Strauss & Co have developed a deserved reputation as South Africa’s top auction house. The Strauss & Co team are always hard at work crafting exciting new innovations for their clients and in early March, in a first for South Africa, the new Strauss & Co Shop successfully launched to much fanfare by debuting an exhilarating collaboration with gemologist and jewellery designer Taz Watson. Accessible through www.straussart.co.za, the Strauss & Co Shop offers jewellery, art and objects available for immediate purchase online outside of the regular Strauss & Co auction calendar. Items sold through the Shop are available for a limited time and on a pop-up basis only, and are carefully selected and curated by Strauss & Co’s team of specialists.
Hot on the heels of the launch, Strauss & Co’s Senior Art Specialist Kirsty Colledge and Watson have paired eight breathtaking pieces of jewellery by Mahak Kala of Panchoo London, available to purchase only through the Strauss & Co Shop, with eight pieces of modern, post-war and contemporary South African art that will be available through Strauss & Co’s first live auction this year from 3-6 April. This singular union of fine art and jewellery is a tantalising taster of what clients will soon be able to experience for themselves: the opportunity to work with Kala by commissioning him to design a once-off item of jewellery inspired by a piece of fine art purchased through Strauss & Co.
Kala’s pieces evoke the richness of the East and the wonder of Africa. He is part of a family of leading gem cutters based in India that goes back for generations, and has worked on jewellery for some of the world’s leading fashion houses. Glittering yellow diamonds, emerald-cut aquamarines and Paraiba tourmalines pay homage to the countries that Kala and his family called home for over 30 years. His pieces are fashion-forward, but also exhibit rare and unusual cuts and combinations of gemstones that speak to his heritage and history. “Mahak is very talented.” says Vanessa Philips, Strauss & Co’s joint Managing Director. “He’s won multiple awards and designed top international show pieces. Through this collaboration, we’re marrying Mahak’s expertise in jewellery with Strauss & Co’s expertise in art.”
The idea of combining art with jewellery, says Bina Genovese, Strauss and Co’s joint Managing Director, is a tribute to the passion that ignites Strauss & Co’s clients when they set their sights on a piece of art that they love. “It’s what makes working in this environment so exciting.” says Genovese. “We work very closely with serious collectors. One of our goals is to match the best artworks with the collector. So once a collector has pursued and purchased an artwork, they can now work with Mahak to create a beautiful item of jewellery inspired by the artwork. You get to wear your art. It becomes a conversation piece at a dinner party.
A visionary creative endeavor that embodies Strauss & Co’s bold union of fine art and jewellery will be unveiled at the preview of the Modern, Post-war and Contemporary Art, Decorative Arts, Furniture, Jewellery and Wine auction on 30 March, in advance of the live auction from 3-6 April. Colledge and Watson’s selection of eight works by lauded local artists such as Maggie Laubser, Irma Stern, Dr Esther Mahlangu and Alexis Preller have been photographed with Jo-Ann Strauss, who jumped at the chance to don the pieces designed by Kala that Colledge and Watson felt most appropriately connected with each of the artworks. Strauss, a philanthropist, brand ambassador, host and winner of Miss South Africa, has been shot in gorgeous garments designed by some of South Africa’s leading couturiers, in tones and textures that are sympathetic to the sparking gems that she is wearing and the palette of vibrant colours in each of the paintings.
Frank Kilbourn, Chairperson of Strauss & Co, is enthusiastic about the fusion of jewellery, art and fashion that the photographs represent. Connecting three different creative expressions is, he feels, testament to the power of art, that allows us to see connections that we might not have otherwise noticed. “We’re bringing artwork to life.” Kilbourn says. “We’re trying to capture the essence of the artwork through jewellery. It’s a celebration of aesthetics and creativity. We’re linking different forms of art.”
These powerful photographs will give Strauss & Co clients a true sense of the endless creative possibilities arising out of jewellery designed in conjunction with their beloved artworks.
