What I Buy and Why: TV Producer Mfundi Vundla on His Fateful First Purchase, and Missing His Chance to Collect Jack Whitten

Vundla is best known for his work on the long-running South African soap opera "Generations."

Mfundi Vundla.

When he’s not at his day job as a television and movie producer, South African collector Mfundi Vundla is busy building up his art collection.

Vundla is best known as the creator and producer of the long-running South African soap opera Generations. The show, which started in 1993 and relaunched in 2014 as Generations: The Legacy following a pay dispute with the show’s original cast, is set against the backdrop of the advertising industry, and follows the lives of a multilayered cast of middle- and upper-class South Africans.

The producer was introduced to the art world in the late 1970s while residing in Boston, Massachusetts, and today his collection is particularly strong in works by South African artists. He has also been working to encourage photography in South Africa, and cofounded the Photo Education Trust with the late South African artist David Goldblatt.

We caught up with the collector to hear about the artists currently on his radar, what’s hanging in his bathroom, and which artworks he most wishes he could steal away for himself.

Mfundi Vundla.

Mfundi Vundla.

What was your first purchase and how much did you pay for it? 

My first purchase was a lithograph by the American social realist painter Ernest Crichlow. I paid $500. This was in the summer of 1981 in New York City.

What was your most recent purchase?

A cowhide sculpture by Nandipha Mntambo.

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

Nicholas Hlobo and Santu Mofokeng photographs.

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

A work by the textile artist Billie Zangewa; works by the early South African modernist Louis Maqhubela; a painting by Gerard Sekoto; David Goldblatt photographs; and a sculpture by the queer Nigerian artist Adejoke Tugbiyele. 

Mfundi Vundla.

Mfundi Vundla.

Where do you buy art most frequently?

Goodman Gallery and Stevenson Gallery, as well as from artists, at art fairs, and auctions.

Is there a work you regret purchasing? 

An outdoor metal sculpture by the conceptual artist Usha Seejarim. Since it is outdoors, it takes a lot of punishment from the sun and rain.

What work do you have hanging above your sofa?

A textile work by Billie Zangewa and a portrait by the South African painter Velaphi Mzimba.

What about in your bathroom?

In my bathroom, a politically charged poster by the South African artist Beezy Bailey.

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

Any works by Jack Whitten and Romare Bearden. This was in 1980’s New York City, when their works were still within reach.

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

There are several works I wish I could steal and get away with it: Mark Bradford’s Cerberus; Frank Bowling’s For Zephyr (1973); Kara Walker’s Fons Americanus; Nicholas Hlobo’s Macaleni Iintozomlambo (2010); and Robert Rauschenberg’s Bed (1955).

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