Crafting the spaces between

Cape Town is two art galleries richer. This month Smith Studio launches in the city with Kurt Pio’s solo show, I love Cape Town, and Space Between in neighbouring Woodstock opened in late January with group exhibit Urban A, featuring Nardstar, Ariel23, R1, Skullboy, Jackfox and Ninjabreadboy.

For a chat with Candace Marshall-Smith and Amy Ellenbogen at their Smith Studio, visitors are greeted by the shrieks of shredding jigsaws and have to dodge construction workers carrying large beams under their arms.

The two business partners and friends are in the thick of final renovations, turning a 250-year-old warehouse into an art gallery. But, in the hands of architects Reanne Urbain and Alex McGee, and with guidance from heritage specialists Gawie and Gwen Fagan, they are unconcerned. Inside, the building’s old walls are exposed to show off raw brick and slate. A sunken courtyard provides natural light and ventilation.

“We wanted an approachable gallery, nothing sterile and intimidating, a space that will be appreciated in its own right, separate from the art,” says Marshall-Smith, an ex-chartered accountant and photographer who bought the building with husband William Marshall-Smith and business partner Andrew Bonamour.

A few years ago, Marshall-Smith wanted to change career direction and, encouraged by her husband, decided to combine her financial skills and love for art by opening a gallery. She approached Ellenbogen, an art history graduate and curator just back home from Edinburgh, who jumped at the partnership opportunity. And so Smith Studio was born. “It’s my surname but also a default name,” says Marshall-Smith, “and we like that it refers to a type of craftsperson.”

Ellenbogen has a penchant for nurturing and guiding artists, and says it is something the gallery will specifically focus on.

“That’s what’s been lacking in galleries here. Artists often feel vulnerable. [They] sign up with a big gallery and [do] not see anyone for a month before the show.” Adds Marshall-Smith: “We want to build relationships of mutual trust and encourage artists’ creative processes, while guiding them in making their work palatable.”

Any names to watch? “It’s difficult,” smiles Ellenbogen. “There are so many. But Grace Cross, David Brits and Elsabé Milandri, definitely.”

Megan Theunissen owner of the Space Between gallery.

Another new curator who, for the same reason, struggles to pinpoint a selection of up-and-coming local artists is Megan Theunissen of Space Between (SB), a gallery that occupies the first floor of a Woodstock building, once the home of Tamzin Lovell Miller’s Lovell Gallery.

The only furniture in this space, previously restored by Lovell Miller, is a vintage taupe and orange floral lounge set and a row of various sized paintings lining a wall. “This was my ouma’s couch,” laughs the 27-year-old Michaelis graduate. “It’s 60 years old and so hipster!”

A few sentences in and Theunissen’s feisty passion for urban art surfaces, be it lowbrow, graffiti or street art. She’s not short of opinions about its plight – or guts.

“Previously there’s not been much space in South Africa for artists that don’t fit the so-called fine art mould. I started Space Between out of frustration at the lack of opportunities for [an artist’s] being marginalised because you don’t fit the box. All of my artists’ work comments on society in some way.”

A curatorial residency at Lovell Gallery – where she worked on a business plan for one day when she opened her own gallery – saw Theunissen meet the building’s owner, Elad Kirshenbaum. Himself a serious collector of street art, Kirshenbaum and Lovell Miller encouraged Theunissen to continue with her gallery planning – and also came up with the name, Space Between. “The name is literal,” says Theunissen, “SB give marginalised artists that space, a gap, to exhibit their work and develop their careers.”

But Theunissen is picky about choosing artists. “I only work with those who have the right aesthetic, are technically strong, skilful and talented. And willing to help establish a stronger local underground art community.”

Being self-funded and working long hours to keep things afloat does not deter her. In fact, Theunissen has bigger plans: she has started to curate an African urban art show that wil go to Hong Kong later in the year.

Urban A is on at Space Between, 139 Albert Road, Woodstock. For more information and launch date of I love Cape Town at Smith Studio, see

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


Coalition politics and law: The fight over Tshwane

With coalition politics on the rise, particularly in local government, this kind of court case is likely to become more common

High court declares Dudu Myeni delinquent

Disgraced former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni has been declared a delinquent director by the...

SANDF inquiry clears soldiers of the death of Collins Khosa

The board of inquiry also found that it was Khosa and his brother-in-law Thabiso Muvhango who caused the altercation with the defence force members

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread

Press Releases

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday