Gavin Jantjes was born in 1948 in District Six, Cape Town, South Africa. He lives and works between Norway, South Africa, and the UK.
Jantjes attended the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town from 1966 to 1969. He left South Africa in 1970 on a DAAD scholarship to study at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg and was granted political asylum in Germany. The artist was an active critic of the apartheid regime. One of his most renowned works, South African Colouring Book, integrates photographic images into a work of art intended as a tool of knowledge about South Africa’s Apartheid policies.
The artist worked as a visual campaign director for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and in 1982 moved his studio to Wiltshire, UK. In 1986, he was appointed a Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts, London, and until 1990, he served on the council of the Arts Council of Great Britain, as its consultant for the formation of the Institute of New International Visual Art (InIVA). He also served as a trustee of the Tate, Whitechapel and Serpentine Galleries.
He became artistic director of the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Hovikodden, near Oslo in 1998 and curated one-person exhibitions there by artists such as Gordon Bennett, Yinka Shonibare, Susan Hiller, Marie-Jo Lafontaine, Shirin Neshat, Marlene Dumas and Carlos Capelan. In 2000, he initiated the “Oslo Open” for the city of Oslo and has been an advisor to the Norwegian Arts Council since 1999. In 2004, he joined the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, as its Senior Consultant for International Contemporary Exhibitions, curating exhibitions on Amar Kanwar, Harun Farocki and Nicholas Hlobo. He has also served as a member of the appointments committee for Documenta 12, Kassel, Germany, (2007).
The artist’s essays and lectures have been published in many national and international publications and art journals. His curatorial research on internationalism shaped the program at Henie Onstad art Centre and is outlined in A Fruitful Incoherence: dialogues with artists on internationalism, published by inIVA London (1998). He was also the Project Director of the Visual Century Project on 20th Century and contemporary South African art, which resulted in the publication of the book Visual Century: South African Art in Context (2011).
Jantjes’ work was recently featured in solo exhibitions at Oslo Kunstforeinig Norway (2017) and as part of Dak’Art Biennale of Contemporary Art, Dakar, Senegal (2018).
His work has been exhibited at Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London, UK; The British Museum, London, UK; South London Gallery, London, UK; Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK; Chisenhale Gallery, London, UK; Hayward Gallery, London, UK; The Bronx Museum, New York, USA; Museum of Modern Art Chicago, USA; PS1 Contemporary Art Centre, MoMA, New York, USA; NMFAA Smithsonian Washington DC, USA; Centre for Photography, New York, USA; Palo Alto Museum, California, USA; Göteborg Museum, Sweden; Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany; Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany; South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa; Neue Gallerie, Graz, Austria; Museu Picasso, Barcelona, Spain; and Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany.
His work is included in several public collections, including Tate Collection, London, UK; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK; Arts Council Collection, London, UK; The Government Art Collection, UK; the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore Maryland, USA; Malmö Museum, Sweden; The Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia and Sindika Dokolo Foundation, Luanda, Angola.