Wed. Nov 20th, 2019

Conversation with an art consultant on the SA art market

International artist and publisher Gordon Glyn-Jones sat down with Thea van Schalkwyk, top art consultant about investment and growth for both artist and collector.

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In a recent
interview for The South African, Gordon Glyn-Jones spent time discussing all
things ‘Art Collecting’ with South African artist and consultant, Thea van

There have been
rumours of South African art becoming ‘collectable’. In your experience as an
art consultant for large collections, would you say this is accurate?

If we think ‘collectable’
in terms of buy-in interest, then South African art is growing even more as an
attractive consideration, especially looking in from abroad. Some are inclined
to perceive it as a ‘collectible’ commodity – as a rare, unique and
sought-after product.

As we know, the global
market comprises a marginally small segment of art buyers who are equipped with
connoisseurship. For others South African art is surprisingly becoming a
‘curiosity’ worth investigating and pursuing. Our country’s enduring narrative
invites enquiry – from our pioneering masters to our ever-questioning
cutting-edge creatives. Our art challenges the norm and encourages
contemplation. It’s no surprise that platforms globally receive our art with
much acclaim.

A number of my collectors
who have amassed impressive art through my assistance, say they are pleased to
see the artists in their collections continue to perform well commercially.

What would your
best advice for a singular collector wanting to get into this market be for the
say their first year?

Even though browsing the
net would be any art collecting novice’s first port of call, rather visit art
galleries, fairs and museums for at least that first year.

View, engage, listen, read
and ask as many questions as you wish. Create your own library on your computer
of phone of art that appeals to you. Follow artists on social media whose works
speak to you, including those prominent names, or that of a genre or niche.

First-time collectors tend
to be swept away by the euphoria of the moment. Don’t buy impulsively. Serious
art buyers plan, prioritize and budget. 

As an artist who is building my career from scratch after years away
from art school, I find I am employing strategies such as social media and
direct selling as a way of building a collector base. What would you say is
most important for independent artists like myself to ensure a steadily
climbing reputation curve?

Incidentally, I can empathize with this. I started
painting again – also many years
since my art school graduation. I simply view this as brand development.

A page view, ‘like’ or ‘share’ does not necessarily
result in a sale. People need to see your art. Organise a group exhibition with
artists you resonate with – budget-friendly, costs-sharing and not so

An exhibition would be an asset to your
already-established brand credibility. People would even ask when the next show
is or perhaps commission a piece.  If you
feel confident enough, present a solo exhibition.

Recently Sotheby’s launched its African Art auctions, whereas Bonham’s
seem to have tapped off on their SA Art auction focus for the time being. What
is going on in the sales of legacy SA art in the world? Likewise, more and more
contemporary SA artists are appearing in auctions by people such as Aspire. What
does this mean for artists who make a living from art in SA?

I am in no position to
comment on the policies, focuses, trends and methodologies of auction houses

However, sales outcomes of
SA art abroad excite me. This affirms that there are art followers abroad that
have a genuine yearning for the authenticity our legacy art offers in
abundance. They are in the position to pay the highest possible value for a
piece they passionately desire.  

What is the biggest secret you could impart to an aspirant art collector
of SA origin living abroad?

I have lived abroad for a
while and have embraced the cultures and customs of that of my host countries.
Yet, I missed that ‘piece of art from home’ on my wall.

After returning to SA, I
started reaching out to South Africans abroad who are interested in acquiring
high quality SA art, who do not have time to look around themselves nor for the
time-consuming process of handling technicalities.  

As expressed in my previous conversation with The South African: ‘For expats, culturally thematic art remains a treasured reminder of ‘home’ …  I love sourcing art for them that create a timeless bond across borders and continents’.

One would hope that the SA economy wheel would turn and that South Africans who love art would be able to afford to invest in this again.

To get in touch with Thea to discuss art buying, art evaluation, or education, contact her on

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