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  • Banele Khoza is a visual artist, curator, gallery founder and owner of the Raven Art Collection.
  • Created in 2013 to archive “the spirit of our time”, the collection is a step towards the creation of a museum by Khoza.
  • This, in an effort to keep local art accessible to local audiences, as collecting local art becomes more expensive as the market grows.

Banele Khoza prefers full sentences to one-word answers.

Although the one-word description of his occupation is “creative” in an iinterview with 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Khoza quickly adds how her daily life blends painting, drawing, curating and gallery practice.

Since graduating from Tshwane University of Technology, Khoza has become critical acclaim in the form of international residencies, curatorial projects, multiple art awards and international exhibitions such as Kehinde Wiley’s Los Angeles-curated group exhibition, Self-Addressed.

Also the founder of BKhz – a hybrid gallery and incubation space for emerging artists based on the Keyes Art Mile in Rosebank – Khoza is one of Africa’s youngest gallerists.

Along with her building of an omnifunctional multi-level “creative” practice, Khoza has spent her time in the art world assembling an entire art collection.

There are many reasons to start an art collection. Some do it to support the arts, others to adorn homes, invest income, illustrate a political position, or simply to preserve visual history.

While these and other reasons are valid first steps towards collection, there is a reluctance to do so.

“You can’t live in it, drive it, eat it, drink it, or wear it,” art dealer Michael Findlay simply states in his book, The value of art: money, power, beauty (2012).

“We pay for things that can be inhabited, driven, consumed and worn; and we believe in an empirical ability to judge their relative quality and commercial value,” Findlay adds.

This is especially true in a developing country like South Africa.

According to AfrAsia Bank Africa Wealth 2021 Reporting, the global art market is currently valued at $80 billion. Of this amount, art made and sold from the African continent accounts for $1.2 billion (about R19 billion).

Over the past decade, the value of art in South Africa has increased by 28%, while world prices have risen by less than half to 12% over the same period.

Although the art considered in this report takes into account the value of the works of Old Masters as JH Pierneef and Irma Stern, such increases in value are becoming real for more and more local artists. This will inevitably make collecting local art a more expensive feat for us in South Africa.

In an effort to keep local art accessible to local audiences, one of 27-year-old Khoza’s dreams is to launch a contemporary art museum in her 30s.

As a step towards this, Khoza established The Raven Art Collection (RAC) in 2013. It also doesn’t hurt to share your home with things that bring you joy. “I spend half my day looking at a screen. When I look up, I like to look at a beautiful environment, dressed in art and flowers.”

Currently displaying over 30 works of art, the Raven Art Collection is comprised primarily of South African art. These include artists like David Koloane, Willem Boshoff, Tatenda Chidora, Penny Siopis, Heidi Fourie and Keneilwe Mokoena.

More recent additions to the collection include, but are not limited to, works by Zanele Muholi, Thenjiwe Nkosi, Papi Konopi, Lunga Ntila, Nelson Makamo, Bronwyn Katz and Wonder Buhle. Existing to archive “the spirit of our times”, Khoza’s collection, was not made public until October 2020.

“For seven years I kept my art collection private and happily shared it with my friends and family as they visited my home. However, during lockdown I learned so much and discovered brilliant treasures of collections”, he says in reference to At Perry Elliott treasure, and by Serge Tiroche collection, the Ditau collection and the Scheryn-Collection.

To explain why these collections have been the subject of new discoveries for Khoza, the clip for the song Bam, taken from the album 4:44, will serve as an example. Here, Jay Z walks the streets of Kingston, Jamaica with Damian Marley.

During their conversation, heard between the chorus and the verses of the song, Jay-Z offers a lament: “The prophets in the beginning were musicians. They were poets, writers. That’s what we were entrusted with in this life. We are the whistles. The wind passes through us, we make noise,” he says.

If visual artists, who visualize the era, are seen in this same light, then collectors are stewards of the history, culture, and nuanced narratives that artists tell.

Indeed, since the advent of public galleries, museums have amassed massive collections in the name of making art accessible to the public. However, only a small percentage of the art that museums own is available to the public.

Once a work of art is absorbed into a collection, it becomes easier for the general public to never have access to it (for viewing purposes) or know that it ever existed.

Consider that most of Georgia O’Keeffe’s works are in storage, nearly half of Pablo Picasso’s treasure trove of oil paintings is locked away, and no Egon Schiele drawings are on display. Aware of its position and potential effects, Khoza decided to raise awareness of its collection by making it available digitally.