The M&C Saatchi Abel Contemporary Art Collection has intentionally been in the public eye. Since Mike Abel, its Executive Chairman, began collecting works, well over a decade ago, he did so with the idea of not only supporting artists and the burgeoning contemporary art ecosystem in South Africa but, given his public profile, inculcating a culture of buying art. In this way, he was enthusiastic about the acquisitions and the agency has endeavoured to circulate the artworks in the collection on social media and other online platforms to ensure awareness. Selects, an online auction of some works from the collection presented by Aspire Art from May 4 to 16, will see this practice come full circle.

“Collecting art is one of my great passions. I was always keen to share my love of art and encourage other people to support artists. In my dealings with artists, it was clear to me that buying their works at an early stage of their careers would have a huge impact on them. It would give them the confidence and ability to carry on in what is often a difficult profession to follow,” observes Abel.

Given his focus on emerging artists, this prominent advertising company has drawn attention to many lesser-known artists and boosted their careers when they needed it most. Often, the support of artists and small galleries manifested in the purchase of several works. In some instances, up to five artworks by one artist were acquired. This allowed the collection to grow considerably and the agency is now in the fortunate position to be able to let some of them go without compromising the initial character and ethos that shaped it.

“We are looking now at supporting the next generation of emerging artists and we need to make space on our walls to celebrate and promote their expression. We want to keep adding to the collection so that it remains in tune with current interests or modes that are particular to art making now. However, we are holding onto many important works from the past and will continue to collect historical works. We aim to have a collection that encompasses the different twists and turns contemporary art has taken since our firm was established,” says Robert Grace, Co-Founder of M&C Saatchi Abel.

In collaboration with Aspire Art, a leading auction house, a selection of works from the M&C Saatchi Abel collection, will be presented on an exciting online sale of artworks.

“Since its inception in 2016, Aspire Art has taken the lead in actively developing value in new and emerging art market segments locally and abroad. Continuously forward-looking, young and dynamic, we are not afraid to take risks at auction, while pushing the boundaries in the contemporary art market. Mike Abel has always been a good friend to our company, and in many ways, our values and approach to supporting the contemporary art industry align well,” comments Marelize Van Zyl, CEO of Aspire Art.

Dubbed ‘Selects’ this concise collection of contemporary artworks offered for sale is intended to draw attention to the talented artists that caught Abel’s eye and who have gone on to become important figures on the contemporary art scene.   It includes works by what was once considered a young group of painters – from Ian Grose to Ruby Swinney. Grose would go on to win the Tollman Award for Visual Arts and the Absa l’Atelier prize and Swinney enjoyed a solo exhibition at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art. Works by artists employing performance and dress in their photographic practices – such as Cyrus Kabiru and Mohau Modisakeng will also be included in the sale. Good examples of their works will remain in the collection and are on display at the M&C Saatchi Abel campuses in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

In this way, this significant sale draws attention to some of the contemporary artists whose works are essential to any comprehensive collection focussed on African or South African contemporary art. It is also revealing of some of the benefits of supporting artists early on. A duo of photographic works by Buhle Siwani, from the iGagasi series produced in 2015, for example, will be interesting to art lovers, given the artist has since won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award and has recently staged a solo exhibition at the eponymous gallery in Joburg, which will later tour to the Iziko SA National Gallery.

The auction will also include two works by Samuel Nnorom, the Nigerian-based artist, whose West-African textile-based works saw him win the inaugural Global Art for Change Prize, an initiative by the Saatchi Gallery in London which was driven through the M&C Saatchi advertising agencies around the world. Nnorom was the winner in the African category before going on to land the global award.

Despite ‘Selects’ presenting works by many acclaimed artists, there are works on offer from emerging artists that will be accessible to new or young collectors, ensuring that Abel and Grace’s passion for collecting can be within reach of others.

Selects: M&C Saatchi Abel in collaboration with Aspire Art will take place online from May 4 to 16. A selection of works will be on display at the Aspire Art Cape Town office at 37A Somerset Road, De Waterkant, Cape Town.


Cyrus Kabiru’s Macho Nme: Fufu is one of the highlights of the Select sale.


Samuel Nnorom poses at the Saatchi gallery in London with one of his works that earned him the inaugural Art For Change Prize.

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