Dr Kim Gurney is currently a Research Fellow at Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape, and for over a decade was a Research Associate at African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town.

She is currently focused upon two books projects. Panya Routes surfaces the DIY institution-building principles of independent art spaces in various fast-changing cities in Africa, driven by purpose not profit. Flipside pays close attention to the backstage, invisible labour of institution building as curatorial practice by investigating a 50-year document archive of the Cape’s oldest non-profit arts associations and bringing it to literary life.

Kim’s academic work focuses upon contemporary art, city futures, and ideas around the commons - with a special interest in public art & public space, independent art spaces and institution-building. Her PhD explored art as a vector of value, positing an ecological model that put public interest first.

Kim is a former newsroom journalist and news editor, which inflects her range of writing and experiments with form - See Writing. She has recently produced digital storymaps, an artist book, a photobook, a creative non-fiction book, a visual narrative, and media articles. Kim favours an interdisciplinary approach and arts-based investigative methods.

Orcid ID for research outputs: 0009-0008-9463-0738

Selected recent public engagements

'Together we can do so much'

Urban graffiti on the steps of Museum Afrika, Newtown
Photo: Kim Gurney

*Oct 2021. ‘New Shapes’, Nafasi Academy - thematic residency and lab – exploring alternative ecological frameworks. Research Module: Academic Strategies. Nafasi Art Space, Dar es Salaam, Lecture title: ‘Follow the thing’ (research method).
*22 June 2021. Public seminar: ‘Flipside: The Inadvertent Archive’, Centre for Humanities & Department of History Seminar, University of the Western Cape. Via zoom.
*Sep 2020. MayDay: Decolonisation, power and the public space, a podcast produced by Bozar, a centre for fine arts in Brussels, Belgium. “How should our streets, statues and monuments reflect the world we live in? Stella Nyanchama Okemwa, from the Belgian NGO Hand in Hand against Racism, is clear: we need to radically rethink how we celebrate power. In this episode, we take inspiration from South Africa, where #RhodesMustFall has created a space for unofficial rolling artwork, where anyone can take the stage. Writer and artist Kim Gurney, who has examined the case up close, shares her experiences with us.” Available on Spotify.
*2-19 January 2019, panelist and workshop participant, ‘Africa as concept and method – Decolonisation, Emancipation and Freedom’, Addis Ababa University Alle School of Fine Art & Design, Ethiopia, Hosted by Centre for Humanities Consortium International (CHCI).
*9 February 2019, panelist on #Freespace: ‘Places of Remembrance’, Zeitz MOCAA, V&A Waterfront, Exploring how the notion of memory and heritage can be celebrated in contemporary place making. Curated by Instinct with Zeitz MOCAA, V&A and UCT’s African Centre for Cities.
*28 May 2019, Public talk: ‘From platform to plotform: Artistic thinking in spaces of flux’. African Centre for Cities & Centre for Humanities Research (CHR). Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape.
*10 Dec 2019. Independent art spaces as urban indicators, a public talk at University of Leuven, Belgium. Cities in Development: Art in public spaces. Debate series on critical issues regarding cities of the global South, focusing in particular on how urban dwellers’ agency invents urban futures. Kim Gurney and Sandrine Colard, curator of the Lubumbashi Biennale, and Art Historian at Rutgers University. The talk was the final in a series, which included: Cities of exception, Cities of extraction, The right to the city, Colonial pasts and urban futures.
*30 November 2018, panel participant. Re-imagining as destruction and creation, Norval Art Foundation, UCT’s Centre for Curating the Archive. Re-imagining Museums and Archives - a symposium.
*11 Oct 2018, Seeing pink elephants: Performing the city, opening address at ‘Researching Public Art’ conference, The Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm. Hosted by Public Art Agency Sweden. Available on Youtube
*2-5 July 2018, Invited participant, Transversal writing workshop, co-ordinated by Catharina Gabrielsson and Helene Frichot at KTH Architecture School, Swedish House, Kavalla, Greece.
*5 April 2017, Performing the Present, keynote address at ‘Being (in) Public: Encounters - Outside Place / Inner Space’, international symposium, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Bbeyond in collaboration with Belfast School of Art at Ulster University. Keynote: Performing the Present (2017) - copy of text. This talk makes three moves through time and space to contemplate how art can help make sense of the contemporary moment and re-imagine city futures.
*April 2017, ‘In Focus’ programme, a TV interview by Northern Visions filmed on the occasion of delivering the address, above, at Being in Public, Belfast School of Art, Ulster University.
*July 2015, panel participant, ‘Dead Monuments’ convened by Professor Gavin Younge. Sorbonne, Paris. ECAS 2015. Title of Paper presented: ‘The Disappeared: Missing Artworks Task Force’.

Sole-authored books

Gurney, K. 2022. Panya Routes. Independent art spaces in Africa. Berlin: Motto Books.
Available: Motto Books
Book announcement: African Centre for Cities

Gurney, K. 2017. August House is Dead, Long Live August House! The Story of a Johannesburg Atelier. Johannesburg: Fourthwall Books. Available: Book Lounge

  • Mbongeni Buthelezi in his August House studio
    Mbongeni Buthelezi in his August House studio

    Photo: Anthea Pokroy

  • Gordon Froud in his August House studio
    Gordon Froud in his August House studio

    Photo: Anthea Pokroy

  • Gibson Khumalo at his August House office
    Gibson Khumalo at his August House office

    Photo: Anthea Pokroy

  • Power Mazibuko at August House
    Power Mazibuko at August House

    Photo: Anthea Pokroy

  • Jacki McInnes in her August House studio
    Jacki McInnes in her August House studio

    Photo: Anthea Pokroy

  • Bie Venter in her August House loft
    Bie Venter in her August House loft

    Photo: Anthea Pokroy

Gurney, K. 2015. The Art of Public Space: Curating and Re-imagining the Ephemeral City. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

View a short documentary about ‘New Imaginaries’, the trilogy of art events exploring public space upon which The Art of Public Space is based, on youtube. A symposium was convened as part of the book research: ‘New Imaginaries, New Publics’ was organised by Kim Gurney/ ACC & hosted at Goethe-Institut Johannesburg on 21 February 2013. Download programme of speakers; Download event rationale. Video recordings of presentations are available upon request.

