Collecting Art: Where To Start (Part One)


WORDS Malibongwe Tyilo PHOTOS Shavan Rahim

Where do you start if you’re interested in collecting art? We asked a few people in the know for tips.

Interest in contemporary art from our country and the continent has grown in leaps and bounds these past few years. To help you to speak and collect like the art cognoscenti at the art fair, we asked some knowledgeable art lovers to tell us what’s what when it comes to contemporary African art.


Igsaan Martin, director of Gallery MOMO


Igsaan, standing between two sculptures by the late Dumile Feni in Gallery MOMO in the Bo-Kaap.

Do you think the current interest in art and design from Africa will continue to grow?

I think this is only the start. For many years I have been hearing “internationals” saying, “Africa is the next big thing.” I’m in full agreement. Although Africa as a continent has been building momentum in the international scene, the recognition and exposure for artists was not there in the past. Looking back, we have so many great African masters that have influenced the world – Ben Enwonwu from Nigeria with his paintings, Dumile Feni’s sculptures and drawings, Esther Mahlangu… These are just three of many.

What is your definition of contemporary African art?

Artists dealing with the cultural and institutional dynamics of the African continent, those who are creating interesting, questioning works. Every African country is unique, and you can see this in their respective artist’s works.

How would you advise someone to start collecting art?

There are amazing young artists taking part in shows all over the country. It’s best to get out there and go to openings, walkabouts and open studios. You want to research the artist and his or her works, then acquire works based on knowledge – analysis followed by emotion.

Artists on Igsaan’s radar: Beninese-Belgian photographer Fabrice Monteiro, Florine Demosthene from Haiti and Maurice Mbikayi from the DRC.


Lindi Brownell Meiring, VISI online editor and avid art collector


Lindi, her husband Niel Meiring and their pet bunny Matisse with Paul Senyol’s All Your Billows (below) and Ocean’s End (hanging on the wall) at Salon Ninety One in Gardens, Cape Town.

Do you think art is guided by trends in a similar way to design?

To me, art is timeless. Sometimes it’s difficult to differentiate between a work painted in 1964 and a piece finished a couple of months ago. Artists may follow trends in terms of colour or media, but in my opinion, subject matter remains subjective and free from having to follow trends.

What does contemporary South African art mean to you? And what do you think is the most exciting thing about local art right now?

Contemporary South African art covers decades of so many styles. It’s Jürgen Schadeberg’s photographs, Michael Taylor’s paintings, Nicholas Hlobo’s sculptural installations. There has always been and will always be so much talent in this country, and it’s something that should be continuously celebrated.

How did you start your art collection? And how would you advise others to start in the current art climate?

The prices that come with investing in established artists often put first-time buyers off. It shouldn’t. The first artwork I bought was a Sarah Pratt original for R1 750. I look at it and appreciate it every day. When buying a piece, it needs to be something that will make you want to take a minute, to just stop for a moment and admire something that really speaks to you. That’s what my collection does for me.

Artists on Lindi’s radar: Paul Senyol, Kirsten Sims, Mohau Modisakeng, Claudia Liebenberg, Zarah Cassim, Adrie le Roux, Mia Chaplin, Kirsten Beets and Victoria Verbaan.

>>> Go to Part Two