Office for Contemporary Art Norway, the Serpentine and Whitechapel Galleries in London, Tate Liverpool, and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town.

Gavin’s writing includes art historical texts and catalog essays for artists such Carlos Capelån, Marlene Dumas, David Goldblatt, George Hallett, Susan Hiller, Nicholas Hlobo, Marie Jo Lafontaine, Shirin Neshat, and Aase Texmon Rygh. He is the author of A Fruitful Incoherence and Strengths and Convictions: The Life and Times of South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. He initiated the Visual Century Project to produce the first survey of South African contemporary art after South Africa’s democratic elections. The four-volume study, Visual Century: South African Art in Context, 1907–2007, was published by Wits University Press in 2010.

Painting has remained Jantjes’s main creative activity; he reopened his studio when he moved to Oxfordshire in 2018. Currently he is preparing his first retrospective exhibition, which includes his recent nonfigurative paintings. It will open at the Sharjah Art Foundation in the United Arab Emirates in November 2023 and will travel to London in summer 2024.