Knysna gallery celebrates 25th anniversary

Posted on Tue September 26, 2023.

Knysna Fine Art was established in 1998: at 25, it’s expanded its exhibition space to 900 square metres

One of Knysna’s iconic institutions will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year. 

Knysna Fine Art was established by Trent Read in 1998 in a converted woodworker’s shop on the corner of Gray and Gordon Streets. This brought a new concept to Knysna: the finest contemporary art shown at its best in bright, light-filled rooms designed specifically for their purpose. 

From the beginning, the new gallery offered space to young people who were passionate about making art, and the gallery’s numerous exhibitions and one-person shows quickly gained a reputation for their quality and variety. 


When the building’s owners sold the property for development, Knysna Fine Art moved to new premises – also in Gray Street – but they weren’t a good fit so, when an exciting space became available in Thesen House, the gallery moved again into its present position.

Mr Read - who is considered one of the foremost authorities on art in South Africa - now runs the business with curator Corli de Kock, who is herself an artist, and who, Mr Read says, has a “particular empathy for creative people.”

“Making progress in the art world is difficult for artists,” said Ms de Kock. “You can’t get anywhere unless you have a resume and a list of exhibitions behind you, and you can’t get an exhibition unless you have a resume.

“So it’s a privilege and a pleasure for us to be able to provide the space when we find someone who has the talent.”


Mr Read said that the art market is currently “surprisingly buoyant.” He ascribes this to the rand-dollar exchange rate, and to the fact that the gallery deals with many overseas clients. 

“We’re exporting enormous amounts at the moment – particularly sculptures. South African artists punch way above their weight in the quality of their work, and with South African foundries producing similarly outstanding work, our bronzes are in especial demand.”

Mr Read said, however, that the art market in Knysna remains challenging. “I opened the gallery here because I live here, not because it’s a good place for a gallery to be – and that’s why the real highlight of our 25 years in Knysna is the fact that we’ve survived and thrived.”

Besides their work in Knysna, both Mr Read and Ms de Kock consult to other galleries and to museums in South Africa and abroad, as well as to designers and architects, offering expert advice on selection and display of art pieces, and the design of the spaces in which they are exhibited. They also conduct valuations for insurance and probate. 


Mr Read said that the gallery - which has recently expanded its retail space to 900 square metres – will soon be hosting a series of installations on loan from a major collector. 

“In this way the gallery will take on the role that museums play in the larger centres.”

The first such installation, which will open in October, will be Willem Boshoff’s ‘Blind Alphabet’ – a piece that’s part of the art syllabus. In it, the captions on the artefacts are made in Braille – rather than in plain text – which for once allows the blind to interpret the exhibition for the sighted, rather than the other way round.  

Following this, Knysna Fine Art will open a “major exhibition” on 25 and 26 November in celebration of its birthday.