An online art auction to help future digital artists

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It’s time to think…differently!  That’s what happens at The Thinking Fund, a creative arts project that raises funds for non-profit organisations to sponsor young minds to study Digital Arts.  

This stroke of genius allows South African artists to contribute to a CSI project by doing what they love most: musing, thinking, and fashioning something fabulous from something bland. The Thinking Fund was founded by Nicola Tyler, a closet artist, entrepreneur,  globe trotter and owner of The Thinking Company, a niche consulting business that teaches you how to think!  

The Fund invites people who are passionate about art and/or owls to bid in its 2023 Charity Auction. The list of auction lots are 22 barn owl-themed canvases. Each year’s online auction adopts a unique theme. Last year it was rabbits, this year – owls!  Next year, perhaps wild dogs.

“We teamed up with The Affordable Fine Art Fair,  the Open Studio’s Kommetjie, and Candice Berman Fine Art Gallery, who together represent some of South Africa’s top fine artists and talent. Each artists’ barn owl canvas was handed over in September 2022.  The finished works are currently being exhibited at Candice Berman Fine Art Gallery in Johannesburg,” says Tyler.

Each canvas is a one-of-a-kind work of art created by talented South African artists like Shakes Tembani, Susan Procter-Hume, Sara Grace and Siyabonga Mlambi. The Thinking Fund’s social impact programme connects participating artists with fundraising opportunities. Funds are donated to non-profits.

For the inaugural event in 2021, Tyler and project manager Anke Ferreira, teamed up with Kommetjie Open Studio, a community of artists who opened their hearts, minds and palettes to deliver over 25 fantastic rabbits. They were sold in an online auction, raising enough money to sponsor two young people to attend a one-year programme at Cape Town’s Academy of Digital Arts.  

Tyler explains: “We are project managers (idea creators, thinkers) who look for opportunities to connect artists to community projects. This enables artists to give back in a professional and structured way, and at the same time facilitate learning and growth in their field. There are few bursaries available in the creative arts – most end up with engineers, accountants, scientists, and business students. Our first love is the arts, so we chose digital arts. This is a future skill and will most likely enable the beneficiary to find work or employment”.

“In this latest project, we raise funds by teaming up with artists in South Africa, who donate their time and materials, while we collaborate with Candice Berman to get their work sold through the online auction.  Funds are being donated to The Ori Foundation (a registered Section 21 that also provides auction winners with a full tax certificate). The auction site is live until 30 April for those who wish to participate. It is a silent or secret bid auction.”

The Ori Foundation is the non-profit arm of the Academy of Digital Arts which assists talented, underprivileged South African students access quality creative education that would otherwise be out of their reach.

The silent bid format allows each bidder to submit a single bid for each lot. All the bids remain secret until after the close of the auction on 30 April when all bids are opened, and the highest bid determined for each lot. If there is more than one bid at the highest amount for any lot, then the bid that was submitted first will be deemed to be the winner.

This year the barn owl was selected for being the most widely distributed species of owl in the world and one of the most widespread of all species of birds, including Africa’s African Grass-Owl (Tyto capensis) and the Madagascan Red Owl (Tyto soumagnei). There are nearly 35 species of barn owls, and they are all different in colour – allowing tremendous scope for artistic creativity. 

The various lots and the artists can be viewed at bids placed at Candice Berman Auctions


The Thinking Fund is a unique social impact programme that connects artists and art organisations in fundraising opportunities to offer deserving aspiring artists bursaries to further their studies and embark on careers in art. Funds raised from activities such as online auctions are donated to non-profit organisations. It currently partners with Candice Berman Fine Art Gallery, who sponsors an online auction, and the Ori Foundation, the non-profit arm of the Academy of Digital Arts in Cape Town.

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