In Molebatsi’s regular work life the stakes are high enough, even though her job description seems relatively simple. Clients need art, and she must find it for them. Likewise, the Turbine Art Fair needed a respected aficionado to bring collectors to the gathering; to share their secrets with the budding art collecting set. And seasoned collectors are a cagey breed: they’ll only come out for the right invitation.
The Artinsure Talks menu includes an array of committed collectors in conversation, artists engaging on how they acquire art, a film programme about important international collectors, and a focus on Anton Taljaard’s extensive collection of Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef, on exhibition at the fair.
Molebatsi is aware that she is embarking on an adventure with a new crop of art buyers, since the Turbine Art Fair is concentrated on the market for pieces costing less than R50 000.
“I’ve made a selection of people that buy within that range. So it can help (the audience) to really extend their thinking about only buying art for the walls; to look at starting a collection. I have brought together speakers that will be saying, ‘I started that way, but what I have done is thought beyond what would fit my walls.’
“I have mixed people with a keen eye who have bought art by Kemang Wa Lehulere, bought Lawrence Lemaoana. People will see that. They need to actually look at those early-career artists.”
Wa Lehurule and Lemaoana have both won important local youth awards: the Standard Bank Young Artist and Absa L’Atelier awards, respectively. They’ve both gone on to exhibit internationally. But their work does not fit simple notions of collector-value, since their art is complex. They are relatively young, evolving, and productive. We’ll be seeing a lot of them in the future.
For all players in the art-collecting game, the million-rand question is: who are the current early-career artists who will form the basis of important collections to come? And how much of a risk should a budding collector be prepared to take? The broader question is: why should one collect contemporary African art in the first place?