The space where art and patronage meet.
The space where art and patronage meet.
Image: Juliette Contin/Unsplash

The way I approach art and collecting can be read as naive. I don’t buy things for their supposed value or beauty; they need to have a “feeling” for me to be convinced.

The perfect example is my first-ever art purchase — a piece by Donna Kukama. I had just walked into FNB Art Joburg at the Sandton Convention Centre when I saw it right in front of me. I loved it so much I misread the price — I thought it was priced in dollars, but it was in rands. Just like that I had made my first good mistake. 

Another instance is my most recent purchase: a piece by Charity Vilakazi. I have just had my second child and this work reminds me of motherhood and feeling like I don’t have enough hands. It offers me strength. I think that’s why I’m particularly attracted to painting as a medium, especially oil painting. Here, the gloopy textures and vivid colours, the people and scenery that artists decide to depict, often reconnect me with my body, the Earth, and the cosmos, perhaps bringing me closer to the essence of existence.

Although the meet-cute was clumsy, since then I’ve learned that getting into a relationship with contemporary art is like being in a relationship with an intelligent person: it opens new horizons, constantly challenging me. Each artwork or performance I have encountered invites me to hold up a mirror to myself, to help me find new ways of moving forward in this chaotic world.

It has been particularly eye-opening in the African context. Being in love with a partner who plays the classical flute has meant my patronage practice is of the highest order. Rooted in the idea of protection, patronage means encouraging the exploration of viewpoints that were previously unexplored without limiting, censoring, or questioning the artist. It is to dare them to take risks, to provide a space where there is freedom to fall, play, create, and ultimately grow together. In 2018, we established Krone x WHATIFTHEWORLD gallery at the Twee Jonge Gezellen wine estate in Tulbagh to create a contemplative space where audiences could engage with art in a more intimate and immersive way. Here, the white, weathered Cape Dutch buildings, the surrounding vineyards that fan up Saronsberg, and the vast blue sky become visitors’ companions.

My patronage has gone from aesthetic interest in the work being exhibited to a much deeper understanding and appreciation of what it takes...

A year later, we set up the artist-in-residence programme, giving artists an opportunity to work in an environment with unfamiliar cues and stimuli. Facilitating quiet moments of contemplation or the freedom for frenzied intensity, it’s a chance to push boundaries. Through this I have had the honour of meeting and spending time with many artists, giving my family and me insight into the challenges that arise during the making process. As a result of this intimacy, my patronage has gone from aesthetic interest in the work being exhibited to a much deeper understanding and appreciation of what it takes for an artist to reconcile their conceptual ideas with the resources available.

It is an emotional process getting to see this sensitive process. For this, my family and I are grateful. To patrons, existing and aspiring, I would say, “Give upcoming artists the space to bloom, let outsiders in.” More than anything, the contemporary African and diasporic art world will only benefit from more local patronage, mentorship, and access. That is why interventions such as the BMW Young Collectors’ Co are so important. Created to develop a new generation of art collectors by connecting them with the industry’s decision makers, the BMW Young Collectors’ Co builds relationships that take engagement beyond purchasing.

The more that artists living and working on the continent are actively developed and supported, the more stable the industry will become.


  • Abigail Rands is an art collector and marketing director for Twee Jonge Gezellen.
© Wanted 2024 - If you would like to reproduce this article please email us.