What I Buy and Why: South African Collector Pulane Kingston on the One Work She’s Still Trying to Convince an Artist to Sell Her

Top collectors share their strategies (and obsessions).

Pulane Kingston with Jadé Fadojutimi, My Bloated Burial (2018). Courtesy of Pulane Kingston.

A version of this article first appeared in the fall 2020 Artnet Intelligence Report, which you can download for free here

Pulane Kingston, the executive chairperson of Mirai Rail Corporation, is a dedicated collector of the work of African artists and an advisory board member at Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. She spoke to Artnet News from her home in Johannesburg.

What was your first art purchase?

A painting by Gerard Sekoto—one of the pioneers of South African art and the first Black artist to exhibit at a white gallery—called Portrait of a Woman. It was around 18 years ago; I bought it from a gallery in Cape Town.

What was your most recent purchase?

Carrie Mae Weems’s All the Boys, which I bought from Goodman Gallery a few weeks ago for $48,000. I have also just bought Proteus by Robin Rhode for around $60,000. The artist is the subject of the photograph, which I haven’t seen before.

Which works or artists are you hoping to add to your collection this year?

A work by the Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu that I really love is sitting in her studio at the moment, and we have been having a very long and detailed conversation, with me trying to convince her to sell it.

Kingston stands with William Kentridge's, <i>Untitled (Frantz Fanon) </i> (2016). Courtesy of Pulane Kingston.

Kingston stands with William Kentridge’s, Untitled (Frantz Fanon) (2016). Courtesy of Pulane Kingston.

What is the most expensive work of art that you own?

Probably a portrait of the philosopher Frantz Fanon by William Kentridge that I bought at Art Basel in 2016. I bought it for around 2 million Rand (about $120,000).

Where do you buy art most frequently?

I try to exclusively buy art from galleries and art fairs.

What work do you have hanging above your sofa? What about in your bathroom?

I actually have two Kentridges, one above each sofa. The Gerard Sekoto is in the bathroom.

What work do you wish you had bought when you had the chance?

When I traveled to Art Basel for the very first time, in 2016, I was completely green and overwhelmed by the number of people at the fair. I saw the most exceptional painting by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye at Jack Shainman Gallery, but I didn’t know to buy it immediately. When I went back the next day, it was gone.

Nicholas Hlobo, <i>Inyanga Yesibini Echithayo</i> [diptych] (2016). Courtesy of Pulane Kingston.

Nicholas Hlobo, Inyanga Yesibini Echithayo [diptych] (2016). Courtesy of Pulane Kingston.

If you could steal one work of art without getting caught, what would it be?

Kerry James Marshall’s Vignette (The Kiss). I look at this painting at least once a week. His paintings are exceptionally executed, but it’s also the fact that he is one of the first Black artists who so completely described the importance of inserting Black art into the canon of art history. If I could fill my home with anyone’s art, it would be his.


Delve into the incredible story behind the rise of artist Amoako Boafo, learn about how auction houses are being transformed by the lockdown era, and see our first-ever Innovators list in the fall 2020 Intelligence Report, which you can download for free here.

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