The art of collecting art- Matter of preference

art piece;going home 'Going Home' by Sammy Lutaya and 'Marikiti' by Hassan Athman. PHOTOS: EMMANUEL MWENDWA

“..The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls...”
-Pablo Picasso.

Almost everyone has an artistic item donning the walls of their house. It could be a framed photograph, inspirational words, wall hangings, blown-up celebrity pin-up posters, assorted calendars or an odd and jaded water-colour painting.

Many people get attached to these items that decorate our walls, be it in the workplace or at home.

Family photographs are not only nostalgic. Some reflect treasured, fond memories of happy days gone by. Items like African-fabric wall hangings may be acquired mementos or gifts from a special friend.

Notably, over recent years preferences have shifted – thanks to creative expressions in varied forms of artwork. Celebrity posters or fancy models cut out from magazines are no longer fancied to spice up walls.

The appealing option, fast gaining credence, is assorted paintings and sculptures.

Art is collected not just as a hobby but as an investment. Building up a collection of original art is a careful process.

Indisputable authentic artworks – compared to say reproductions or posters – essentially adds aesthetic beauty to rooms or homes interiors.


Eye-catching paintings or sculptures can easily stimulate conversations.

Admittedly, the process of seeking and buying original art can be intimidating, especially if one is not an ‘expert’.

“The thought of going to an art gallery typically conjures preconceived notions of an exclusive elite member’s club atmosphere. High prices also scare away would be local buyers,” says Leonard Kasili, an avid art enthusiast whose collection includes oils, acrylics, Congolese masks and several sculptures.

“I may not be your typical, well-heeled collector but I occasionally buy a few artworks. I don’t have particular preferences I like abstracts, not pieces depicting wildlife or popular Maasai moran curio art. It is important to shed off this ‘art-appeals-to-elites’ misconception. Let’s nurture a culture of being open-minded, receptive to new ideas and free our minds from these myths about art,” he adds.

For Chege Gitura, an interior and landscaping designer, it is a matter of making choices and priorities.

“We need to encourage our people to buy art, but first they must take a personal initiative to learn and comprehend the value of art”, asserts Chege, who is also a part-time artist.
The art of being a collector requires astute budgeting and setting aside regularly, some amount of one’s income to invest in art.

“It is not a matter of having disposable income, but preferences. I know of people who collect cars worth millions, others spend thousands buying shoes, perfumes, caps, designer outfits, jewellery you name it. In the same way, one has to acquire a taste for appealing and eye-catching art to invest in it,” remarks Chege.


Of note is the fact that in the recent past, exhibition openings at local galleries have registered significant growth in public attendance.

One such event was last month’s Kenya Museum Society’s Affordable Art Show at the Nairobi National Museum.

About 270 artworks submitted by over 100 artists drawn from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan and Iran were on sale. The bulk of these paintings and sculptures were priced between Sh10,000 and 100,000 with smaller pieces costing even less.

Artists showcased included Samuel Githui, Zachariah Mbutha, Chain Muhandi, June Muto, Lia Berhane, Yassir Ali, Adrian Nduma, Caroline Mbirua, Esther Mukuhi, Michael Soi, Evans Yegon, Nduta Kariuki, Moses Nyawanda, Samuel Njoroge and Fawaz El Said.

Others included Celine Kosi, Boniface Mwangi, Joseph Mbatia, Shine Tani, Sane Wadu, Kepha Mosoti, Anthony Muya, Patrick Kinuthia, Ashif Malamba, sculptors Alex Wainaina and Harrison Mburu.

The Museum’s curator Lydia Galavu notes that the Kenya Museum Society (KMS) co-ordinates the Affordable Art Show to raise funds to support the National Museums of Kenya (NMK).

“Since 1971, KMS has hosted fundraising events to shore up numerous museum projects like the Know Kenya Course/Lectures and Film Series.

0Proceeds help fund national museums and pre-historic sites countrywide. In the past decade, KMS has been NMK’s largest non-governmental donor,” notes Galavu.

The art sales venture also supported refurbishment of the Louis Leakey Auditorium, storage shelves for the world renowned Casting Department, the Nairobi Museum’s Permanent Art Collection and recently launched the Joy Adamson Exhibition space restoration.

After a 7-year hiatus, the Affordable Art Show was revived last year in response to artists’ requests and popular demand for reasonably priced artworks – raising more than 500,000 shillings in sales.

“This implies there is renewed public interest in local art, the average mwananchi would also like to buy art. Many are discouraged by notions that art is reserved for those who are well-to-do,” remarks Galavu.