WHAT IT MEANS: Gore and Joffe collaborate on African art. Death of Stephan Welz affected the industry.
Discovery CEO Adrian Gore and outgoing Bidvest CEO Brian Joffe are coy about their joint business venture in the art auction world. Having built large businesses themselves, the two are quietly throwing their financial muscle behind Aspire Art Auctions, a firm specialising in curated auctions of African art.
Keen art collectors themselves, they won’t be drawn on how much they are investing in the fledgling business, or say what their own art collections are worth. "I collect art in the sense that if I like something, I buy it. I don’t buy art for value," says Joffe. Gore adds: "Certainly we have a desire to promote the industry, but I wouldn’t call us experts."
They may not be art experts, but their business expertise has been a welcome addition to the Aspire Art team, which consists of four people with a collective 30 years’ experience in the auction world.
The idea for Aspire arose following the death of fine art expert and long-time auctioneer Stephan Welz. "Many collectors and arts practitioners believed there was a paucity of knowledge in the market following [his] death," says Mary-Jane Darroll, one of Aspire’s founders.
As people voiced concerns about the future of the art market, Aspire Art Auctions was conceptualised. Kevin Handelsman, who works with Joffe, was instrumental in forming the new business, according to Darroll.
He and Joffe share a common passion for art, so when Handelsman suggested the idea to Joffe, the entrepreneur’s interest was sparked.
Says Joffe: "They asked if we would put some money in. I asked Adrian if he wanted to [contribute half], and that’s how we did it. It’s very informal; this is a private kind of thing. We’re the funders, we don’t have the majority stake in the business."
Joffe, whose art collection consists mostly of local art, is a keen photographer. He has published two wildlife photography books and last year exhibited some of his own drawings.
"I’ve been taking photos since I was eight," he says.
While Joffe might not be buying art for value, would-be investors who are purchasing artworks in the hope that their value will appreciate should buy the best quality they can, says Darroll. She advises that people should spend more than they intended and should ask specialists for advice.
As the works of long-established artists might be difficult to find and very expensive, Darroll suggests buying modern pieces that will appreciate in value over time.
"A top-quality contemporary work of lower value today will become an iconic work of the future," she says.
Aspire Art Auctions aims to develop Africa’s art market and improve professionalism in the industry, says Darroll. It hopes the growth of the market will benefit Africa’s arts communities instead of the works harvesting profits offshore, she says.
Aspire’s inaugural viewing takes place at The Park, Hyde Park Corner, on October 28–30. The auction will be held at 8pm on October 31. Both events are open to the public.