A New Dawn in Los Angeles: Southern Guild Transforms the Art Scene

In a city teeming with the presence of prominent galleries like David Zwirner and Perrotin, Los Angeles is also becoming a hub for smaller international art entities seeking to make their mark. Among them is Southern Guild, hailing from the vibrant art scene of Cape Town, South Africa, now establishing its footprint in the City of Angels.

Situated in the Melrose Hill area, Southern Guild’s LA space, though located amidst esteemed neighbors like Zwirner and Morán Morán, exudes its unique charm. Its choice of location reflects a conscious effort to foster a sense of community and collaboration, resonating with the ethos of the art it represents.

Taking over a 5,000-square-foot former laundromat, Southern Guild launches with a flourish, presenting two inaugural exhibitions. The first showcases the solo works of Zizipho Powsa, whose recent artistic residency in Long Beach acted as a catalyst for the gallery’s expansion. Alongside, the group exhibition “Mother Tongues” brings together a diverse array of 26 artists from the gallery’s roster, including luminaries like Zanele Muholi and Andile Dyalvane.

To delve deeper into Southern Guild’s journey and its foray into LA, ARTnews caught up with Trevyn McGowan, the gallery’s co-founder and CEO, for an insightful walkthrough of the new space.

McGowan reveals that the decision to expand to Los Angeles was born out of a desire to explore new horizons. Despite limited prior visits to the city, the allure of LA’s creative energy and community resonance proved irresistible. Drawing parallels between LA and Johannesburg, McGowan finds familiarity in the cities’ dynamic spirit and artistic vibrancy.

Reflecting on Southern Guild’s inception 16 years ago, McGowan shares the impulsive yet passionate origins of the gallery. Founded on a vision to amplify the voices of South African artists on a global stage, Southern Guild has evolved into a thriving community of creatives, fostering collaboration and innovation.

The gallery’s growth journey has been marked by a commitment to authenticity and inclusivity, transcending geographical boundaries. While predominantly representing African artists, Southern Guild remains open to collaborations with artists worldwide, provided they resonate with the gallery’s ethos.

The name “Southern Guild” encapsulates the gallery’s ethos of unity and collaboration, akin to the medieval guilds of yore. McGowan emphasizes the democratic nature of the organization, eschewing hierarchical structures for a collective ethos.

Southern Africa’s art scene has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past decade, with Cape Town emerging as a vibrant cultural hub. McGowan highlights the burgeoning artistic landscape, underscored by the opening of contemporary art museums and the proliferation of galleries and cooperatives.

The gallery’s inaugural exhibitions in LA showcase the richness and diversity of African artistry. From Zizipho Poswa’s evocative sculptures to the collective voices echoing in “Mother Tongues,” Southern Guild’s offerings embody a tapestry of narratives, spanning generations and perspectives.

Looking ahead, Southern Guild aims to continue its trajectory of growth and innovation, with an unwavering focus on community engagement and artistic excellence. As it embarks on this new chapter in Los Angeles, the gallery remains steadfast in its commitment to shaping a more equitable and inclusive art world.