Aaron Kohn, fresh-faced director at Joburg’s Museum of African Design (MOAD), recalls the impact that the Cleveland Museum of Art had on him in Grade 2, noting an exhibition of Sol LeWitt’s work in particular.
‘Then in Grade 8, we screened The Gods Must Be Crazy, and a year later I made a documentary about the movie in Namibia. It helped raise funds for the San people, and I started making more materials for non-profits in Africa,’ says the young American, aged 24.
Since then, an education in African studies and art history, while working in SA, Tanzania, Botswana and the Republic of Congo, has exposed him to some of Africa’s undiscovered artistic gems. His favourite work is Cameroonian Samuel Fosso’s 1970s self-portraits: ‘They exemplify for the artist, how art can be an escape for anyone.’
Perhaps one of the youngest curators Joburg has seen, Aaron is reshaping the way we interact with art – MOAD is more of a ‘resource on African design’ than a white walled gallery.
What art would you buy with R5 000? As many issues of DRUM magazine as I could find.
R10 000? A Duke Riley work – possibly even one of his tattoos. He’s obsessed with marine history, and I have always been drawn to Joseph Conrad’s Roi des Belges, which sailed up the Congo River. I’ve been there a few times, and
life on the river has left some of the most indelible marks on my memory.
R50 000? A sketch by Robert Pruitt. His works are based on people in his life, and spending time with his work can be an intimate view into some of his sci-fi fantasies.
R500 000? A Chéri Samba painting. Some of his satire about politics in the Democratic Republic of Congo where he lives and works is critical, but Samba uses humour as a safe way not to get into trouble with the powers at large.
R1 000 000? A piece from Yinka Shonibare’s ‘Revolution Kid’ series.
Which one artwork do you regret not buying? One of Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou’s ‘Demoiselles de Porto-Novo’ series – a riff on Picasso.
What one artist’s work should our readers buy right now? Blessing Ngobeni’s. Which new artists have you got your eye on? Namsa Leuba, Emeka Ogboh, Amina Menia, Nidhal Chamekh, Joël Andrianomearisoa.
Who is currently big on the local art scene? Ayana V Jackson. And globally? Mary Sibande and Cameron Platter.
What’s your favourite piece of art in your own home? A photo by Aldo Brincat of Ma Rock, the Botswana heavy metal rockers who thrive off being in front of Brincat’s lens. I lived for a year in Botswana, and there is some sentimental value to the wild image of desert rock stars.
What would you buy now for investment purposes? Anything by Kehinde Wiley.
This article was originally published in HL April 2015