Left: Mohau Modisakeng's "Passage' as seen at What If The World Gallery' Middle; Londi photographed by Themba Mbuyisa, Right; Alfredo Jaar's work

Milton Gaser, one of the most celebrated graphic designers of our time, defines art as a piece that moves you to attentiveness, sparks emotion, encourages conversation and debate. In a discussion with Londi Modiko, co-director of WHATIFTHEWOLRD gallery, it became apparent that Gaser’s sentiment still rings true.

Having studied Fine Art at both the Durban University of Technology and University of Johannesburg, as well as Business at The University Of Witwatersrand, 31 year old Modiko has built a reputable career spanning 10 years. This year Modiko was part of the selection committee at the  10th FNB Joburg Art Fair and continues to share her fiery passion with art lovers, collectors as well as the young and curious. She spoke to us about the importance of investing in art and more.

What do you think is the biggest challenge artists face in the industry and what advice would you give to them?

Access to support for their craft in the form of materials, career guidance as well as platforms to showcase their work and to engage with enthusiasts and hopefully generate income to continue making art. My advice is to make the most with what you have, immerse yourself in the spaces that are aimed at building your career and the industry, question how they work and why they are not working for you. Read, nothing prepares you for your vision more than research, this makes getting there slightly less painful. Presentation is key, a masterpiece that is rolled up and carried under your armpit to propose to a gallery, is bound to arrive squashed, this gives the impression that you don’t value your craft and will rarely make enthusiasts/gallerists pay attention. Keep making, keep going.

What would you say to motivate people to purchase art?

If you like what an artist is doing and would like to own it, buy it. That artist can continue to make what you like for the rest of the world to see, appreciate and hopefully get more people to also invest in it.  Be a patron of what you like and believe in. ‘African Contemporary Art’ is making headlines these days which is fantastic, the world is finally awakening to our huge talent and is correcting what was omitted in art history, I don’t see why one would not want to be a part of this rewriting of history.

Do you have any tips on how someone can start their own art collection?

Visit spaces that showcase art such as galleries, museums, fairs and open studios. Do your research on the artist’s oeuvre and get guidance on purchases from reputable channels and art advisors who have proven track record in the industry. Most importantly, collect for passion as you must live with the piece and see it every day.


Art is resilient, it is man-made therefore it is limited and can never be recreated again


Is there a right or wrong way of viewing art?

No, it is not mathematics, it is meant to get you thinking and evoke a feeling, be it dislike or like, joy or sadness, questions or answers. Art should encourage you to think outside of yourself. If you like paintings of flowers, that is fine, that is what speaks to you.

Apart from galleries where can one buy art? 

Art fairs, commercial group exhibitions online as well as intaglio print publishing houses like the David Krut, 50/50 and other emerging artists’ studios.

Who is your all-time favourite artist?

There are a few, but let me go with Ethiopian New York-based artist, Awol Erizku. He mostly uses found and discarded material to explore issues of identity while referencing art history. I was fortunate to watch a screening of a video installation by him titled Serendipity at MOMA (Pop Rally) a few years ago before he shot Beyoncé’s pregnancy pics, which he is now famous for.

How does one avoid sounding clueless in places where people are discussing art? 

Your honest opinion matters, share it. But saying: ‘I could make that’ is the highest level of missing the point.

Can you get art below R5 000 and will it be considered good?

You can get good art for R1 000, good art is good art in my opinion. In terms of investment, art price points are influenced by various factors including the artist’s career, important exhibitions they’ve been in, private or museum collections they are in, participation in biennales, the provenance of the work and other aspects that art fundis know about.

Which medium is your favourite? 

Painting, I am fascinated by the many processes and endless possibilities of the medium, brush strokes, layering, mixing of colours, adding 3D elements etc. I also have an appreciation for artists who continue to use this traditional method of making art in a world where there are so many quick ways to share creative voices.

Most valued piece of art you own?

I’m very fortunate to have built an impressive collection over the years. Some of the pieces being gifts from the likes of world-renowned artists like William Kentridge, Kudzanai Chiurai, Alfredo Jaar amongst others. I’m also a regular buyer of South African Contemporary art (having been exposed to the best collectors in the world), but, I am very shy to claim the title ‘ art collector’. I have bought pieces on instalment throughout my career. My favourite is a diptych of wooden hand-painted sculptures by Johannes Segogela from Limpopo- a well-dressed couple that resembles my husband and I.


Awol Irizku
Alfredo Jaar
William Kendridge
Johannes Segogela