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As the year draws to a close, Johannesburg can look back on an art renaissance anchored by a number of key exhibitions and events that have repositioned the city as an important artistic hub. One of those key exhibitions was the recent Henri Matisse|Rhythm and Meaning exhibition at the Standard Bank Gallery.

The Standard Bank Gallery’s Henri Matisse|Rhythm and Meaning exhibition closed on a successful note, having attracted more than 30 000 visitors eager to marvel at the iconic French artist’s versatility and range. The robust visitor numbers for this exhibition compare favourably with previous exhibitions of 20th-century modernists at the gallery and is exceeded only by 2006’s Pablo Picasso showcase at the Standard Bank Gallery, which drew 56 000 visitors.Following the lead of cities such as Cape Town and London, Jo’burg introduced First Thursdays, enabling members of the public to explore art galleries and cultural attractions until late on the first Thursday of the month. For the Henri Matisse|Rhythm and Meaningexhibition, the Standard Bank Gallery also extended its opening hours during this time, and introduced shuttles between the various art galleries and precincts.

Ben Kruger, Standard Bank Group Chief Executive says: “It has been an honour and a privilege to present this landmark international exhibition of Matisse works at the Standard Bank Gallery. Prouder still is the fact that three of the Matisse pieces displayed came from our very own Johannesburg Art Gallery collection.

“Matisse was incredibly interested in – and influenced by – African art and textiles, and we are particularly proud that his art has been able to enrich and excite learners through our extensive schools’ outreach programme.”

In addition, Kruger said, Matisse’s body of work had been exposed to a wider audience thanks to community outreach programmes, free public walkabouts and innovative pop-up studios in the city giving the public the opportunity to create their own Matisse-inspired artworks.

Matisse even went digital with South Africans able to have their Twitter profiles reworked into a Matisse “masterpiece” by using #MatisseMyPic.

Added the French Ambassador to South Africa, Elisabeth Barbier: “The Embassy of France in South Africa and the French Institute are thrilled with the warm reception the Matisse exhibition has enjoyed from the public. Visitors completely fell in love with his ingenious techniques and his fascination with bright colours and energetic patterns.

“Matisse was truly a master of invention and reinvention – he was a pioneer who mastered painting, sculpture, print-making and even paper cut-outs later in life – and we hope his rebellious spirit of creativity serves as an inspiration to budding young South African artists, showing them that anything is possible. Thank you again to the French companies who supported this exhibition: Air France, Total and Air Liquide.”

Henri Matisse|Rhythm and Meaning was presented by Standard Bank in partnership with the Embassy of France in South Africa and the French Institute of South Africa, and with the support of the Musée départemental Matisse du Cateau-Cambrésis, Air France, Total and Air Liquide. It was co-curated by Patrice Deparpe, Director of the Musée départemental Matisse du Cateau-Cambrésis, and Prof Federico Freschi, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Johannesburg.

To view the behind-the-scenes video of the Henri Matisse|Rhythm and Meaning exhibition, click here:

The Standard Bank Gallery will be rounding off its 2016 programme with the exhibition Air: Inspiration – Expiration, from 8 October to 3 December. Curated by Cyril Coetzee with the assistance of Robyn Sassen, it marks the fourth and final installment in the gallery’s series of exhibitions based on the four elements of water, fire, earth and air.

With works of visual art pivoting around an “invisible” element, the artists exhibited include Penny Siopis, Robyn Penn, Jackson Hlungwane, Gerhard Marx, Karel Nel and Tito Zungu.   For more information on Air: Inspiration-Expiration visit

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