EXHIBITIONS all too often are a place where people talk enthusiastically about the art, eat the snacks, drink the wine and then buzz off home without buying a thing.
If this has been your MO, but you do have a lingering interest in art, then there is no better time than now to start investing in a few pieces.
Well-known Bay artist and gallery owner Anthony Harris, of ART in Cuyler Street, says you don’t have to be loaded to collect art – begin small, invest wisely and your collection will grow in size and value.
Harris had the following suggestions for starting a collection:
- Understand why you are buying art. “Are you buying it to match the colour of your curtains or are you buying it because of passion and investment?”.
- Start small and buy what you like.
- Go with your gut feel but also trust the advice of knowledgeable people like gallery owners and curators.
- Expose yourself to lots of works by visiting galleries and art museums. Ask to be on their mailing lists, go to openings, chat to like-minded patrons and meet the artists. “Observe, listen, learn and ask questions,” Harris says.
- Develop an understanding of artists’ work that you enjoy – learn about their progress and development over time.
Harris has an interesting anecdote about a piece he acquired in his third year of art school in the 1970s.
“The artist was a lecturer of mine, Patric O’Connor, and the work was titled Flagellation of Christ. Patric had a solo exhibition at the Walsh Marais Gallery in Durban and this work was the middle piece of a triptych [three works that hang together].
“I bought it for R250 – a lot of money then. But being a student I was able to arrange with the gallery owner to pay it off over six months.
“Unbeknownst to me, the Durban Art Gallery bought the other parts of the triptych. The curator there has since contacted me several times to sell the one I have in order to complete the triptych – the last offer some years back was R110000.”
Harris still loves the piece “which has hung proudly in the many homes I have occupied”. “When I ‘kick the bucket’ I might donate it to the Durban Art Gallery,” he chuckled.
Cedric Vanderlinden, director of the Underculture Contemporary gallery which opened in Park Drive in October, says art in the home or office not only has aesthetic value but can become a future asset.
“People who are decorating might rush out to a popular chain store to buy something for their walls but the minute those items leave the shop they’re worthless.
“What they don’t realise is that art can become a serious investment.
“Friends of mine got married 10 years ago and since they had everything they needed for their home, they asked guests to contribute towards an artwork as a collective gift instead.
“I was one of those who chipped in for a sculpture by Bay artist Anton Momberg and today that piece is worth 10 times or more than what we paid.”
Vanderlinden is also getting married in June and says he and his fiance, Samantha Swatts, hope to follow the same approach when it comes to their wedding gifts. “I suggest new buyers look at investing in pieces by upcoming artists. That’s why I started Underculture Contemporary – to create a platform for promising young artists to promote their work.”
Like Vanderlinden, Robin Sharwood, manager of the GFI gallery in Park Drive, believes in supporting local artists.
“The Eastern Cape has a wealth of talent and there are some immensely qualified artists who call the province home. Yet Eastern Cape art is still largely undervalued, which does make it an excellent investment.”
Sharwood often buys “a piece or two” from exhibitions at GFI (previously known as the Ron Belling gallery) for her own collection, as does the gallery’s director, Dorothea Moors.
“New buyers with limited budgets could look at a medium like photography or linocuts, which are often cheaper than paintings.”
Community galleries like ArtEC in Bird Street are also well worth supporting but regardless of which gallery you visit, Sharwood says, “you must buy what you love”.