Gavin Jantjes: To Be Free! A Retrospective (1970-2023)

12 June 2024 to 1 September 2024 Whitechapel Gallery

Surreal painting of a large, textured silver face connected by white, swirling lines to a smaller, simplified figure in white against a dark blue background filled with golden stars. The mood is dreamlike, blending abstract and figurative elements.
Gavin Jantjes, Untitled, 1989, Acrylic on canvas, Arts Council Collection, Image courtesy the artist.

Bringing together over 100 prints, drawings, and paintings many of which have never been shown in the UK

This summer, Whitechapel Gallery presents a timely retrospective of artist Gavin Jantjes (b. 1948, South Africa, lives and works in the UK), his largest solo presentation in the UK to date. It brings together more than five decades of the artist’s diverse and distinctive practice.

Gavin Jantjes: To Be Free! A Retrospective (1970–2023) traces Jantjes’ development as a painter, printmaker, writer and curator while foregrounding his critical role in furthering the discourses around, and representations of, Africa and its diasporas. 

Significantly, 2024 marks the 30th anniversary of the first free elections in South Africa, providing an important topical context for this presentation. Jantjes' engagement with anti-apartheid activism in the 1970s and 1980s led to his political exile, with his work censored in his home country. To be Free! explores the impact this had on his life and work, not least by affecting a move to Europe. Works on show span the breadth of Jantjes’ extraordinary career, encompassing his ground-breaking print works, his compelling, figurative and metaphorical portrayals of the global Black struggle for freedom through to his recent transition to non-figurative painting. The exhibition also reflects on his transformative role at art institutions in the UK, Germany and Norway. In particular, it highlights Jantjes' influence on the cultural landscape of London. 

Jantjes has not had a major exhibition in the UK, To Be Free! provides Jantjes much-deserved institutional recognition.  By celebrating the radical and distinct imprint he has left on the cultural landscapes of Britain and beyond, this expansive presentation provides audiences – especially those new to his work – with an unprecedented opportunity to consider the full breadth of Jantjes' career and critical role as an agent of change: politically, ideologically and aesthetically.

Accompanying the exhibition is a new publication documenting the full breadth of the artist's career.  A 45-minute documentary, To Be Free, by Paul Jantjes, produced by Studio 3 Oslo in Norway, will also be screened during the exhibition period.

Further Information:  Gavin Jantjes: To Be Free! A Retrospective (1970 - 2023)