Collecting Art: Where To Start (Part Two)

collecting art

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.


Brendon and Suzette Bell-Roberts, publishers and editors-in-chief of Art Africa magazine and founders of That Art Fair


Suzette and Brendon at their Art Africa office in Salt River.

What is your definition of contemporary African art?

There is a lot of debate around the terminology used to define art created on the African continent – so the safest way to define it would be to call it contemporary art from Africa and not contemporary African art.

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

It will continue to grow; we are definitely at the beginning stages here. International brands and artists continue to take preference in the global art market and “African artists” still represent a small percentage. That is not to say Africa is not hot right now, but rather that there is enough place for many, many more artists to emerge onto the international scene.

How would you advise someone to start collecting art?

Commit to buying that very first work. It doesn’t have to be expensive – there are many young artists whose works would sell for only a few hundred rands. Galleries and artists will often offer terms – don’t be afraid to ask. Buy what appeals to you – don’t be swayed by peer pressure or fear of missing out! Read, research and visit. The more you do, the more you’ll learn about your tastes and to trust your instincts. Attending the year-end exhibitions at art schools is a great way to start on a small budget.

Artists on the Bell-Roberts’s Radar: Khehla Chepape Makgato, Fanie Buys, Laura Windvogel, Khaya Witbooi, Neill Wright, Ben Winfield and Mia Chaplin.


Mohau Modisakeng, recipient of the 2016 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for visual arts


Mohau in front of two of his works at WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery in Woodstock.

We’ve seen a huge interest in all things African when it comes to design, fashion and art. Are you noticing the same?

I think the interest that you have observed in the drive towards all things African has always been there. Africa has hosted numerous civilisations and kingdoms; it has seen the traffic of trade and cultural exchange from India and China. It is exactly because of that wealth of history that Africa will always be at the forefront of global trends. So yes, I think this interest in Africa will continue to grow. These waves of interest are not removed from the historical exodus of the world to Africa to inspect, extract and export. Sometimes this interest takes the form of appropriation and sometimes it is outright plunder. I think it is important for Africans to define the terms.

What do you think is the most exciting thing about African art right now?

The most exciting thing about Africa for me has always been the potential that has been fossilised for so many centuries. The prospect of excavating the abundant wealth that lies just beneath the surface is exciting. That is why I don’t completely understand the basis of futuristic projections of Africa that turn their backs on that history for the more palatable, contrived histories.

Artists on Mohau’s radar: Jane Alexander, Nandipha Mntambo, Nicholas Hlobo, Athi-Patra Ruga, Robin Rhode, Mary Sibande, Zanele Muholi, Nelson Makamo, Skhumbuzo Makandula and Kemang Wa Lehulere.

MISSED PART ONE? You’ll find it here.