South African art investing:  
what to buy
now, and why...

by Andries Loots - 31 August 2004
If you are a South African art buyer, you might have pondered which artworks to add to your collection at the moment... various dealers would provide different options but here are 9 excellent suggestions and their merits...
Peter Clarke is one of South Africa’s oldest living previously disadvantaged artists whose work is currently undervalued. Very few of his acrylic on board painting ever made it onto the open market and not many were sold over the years. With an outstanding artistic ability he is sure to follow the ranks of fellow artists like Gerhard Sekoto and George Pemba. Museums and collectors have been scouting unsuccessfully for work by this “ old master “ over the last decade. If one can acquire a painting by the artist at the right price it will surely increase in value. His drawings and graphics have come up on South African Auctions but it is especially his paintings that are sought after by collectors. Prices range from R 2000 for a graphic work to R 60 000 for an original acrylic on board.
William Kentridge has been the most innovative and prolific artist that South Africa has produced in the 20th century and has already been acclaimed internationally with numerous touring Museum exhibitions around the world. His work has been taken up in various Museum and corporate collections internationally and he has become a household name in New York regarded as the art capital of the world. His work has also appeared on various International and local Auctions and this has established a firm secondary market. With the current strong Rand and weak US$ it favours South African buyers to acquire his work Internationally and to import it into South Africa, even with the 14% import Tax it might still be less expensive than to buy locally. Prices range from 1000 US$ for a graphic work to 70 000 US$ for an original drawing and 100 000 US$ for an edition animation movie on CD ROM. If one compares these prices with other international artists of his standing William's work is still undervalued with good potential for growth.
Zwelethu Mthethwa has been working his charm in the International market for the last few years and had been under the scrutiny of some of the most renowned curators and Museum Directors Internationally for some time now. It is especially his photography, that is sought after in the USA where photography is the most popular medium at the moment. Zwelethu has been working with NY based Gallery Jack Schainman for the last few years and this relationship has proven to be very lucrative for him. Preparations are in place at the moment for his first Solo Touring Museum Exhibition which will start later in the year in the USA, Europe and South Africa. His work has also appeared at Phillips Auction house in NY last year and this has open up the doors to the secondary market for him. Zwelethu will have a two man show in Cape Town in December with fellow artist Willie Bester and this would be the ideal opportunity for potential investors to still snap up work. Photo’s vary in price from 2000 US$ to 22 000 US$ and pastel drawings from R 20 000 to R 60 000 on the local South African market. Huge growth potential in especially his photography is possible if other top international prices for photography is considered.
Willie Bester has steadily been producing work since the 1980’s when he played a vital role as one of South Africa’s foremost resistance artists and therefore came under the attention of curators of numerous International exhibitions showcasing the works of artists from Africa. He has built up a constant presence and his work has featured in various international publications. He has been working with Italian Gallery Studio Raffiali that has done a good job at promoting and showing his work in the European art market. Willie is one of the artist in the current African Remix Exhibition which is currently touring Europe, Japan and which will finish in a years time in the UK. He is known as a painter but it is his monumental sculptures made from recycled scrap metal that caught the eye of collectors. His work has been sold at international auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christies in the UK and the value of his work has escalated on the South African Auction market beyond gallery prices. Growth potential is excellent and prices range from R 8000 for to R 50 000 for his paintings and between R 20 000 and R 90 000 for his sculptures.
Norman Catherine's work is also currently undervalued. Regarding the new contemporaries in South Africa he is one of the artists who has been around the longest  and his style is parallel to the popular pop art style of some of the most famous artists of our time. Due to his limited International exposure, Norman has lacked behind the younger artists. There has been a steady increase in his prices at local South African Art Auctions. A Retrospective Museum Exhibition that will tour South Africa for the next two years will make the public aware of his remarkable talent. His work is affordable and range from R 6000 to R 150 000.
Robert Hodgins has been producing art for the last 50 years but with limited international exposure. Originally from the UK, one would have expected that he would have exhibited extensively in his country of origin but it was only in 2003 that he had his first solo exhibition in London on the ripe age of 83. Works to the value of 64 000 Pounds were sold on the opening night and he was immediately invited back for a follow up show which is planned later in 2004. He is also one of the artists whose secondary market has grown at the local Auction Houses over the last three years. Prices vary from R 15 000 to R 85 000 for oil on canvas paintings.
concerning the younger up and coming market there seems to be a specific style that seems to tickle the fancy of potential local buyers. The young aspiring South African art collector of the 21st century seems to be looking for something colourful, bold, not too intellectual and yet with an International flavour. The artist must also be a prolific worker to satisfy demand and must have the potential to be innovative and to come up with new ideas and concepts all the time, without straying too far from his or her recognizable style. Prices must rise steadily and the quality must stay consistent and combined with a good marketing strategy and a vibrant style seems to be a winning strategy. Richard Scott, a young wiz kid with a passion for art has been making waves in the art world without ruffling too many feathers. Richard is a finalist in this years Brett Kebble Awards in the category New Media but is already working on new ideas for his next projects in various media. With a solo exhibition in London to his credit for such a short career the potential for growth is very good. Prices are very reasonable ranging from R 4000 to R 22 000 for a large acrylic on canvas.
Regarding investment value of any current or past artist from South Africa there is only one who has joined the ranks of the best in the world - Marlene Dumas. Although many might not view her as South African any more, as she left South Africa in the 70’s to live and work permanently in Amsterdam, she still has her roots deeply embedded in South Africa. Marlene, now regarded as one of the great Dutch masters has been included in numerous Museum Exhibitions and Biennales over the years and her work is sought after by collectors from around the world. There are very few of her works available in the Galleries as everything usually sells out on opening nights at her exhibitions and one will have to depend on top  auctions like at Sotheby’s, Christies or Phillips in NY or London to be able to acquire anything by the artist. This however will still be the best investment that one can make. Her prices range from R10 000 for a small graphic to 14 000 US$ for a small watercolour to 900 000 US$ for a large oil painting.
The International market is far more difficult to examine as there are numerous new aspiring artists entering the market. Galleries scramble to show the “ right “ artists all the time. Therefore settle on an artist with a proven track record,  a stable secondary market with potential for growth and work that is still affordable. The curve to fame has lately been shortened as young collectors snap up work. One of the youngest yet most successful artist that emerged and who has shot to fame in a very short period of time is Japanese born Takashi Murakami. Born in 1962 his work already decorates the walls of major Museums like Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo, Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA, Museum of Modern Art, New York, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC., Tate Modern, London, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, U.S.A., Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo to name but a few. Takashi took the Andy Worhol and Jeff Koons pop art medium and style one step further and perfected it in unique Japanese yet international format. Due to our current favourable rate of exchange, it is a good time to invest in his work. Graphics are still available from between R 6000 and R 30 000 and although his oils and sculptures tend to be pricey, they are redhot investments!

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