Herman Steyn: Why I launched the world’s first Contemporary African Art fund
For Herman Steyn, setting up an African art investment fund was a natural extension of his background in financial services and his passion for collecting contemporary African art. He created the Scheryn Art Collectors’ Fund – believed to be the first of its kind – in collaboration with friend and fellow art collector Dabing Chen.
“We’ve been collecting for a long time, and the fund sprung out of a conversation about how to organise and catalogue our collections properly,” he says. “We have large collections in China and Europe, and we’ve become quite involved in our field, even owning a contemporary gallery – but we’ve sold that to another gallery because it would conflict with the running of the fund.
“We know a lot of people in the art world and have appointed some of them as official advisors: there are a lot of people involved in the fund and they will help us select the art that we put into it.”
“We’ve been collecting for a long time, and the fund sprung out of a conversation about how to organise and catalogue our collections properly,”
The fund launched on February 28. Steyn anticipates that it will appeal to three main groups of people: corporate investors, private individuals, and those seeking to release some of the value held in their art.
“You can borrow art from the fund to the value of the money you put in. If you’re a corporate investor and you want art for your foyer and offices, you can invest in the fund, we will give you art to display, and you can refresh it a few times a year.”
He anticipates that private individuals will be attracted to the fund by the potential it provides for learning about art: the fund will hold sessions with its advisors, which can be attended by investors – and it will also take investors to events such as Art Basel.
“We will be doing a lot of interacting with our investors; we will hold evenings when our advisors will be analysing the art. We think it will be attractive to people who already collect art and maybe know a lot about Old Masters, for instance, but don’t know so much about contemporary African art.”
The third group of people he believes will be attracted to the fund are those who already have a lot of value held in art – maybe because an item they own has increased dramatically in value or they have inherited something of value – and want to release some of that value.
“They may not want to fully part with it, but assuming it’s the right piece of art, we could buy it from them and they could borrow it back from time to time,” he says.
He believes the fund is launching at the right time, as the global appetite for African art is on the increase.
“Our fund does not focus on the traditional African motifs of animals and trees; we concentrate on art with an international appeal”
“The fund is launching at a time when more and more European and American galleries are taking African artists in.” he says. “It’s becoming more of a global thing. This is also happening at a time when Jochen Zeitz is partnering with V&A Waterfront to create Africa’s first major museum of contemporary art, which is due to open in 2017.
“I think the attractiveness of African art will continue to increase. It is vibrant and exciting. Our fund does not focus on the traditional African motifs of animals and trees; we concentrate on art with an international appeal. It’s definitely the right time to be launching it.”
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