New Association


Art and design from the continent of Africa and the diaspora have an exciting home at Southern Guild’s Melrose Hill outpost

Southern Guild founders Trevyn and Julian McGowan.

While the burgeoning gallery row along Western Avenue in L.A. boasts known quantities in the art world, a certain presence that opened in February helped profoundly shift the district’s international profile. “We’re the first South African gallery to open a full-time space in America,” Southern Guild co-founder Trevyn McGowan proudly states during a conversation via Zoom from her home base of Cape Town, South Africa. Selecting L.A. was an organic process and an outgrowth of the gallery’s innovative program, which since 2008 has spotlighted collectible design and fine art from its roster of artists based in Africa and within the African diaspora.

Jody Paulsen, Tomorrow Man (2023); Chuma Maweni, Imbizo Dining Table II (2023) with Imbizo Ibanjiwe (A Gathering Is Held) stools.

“It was very instinctive,” she says about her and cofounder (and husband) Julian McGowan’s decision to expand to this market. Plus signing the lease on the 5,000-square-foot structure, which was transformed by Evan Raabe Architecture Studio (ERĀS), proved to be a stroke of fortuitous timing and location. “We didn’t have any idea that all these galleries were coming. Specifically, Melrose Hill is dynamic and intentional—and authentic,” says McGowan. Within this context, Southern Guild’s interiors feel simultaneously expansive and intimate. This tension is conducive to curating sprawling, ambitious group shows such as the inaugural Mother Tongues, as well as to presenting work at various scales, including Zizipho Poswa’s towering, eight-foot-tall ceramic and bronze sculptures that incorporate references to traditional African jewelry types. “The route through the space takes you on a journey and tells a story as you go,” McGowan observes.

The amazing artists represented by Southern Guild.

Perhaps more crucially, however, is how the building can be a vehicle to promote broader local and global dialogues in the cultural realm. Southern Guild’s opening programming, which coincided with Frieze Week, set an auspicious tone. A Xhosa-inspired sonic healing experience featuring artists Andile Dyalvane and Sisonke Papu along with artist and activist Patrisse Cullors, for instance, “felt very welcoming, warm, collaborative—all the things that are pillars of the way we work,” McGowan reflects. “We’ve got room to spread and engage in proper conversations, and to explore really interesting opportunities for exchange and collaboration.”

Ceramic artist Zizipho Poswa photographed next to her work, Cisakulo (2024), for her solo exhibition Indyebo yakwaNtu (Black Bounty); Mother Tongues installation. Photography by JOJO KORSH/BFA/SOUTHERN GUILD.

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