A century of art from the Sanlam Art Collection

Sanlam is 100 years old in 2018 and still going strong. This is a long time in business by anyone’s standards. For more than half of that time, Sanlam has nurtured what has become one of South Africa’s most significant corporate art collections, holding more than 2 000 pieces of art, dating from 1843 to the present.

For the executives of the day, the founding of the Sanlam Art Collection, as recorded in the board minutes on 9 March 1965, was an extension of the company’s ‘significant contributions already made in the spheres of church, culture and education. South African artists had achieved much in the fine arts at home and the acquisition of artworks would not only encourage artists to deliver quality work but also prove a good investment for the company.’
     That the Sanlam Art Collection has proved to be a good investment is undoubted today, with the current value of its more than 2 000 items exceeding 20 times that of its purchase cost. But much more valuable for Sanlam is that the collection reflects its ongoing commitment to the freedom of South Africans to creatively explore its visions of the past, present and future.

     ‘Since time immemorial, art has been a special type of human activity that reminds us that there is more to life than what Thomas Hobbes described in Leviathan: “no arts; no letters; no society; and which worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,”’ Johan van Zyl, chairman of Sanlam Ltd underlines the larger context of the Sanlam Art Collection today. ‘The works in the Sanlam Art Collection affirm life beyond the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. They confirm the indomitable spirit of creativity and once again remind us of the significance of the imagination and skill in making our world a better place to live in.’
     In celebration of Sanlam’s 100th year, the Sanlam Art Collection presents Centennial: A Century of Art from the Sanlam Art Collection 1918 – 2018. The 70 works on exhibition trace the historical and aesthetic transformation that South Africa has undergone. Visitors will easily recognise iconic works by celebrated artists while being confronted by contemporary gritty images from contemporary practitioners in a diversity of media. Presently on display in the Sanlam Art Gallery, this exhibition will be on view at the Sanlam Art Lounge in Sandton from September before embarking on a country-wide tour through 2019.

To find out more about the collection that boasts a representative array of paintings, sculptures and drawings by most of South Africa’s historically important artists, and who these artists are, purchase our August 2018 issue or continue supporting Creative Feel and our role in the arts and culture sector by subscribing to our exclusive monthly magazine.