Contemporary South African Ceramics Get Star Billing In Strauss & Co Sale


As part of its commitment to developing new collectors, Strauss & Co is proud to announce a focus on contemporary South African ceramics in its forthcoming NORTH/SOUTH sale. A vital medium with a rich history, Strauss & Co has devoted an entire session to showcasing the best examples of South African ceramics in a session titled New Collector. This new and long-overdue session will be held on the penultimate day of Strauss & Co’s ambitious, four-day sale, on Tuesday, 10 November 2020 at 2pm.

New Collector draws attention to a diverse range of artistic positions and artisanal heritages. The line-up includes pioneers and present-day stars of the ceramics medium, as well as works by artists closely associated with broadening developments in the medium. The catalogue includes works by Deborah Bell, Ian Garrett, Katherine Glenday, Robert Hodgins, Ruan Hoffmann, Eugene Hön, Barbara Jackson, Martine Jackson, William Kentridge, Noria Mabasa, Lucinda Mudge, Nesta Nala and Hylton Nel, among others.

Important lots featured in New Collector include John Newdigate and Ian Garrett’s porcelain vessel, Birds Feeding (estimate R50 000 – 70 000). Measuring 58cm in height, this impressive work, decorated with animal motifs and paradisiacal colours, epitomises the sculptural and painterly qualities that distinguish art ceramics from utilitarian stoneware.

Birds Feeding by Newdigate and Garrett references the stylized Art Deco ceramics of the 1930s, while at the same time showcases Garrett’s interest in traditional Zulu pots,” says Wilhelm van Rensburg, a senior art specialist at Strauss & Co who helped spearhead the search for outstanding examples of contemporary South African ceramics. “Notwithstanding its indebtedness to the rich history of ceramics, Birds Feeding is remarkably contemporary in both its formal conception and vibrant outcome.”

Other notable lots in New Collector include Ardmore Ceramics cofounder Bonakele “Bonnie” Ntshalintshali’s painted ceramic Elephant and Stork Embracing (estimate R20 000 – 30 000), a rare offering of Nico Masemola’s  pair of green-glazed earthenware figures of hares (estimate R10 000 – 15 000) and two lots by Andile Dyalvane.

A lauded participant in recent editions of Design Miami, Dyalvane’s earthenware vessel Scarified Conical Vessel (estimate R50 000 – 70 000) dates from 2007, a crucial early period in Imiso Ceramics, the studio he cofounded with Zizipho Poswa.

“We have an amazingly rich and diverse tradition of ceramics in South Africa,” says Susie Goodman, an executive director at Strauss & Co. “New Collectors, which also includes select prints and multiples, represents the start of a long-term project to cultivate an appreciation for contemporary ceramics in the secondary market. Our aim is to showcase its history, introduce new voices and affirm the role of emerging collectors.”

The history of contemporary South African ceramics traces its origins back to innovations in the 1960s and 70s. It is distinguishable as a category from historical ceramics (such as VOC plates and other stoneware traded between East and West that regularly feature on Strauss & Co auctions), and heritage vessels (such as the many ceramic pots found at archaeological sites, including at Mapungubwe).

New Collector includes works by pioneer figures like Esias Bosch (Flower Composition, estimate R80 000 – 120 000) Nesta Nala (Vessel, estimate R18 000 – 24 000), Hyme Rabinowitz (Celadon Glazed Vessel, estimate R4 000 – 6 000) and Andrew Walford (Floral Composition, estimate R12 000 – 18 000). The session also includes two lots by another pioneer, Hannatjie van der Wat, one of many artists who complemented their output by working with ceramics.

Better known as an abstract painter, with three examples of her canvas work on NORTH/SOUTH, Van der Watt began to experiment with ceramics in 1972. Wilhelm van Rensburg points to a single lot of offering of three small pieces by Van der Wat, Abstract Forms #2; #12; #23 (estimate R4 000 – 6 000), as indicative of the essential plasticity of the ceramics medium.

A flexible category of production too, contemporary South African ceramics are understood to include the commercial ware from smaller artisanal potteries and studios such as Cullinan Refractories/Olifantsfontein Potteries (which produced Linnware) and Grahamstown Pottery (which produced Drostdy Ware), as well more mass-produced, designer utilitarian ware, such as that manufactured by Continental China and National Ceramic Industries in the 1960s.

New Collector includes a two-handled jug by Linnware (estimate R20 000 – 30 000), as well as contemporary take on commercial ceramics in the form of William Kentridge’s mirrored coffee cups produced by Illy in 2008. A set of six espresso cups and saucers and separate set of six cappuccino cups and saucers, both by Kentridge, carry an estimate R20 000 – 30 000 per set.

Kentridge is also represented by an untitled vessel (estimate R20 000 – 30 000) that was produced in 1989 and features portraits of the artist, Robert Hodgins, Deborah Bell and ceramicist Retief van Wyk. Frequent collaborators with Kentridge, Bell and Hodgins are represented by various ceramic pieces in New Collector. Both artists successfully transposed their unique iconography onto plates, although Hodgins roamed more widely, producing fully-fledged sculptural pieces in the years before his death in 2009. They include the diminutive human figures Our PR Man and Herr Brown (estimate R15 000 – 20 000 each).

A single-lot consignment of 12 plates by Hodgins (estimate R 180 000 – 240 000), offered in the adjacent Contemporary Art session at 7pm on 10 November, underscores the extraordinary contemporaneity of the ceramics medium.

To revisit Strauss & Co senior art specialist Wilhelm van Rensburg’s fascinating virtual Talkabout detailing the emergence of contemporary ceramics, held on 27 October, please consult or visit Strauss & Co’s dedicated YouTube channel  Strauss YouTube

New Collector, Strauss & Co’s specialist session devoted to South African ceramics, will take place on Tuesday, 10 November 2020, at 2pm.

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