In art, more is more

2011-06-24 10:40

If read well, personal art collections or even institutional ones, provide a psychological portrait of their owners or custodians.

Hence, when eyeing former gallerist and artist-turned-teacher Gordon Froud’s personal assemblage of artworks, one must wonder what the work says about the man. From traditional etchings to pictures painted with penises, the man who emerges is as eclectic as his collection.

Froud is showing nearly 700 artworks from his personal collection at the University of Johannesburg’s Fine Art, Design and Architecture (FADA) gallery.

Simply titled More is More – An Antidote to Minimalism, it sets itself a simple enough goal – to flaunt the fruits of 30 years of collecting art.

Represented here are some household names in contemporary South African art, including collectible signatures such as Anton Kannemeyer of Bitterkomix fame, Mary Sibande before she created her now iconic Victorian-dressed domestic worker, Lawrence Lemaoana’s pink take on the Last Supper; and works by Aaron Cloete, Abe Mathabe, Abrie Fourie, Antoinette Murdoch, Antonie Kruger, Asha Zero and Antony Scullion, among many others.

On display, too, is a painting by Tim Patch, also known as Pricasso. This piece is Froud’s portrait painted at the Joburg Sexpo by Patch, who uses his penis to produce oil paintings.

This piece reveals another layer of this collector’s psychological picture. It is also a curiosity in an otherwise carefully selected collection.

Perhaps most noticeable is Diane Victor’s work, which includes two pieces from the Trinity Fetish etchings.

However, enjoying pride of place is The Adoration of Saint Eugene set, which includes a rare first impression of the work before the artist applied tones to the line work.

“I got these while I visited Diane in Paris after she won the Absa,” explains the collector.

Any talk of art collecting throws up questions of investment and worth. The key question being how to avoid collecting worthless objects.

When it comes to a guiding principle, Froud insists he “bought these works primarily because I liked them, not for investment reasons”.

And that’s not necessarily a bad approach. For, as Froud points out: “You have to enjoy the artworks as opposed to locking them up in a vault.”

Quoting renowned art dealer Stephan Weltz, Froud suggests “that buying art is like buying a television set. If you use it for 20 years and look at it every day and get great pleasure from it, that’s an investment. However, if you sell it for more than you paid after 20 years, that’s a bonus not an investment.”

But to start a collection, he says “it helps to exchange art with fellow artists and buy work from promising students or at art competitions”.

Like the Absa l’Atelier and Sasol New Signatures, for example. These have been central to his collecting process.

He says at that point in their careers the artists’ work is still very affordable. One should be able to “spot an artist’s potential to become great, though”.

With 700 artworks in his own collection, that’s not only a whole lot of wisdom in learning what to collect, but potentially a storage puzzle too. Froud has a nonchalant attitude to this as well, saying: “Well, I’m not too precious about this stuff, they lie about in my studio where I work.”

Froud, the easy-going owner of the now-closed Gordart Gallery, pursues his art practice while working as a lecturer in the fine arts department at the UJ.

The strength of this exhibition is that it is a broad stroke across the fine art landscape, so there’s something for everyone.

»More is More will hang at FADA until June 27

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