top of page

#artmarket Blom, Mahlangu and Mthethwa

Tonight three paintings by Zander Blom will go under the hammer at Strauss & Co's Cape Town auction. The untitled work pictured above is the best of the three, which is reflected in the estimate in the catalogue: between R80 000 and R120 000. It will be interesting to see what it fetches; an older work from one of his early Rooke Gallery exhibitions was recently being sold at the Ebony Gallery for R125 000. That piece was probably more collectable as Blom dispensed with that mode of photographing in situ paintings. With the Stevenson whip hovering above his back he has consistently produced a collection of paintings annually, except for 2015. As such he has produced numerous paintings since he nailed his mast to the wind and bravely committed to painting rather than photographing 'failed' paintings. Given the punishing exhibition schedule, his painting experiments have been on exhibition and has sort of become part of his modus operandi, even if the results are at time disappointing. To be sure it is always interesting to see what he will do with paint each year.

He has been on a journey not only of discovery but is actually rather interestingly compelled by novelty. He is also more obsessed with painting than the final products in a way so he often produces some hellish works that naughtily test the taste of art consumers, who apparently would buy anything by Blom - some of his shows notoriously sell out (or close to) before opening night. Undoubtedly he is one of the country's most interesting abstraction artists and embraced that mode again before it was fashionable. He may have made it fashionable, actually.

So where does the value in his work lie? Why are people auctioning his work off now, rather than holding onto it to let it accrue more value or has the Blom novelty train reached its end destination already? Will his work continue to fetch high prices in the long-term? Sometimes when an artist is too fashionable, they can just as quickly become unfashionable. Selling Blom now is a good idea, while the appetite for abstract art remains firm and his reputation and art cachet is still solid. If he produces a couple of bad shows in future, gets dropped by Stevenson and falls off the art radar, this work might lose value. The buyers probably got it for a reasonable price back in 2011; it was his second show with Stevenson and the value of his work was beginning to rise - now it is probably through the roof.

He has a German dealer (probably others too) and I expect his international sales might be good and the value of his work there might be holding regardless of his local 'coolness' factor. This would all make this work a good investment but for the fact that it is one of his least interesting. It might not be as challenging as some of his crazy blobby works but it is not terribly novel either; I can think of many other paintings and phases he has been through that are far more interesting.