About the WAM Collection
Wits Art Museum (WAM) is home to the largest and most significant holdings of African arts in southern Africa. The collection is made up of different sub-collections which were added at various times in the Museum’s history.
Although they are isolated examples, the earliest works included probably date to the 4th century C.E. Most works date from the 20th and 21st centuries.
Currently numbering over 12 000 items, the three major collecting areas of classical, historical and contemporary artworks are unique in their breadth, geographical range and local specialisation.
The classical African collection boasts extensive holdings from southern, West and Central Africa, and smaller numbers from East Africa. There is significant depth to the collections of beadwork, drums, headrests, wooden sculpture, ceremonial and fighting sticks, masks, basketry, wirework and textiles. The objects have been assembled primarily in recognition of their aesthetic value.
Paintings by Irma Stern, Walter Battiss and Maggie Laubser and Gladys Mgudlandlu, pencil drawings by J.H. Pierneef and Gerard Sekoto, watercolours by Durant Sihlali, linocuts by Azaria Mbatha and John Muafangejo, and bronze sculptures by Sydney Kumalo and Edoardo Villa are just a few items in the large and important collections of historical South African art.
Contemporary South African art holdings include collections of paintings, drawings, watercolours, printmaking, sculpture, photography and new media. Willem Boshoff, Alan Crump, Kendell Geers, Jackson Hlungwane, Robert Hodgins, William Kentridge, David Koloane, Santu Mofokeng, Nelson Mukhuba, Sam Nhlengethwa, Karel Nel, Claudette Schreuders, Phutuma Seoka, Penny Siopis, Paul Stopforth are some of the many artists represented. A younger generation is represented by artists such as Zander Blom, Gabrielle Goliath, Gerhard Marx, Nandipha Mntambo, Anthea Moys and Sandile Zulu.
Named in honour of a major donor to the new building, the C.J. Petrow Library is a rich source of information on African and southern African art and artists, and artworks in WAM's collection. Access is by appointment and materials are available for on-site reference.
The Neil Goedhals Archive comprises a substantial archive of a large number of artworks, works in progress, found objects from the artist's collection, biographical material and ephemera. Neil Goedhals, was a graduate of the Wits Fine Arts Department. After the artist's untimely death in 1990, the research collection was donated to WAM by the Neil Goedhals estate.