Just when South African artists were beginning to break out–and were talking beyond William Kentridge and Marlene Dumas–the credit crisis closed in. But South Africa’s dealers aren’t giving up or giving in:
2008 was a good year to be an artist in South Africa. Unprecedentedly high auction prices for South African modernist paintings at Christie’s and Bonham’s in London last year hinted that the global art market would train its speculative eye down south, and local art dealers thought as much too.
At the same time the first Jo’burg Art Fair, held in March, brought the revolutionary notion of owning art to the rank-and-file luxury goods consumer. Then the purses snapped shut. [ . . . ]
Ross Douglas, director of Artlogic and the Jo’burg Art Fair, suggests that although global art-buying is flagging, the long-term future of the South African market as promising.
“While there is an increased interest in contemporary art in South Africa there is less cash around. It’s really an issue of liquidity rather than an issue of people becoming disillusioned with buying art,” he says. “International sales are going to be more difficult than local sales, so for South African art now it’s going to be about growing a local market.” [ . . . ]
Other experts are warier about championing art as a safe investment. Ian Hunter, a specialist in painting at Stephan Welz & Co in association with Sotheby’s, cautions that “buying only by artist’s name can be tricky if the art work in question is inferior in quality or atypical of the artist’s style. The big names in South African art, like Stern, Sekoto and Pierneef, have rapidly increased in value over the past few years. The works continue to grow in value provided that they are good examples and are purchased at a fair market-related value.”
Painting the Market (Mail & Guardian)