Christian Sulger-Buel

You own a large and important collection of art spanning 35 years. What inspired you to set up a gallery?

(Christian) to have a better contact with artists and help emerging artists to reach collectors also to represent established artists who are not represented in the UK or in South Africa.

Do you sell works from your collection?

Not from my tribal art collection. I had a collection of Islamic calligraphy, which I sold to gain wall space and means to start a collection of contemporary African art. As a gallerist I continue to buy for myself new artists, but it remains exceptional. It is quite an unlikely partnership between.

Christian Sulger-Buel and Tamzin Lovell. What were the events that led to this?

It is not unlikely it is well timed and a perfect match. We met last year at 1:54 and discovered then that we had artistic interests and values, which were close. I visited South Africa last Christmas, bought from the Lovell Gallery, and was impressed by the quality of their artists and professionalism. Then Tamzin came back to Europe mid of the year and we decide to work together. It came naturally without many hesitations.

What do you hope to achieve with this partnership?

We want to bring to South Africa and the UK African artist who are not represented there and share our art interest and passion with collectors.

I was under the assumption that this is a joint partnership but Sulger-Buel Lovell is part of the Lovell Gallery group. Can you kindly explain?

It is very simple. We are indeed a group of galleries, one in Cape Town and the other one in London. We are partners in London. In South Africa Lovell gallery is independent of the London establishment. We are working as a group for sure sharing resources, ideas and ambitions. It is a partnership.

With this new collaboration, will the Lovell Tranyr Art Trophy be extended to artists outside South Africa?

Absolutely we have already opened the trophy from this year and it is our intention to develop the representation with artists from all over Africa. The London gallery gives winning artists an opportunity at international exposure. Vivien Kohler, who was the 2013 winner, is one of the three artists we chose to open the new gallery with.

Why have you chosen London to set up your gallery and how would you describe the art scene there?

We have chosen London as Christian lives there, has an exhibition space close to the Tate modern. In addition London is one of the major centres of the art world trade. It is also the base of 1:54, which opens today.

Does situating your new gallery so close to the Tate Modern have any advantages?

but also looking for artists from the rest of the continent. Our process includes traveling to meet artists, reviewing submissions, and working with guest curators.

Do you represent solely African artists or do you have an interest in the work of artists who may not be African but whose work resonates strongly with the continent?

We are representing artists from Africa and the diaspora. All resonate strongly with the continent.

London has seen the establishment of galleries and dealers focusing on contemporary African art such as Jack Bell Gallery, Gallery of African Art, and Ed Cross Fine Art. What will be your unique contribution to the London art scene?

Let’s discuss our unique contribution when we meet next year if you don’t mind.
Yes many advantages for me as I go several times a week to the museum. Some of my meetings take place in the members’ room. Some visitors of the Tate pass by the gallery.

What informed the choice of an exhibition of works by Abdulrazaq Awofeso, Ralph Ziman and Vivien Kohler for your opening?

Strategically, we selected a mix of artists whose work reflects our approach and tone, exciting and quality work, which has something to contribute to the African contemporary conversation. In this goal we had the assistance of Charles Gore in London and curator Kefiloe Siwisa in South Africa.

What other artists do you represent and can you briefly explain your selection process?

We are working with a number of South African artists from the Lovell Gallery stable, Our previous professional experiences of consultants make us good partners to support the career of the artists we are representing. Our experience of collectors is very useful to the gallery’s clients. The three galleries you are mentioning are of top quality but do not forget Tiwani and of course the October gallery. Others will come and this is good that way.

What does the future hold for your gallery and what are your plans for expansion?

There is no plan of expansion at this stage. We want to do a good job for artists and collectors. This is the plan. The recent sales of African contemporary art at Bonhams in London and Piasa in Paris demonstrate we are actors in an emerging art market with reasonable prices. This is the challenge and the opportunity of this market and why we want to be part of it.

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