Inside Out Centre For The Arts

WORDS Michaela Stehr PHOTOS Supplied

The renamed Inside Out Centre for the Arts (originally the Roger Ballen Centre for Photographic Art) founded by renowned local artist Roger Ballen has undergone a transformation to add to Joburg’s booming cultural landscape.

The space has become a significant artistic landmark on the busy Jan Smuts Avenue. Combined with the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Museum and the Joburg Contemporary Arts Foundation, it completes a trio of important historical and artistic landmarks in the suburb of Forest Town. 

Designed as a multi-purpose space, the Inside Out Centre serves as a gallery and exhibition space that will focus specifically on issues relating to Africa as a continent from a distinctively aesthetic and psychological perspective. The centre will also be a hub for educational talks, panel discussions, presentations and masterclasses on the art on exhibitions and topics relevant to the arts. An educational project book, aimed predominantly at senior high school learners and based on each exhibition’s theme, will be developed for visiting school groups.

The opening of the Inside Out Centre for the Arts has been anticipated for a while. The Roger Ballen Foundation, which was dedicated to the advancement of education in photography in South Africa, was established by the artist in 2008. The Foundation sponsored exhibitions in Johannesburg of notable international artists and brought guest lecturers to students in the city. After some time, Ballen felt that the Foundation, which has since been renamed the Inside Out Trust Foundation, needed a home so that shows and programmes could run on an ongoing basis. In January 2018, he finally found a property in an ideal location to bring his project to fruition. The Inside Out Centre was built on this piece of land, and Ballen moved into the building in August 2020.

Inside Out Centre For The Arts

The name ‘Inside Out’ reflects the idea that the Centre’s exhibitions will encourage introspection, and the design of the building is inspired by the same aim. Raw concrete is used on the interior and exterior surfaces of the building, the latter of which conceals the entrance that opens into a breathtaking, double-volume, naturally lit space. 

“I sometimes think that the building looks like it has been turned ‘inside out’,” comments Ballen, who worked closely with local architect Joe van Rooyen of JVR Architects to create a landmark building.

The inaugural show, End of the Game, grapples with the decimation of wildlife in Africa. Part historical archive and part Ballen’s artistic response to these issues, the exhibition confronts the viewer with deep universal and psychological questions about the human race and its relationship to the natural world.

“In the years to come,” explains Ballen, “the Inside Out Centre will feature themes related to Africa with global application. There is a wealth of highly respected international and local artists — working in photography, installation, sculpture, drawing, painting and film — whose work centres on African themes. Over time, we will develop inspiring programmes and present thought-provoking exhibitions.” 

Exhibition viewing is by appointment only. Bookings can be made on the Inside Out Centre for the Arts website. Tickets cost R150. This price includes a copy of the catalogue for the inaugural exhibition, End of the Game. For more information, visit

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