The Collector Q&A - MONOCLE
Issue 42. Volume 05 - April 2011

The Collector Q&A
Jean Pigozzi

French-born Jean Pigozzi is a collector, philanthropist and photographer famous for his early interest in African art. His own work has shown at the Helmut Newton Foundation and New Yorks Gagosian Gallery.

Did you sent out to only buy African contemporary art?
No I didnt. I had Warhol, Sol LeWitt and others, but 22 years ago I was at this show: Magiciens de la terre in Paris. I thought that African art was pieces of wood and gold but I was really surprised by what I saw there. Paintings by Cheri Samba, lots of modern works with incredible energy and imagination.
Today, I have 10,000 pieces: video, installation, drawings done on the back of empty shampoo bottles. Its a very personal view of whats happening in Africa. Its not African art from A to Z.

How do you buy, and is there a policy you work to?
I have a curator. He visits Africa three or four times a year and 95 per cent of the collection is bought directly from the artists. The criteria we use is of living black artists from Sub-Saharan Africa.

What do you do with your collection?
I lend to a range of established museums such as the Metropolitan, Tate Modern, and the Guggenheim in Bilbao. I see myself as a visual ambassador because people usually associate Africa with issues such as civil war and Aids. Its ridiculous that it is seen as a single entity. You can cross a distance of 100km and there is a different religion, tribe and even colonial past.

Which artists are you excited about at the moment?
For the past three years, it has been Japanese contemporary art. I go to Japan and browse the galleries there, some the size of a Kleenex tissue. Outsiders think Japan is just about manga, but there exists a rich world of abstract art and drawings. - IC

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