Inside the Inside Out Centre for the Arts


By Tebogo Matshana

Nestled within the vibrant cultural tapestry of Johannesburg, the Inside Out Centre for the Arts has fostered conversations around South African visual art since its conceptualization in 2008. Forming a part of the trio of cultural centers within the suburb of Forest Town, the Inside Out Centre for the Arts was realized in 2020. The center acts as a nexus of creativity, offering compelling visual art narratives that intertwine history and architecture. This has allowed the cultural space to extend its reach and engage a broader audience.

The name, “Inside Out Centre for the Arts,” is more than a moniker; it is a reflection of the institution’s mission. As the brainchild of renowned photographer and artist Roger Ballen, the space was envisioned as a platform to bring the inner artistic expressions of South Africa out into the open. This name mirrors the core philosophy of the center, namely to uncover, express, and celebrate the hidden talents and artistic treasures within the South African art scene.

Architecturally, the space is a testament to innovative design, blending modern aesthetics with a nod to traditional South African influences. The building’s structure is, in itself, a work of art, offering an ideal canvas for the diverse range of visual exhibitions it hosts. The unique blend of light and shadow, the interplay of open spaces and enclosed galleries, all lend themselves to an immersive experience that highlights the importance of space in art appreciation.

The Inside Out Centre for the Arts has carved a niche for itself by actively championing visual arts from the African continent. Its exhibitions provide a window into the rich tapestry of artistic expressions from South Africa and beyond. The center’s curatorial choices often focus on narratives that traverse history, identity, social issues, and cultural nuances. It is more than just a space to view art; it is a platform for conversation and exploration.

With a commitment to showcasing a diverse range of artists, including emerging talents and established figures, the Inside Out Centre for the Arts offers a lens through which visitors can explore the evolution of art in the South African context. It serves as a vibrant cultural hub, encouraging dialogue and celebrating the stories, struggles, and successes of South African practicing artists.

In an age where digital engagement is increasingly important, the Inside Out Centre for the Arts extends its reach through a virtual presence. The website’s opening page offers a dynamic entry point to the characteristic space, translating the physical into the digital. Their digital initiatives include a virtual bookshelf consisting of multimedia research materials, interviews as well as educational materials at large. It allows art enthusiasts to explore the center’s holdings from the comfort of their own screens. This not only broadens access to their collections but also makes the art world more inclusive. The digital holdings serve as a supplement to the physical space, offering visitors a dynamic and interactive way to engage with the insightful articles. 

The Inside Out Centre for the Arts, while not a recent addition to Johannesburg’s cultural landscape, continues to evolve and grow in significance. Its name, architectural design, and commitment to showcasing the wealth of African visual art have made it a cornerstone of the local art scene. Through its digital presence, it has also become a window to South African art for the world. The Inside Out Centre for the Arts is a testament to the power of creativity and a vital space for the celebration of South African visual art, both inside and out.

This story is made possible by the Arts Story Incubator programme of Breinstorm Brand Architects, in collaboration with Klyntji and IQOQO. It is funded by a PESP-3 grant that is supported by BASA and the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture.

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