Julia Meintjes is one of South Africa’s foremost independent curators, with a wealth of experience in the art industry. Based in Johannesburg, her company, Julia Meintjes Fine Art sources works for collectors and, in many cases, maintains their collections. Julia encourages art buyers ‘to prioritise the artistic merit of a work and not investment’. ‘For me it’s important that when you live with a work you decipher it bit by bit, or notice something different about it day by day. Of course, you want to know that you have paid a fair price for it, but that’s not the reason to buy.’ How do you go about selecting works for a particular collection? My main yardstick is that it is made by an artist who has chosen visual language to decipher his/her own response to the world and whose images have the integrity and individuality to affect the way I or another viewer may look at the world. Therefore, I am captured by particular works rather than particular artists, although over the years I have obviously established relationships with selected artists whose work I have dealt with regularly. I choose to work from the point of view of the collector, making each exhibition a collection of pieces with which I hope to stimulate conversations among viewers. In relation to private collections I like to find specific works that can stimulate such conversations for the collector. One of my aims is to combine works by artists who are represented by our relatively small, over-subscribed gallery world, with artists who are not – we live in a country abundant with artistic voices, many of whom deserve to be exhibited, and who struggle to find the gaps. What art would you buy with R5 000?
- For a collection focusing on where and how South Africans live, Kulekhani Dlamini’s ‘Jojo Tank’, Thulani Mchunu’s ‘Camperdown’, Lucas Bambo’s ‘Choir’ or a Cedric Nunn photograph.
- For a collector passionate about natural geometry and structure, a Christina Bryer porcelain mandala or Richard Penn’s ‘Spark’.
- For a collector specialising in sculpture, Stefan Carstens’ ‘Clinched’, an Ian Garrett vessel or a piece of African currency.
- For a collector of works on paper who likes contemplative works, Dylan Graham’s ink drawing, ‘Book’, a Giovanna Biallo ‘colour-fields’ piece, or Witty Nyide’s ‘Ancestors’ printed at The Caversham Press.
- For a collector who likes political commentary, Tom Cullberg’s ‘Africa is China’, or a Diane Victor etching from her ‘Disasters of Peace’ series.
- For a collector who has figurative work including pieces of West African sculpture, a Claudette Schreuders lithograph, Sandile Goje’s ‘People I Have Known’ or one of Walter Oltmann’s ‘Beetle Suit’ ink-and-bleach drawings.
- Alfred Thoba’s oil called ‘Steve Tshwete’, a moving portrait drawing by Maggie Laubser I came across on an auction or Lettie Gardiner’s ‘Twin Girls’, for Sam Nhlengethwa’s collection.
- For a collector living in a contemporary home with an interest in photography, one of Cecile Heystek’s camera series (Muted verbs) made during the TRC hearings, and with that budget, I could still add Abrie Fourie’s photograph called ‘Schloss Erkenbrechtshausen, Crailsheim, Germany (2008)’.
- For an ‘intellectual’ collection, one of Wendy Vincent’s black paintings with a matrix of dots, a work by Nicolas Hales, Julia Rosa Clarke or Paul Emmanuel’s ‘Field of Flames’.
- For a collector who owns a fine early Cecil Skotnes panel and a June Bird (Australian) oil, a Karel Nel mixed-media on bonded fibre piece or his ‘Fraction: Cosmos Deep Survey’, a 1970s Ezrom Legae figure, and a Gerhard Marx from his current ‘Garden Carpet’ series.
- For a young collector who has just built an enchanting home with a sculpture courtyard, a carved wood sculpture by Egon Tania, Willem Strydom’s ‘Water from an Ancient Well’, or a Wim Botha, and with the 10 per cent, a Bronwen Findlay richly coloured oil.
- For a collector passionate about finding works by artists from different periods in their oeuvres, a Penny Siopis 1980s cake painting, an early bronze by Sydney Kumalo, an encrusted Mmagabo Sebidi, or a Jane Alexander sculpture.
- For a collector of historical South African art (spending 10 per cent of the budget on a living artist!) Fritz Krampe’s ‘Gorillas’, a major Hugo Naude, or Bertha Everard’s 1910 Empire Exhibition award winning ‘Koomatie’ (sic) or Jean Welz’s ‘Still life with Three Vessels and a Checked Tablecloth’. I’d be happy to put a deposit on Gerard Sekoto’s 1947 self-portrait...
- For a patron collector, I would commission a pair of the most talented artists in the country but I am not telling you who they are (for me) because I am working on making this happen!