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staff stories

Johannesburg is an ever evolving city with a blossoming cultural landscape. It is also the city where Grace O’Malley was born and raised. In telling her journey through the artworld, she speaks to the power and influence of artistic practice in South Africa and the importance of our artists as they continue to push forward in international scenes. Read her story below: 

I was born in Johannesburg and grew up in this city – it has always been a source of inspiration for me. I chose to study my undergraduate degree in Cape Town, majoring in Politics, English Literature and Art History. I then moved to London and pursued my Masters degree at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. London is jam-packed full of art and culture from all corners of the world, from ancient to the contemporary, but I wanted to return to South Africa and embed myself in the cultural landscape – in the city that has always held a special place in my heart, Johannesburg.

I have worked in the South African art industry for just-shy of a decade. In 2023 I joined the Goodman Gallery as Associate Director. The gallery has a rich legacy of cultivating contemporary art in South Africa since its founding in the 1960s and continues to work with an incredible group of artists from the Global South that are at the forefront of international contemporary art. 

Importantly, Goodman continues to support the next generation of South African artists today and this is a critical role in the cultural ecosystem of this country. This includes Ravelle Pillay, a painter whose work intimately considers the history of indentured labour and Indian heritage in South Africa, closely informed by legacies of colonialism and their reverberations in the present. Since 2023 she has had a residency at Gasworks and an exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery, both spaces that signify her trajectory as a rising talent. The gallery has also recently announced representation for Lindokuhle Sobekwa, a Johannesburg-based photographer born after 1994 whose images highlight personal and collective lived realities in the country. In May he gave a lecture about his practice at the Royal College of Art and will present his solo exhibition at JAG in September as part of his FNB Art Joburg 2023 Prize. 

The Goodman Gallery is arguably the foremost South African gallery operating in the global art market, with an artist roster and program that is internationally respected and admired by artists, institutions, collectors and curators alike.

The opportunity to collaborate with Cheetah Plains resonated very personally with me. I spent a lot of time with my family driving through Southern Africa on holidays, camping in some of the most remote corners of the country and enjoying the incredible biodiversity we have on our doorstep.

The partnership with Cheetah Plains – which exemplifies excellence in the ecotourism industry and operates with a level of care for the environment and the guest experience – enables the gallery to expand its reach beyond our physical locations (in Joburg, Cape Town, London and New York) and create a unique experience where guests can live amongst works of art and engage with it in entirely new ways. 

I believe that great art inspires authentic human connection through discussion and debate. The artworks I selected for exhibition at Cheetah Plains are engaging, and they invite conversation. They are great examples of work by a cross-section of artists in our program – artists whose works guests can also see at some of the world’s top museums like the Tate Modern or MoMA, or at global art events like the Venice Biennale or international art fairs such as Frieze and Art Basel. The artists on display also offer thematic interrogations related to land, use of materials, humankind’s environmental impact, and larger pressing global issues. These topics are important to think about globally, but often have a heavier impact on countries across the continent and Global South more broadly. 

My journey in the artworld is an ongoing one, but one that will always be intimately connected to my country and my city. I look forward to telling more stories about both places on the walls at Cheetah Plains. 


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