Cape Town as the continent’s capital of culture

Cape Town artCape Town art
Cape Town artCape Town art

Cape Town as the continent’s capital of culture

Many people around the world know what Cape Town has to offer. Food, wine, music and diverse cultures across the city, make Cape Town a unique and attractive location to visit in South Africa. And, within the past few years, there has been a crescendo of culture exploding through the Cape Town art scene. So much so that Cape Town is considered as the cultural capital of the continent.   


Street, buildings and built-up areas through art

Everywhere you look in Cape Town, there’ll be some inspiration of culture waiting for you. Another of the unique qualities of the Mother City is that every community has their own culture. Every urban area has a distinct characteristic and by walking through the streets of the City, you have access to a street-art “gallery”.

Let’s look at Woodstock, for example, an otherwise run-down area that’s building’s walls are now covered with graphic art by local artists and is a central start-up hub for creative businesses. The Mason’s Press building is one such building that is home to local fashion designers, gourmet coffee and ice-cream businesses and interior design companies (to name a few).   

Many businesses in Cape Town, especially cafés and restaurants, are being bolder in their interior design and the events they host in their buildings. Pop-up markets in uniquely designed interiors are what attract the crowds, as well as the great coffee and food of course.  


Art Galleries

There are so many art galleries in and around Cape Town and they all showcase different aspects of modern, traditional, contemporary, local, national and international artworks. Some of the must-see art galleries, however, include the following:

  • Eclectica Contemporary: This contemporary African art gallery brings the continent’s artworks that focus on the issues of globalisation in the world.   
  • 34 Fine Art: One of the many art galleries in Woodstock, 34 Fine Art exhibits contemporary pieces of fine art from national and international artists for art collectors.
  • Whatiftheworld Gallery: Also in Woodstock, this gallery has always been driven to bring change in the South African art landscape by exposing communities to African art as contemporary art.   
  • Goodman Gallery Cape Town: Goodman Gallery is one of the longest-standing international contemporary art galleries that started in Johannesburg and has now branched into the Woodstock area of Cape Town.  
  • Michael Stevenson Gallery: Solo and group contemporary art exhibitions are hosted at the Stevenson Gallery in Woodstock from artists all across Africa.
  • Everard Read Gallery: There is an Everard Read Gallery in Cape Town, Johannesburg and London that all showcase modern and contemporary art.
  • Art It Is: This is the place to buy paintings, prints, sculptures, photography, functional art and drawings in the art-central area of Woodstock. You can’t miss this building with its trademark three “traffic cones” on the wall and the various street-art.
  • Greatmore studios: Here in Woodstock, the Greatmore Studios is a registered NPO that provides a studio environment for artists to be innovative and create a name for themselves in the growing industry.   
  • Blank Projects: Run by Jonathan Garnham in Woodstock and beginning as a project space for both established and emerging artists to display their artworks for free, Blank Projects is about giving all artists a chance to be viewed and acknowledged.
  • Zeitz MOCAA Museum: This is, probably, the real reason why Cape Town has become the art and cultural capital of Africa. Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Arts is home to wide collections and exhibitions of contemporary African art by local, national and international artists. The interior design and layout of the building also contributes to its cultural and art-focused values and is also a place where people can enjoy great food. Everything about African culture can be found in this one building and it most certainly has pedestalled the platform for contemporary art.

There really are so many more galleries, but it’s just a whole lot easier to come to Cape Town and see them for yourself. This list also shows you just how up-and-coming Woodstock is as a contributor to the “culture capital” status of this city.



So, besides the art galleries and street-art and building designs, what else gives Cape Town a cultural edge above the rest? Markets are one of them. All around the Western Cape, there are local markets happening over the weekends that bring art, crafts, food, drinks and music to beautiful venues where friends and families can gather for the day. These markets are great exposure for many young artists and designers who need a platform for their products.

Another event that happens in the Mother City is First Thursdays. This is directly related to the art world as art galleries around the city stay open until late on the first Thursday of every month. You haven’t experienced a crowded Bree Street in Cape Town until you’ve tried to walk it yourself on a First Thursday evening. This gives the city a reason to view the art of their country and continent and gives local artists an opportunity to showcase what they have to offer their community. Cape Town also hosts various art fairs and festivals throughout the year, some of which include the Investec Cape Town Art Fair, Infecting the City, and Art Week Cape Town.  

Cape Town art