The BMW Young Collectors’ Co. (BMW YCC) was started a little over year ago to shift the age and race demographics of art collecting in SA to a younger and more diverse crowd more focused on keeping African art in Africa, for Africans. The brainchild of Mandla Sibeko, the director of Art Joburg, it has significantly contributed to the broadening of the art economy in SA through its various collectors’ initiatives. James Sey caught up with Sibeko for an update on the progress of the BMW YCC.
JS: Please give some background to the BMW YCC — why did you feel it was necessary, what was the original vision and its goals?
MS: We noticed that the collector base in SA was of an older generation, and with this generation ageing, there was no programme in place to groom a younger base of art collectors to keep the buying of African art on African soil going. The vision behind BMW YCC is to support the SA art market by cultivating a fresh new perspective on arts patronage. We aim to develop a new generation of art collectors by granting exclusive access to the inner workings of the contemporary market. With an invited group of CEOs, founders, creatives and entrepreneurs under the age of 40, the BMW YCC creates an exclusive network engaging with contemporary culture.
The collective also aims to fill an education and experience void in the field of art collecting, where — in SA — the majority of collectors are older than 50 years of age and lack diversity. This initiative affords future generations of collectors access to first-hand experiences with the country’s top artists, galleries and art patrons. This essential programming ensures the continent is growing its Africa art economy for generations to come.
JS: How and why is BMW involved? What do they see in the BMW YCC for their brand?
MS: For 50 years, the BMW Group has initiated and supported more than 100 cultural co-operations worldwide. The local arm of the group is ensuring that the African art scene benefits from this commitment. BMW recognises that this initiative affords future generations of collectors access and sees this as essential programming that will ensure the continent is growing its Africa art economy for generations to come.
JS: Could you give us a rundown of the current membership, main activities and events the YCC has hosted or participated in over its first year?
MS: In our first year we have recruited close to 1,000 members in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town.
Bespoke events hosted since we launched in December 2020 have included a dynamic mix of engagements which ensured first-hand experiences with the country’s top artists, galleries, private foundations and art patrons.
Our studio visits with artists, monthly Meet the Gallerists events and signature events included a studio visit and brunch with Nicholas Hlobo where a small group of the BMW Young Collectors’ Co. paid a visit to his studio in Troyeville and spent the morning exploring his works and in conversation with the artist. Members also visited with artist Chris Soal for a walkabout of his new exhibition at Nirox.
Our Meet the Gallerists monthly series included a wide range of visits around the country, including to Everard Read to visit artist Blessing Ngobeni, a champagne evening with Monna Mokoena, the owner of Gallery MOMO, and a walkabout of the debut exhibition at SMAC Gallery’s new art space in the heart of Parkhurst. Further afield than Joburg, we debuted our first event in KZN with a private walkabout of Georgina Gratrix’s exhibition which was led by the artist herself.
Signature events included a visit to Tulbagh Wine Farm and Art Estate in Cape Town in September 2021 for a one-off curated exhibition for YCC members with owner and collector Abigail Rands.
We also launched an important initiative with the Krone x WHATIFTHEWORLD 40 Under 40, for which BMW YCC collaborated with Krone MCC and WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery, to launch a presentation of 60 diverse works from 40 young artists — all of whom are under the age of 40. The six-month-long show represented a celebratory moment on the contemporary art calendar, drawing on rising and established talents from across the African continent and beyond.
FNB Art Joburg’s recent inaugural Open City Gallery weekend also featured an independent programme of events run by the BMW YCC.
JS: Are you seeing significant shifts in the collecting demographic? How do you see YCC’s ongoing role in changing the collecting demographic in SA?
MS: Yes we are starting to see a shift, and in years to come we want the demographic to really transform to bring in this age group — under 40s — who are at the cusp of civic, social and economic leadership. The BMW YCC will continue to play its role by ensuring our community of members grows each year, which is why we have opened up membership across major cities to drive this culture of buying contemporary art, of supporting artists and SA galleries and museums. We are still accepting nominations and applications and anyone who is interested can apply here.