The first in the Perspectives features an interview with businessman and collector Frank Kilbourn who is the newly installed chairman of Strauss & Co.
Hi Frank, could you tell us a little how you started collecting…maybe what kicked off your passion ?

I bought my first artwork in January 1988 with beginning wage, so now its 28 years belated. Lizelle ( my wife ) and I went to the family of some of our friends in Pretoria who were besides article clerks and there was art exhibition being hosted and we got our first piece. At the goal of the month I had to go to Standard Bank to get an overdraft to pay the lease ! so this puppy love is very well established .
WALTER BATTIS Africans in the Autmn, the Long Yellow Grass(1)

Reading: Frank Kilbourn

What were some of the highlights at the beginning ?
well when I was at university, I was on the way to a class and I walked past a noisy group who were drinking wine, having a good time, so I thought I ’ ve got ten-spot minutes before my lecture, let me see what this is all about…So I go to discover Walter Battiss, Baldinelli and Villa who had an exhibition on, and all talking about each others work .
So you could say that I had a ocular interest in art at first…I subsequently listened to what artists had to say, which was fabulously exciting to me and then went on to question artwork ’ s philosophical dimensions. indeed with all that in the back of my mind, vitamin a soon as I started getting a wage, I started buying art .
therefore you ’ ve come a retentive way from your first overdraft to sit nowadays as the newly installed president of Strauss & Co. Could you talk us through some of the ways in which this develop .

I ’ ve always wanted to, if I could, build a potentially significant art collection, identical much for our own fun and rejoice, so when I had the find and realized some capital I decided to do that .
We ’ ve been buying at auction for some years now, with the collection at about 1260 works or so. So I ’ ve got to the point where you ’ ve about automatically start buy less, because you have are representative works by the artists you like.. I like to say that I collect from the begin of the former century public treasury tomorrow, so I ’ ll constantly be in the market. In the process I got to know Stephan ( Welz ) and many of the auction houses and galleries in truth well .
so Stephan approached me and said one day when I retire would you consider taking over ? so I said one day, possibly ?. And that one day came far sooner than we anticipated .
How crucial is it for you to collect between the stopping point hundred and tomorrow

well, the more you know about history, the more you know about the future .
As your collection has started to grow, you said you made inform choices, but did you ever think that you would start to take a look at what the market seat was doing and to play in the grocery store rate and not be merely a client… ?

not primitively, but coming from a merchant bank background, ( and that ’ s why auctions remind me of the open exclaim system we had on the stock exchange ) and because I grew up on a farm and there were droughts and rains and storms, I constantly wanted to be financially prudent, so when I started committing meaning parts of my capital to art, I wanted to make certain that I ’ megabyte going to do it in a way that even if its not going to give me a big return I ’ molarity improbable to loose a batch of money…
It ’ mho more of a hallowed space for me than an investment sphere. The Strauss opportunity comes at a time when I ’ m a businessman, a competitive business man, but I ’ m besides philosophical about where artwork fits into peoples lives and auction houses fit into the total art scene. I think the advantage of coming to the artwork business being 55 years previous, is that you ’ ve been in commercial enterprise 30 odd years and in the art grocery store for about 30 years, which enables one to have a slenderly more philosphical approach about what one is actually doing…
What role do you see auction houses laying in the artworld ?
When we come to the secondary market, in which HENK PIERNEEF Boabab Trees, Tanga River Mouth you get some galleries moving secondary work and the auction houses…the latter is a short like the standard substitution of the artworld…it ’ s a place where you have an candid cry organization where the price for certain artworks are determined by the market. It is not a perfective system because you don ’ t necessarily have a million buyers and a million sellers but as progressive markets go it ’ randomness about ampere good as your going to get .
so nowadays as the auction grocery store has begun to define a certain roll what we ’ ve seen in the past couple of years now, identical slowly, is that works that we ’ vitamin d normally find in the chief market are gradually finding their way into a secondary market scenario…

Are you talking about works skipping the basal and going straight to the secondary commercialize ?

