Mr Saki Zamxaka is the CEO of Gauteng Growth and Development Agency (GGDA) – the agency tasked with promoting trade and investment into the province, as well as contributing to economic growth. He is also a lifelong photographer, a passionate champion of the arts and the owner of a covetable art collection. He recently shared his path in collecting, sharing knowledge and the importance of art snobs.
I have been a collector of art for quite a while, I am a photographer and have met a lot of people in the sector. One of the things I identified early on is that you need art snobs. People spend hours and hours accumulating knowledge that you are not just going to pick up after your first purchase of a piece. The trick though is that some of them are unapproachable or people don’t know where to go. Should it be a gallery? If so, which one? Should I go to the artist, is the artist not going to be biased towards their own work? Should I go to collectors? If I go to an exhibition, will it not be intimidating? Everybody thinks I am a serious businessman, I can’t ask silly questions about art.
I then started working with Pernod Ricard to host events at home where I would do exhibitions, mostly my own work – as in what I own – and then I would call some artists that would bring a few pieces over and above that. I started with artists that I collected, like Bambo Sibiya, Mongezi Ncapayi, Pitika Ntuli. I would take people throough the pieces, the history of the artists, their styles and their progression over time. I would also give people indicators of price points. A lot of the stuff I am interested in is contemporary art, so most of what I have is modern, I am not very big on classical – I have one or two pieces – but a lot of it is contemporary. So a lot of the artists I would be showing people are those (contemporary artists).
What I try to convey then is that you don’t need fifty-thousand or a hundred thousand rands to start collecting. With one thousand rands, five thousand rands you can buy. But its also important to be clear on strategy. Many say you must buy what you like. That is true, as with anything in life, but I often caution people – and this is where the role of the art snob is important – that if you like portraits, you may spend five thousand rands on a replica of Van Goch – which is decorative and of no real value – when you could have taken the same amount and bought a small Bambo (Sibiya). If you are starting and you have no knowledge, you are likely to make those mistakes, even aesthetically, you may not have developed an eye, personal taste or confidence. So I think a bit of handholding is needed and that’s why I started (art consulting) formerly in 2015.
Many say you must buy what you like. That is true, as with anything in life, but I often caution people – and this is where the role of the art snob is important – that if you like portraits, you may spend five thousand rands on a replica of Van Goch – which is decorative and of no real value – when you could have taken the same amount and bought a small Bambo (Sibiya).
So that’s what I was doing, allowing people to develop their own relationship with the artists, I wouldn’t block anyone from having that contact. Some artists are comfortable negotiating on the town, some aren’t. In any case, some would just say: “Ask him (Mr Zamxaka) how much it is” or “come to the studio with him”. I started it to make art a little bit more accessible, but also for a little bit of a selfish reason and that for me is the more people access the arts, it becomes viable for artists to live through art, but it also helps the collectors. You bought something for five thousand today, five years later, because there’s a vibrant market, the more there is demand, its now worth twenty-thousand.
This links to my role here (at GGDA) in that when I joined last year March, one of the goals was to have an impact on the arts, because they make sense to an economy. I have travelled a lot, mostly through work, some the cities one will remember, it is about experiences. If you look at the modern traveler, they want experiences. If they come to Joburg they will likely be attracted to Parkhurst, Maboneng, Cradle of Humankind, those kinds of places. Yes Sandton and shopping is functional thing, but Milan is Milan because of its culture, Tokyo, New York, London, Paris, there’s a lot more than just big buildings. Culture plays a big role and art is a big part of the cultural experience of a city.
Image: Mr Jerry Mokgofe