Artist's city walk, exploring Hillbrow through kwaito with Rangoato Hlasane.

New Imaginaries’ (2012)
Photo: K. Gurney


My PhD thesis on art and value transposes a foundational ecosystems model to posit art’s public interest value as central and all other valuations flowing from there. https://open.uct.ac.za/handle/11427/30352

Edited books

*Van Graan, M. (ed). 2015. Stimie, M. and Gurney, K. (contributing eds.). South African Handbook on Arts and Culture. Cape Town: African Arts Institute.


Gurney, K. 2020. Green Screen - A digital storymap of creative nonfiction that follows the life of a film set assembled for a commercial to tell a larger story about counterfactual imagination and city futures from the artisanal perspective of the workshop floor. Salt River, Cape Town. Published by Centre for Humanities Research.

Gurney, K. 2019. From End to End. A Storymap of Viral Sculptures. This digital storymap (geolocation, visuals and text) follows the surprising trajectories of a series of viral sculptures from a Johannesburg studio into private and public settings as part of a broader study on art as a vector of value.

Recent chapters

Gurney, K. 2017. ‘Public Art Prospects in ‘Mzansi’s Golden Economy’. In: Public Art in Africa: Art and Urban Transformations in Douala - ebook. Edited by Iolanda Pensa with Marta Pucciarelli, Fiona Siegenthaler, Marilyn Douala Bell, Kamiel Verschuren, Xandra Nibbeling, Lucas Grandin, Asta Adukaite and Maud De La Chapelle. MetisPresses: Geneve. Download
Gurney, K. 2016. ‘Remembering the Map: Prestwich Memorial’. In: Dobraszczyk, P. Garrett, B.L. & Galviz, C.L.(eds). Undergrounds: Exploring Cities Within. London: Reaktion Books, pp. 97-99 / ‘Remaking the Map: Golden Acre, Cape Town’, pp. 186-189 / ‘Off the Map: Cape Town Tunnels’, pp. 227-230.
Pieterse, E. & Gurney, K. 2012. ‘Johannesburg: Investing in Cultural Economies or Publics?’. In Anheier, H.K. & Y.R. Isar (eds) & guest editor M. Hoelscher, M. Cultural Policy and Governance in a New Metropolitan Age: The Cultures and Globalization Series, Vol. 5. London: Sage Publications Ltd, Chapter 17, pp. 195-203.
Gurney, K. 2013. ‘Abracadabra’. In: E. Pieterse & A. Simone (eds). Rogue Urbanism: Emergent African Cities. Auckland Park: Jacana, pp. 421-425.

Selected journal articles

Gurney, K. Spring 2023. ‘Breathing Room: Working Principles of Independent Art Spaces in African Cities’. African Arts, Vol. 56, No. 1, pp. 26-41.
Gurney, K. N. Muyanga & E. Pieterse. 31 October 2022. The Creative Politics of Legibility. Public Culture, Part III Speculations, Vol. 34 (3), pp. 515-535.
Gurney, K. 2021. ‘The mogul, his meerkat and the meerkat’s second life’. In: e-flux Architecture, Workplace - A collaboration between e-flux Architecture and the Canadian Center for Architecture. Editors: Nick Axel, Albert Ferré, Nikolaus Hirsch and Megan Marin.
Gurney, K. 2020. ‘Offscreen: Making it and faking it’. In: Writingplace,
Readings(s) and Writing(s): Unfolding Processes of Transversal Writing, Vol. 3, pp.110-130.
Gurney, K. July 2018. ‘Zombie monument: Public art and performing the present’, Cities, Special issue - Urban Geography of the Arts. Guinard, P. & Molina, G. (Eds). Vol. 7, pp. 33-38. DOI.
For more about the afterlife of the Rhodes plinth, an ongoing research exploration of mine, see the Writing tab
Gurney, K. 07 Sep 2016. ‘Warp and Woof: Stalking Art from End to End’. In: Critical Arts: South-North Cultural and Media Studies. Vol. 30, Issue 3: Art, ethnography and practice-led research, pp. 411-427.
Gurney, K. 2013. ‘Sounding the City: Urban Performance in Johannesburg’. In: Kunstforum International, Issue 223 (Oct-Dec): pp. 94-107.
Gurney, K. 2013. ‘Ethnography of a Flame’. In: Critical Arts. South-North Cultural and Media Studies, 27(4), pp.439-443.
Gurney, K. 2012. ‘The Fractured Public Interest’. In: Rhodes Journalism Review, Issue 32, p.8. Available: https://journals.co.za/toc/rujr/2012/32
Gurney, K. 2012. ‘Mzansi’s Golden Economy’ and performance art. In: The Johannesburg Salon, Vol. pp. 98-101.
Gurney, K. 2011. ‘Doing Journalism’ - The shifting private-public axis and the rejuvenation of journalism ethics’. In: Rhodes Journalism Review, Issue 31, pp. 33-34.