Over a month ago, I confessed that I low-key harboured my own biases when it relates to other people’s careers, here. I am glad to say that those biases were unfounded. On today’s lifestyle segment, I got to learn more about art, and how I can start buying and possibly start a collection. 

As someone who has an interest in interior home design, I would like to live in a house that has a couple of fine art pieces, and essentially, artwork that has cultural significance. Our stories don’t necessarily have to be told in words, they can equally so, be narrated through visuals. 

Writer and Visual Artist, Percy Mabandu helped me manoeuvre the beginner’s guide to buying art, as well as, Karabo The Curator who is an art collector, sharing her experience in collecting art. Here’s how our conversation went…

Percy Mabandu

Q. Can you differentiate between Art that has been mass generated available at stores, and Fine Art sold by artists and by galleries?

That’s exactly the difference. The guy that’s locating his work in supermarkets wants his work living in that environment, so that affects how the object is received in the world. For instance, if you print monopoly money, it is currency but only valuable in the game, so you can’t go and use it at a shop. However, this does not mean Art sold at supermarkets is less valuable. Oftentimes, Art that’s sold in galleries is more expensive, and is perceived in a different light.  

Q. In your opinion, is it important for people to collect or buy art?

It’s very important. If you had bought a William Kentridge 1991, when he was starting out, and managed to hold on to it until now, the value would have accrued. From a monetary perspective, it makes sense. In a cultural sense, when it comes to the way in which art speaks to us – you buy art because you like it and it means something to you. The greater the meaning of an object, the more valuable it can become. 

Q. If I want to start buying Fine Art pieces, where is my first point of direction? 

It depends how deep your pockets are. Affordability will dictate whether you’ll start at high end exhibitions or student exhibitions. When you buy at student exhibitions, you’re buying it because you like it, not because it will be expensive one day. However, you may also buy work that you think one day will accrue value – that’s a secondary consideration. If your pockets are much deeper, you may start at a gallery or high-end exhibition because you can afford that. Not all beginners are equal. What is important though, is that you need to educate yourself about the field before you start making purchases.

Q. Financially speaking, how prepared must one be when they start buying Fine art? 

Well, you can find art going for different prices, I’ve seen some going for R500, R1000, the market has different levels. 

Q. Does payment have to be cash or is it payable over-time?

People have agreements with galleries on how they will make payments. You negotiate your way. Sometimes if you have what the gallery wants, you’d trade. 

Q. Can we pay insurance for our Fine Art pieces? Are there such policies? 

Yes. Insurance is a big part of the art world. These are valuable objects and they must be insured. 

Q. Which artists/galleries do you recommend to people who want to start buying art? 

It depends on what you’re looking for. Different galleries specialise in different types of artworks. There are galleries that work with older-matured artists, and galleries that work with younger vibrant artists, so it depends on what you want to acquire.  

Karabo The Curator

Q. What drew your attention to art?

It was in the way it made me feel. Instead of it carrying answers it brought more questions. What was the artist thinking? What was it meant to convey? Why am I so affected? And then you’re drawn in.

Q. Do you think it is important for people to buy/collect art?

Yes, it is important, rather than having a decorative element to a space, it can serve as a great conversation starter. I also love the idea of supporting living artists so that they reap off the fruits of their labour.

Q. Please describe the type of art you’re interested in, and the reasons why?

It’s firstly art that I like, aesthetically appreciate and it resonates with me in that moment of time in my life, whether I’m happy, overthinking, or melancholic, I literally look for art that evokes emotions. I also buy from artists that I believe in.

Q. Which artists have you collected so far?

Thokozani Madonsela, Sam Nthlengethwa, Lulama Wolf, Zandile Tshabalala, Zanele Montle, Nelson Makamo, Marco Olivier Sculptures, Azael Langa, Mary Sibande, Percy Maimela, Lemi Ghariokwu, to name a few.

I am convinced that I have enough information to get me started on my journey to collecting art. I am interested in art that illustrates our journey as South Africans, where we are as a country, and what the future looks like. As a young man from Venda, I think it is high time for me to start looking into artworks that represent our culture or that’s inspired by our culture and tradition. Nothing excites my adrenaline like sentimental/cultural artefacts. I should be making a few purchases soon. 

Share with us your art collecting journey below…