How do you pick a winning artist?

Elizabeth Balcomb, winner of the Sasol New Signatures Award in 2014, with one of her sculptures from the series 'The Weighed and Measured'. (Picture supplied).
Elizabeth Balcomb, winner of the Sasol New Signatures Award in 2014, with one of her sculptures from the series 'The Weighed and Measured'. (Picture supplied).

How do you identify artists who are going to make it big, before their works become unaffordable?

No matter how expertly you approach this subject, attempting to read the future remains guesswork at best.

Many promising young artists, with all the characteristics of star performers, have quietly fallen. And others have dominated the world of art to such an extent that their works became unaffordable from day one.

The best answer to this question is probably: with great circumspection and a touch of emotion. This mixture gives you no guarantees, but it could kick-start your collection.

Maybe buying art is not all that different from buying a car.

You know what you like before you begin making sums and comparing models. You inevitably read up on design and performance, you invariably visit dealerships on a number of occasions.

1. Decide what type of art you like, how much you want to spend, and the name of the artist whose work you want to buy.

Be on the lookout for group exhibitions at art festivals and in smaller, reputable galleries.

Should you identify an artist you like, you should try and find out more about his/her works. Most of them have websites or Facebook profiles.

2. People often believe that the art world is exclusive and snobbish. Maybe it’s not. And maybe art dealers and gallery owners are in fact the people who can least afford to be unreachable.

In fact, many commercial galleries these days leave their ‘white cubicles’ to exhibit their wares at art festivals.

An art festival such as Johannesburg’s Turbine Art Fair (TAF) (, which takes place annually in July, is the ideal place to view the works of up-and-coming artists.

TAF’s major aim is indeed to make art affordable. 

3. Graphic prints are not ordinary reproductions. They are original works of art – such as etchings, lithographic prints, mono-prints and silk-screen prints – that are printed in limited impressions and are numbered.

These works are not very expensive and many art lovers prefer to collect prints on paper. For example, some of Diane Victor’s series of etchings Disasters of Peace are quite affordable and readily available ( 

Also keep an eye on works from The Artists’ Press ( and Artist Proof Studio ( for exceptional work by established and new artists.
Learn about the various graphic printing processes (for example, at Artist Proof Studio).  

4. And also consider works selected for art competitions. Be on the lookout for excellent pieces in annual competitions such as L’Atelier (, Sasol’s New Signatures ( and Vuleka ( 

If you live close to a university or art school, make sure that you attend the exhibition by final year art students. This is the ideal place to get in touch with the best young talents.

5. Some of the young artists who have regularly taken part in group exhibitions over the past year and who have fared well in competitions as their works are exceptional, are Maaike Bakker, Ronél de Jager, Bevan de Wet, Heidi Fourie, Allen Laing, Peter Mammes, Lehlogonolo Mashaba, Oliver Mayhew, Lwandiso Njara, Paul Senyol, Leanne Shakenovsky and Nina Torr.

This article originally appeared in the 31 December 2015 edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here

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