Broad Interest in Historical and Contemporary Art Underpins Strauss& Co’s Solid Results

 

Museum-grade quality works by a broad range of historical and contemporary artists, the vast majority from South Africa, successfully changed hands at Johannesburg Auction Week, Strauss & Co’s major summer auction of art and wine. Composed of four curated evening sales of art, sellers favourably responded to a 47-lot catalogue of South African sculpture and single-artist sale devoted to Robert Hodgins, which provided fresh momentum to this painter’s market.  The brisk trade in art brought in a combined total of R51 million/$2,8 million.

Irma Stern’s 1940 portrait of an urbanised sitter, African Woman, was the top art lot, selling for R5.7 million/ $320,796. Reflecting his revered global status, William Kentridge’s 2012 ink drawing Peonies with Book sold for R4.3 million/$242,004. An expansive Karoo landscape from 1950 by J. H. Pierneef achieved R2.3 million/$129,444. The ten most valuable works sold during Johannesburg Auction Week included three works by Pierneef, two apiece by Stern and Kentridge, and one work each by Thomas Baines, John Meyer and Alexis Preller.

Johannesburg Auction Week also included a selection from the Coats Family Cellar. Arguably the most prestigious fine wine collection ever offered in South Africa, the top-selling lot was an 1899 vintage of Chateau d`Yquem’s revered sweet wine Sauternes, which sold for R136 560/7,685.60.

“It is important for an auction house to secure strong headline sales of blue-chip works of art,” says Frank Kilbourn, Chairperson, Strauss & Co. “At the same time, it is equally important that the secondary market remains a viable trading platform for the broadest possible range of buyers and sellers. I was encouraged by the range and depth of the works successfully traded in this sale which spanned more than two centuries of Southern African artistic output, particularly in the Hodgins session and the sculpture session.”

The top-selling artworks sold at Johannesburg Auction Week reflect a period of rapid social, economic and cultural changes. This was visualised in two marine-themed works that achieved strong prices. Painted in 1848, Thomas Baines’s Brig in Table Bay shows a two-masted ship entering colonial Cape Town and sold for R1.4 million/78,792. Produced in collaboration with the Artist Proof in 2018, William Kentridge’s multi-part etching Refugees (You Will Find No Other Seas) monumentalises a persistent contemporary news image and sold for R1.1 million.

The top-selling artworks sold at Johannesburg Auction Week reflect a period of rapid social, economic and cultural changes. This was visualised in two marine-themed works that achieved strong prices. Painted in 1848, Thomas Baines’s Brig in Table Bay shows a two-masted ship entering colonial Cape Town and sold for R1.4 million/78,792. Produced in collaboration with the Artist Proof in 2018, William Kentridge’s multi-part etching Refugees (You Will Find No Other Seas) monumentalises a persistent contemporary news image and sold for R1.1 million.

Between these two dates – 1848 and 2018 – South African art fully came of age. Maggie Laubser and Anton van Wouw confirmed their pedigreed status as collectable moderns from the tumultuous period of union. Laubser’s Woman with Head Scarf (1920) attracted three rival bidders and sold for just over R1 million/56,280. Van Wouw’s iconic bronze Kruger in Ballingschap (1907), a study of exiled Boer leader Paul Kruger, sold to an online buyer for R625 900/ 35,225.

IN/FORM: Exploring South African Sculpture included noteworthy sales for Josephine Ghesa, Job Kekana, Sydney Kumalo, Dylan Lewis and Edoardo Villa. A charming pair of cheetahs by Lewis (S347) and Villa’s majestic Mother and Child were the top performers and sold for R910 400/$ 51,237.3 each. An edition of Kumalo’s Head Big Ears (Elongated) sold for R819 360/ 46,113. A Kekana self-portrait from 1984 sold for R193 200/$10,873.3.

Johannesburg Auction Week affirmed the value of post-war painting, with Stern’s Indian Women (1959) leading the way when it sold for R3.2 million/ 180,096. Painted a decade later, Preller’s abstract composition Genesis fetched R1.8 million/$101,304. The most valuable paintings in the Hodgins single-artist sale were Dancer and her Admirer (1991) and A Most Superior Person (2005), both of which sold for R569 000/$32,023 each. John Meyer’s conflict landscape Lost in the Dust (2014) led the selection of paintings by living artists and sold for just over R1 million/$ 56,280. Painters Georgina Gratrix, Johann Louw and Lady Skollie all achieved solid results.

Photographs by David Goldblatt drew strong bids, with a rare print of a 1967 self-portrait taken at Consolidated Main Reef Mines, Roodepoort, achieving R432 440/ $24,337. Goldblatt’s Woman Sun-bathing, Fellside, Johannesburg sold for R227 600/$ 12,809. Enthusiastic telephone bidding for Marina Abramovic’s Portrait with Scorpion (Open Eyes) (2005) culminated in a R591 760/$33,304 sale. Yinka Shonibare’s Diary of a Victorian Dandy: 11.00 hours (1998) sold for R364 160/ $20,494.

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