Like Mark Twain, reports of the Johannesburg Art Gallery’s (JAG) death have been greatly exaggerated. It has been dying on and off for the past 30 years, in fact for most of its life since the incomplete Edwin Lutyens gallery opened, without ceremony, in Joubert Park in 1915. This was the first of Lutyens’ grand classical buildings and his only museum. It is considered today to have one of the finest museum façades of the early 20th century. But it has often been ignored and even killed off, then and now. The latest iteration is JAG’s dramatic implosion towards the end of William Kentridge’s City Deep, 2020, the 11th film in his Drawing for Projection series featuring Soho Eckstein, which is on at the Goodman Gallery now.

Between the rumoured and imagined deaths have been some spectacular remissions, the first under the directorship of P Anton Hendriks in the 1940s and 1950s. Hendriks oversaw the building of the southwest and southeast pavilions, redesigned by Lutyens, that op...

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