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Why are  more people not buying Art ?

by Andries Loots
week 26

Maggie Laubser

Maggie Laubser

We are living in a time were the average family's budget  includes luxury goods and pursuits such as annual holidays,  new cars,   computers and entertainment and it is surprising that people are still reluctant to buy an original artwork. The reason for this differs from country to country and I will try to address the reasons  I personally think  part of the scenario in South Africa.

Many of us  grew up  with no appreciation for art or any training in the field. Most people appreciate skill and you don't have to be a jeweller to recognize a well-made piece of jewellery. The same is true for art,  you don't have to be an artist to appreciate  a good work of art. Since we were never taught to look at art in the right way,  we don't have any appreciative skills and therefore have to rely very heavily on advice from Art Dealers or Gallery owners to guide us as to when and what to buy. If one looks at the newspaper reports on art,  it is always the most obscure piece or the most expensive piece that makes the front page. The average man on the street gets very confused  because he is made to believe,  by art critics,  that  this is  what art is all about. The irony is that there are wonderful works by talented artists exhibited in smaller Galleries,  which is ignored by these critics.

It is very important to exhibit new concepts and there are leading galleries   like Bang the Gallery that has taken the lead in this field in Cape Town. It is a myth that good original art should cost a four-figure sum or more. The work of many younger artists are very reasonably priced unless otherwise influenced by the Galleries they are dealing with or by their Agents and promoters,   and there is a wide range of art available to suit all tastes and budgets.

We must start off by clearing the age-old tradition of thought that art is only for the upper classes,  the rich and certain ethnic groups. Even now after the change in South Africa the atmosphere in most Galleries is still stiff,  pompous and intimidating to the casual or first time visitor. People will not buy if they feel threatened or uncomfortable with their surroundings.

Stephan Welz and Johans BormanWith the opening of one of South Africa's latest Galleries in Cape Town,  Johans Borman Fine Art,  it was again the case of a white Úlitist   crowd that attended the opening of  the Gallery. They were draped in jewellry and sipped away at their sponsored Whisky and wine while their partners wrote out cheques. It is a magnificent Gallery specializing in Old Masters,  unfortunately masters like Gerhard Sekoto,  George Pemba, Gladys Mgudlandlu  and  other black artists were not included. A very definite division was also made between Old masters and   contemporary,  which was shown in two annex Galleries.

Conrad  and Mrs.TheysExcept for two pieces by black artist Solly Malope and one by coloured artist,  Conrad Theys,  the exhibition comprising of  99  works was one of  white art only. No wonder that one of the people in the crowd commented that this was a strange " unrealistic world ". The Gallery has huge potential to be representative of all our major artist's work from the very early ones up till today and could be a very informative place for anybody who wants to see examples of early works which one nowadays  only see in our badly administrated Art Museums or at Auction.

Galleries must learn that simplicity is the best way of communication and that a friendly and unpretentious atmosphere is definitely helping to break down barriers with the  public. It is very important to educate and accommodate the new buyers as they will be the collectors of tomorrow.
With the Internet as medium to promote Art online,  art has became more accessible to the average person  who never had the nerve or the time to visit a conventional Gallery. This has also broken down the elitist concept of art as one can now admire an exhibition from  home or the office in ones own time.
For those people who are now ready to buy their first piece of art there is a huge opportunity out there,  not only in the conventional Galleries but also on the Internet. Look around in Galleries in your area and chat to the owners and don't be afraid to ask questions. Most gallery owners will be eager to help and if not,  take your business elsewhere. It is also wise to get a second opinion. If you find the right piece and you are prepared to pay the  price,  then it is money well spent as one can never spend too much on a good piece of art.
Rose-Innes Van Essche

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