No, I ’ thousand talking about the growth phase of modern artists whose rate is growing and now can be seen performing in the open market…
well that ’ s a very concern question that you ask… in my public opinion an auction house should not provide liquid directly from the artist to the grocery store. I think in about all instances it ’ randomness in the artist ’ s best long term interests to build up a relationship with a gallery or versatile galleries through the congressman process. To bypass that organization in the farseeing term is not the best place for an artist to be. Concomitantly I think it ’ s besides not a very dependable home for the auction firm to be .
If you bought a work and then two months former you want to sell it, my recommendation would constantly be to go back to the gallery where you bought it. If for some cause this is not the case, say the gallery can not sell it promptly enough or so and you take it to auction, the marketplace will find a price….but one has to bear in mind that the gallery is entitled, due to its investment in that artist, to ask a premium…and whether that premium can be unlocked at auction is not inevitably the case. You can apply an estimate but the commercialize will do its own thing, so that ’ s quite a dangerous strategy…especially for a young artist coming up in auction and for the auction house itself to choose that as a strategy .
That being said we are seeing some youthful artists coming up at sale, Athi Pata Ruga for example has been performing peculiarly well…what do you think that ’ second attributable to ? Is it down to high quality, desirable work or is down to the fact that there ’ second just not that much available on the chief market… ?

well, if you take choose to take such an example, his last couple of shows have done very well, and he ’ randomness got quite a high visibility, but I think even he would have been quite delighted to see the results. The fact of the topic is that there are some artists that are coming through the system, building their profiles through art fairs, establishing reputations on different exhibitions, where you come to a position where there is a issue and demand return, ie the demand is greater than supply and prices keep going up. One must, however, be very careful to say that because one workplace by an artist sold well at auction that this is the modern marketplace price for that artist…let ’ s deal ten, twenty or thirty or even forty and then lets see where it goes .
Remember, and you have to be very mindful of this when it comes to an auction, that it only takes two people to ramp up the price…if it was a contest bid between ten-spot or twenty people you can put a batch of weight on the price. so, sequester results can be deceptive .
So you would caution against buying into a house of cards ?

In any bubble of course, any buyer runs the risk of committing capital to something where he could to loose a significant share of that value over time. I ’ molarity not suggesting that it will necessarily be the character, but rather that you have to wait and see how the form and artist develops over time. once an artist has sold five or six works in straight exhibitions, a solid track record would have been established. In such a event, a firm addition in prices placed on the works by gallery will not reflect a ripple, but preferably that there are people who are will to buy the work at a premium. Such an increase in prices can then be sustained and the prices in the secondary market will follow mechanically .
Do you find on the secondary market its increasingly international buyers preferably than the usual suspects ?

The common suspects like me keep on buying, and they ’ ve been the backbone of the market for a very long time, but I think you ’ ll find in Cape Town, international buyers who have in base in Cape Town have been very significant buyers of south african art from the primary coil, secondary coil and auction markets for a long time…
How do you situation the variety happening in who is buying art ?

The buyers will depend on how we position ourselves relative to the publish of ‘ African art ’ versus ‘ South african art ’, by broadening the setting of the things we put on auction and how we deal with the internationalization of our audience. As a resultant role of the increasing professionality and success of our art fair, through the Zeitz Museum, and other museums and art centres that are being planned here, the audience interested in buying south african artwork is going to change. As an auction house we continuously question how we best capitalize on that and best position ourselves for the culture medium to long term.. We besides need to broaden the scope of South Africans buying art ….. these are some of the challenges we face and the Strauss and Co team is looking forward to meeting these challenges whilst retaining our position as market leader.

Success ( which is evidenced by Strauss and Co ’ sulfur achievements in the last 7 years ) always breeds contest, and rival compels excellence. so, provided that you endlessly adapt to market forces while building on the values that made you solid initially, you should be able to remain very competitive, which is what we intend to be .

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