In general, a famous art collector is perceived as a respected authority that often sets the standards, defines the trends, and influences the future of collecting for everyone. Famous art collectors are usually as widely respected as the art they collect. So, we looked at five art collectors which have demonstrated talent in selecting and grouping African art.
Main Interest: Tribal art
Gunter Péus, 1931 born in Hanover, is a pioneer in the field of African art collection. African correspondent for the German television channel ZDF in 1963, based in Kenya from the late 1960s, he discovered many artists while travelling through the continent. Nearly four hundred works of art created by fifty artists from its collection were presented at the exhibition Moderne Kunst aus Afrika in Berlin in 1979. This exhibition of contemporary African art consisting essentially of self-taught artists including Uche Okeke, Henry Tayali, and Asiru Olatunde was the first of this scale in Europe.
Main Interest: Tribal art, Photography
Jean Pigozzi is born in 1952 in Paris where he studied before working to major film studios. In 1989, he started a collection of African art inspired by the exhibition Magiciens de la Terre. With the assistance of André Magnin who participated in the curation of that exhibition, Pigozzi traveled across sub Saharan Africa to build strong relationships with nearly forty artists including Seydou Keita, Malick Sidibé, and Chéri Samba. Even if the majority of these artists have not been trained in art schools, the collection of Pigozzi has gained international recognition. With the organization of major exhibitions like Africa Hoy, the participation in art fairs and biennales, and the presence in several renowned museums, it has quickly become the largest – including 10,000 pieces and most influential African art collection.
Main Interest: Visual art
Hans Bogatzke has developed in the 1990s one of the most important African art collection. In the 2000s, it has expanded to more than five hundred artworks produced by nearly a hundred artists of sub-Saharan Africa. Interested by African art through several travels within the continent, he quickly expresses a preference for self-taught artists who worked in relative isolation, without being aware of the artistic creation in the rest of the world. Unlike Jean Pigozzi, he admitted that African artists would benefit from being connected to the international art scene. So, he made an important shift in his acquisitions by targeting critically acclaimed African artists such as William Kentridge, Olu Oguibe, and Yinka Shonibare. In 2005, Bogatzke sold his collection to Sindika Dokolo. He died a year later, after a long illness.
Main Interest: Visual art
Sindika Dokolo, 1972 born in Kinshasa, owns one of the largest collection of contemporary African art which includes more than 3,000 pieces. Established in 2004, the collection built up on Hans Bogatzke Collection, which was bought a year after. Fernando Alvim, an Angolan artist, participates in the creation of the collection that aims to balance the visibility of contemporary African art on the continent. In fact, many major African artists exhibited internationally have barely been seen on the continent. Consequently, the collection is headquartered in Angola and has partnered with the Luanda Triennial to support African art locally. Through his foundation, Sindika Dokolo regularly participates to exhibitions, biennials, and art fairs where he showcased the artists from his vast collection.
Nationality: Germany/United States
Main Interest: Photography, Video art
Artur Walther is born in 1948 in Ulm, Germany, where he opened a four-building museum complex to present his collection to the public in 2010. The inaugural exhibition was curated by Okwui Enwezor and showcased artworks of three generations of African photographers. He started collecting African photographs during a trip to Africa organized by the International Center of Photography (ICP) which led to the exhibition Snap Judgements in 2006. He continues to promote African photography through several exhibitions organized in his both centres located in Neu-Ulm and New York City. Today, he has amassed one of the largest collections of African photography in the world, including 19th century daguerreotypes and early tourist snapshots.
Sources: Africa Remix, Contemporary Art of a Continent, Exhibition Catalog, 2005