Jochen Zeitz’s love affair with Africa began as many African obsessions do: on safari. “It was 1989 when I first came to Kenya, and I was so inspired,” the former chairman and CEO of the sports-apparel brand Puma says. “From then on, I wanted to travel the continent as much as I could.” And indeed, he did, both professionally and personally, leading Puma on campaigns to endorse African athletes and support local communities. Zeitz eventually became a resident of Kenya in 2003, and it was around that time that he began collecting contemporary African art. “I saw the potential and the huge creativity coming from the continent,” he recalls. “I started buying pieces here and there, but with no big purpose other than to have art around me in my private life.” This objective changed in 2005, when Zeitz attended the Venice Biennale and discovered a dearth of artworks from contemporary African artists. “The continent as a whole was so underrepresented in the art world. I thought, ‘This is an opportunity to make something significant happen.’ ”
He resolved to build a world-class collection—and a world-class museum in which to share it.
Zeitz, under the guidance of curator Mark Coetzee, dove headfirst into his new project. “We bought a lot at every occasion within a very short period of time,” Zeitz says. At the 2013 Venice Biennale, the entrepreneur purchased an impressive 85 works, including photographs by the South African Zanele Muholi and sculptures by the Zimbabwean Michele Mathison. Other major acquisitions over the years included works by Cameron Platter, Kudzanai Chiurai, and William Kentridge. By 2014, the duo had assembled the leading collection of works from contemporary African artists practicing in their native countries and elsewhere in the world. read more