top of page

#artmarket: Simphiwe Nzube on the rise?

#artmarket is part of a new series of posts to discuss the value of contemporary art. It recently came to my attention at the FNB Joburg Art Fair that the price of art at the bottom end - the emerging artist segment - has risen considerably. This is not a surprise; the art market is expanding every day and the price of mid-career artists work is being driven up by demand on the international market and art fairs. Gallerists are literally fighting over graduates and talented artists emerging on the continent - they all want their hands on the next best artist who will sell out at Armory or Frieze or the Cape Town Art Fair. Michaelis art students are signed up for solo exhibitions before they have even finished their studies, or are given time to mature. This has all placed a premium on art at this end of the art market.

What does this mean for consumers? Starting and building a collection will be more expensive and riskier... these are unproven names. Artists are unpredictable people. They are also at heart sometimes anti the art market and may not play the game - they may quit art before they are 30 to build an ant farm in the Karoo or decide to build art from ice the melts before buyers get their sticky hands on it. However, they are always looking for approval (they are outsiders to some degree) so they are unlikely to turn their backs on the attention of the public, which is measured through sales.

The rising cost of art produced by emerging artists could also be attributed to gallerists exploiting the fact that South Africans - (and other international art buyers) are a little bit in the dark about contemporary art from the continent or art in general, the value of it, what to pay for it and what to collect.

My objective is to educate art buyers, cultivate new art buyers and give them the tools to buy more confidently, be a more informed about art and how best to build a collection that will accrue value in the future. Th