THE ART ADVISORY
ALEXIA WALKER: Auctions will offer excellent opportunities for lovers of African art
Alexia Walker brings you up to date with the latest developments in the art world
By the looks of it, 2017 is set to be a busy year for art lovers and collectors nationally and internationally.
The year starts with a major exhibition, South Africa The Art of a Nation, running at the British Museum in London until the end of February. The show, which brings together works dating back 3-million years all the way up to the 21st century, explores contemporary, historical and archeological art.
Other prestigious international art exhibitions taking place in 2017 include the Venice Biennale; Documenta 14, which is held every five years in Kassel, Germany and presents works at the cutting edge of contemporary art (for the first time Documenta will also take place in Athens); and Sculpture Projects Münster, also in Germany.
Sculpture Projects focuses on sculptural works in public spaces and is held every 10 years. All three landmark exhibitions will spread over multiple venues in the cities and surrounds.
At home, the highly anticipated opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) in September is the highlight of the local art calendar.
The museum will be housed in Cape Town’s Grain Silo at the V&A Waterfront. The building, which dates back to the early 1920s, has been converted by London-based design practice Heatherwick Studio.
Zeitz MOCAA, a partnership between the V&A Waterfront and Jochen Zeitz, former CEO of Puma and a major collector of contemporary African art, cost more than R500m to develop and is the largest museum built in Africa in more than a century. It is set to be a game changer locally and is certain to put SA on the global art map.
On the auction front, modern and contemporary African art sales start this month in London with the first of the biannual Africa Now sale, to be held at Bonhams on February 15. The highlight is a sculpture by celebrated Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu, titled Anyanwu. Created in 1956 and more than 2m high, the bronze is estimated at between £150,000 and £200,000.
Bonhams will hold its annual South African Art sale on March 22 and Sotheby’s launches its first standalone auction of modern and contemporary African art in London on May 16.
In Lagos, Arthouse Contemporary Limited presents the second edition of its Affordable Art Auction with works of less than 1-million naira (R44,000). The February 11 auction aims to engage emerging markets and the rise of a new collector base.
In March, the leading South African auction houses swing into action with Strauss & Co’s first sale of the year taking place in Cape Town on March 6. After its inaugural sale in Johannesburg last October, Aspire will hold its second sale on March 27, also in Cape Town. Both sales are bound to offer collectors the chance to discover recently unearthed old masterpieces and top contemporary works.
First Thursday, when art galleries and museums remain open for extended hours, takes place every month in Cape Town and Johannesburg. It has gained in popularity and has supported the growing interest South Africans have for art.
First Thursday offers galleries the chance to reach a larger audience and is bound to help grow the South African primary art market.
While it’s unlikely many sales are concluded on the night, these regular events contribute to making art part of our mindset — for some to start truly appreciating the works and perhaps consider investing in some. The rise of art fairs has changed the traditional gallery business model. It is estimated that gallerists conclude between 30% and 80% of their business at art fairs.
For art enthusiasts, there is a growing number of art fairs that bring together top South African galleries and exhibitors from the continent, Europe and the US. It’s a unique opportunity to view works by a wide range of artists as well as a fine selection of contemporary African art.
Art fairs have become a place for established collectors to meet like-minded people and share insights about what moves them, while new collectors can draw on expert opinions and advice. In addition to the vast array of works on show, there are talks, discussions and panel debates. It’s a great starting point for anyone interested in art.
Two fairs are scheduled to take place in Cape Town this month, starting with the fifth edition of the Cape Town Art Fair from February 17 to 19 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
The inaugural Art Africa Fair, at the V&A Waterfront on March 24 and 25, will showcase works selected by a group of curators from SA and the continent.
In Johannesburg, the Turbine Art Fair will be held in July — a great place for first-time buyers as the fair focuses on works of less than R40,000.
The FNB Joburg Art Fair will celebrate its 10th edition in September with what promises to be a landmark show.
For those who love art, food and wine, the Winter Sculpture Fair — at the Nirox Sculpture Park near Johannesburg — will be held in May.
This year should give art lovers and collectors more opportunities to engage in the scene, view art and learn about artists and their works. For beginners, it takes time to develop an eye for "good art" and there are no shortcuts, techniques or tricks other than putting in a lot of foot work and seeing as much art as possible.
It can get quite overwhelming and getting the right advice is essential for anyone who wishes to build a meaningful art collection that reflects their personal tastes.
• Walker is a partner in Walker Scott, which offers end-to-end art management services.