The eight pieces designed by Kala are available for purchase through the Strauss & Co shop at www.straussart.co.za
Because every piece is hand crafted, they are available for a limited time only.
Some notes on the pairings of art and jewellery:
Jo-Ann Strauss wears a Zoisite and 18kt gold dress ring by Mahak Kala of Panchoo London. She is pictured with Maggie Laubser’s Portrait of a Woman wearing a Sari against a Floral Background. The fancy pink and yellow brilliant-cut diamonds that embellish the ring provide a fitting accent to the hues of blushing rose and cheerful yellow of the hollyhocks adorning the backdrop of Laubser’s work, and the printed sari worn by the Indian-South African woman who is her subject.
Strauss is wearing a pair of earrings by Mahak Kala that boast a bed of diamonds sparking at the centre of a playful arrangement of tanzanites and tzavorites in deep, rich shades of green and blue. She is posed alongside Irma Stern’s Dakar Woman, and the tones of the gems provide a considered accompaniment to the yellow-green palette of the headdress worn by the Dakaroise interpreter whom Stern befriended during her four-week stay in the Capital of Senegal.
Alexis Preller’s Gold Kouros is photographed behind Strauss, who is wearing earrings by Kala that feature Brazilian Paraiba tourmalines with brilliant-cut fancy yellow diamonds. Set in 18kt gold, the earrings are a symphony of understated colour that is perfectly offset by the rich tones of gold leaf and subtle accents of Aegean turquoise in Preller’s work, themselves nods to the Grecian sculptural traditions and mythologies that so inspired the artist in the late 1960s.
The perfect harmony of form, composition and colour in Irma Stern’s Still Life with Camellias is elicited by the necklace designed by Kala, that Strauss is pictured wearing in front of the painting by this renowned South African artist. The essence of the camellias in Stern’s work is captured perfectly by the cabochon-cut rubellites that are nestled on a bed of pavé diamonds, and the greenish-blues within the foliage and in the background given expression by fancy-cut turquoise.
In this pairing, Jo-Ann Strauss is wearing a pair of earrings by Mahak Kala that cascade in descending tiers of emerald-cut aquamarines and grape garnets, the gems themselves embedded in an 18kt white gold setting, crowned by a hexagonal-cut aquamarine surrounded by diamonds. Alongside Strauss, Irma Stern’s Still Life with Blossom, Jar and Pumpkins explodes with cherry blossom pinks, luscious crimsons and reds, all captured in the shifting facets of the grape garnets.
The dry and dusty South African soil in Erik Laubscher’s Winter Ploughed Lands, Swaarmoed, pictured against a mountainous backdrop of blue, is expressed through Kala’s brilliant-cut white and light fancy yellow diamond earrings that Strauss is wearing. Looking closely, you’ll notice that the pinkish scars of the freshly turned furrows in the painting are alluded to not only by the expressive shape of the earrings, but also by the shades of pink cabochon-cut mixed tourmalines and rubellites.
Dr Esther Mahlangu’s traditionally symmetrical, geometric Ndebele patterning in her Phantom Study 1. are painted in deep primary hues of blue, rich blacks and gunmetal greys. In front of Mahlangu’s work, Jo-Ann Strauss is shot wearing a tanzanite and black spinel 18kt gold dress ring designed by Mahak Kala, that similarly incorporates geometric shapes as a personal homage to the designs of the old city of Jaipur in India. A bed of pavé diamonds is visible through the depths of the tanzanite, like light filtering through the Jharoka windows in ancient Mughal architecture.
Strauss wears earrings by Kala that exhibit the natural luminescence of Akoya pearls and the shimmer of diamonds to their best advantage. The diamonds are set in a delicate organic tracery of 18kt gold, reminiscent of cherry tree branches. Behind her, the subtle, flowing forms made through the oxidization of fluid on gold leaf in Pierre Vermeulen’s Hair Orchid Sweat Print Verdigris Layer No. 2. create a thematic and conceptual link between the jewellery and the painting.