After five months, Raphael Dapaah is back at Polo Lifestyles with a fresh perspective and new series.
I have decided to launch a new series, “Patrons' Place” that explores the collections and insights of budding and established art collectors and patrons. This series will run every other month with the artists’ vernissage series, thus highlighting the contingent journeys of artists and collectors.
Name: Chantel Akworkor Thompson
Location: Currently Praslin, Seychelles, usually London, UK
Collector Level: Established
When did you buy your first piece of art, and what was it?
Wow, I had to think about this. I can’t believe I couldn’t immediately remember which was the first piece in my collection that I bought. I mean, I have always gathered small artworks on my travels throughout the African continent since I first visited in 2008, but nothing on the scale of what I collect now. But my first “real” piece/ pieces were three prints by Prince Gyasi in 2018. I had been travelling frequently to Ghana that year and had come across his work on Instagram. I just loved the vibrancy of the colors, the way he depicted black bodies, child bodies and the concept of “boxed kids”. As a teacher that really resonated with me. At the time, Prince was not signed and was working independently. I hadn’t originally wanted three, but he had made a mistake with the order and then later convinced me to take all three, a decision I don’t regret. I met him in Accra to collect the pieces and I got a great vibe off him. A short while later, he was signed, and one of the pieces I have was no longer allowed to be reproduced for sale, so I guess it’s a rarity.
How many pieces of art do you currently have in your private collection?
23 originals, but I’m in the process of purchasing another couple. Collecting is so addictive.
What drew you to start collecting, and what does contemporary art by Artists of African heritage mean to you?
I think a love of art is part and parcel of being Ghanaian personally; the creative arts are so ingrained in our culture that we can’t help but love it. For me personally though, when it comes to collecting, I saw it not only as a way to own and cherish pieces I fell in love with but also as a way of honoring those creating the works by being their collector of African heritage. The world of art collecting is White, middle or upper class and male, but the creators of African Art are not. The narratives and bodies depicted in the works, in my opinion, need to be owned by those that understand them, have lived it, and respect it, for what they are, not for their monetary value. I feel that as people of African descent we need to place more value in that which is our own to keep it authentic. We can’t let art be the ‘new Scramble for Africa’.
What does contemporary art by Artists of African heritage mean to me? So
much: The authenticity, royalty, vibrancy and diversity of a country so often misrepresented, embodied in a work of art on a canvas.
Which piece of art in your collection is your favorite, if any, and why?
An unfair question. Each piece has a different place in my heart. Also, with all but four or so, I have met or talked at length with the artists of each piece. And most times it is through that connection with the artist that I have actually confirmed purchase. Therefore, each piece touches me differently. I don’t have a favorite, but many of my friends and family favor Affen Segun’s Black is Beautiful.
Name three living artists you would love to include in your collection in the future.
It was going to be a Ghanaian trio, but I just swapped one out.
Serge Clottey, who is one of my faves, hands down, I don’t actually know why I don’t own anything of his, but I will before the year is out. Not only is he a great artist across a number of mediums and different, yet distinctive styles, he is also a great person. Always greets me with a warm smile and a hug. The personal connection is always a winner.
Lynette Boakye, everything she produces is stunning. I’m in awe of her work, haven’t met her but would love to. Would be properly fan-Girling.
Really needed more than three, I’m deciding now between Toyin Ojih Odutola, Alexis Peskine and Nelson Makamo. I think I’m going to go with Alexis Peskine, his nail work; remarkable, I was speechless when I first saw it. The beauty is hard to encapsulate in words. And his photography, especially the series he did in Senegal, loved. The richness of the black bodies. I’ve heard/seen him talk a couple of times and I’ve always left inspired. For me, it’s usually a personal connection with artist that consolidates purchase, it just adds another layer to the work. So, I’m choosing Alexis.
Name three late artists you would love to include in your collection in the future.
Malick Sidibe, Hokusai and Matisse, cut-outs. Other than Sidibe, not contemporary African but all loves of mine.
If you could have dinner with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?
I’m going to think about the art and be cheeky and choose two. Photographer James Barnor, I’ve seen him talk before and he just seemed to be full of amazing stories that as a Ghanaian, I would want to know. For me, a photo only captures a second of a story that only the photographer and subjects know and I would want to hear about them from him. Second, Frieda Kahlo. Everything about her intrigues me, but so much of what we know about her is told by someone else. I want to hear her story.
What about an artist and their work attracts you the most?
An artist’s distinct style. The ability to be able to say ‘that’s a …’ just by first sight. I think that’s the mark of an artist. Also, the use of color is important. Bright colors always attract my attention. But equally the richness of a black is incredibly attractive to me. Some of my favorite pieces are black and white, like Sungi Mlengeya’s work, which I adore. Use of materials is also something that I consider, mainly innovation in use of materials like the way Serge Clottey uses jerry cans for sculptures or how Hassan Hajal uses tinned cans as a frame or the way Prof Ablade Glover creates the hustle and bustle of Ghana through the thickness and density of his application of oil paint on a canvas. Ultimately though, when it comes to portraiture, it’s how the black body is depicted and messages departed through their work.
Is there a particular theme to your collection?
Black bodies. It wasn’t intentional, and I wasn’t aware of it really until I was asked this question before. However, I’ve noticed that I have a collection of beautifully depicted black bodies that have a variety of stories to tell, that don’t necessarily follow the trajectory of the black narrative forced on us, created mostly by black men.
What advice would you give to a new/ budding art collector who wants to start a collection?
Choose something that you love. Take your time and make sure that it’s something you feel you can’t live without, like you would do about a pair of shoes or an item of clothing you’d seen and can’t stop thinking about. Choose passion for the piece rather than its future value. The future increased value of a piece is never guaranteed, whilst a piece could become an investment, I would focus on initially choosing pieces that personally capture your heart. Don’t be put off by figures. Talk to artists and gallerists and see if you can pay in installments. I have done that for many of my pieces. Another reason to talk to the artists is sometimes, just as you have chosen their work, they may later choose you. By that I mean, an artist having noted your passion and enthusiasm for their work will choose you as their collector, possibly letting go of a potential client who has the money immediately or wants to pay more to give their work to you. This kind of relationship is invaluable.
What advice would you give to unknown and emerging artists who want to attract collectors and art patrons?
Be authentic and have a clear vision. I think it’s important to have a distinctive style, something that is not like someone else’s and be clear on that. Five cohesive pieces, that are well thought through are so much more visually appealing than a plethora of experimental pieces with no clear direction. Exhibit your work, don’t rely on social media, and when exhibiting be present and approachable. A potential buyer hearing your passion ooze when you discuss your work could decide in that instant that your piece is a must-have. Be creative about how you exhibit your work. Try to appeal to the people you want to buy your work rather than “the art world”. Know your worth and that of your craft. Don’t sell yourself short, but be flexible with payment, by this I mean offer the option of installments and payment plans.