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I was there when Maik Kobald found the property that would later house the construct and essence of his vision, the vivid and lucid fruit of his dreams- the throbbing, tangible reality that became Red Room. The only house for sale in that road, atop a beautiful estate in Hout Bay, Cape Town, found late one breezy Sunday afternoon, and priced just within Maik’s proposed budget is where dreams met destiny and Red Room was birthed. It was good to be there at the beginning of this dream, and magic to return years later to see Maik’s vision come to vibrant and visceral fruition.Maik speaks of ‘the 4 hour work week’ and of living one’s dreams. Inspired by author Tim Ferris’ #1 New York Times best- selling book, Maik took the leap from making a living to having a life after leaving corporate life to develop his passion for buying and selling art, turning this once-hobby into a successful way of life. Of course, hard work, vision, passion and determination are all part of turning one’s dreams into reality and Maik’s Red Room is testament to the rewards of having the courage to make that choice and having the faith to follow through with it. When Maik speaks about art, his passion is palpable and coupled with his vision and shrewd eye for investment art that keeps and increases its value, makes him a valuable voice in the world of contemporary South African art.

Independent and unconventional, Maik houses his art in his stylish and beautifully constructed home, to give clients a feel of what the pieces would look and feel like in their own homes. Perched atop a mountain and customized to make the most of the majestic views, Red Room showcases some of the most notable contemporary South African art around. The effect is magnificent. Sculptured silhouettes cast mysterious shadows around the garden and sunrise is one of the most magical times to catch the golden light and one of Fritz, Maik’s rescue dog’s, early morning Yoga stretches. ‘ScapeGoat’ a collaboration by sculptor Ruhan Janse van Vuuren and artist Diane Victor greets you as you step into the Red Room and a seated winged African Venus, the subject of a work created by artists Bambo Sibiya, Samson Mnisi and Laziehound Coka called `Black August`76`,  impassively returns your gaze. Theresa- Anne MacKintosh’ playful oversized sculpture called ‘Sugar’ peers out from behind a sofa. Art permeates the Red Room and bears silent witness to the inhabitants and guests; at times shouting loudly from the walls, speaking of violence, beauty, revolution, death and passion, humour and love. Immersing oneself in the Red Room is to be immersed in a landscape of visceral art which reveals hidden inner landscapes, provokes dialogue and invokes further exploration. Willie Bester’s piece about the day Nelson Mandela was released from prison, is a poignant reminder of a powerful and painful past and Diane Victor’s ´Nelson Ash: Long Walk´ is a bittersweet reminder of vulnerability, the innocence of death and the fragility of life in its heart -wrenching depiction of our beloved Madiba.

Maik speaks about art being conversation pieces creating connection and stimulating debate, a healthy way to get people talking. It was the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners who said that Art creates Dialogue and that Dialogue is necessary for Peace and Democracy. Vanessa Branson, who founded and runs the annual Marrakech Biennale, a festival with a mission to build bridges between cultures through the arts, speaks about the role of art and culture in helping a people find their critical voice. Art is Dialogue and art creates and open doors for dialogue and this becomes clear in the stories, mysteries and histories captured on the canvas. It is to watch the stories unfold which speak of South Africa’s physical, political, emotional, sometimes sensual landscapes and which can beckon one back into a history and a remembering or catapult one forward into untold Apocalyptic or Utopian futures, just hidden from our view.
With art, one never quite knows. It hints, teases, alludes to, reflects us, who we are and where we are, captures a moment in time, a mood, a sentiment, like a haiku, sometimes unrelenting and merciless in its intensity, tempting us to avert our eyes but mostly magnetically holding them there, locked into this secret dialogue between watcher and watched, observer and observed, as the canvas unlocks its layered secrets. And like a haiku, the dialogue is completed in the heart.

Art is alive and the materials lovingly used to create art, radiates energy from its canvas, containing the potent magic of the artists’ vision saturated with the bold strokes of their passion.
Art has been a part of the world’s dialogue with itself and one another for centuries. From the time of the first People whose rock etchings reflected histories and mysteries and ritual and reverence; Art, sacred and profane, is a part of us all. ‘Does art reflect life or does life reflect art’ is the banter thrown around. The question has been addressed tirelessly but the answer remains a timeless, tantalizing mystery, like the enigma that art is. Maik speaks passionately about the artists’ work Red Room houses, and names like Kentridge, Dumas, Edoardo Villa, Kendal Geers and Diane Victor roll off his tongue. Seeing South African history, diversity, contemporary life and culture come alive in contemporary South African art, Maik, a native German, is passionate about not only recognized South African artists but also about identifying rising South African artists with potential and he possesses a unique set of criteria for identifying which artists to look out for, expertise and experience his clients benefit from.

Investment value is important to Maik and he advises on investing in artists whose work he believes will retain and increase its value. And most importantly, he advises to buy ‘what you like, what you love, what you’re passionate about ’ and himself wants to see the artists’ soul and passion reflected in the works, wants to see time and artistry invested in the strokes, the vision, the material and the narrative. Believing contemporary South African art to be unique in its energy, reflected history and narratives, Maik wants to see it on a global stage and is in the process of introducing this art to the world, starting with World Art Dubai on 6 April 2016. Maik Kobald is an example of someone living their dream and passionate about what South Africa has to offer the world through its art, passionate about evolving perceptions about South African art and introducing the world to the voice of modern South Africa and making that voice a powerful player on the world’s stage.

We’ll be watching this space.

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