It can be argued that anywhere in the world the business of art, or rather dealing in art as a business is no easy undertaking. This is even more so in Zambia, where the economy does not really allow for the luxury of art collection except amongst the top level elite
However, the picture is not as gloomy as one might imagine. Roy Kausa, a founding partner in Twaya-Art Gallery arguably the country’s only commercial art gallery which is situated at the Intercontinental Lusaka shares the ins and- outs of dabbling in art as a business venture on the Zambian scene.
“Twaya Art Gallery was born in 2003; this was after doing all the necessary requirements such as opening a bank account and also carrying out the potential of the art market, first in Lusaka and along the line of rail in Zambia. Since that year, there has been good business during certain months, especially during the months of May to early November which isour peak period,” explains Kausa who set up the business with long-time friend and artist William Miko.
He describes the art business as being quite different from other forms of enterprise because art lovers or indeed collectors are few and it takes time for an individual to buy art, because they have to live with it for the rest of their lives.“Fortunately in Zambia certain corporate business institutions have been very supportive of collecting paintings and sculptures. Business executives started collecting art because they would want to associate themselves with the Zambian cultural identity which they have seen in other countries from their contemporaries,” he says.
While he also plays the full time role of curator in the gallery space, it is often his job to scout around for new work or talent at exhibition openings in other spaces. He says the pricing of the art works however, is determined first of all by the artist, and then the gallery looks at the artist Curriculum Vitae, portfolio and experience of the artist after which the price of the work is either increased or reduced by the gallery.
“Art as a business has great challenges to start with as I earlier indicated. It takes time to sell art, so in order to break even, both the artist and the gallery do not always make substantial money from a sale,” he stresses. “Art is for those with a passion to preserve traditions and cultural for posterity and not for the ‘faint-arted’! For instance, at Twaya, the art curator and others running the office have to do other jobs in order to survive.Running an art business is like running a museum.”
Nevertheless, he reiterates that most of the support with regards purchases comes from the private sector. Among them he cites The Post Newspaper, Madison Insurance, Mopani Mines, Bayport Financial Services, Cavmont Bank, Lechwe Trust, Barclays and a few individual business people.
“Intercontinental Lusaka decided to give free space to the artists in Zambia as their corporate responsibility and give back to society. There have also been instances when visiting Heads of State and high profile personalities have bought art works from the art gallery such as former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo and Oprah Winfrey”.
Kausa, says in the absence of an art gallery in Lusaka or Zambia, the Intercontinental Hotel in Lusaka has helped put Zambian art on the world map by exposing art to the tourists and government official from different parts of the world.
by Andrew Mulenga