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THE ART OF COLLECTING ART

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Inside the Namwandwe Gallery, with various artworks on display.

A year ago, I visited the Choma Museum and crafts center in Choma on the way back from a trip to Livingstone. Buying anything wasn’t my intent, but I left with my very first painting by a Mazabuka artist known as Muliya C. With that painting, I hope to begin a lifelong collection of art.

Inside the Namwandwe Gallery, with various artworks on display.

Zambia remains a growing art powerhouse; attracting attention on the global scene through exhibitions that showcase the diversity of art available. A contemporary exhibition focusing on Zambia was held in Israel in January, hosted by the African Studies Gallery in Tel Aviv. Artists like Caleb Chisha, Zenzeele Chulu and Adrian Ngoma were among the 13 artists whose works were on display. Back on the home front, the corporate world has continued stepping up its support of local art; a case in point is the recent commissioning of graffiti artists by Zambian breweries to cover their water reservoirs in commemoration of World Water Day. Other establishments like The Deli and Latitude 15 hotel in Lusaka have gone a step further by opening up their spaces to exhibit artworks by local artists.

All this hype of creative activity has attracted many artists from around the region, particularly Zimbabwe, who have found this space a safe haven for their freedom of creative expression.

In the 1970s and 80s, Mpapa Gallery in town center and the Katondo library were a few of the places where art lovers could view art in a public space. However, when the economy started to suffer, these galleries were closed. This prompted buyers, such as Cynthia Zukas, to start collecting privately. She started the ‘Lechwe Trust’ in 1986, which is reputed to be one of the largest private collections in the country. Businessman John Kapotwe, whose personal collection is displayed at the ‘Namwandwe Gallery’, include over 100 paintings, sculpture, masks and pottery. Other notable private collectors in the country include Andrew Sardonis at the Chaminuka Lodge, Luo Chilambwe and the Salasini family whose collection can be seen at their residence, ‘The Zeela Gallery’ in New Kasama.

With growing interest and renewed confidence in our local art scene, aided by the openings of exhibition spaces including the likes of the Zambia Ultra Art Gallery, it would be wise to start a personal art collection for investment or for cultural preservation.

Here’s our simple guide to help you navigate the waters of art collecting;

ATTEND ART FAIRS /EXHIBITIONS

The Lusaka National Museum and the Henry Tayali gallery host themed exhibitions several times a year. 37D Gallery hosts exhibitions that usually revolve around more contemporary art. To know about upcoming exhibitions, like galleries pages on facebook, visit their websites and read art columns in the newspaper.  

Inside the Namwandwe Gallery, with various artworks on display.

MEET THE ARTIST

Opening night or launch night is the first day or evening that an exhibition is open to the public. Artists whose work is featured are usually in attendance and they give insight into their inspiration. As a potential art buyer, aim to attend opening nights as you can have access to an artist whose work you may be interested in acquiring.

SPEAK TO A CURATOR

A curator is the person who decides on a theme of an exhibition and selects which artists work should be displayed. They have a trained eye and know the trends in the art world. They can also give information on upcoming exhibitions and put you on the invite list for pre-opening night events which is when a gallery invites their previous and occasional buyers to sample the art that will be displayed on opening night before the rest of the general public.

CATALOG

Scour gallery catalogs (gallery or artist) for other information which may be important such as whether the artist was educated at an arts institution or self-taught, their inspiration and whether they have exhibited within the country or abroad or won awards. The Lechwe Trust for example has a few great catalogs that could be starting points.

Inside the Namwandwe Gallery, with various artworks on display.

STUDIO VISITS

Secure a contact and a studio visit to see how they work and what they are currently working on. This is particularly helpful if you would like to commission an artist to do a piece of art for you.     

PURCHASE

When you have finally settled on a piece of art to purchase, visit a gallery to express your interest and find out their payment terms. Remember that a good personal art collection is about the quality of works collected and not about the quantity collected. Happy Collecting!

ART PLACES OF INTEREST

HENRY TAYALI Showgrounds

37D GALLERY Kabulonga

ZAMBIA ULTRA ART GALLERY Garden City Mall

THE DELI Rhodes Park

LUSAKA MUSEUM NIPA area

SUNDAY MARKET Arcades

KABWATA CULTURAL VILLAGE

ART ACADEMY WITHOUT WALLS  Showgrounds

AFRICAN ART: AMALGAMATED AMALGAMATE – ZeitzMocaa

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