Press release 29 June 2016
Strauss & Co is proud to announce important appointments to its Board and team of art specialists bolstering the rock solid legacy of founding managing director, Stephan Welz, who passed away at the end of last year.
Following Elisabeth Bradley’s retirement as Chairman, Frank Kilbourn has been appointed Executive Chairman of Strauss and Co, and joins the Board with immediate effect. Kilbourn is well-known and respected in business and the art world and brings with him substantial knowledge, experience and passion in both fields of enterprise. Bradley remains a member of the Board of Strauss & Co.
Kilbourn began his professional career in law, merchant banking and business in the 1990s. In 2002 he founded the Bright Group of companies, focusing on private equity and venture capital. He is also co-founder of Bright Foundation, a PBO (Public Benefit Organisation) dedicated to the advancement of education, nature conservation and the promotion of arts and culture.
Frank and his wife, Lizelle, began collecting art while still students at what is now the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and over a period of thirty years they have built up an exceptional collection representative of both modern and contemporary South African art. They are also involved in fundraising for the preservation of important local collections.
Kilbourn says, ‘As collectors we have developed an acute awareness of the responsibility and privilege of owning a private art collection, and the importance of sharing our collection with the public. Becoming part of such a prestigious auction house further deepens our commitment to art in South Africa.’
Elisabeth Bradley, outgoing Chairman of Strauss & Co, says, ‘We are delighted that Frank has joined our Board. As a highly esteemed and astute businessman, art collector and philanthropist we know that his participation will make an incalculable contribution to the auction house and, in turn, to the art market.’
Commenting on Bradley’s retirement as chairman, co-founder Dr Conrad Strauss, says, ‘We extend our heartfelt thanks to Elisabeth for her enormous contribution to the company. Under her leadership the company rapidly established itself as the leading auction house and built up an enviable reputation.’
Furthermore, the Board of Strauss & Co is pleased to announce that Carmen Welz has joined the Board of Directors. It is an important appointment that will ensure that the immeasurable legacy of her late husband Stephan Welz continues.
Commenting on this appointment, Bradley says, ‘Carmen has been part of the Strauss family since inception and we now formally welcome her to the Board. Her appointment brings continuation and the benefit of her immense knowledge of the auction and art world.’
Wilhelm van Rensburg and Marion Dixon have been appointed art specialists based at the Johannesburg office. Van Rensburg has a Masters degree in History of Art from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and is Research Fellow at the Visual Identities in Art & Design (VIAD) research centre at UJ.
He is an independent art curator and has mounted numerous exhibitions for various institutions, most notably the JH Pierneef exhibition in 2015, the Irma Stern retrospective exhibition in 2003, as well as the Judith Mason retrospective in 2008, all at the Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg. He is curator of education for the Henri Matisse: Rhythm & Meaning exhibition at Standard Bank Gallery opening in July this year.
Apart from his curatorial accomplishments, Van Rensburg is a familiar figure in the art world having been co-director, for the past ten years, of Art on Paper (AOP), a well-known gallery in Johannesburg.
After a successful 25-year career as corporate communication and public relations specialist – most recently as Communication Manager Media and a spokesperson at Anglo American – Marion Dixon actively pursued her lifelong interest in the visual arts. She completed a Masters degree in History of Art (with distinction) at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2009, and since then she has been working as a freelance art consultant and curator. She has consulted for private and corporate clients, including FirstRand Bank, and serves as curator of the Constitutional Court art collection. She has built up an extensive network of contacts in the South African art world and academia.
She curated an important art exhibition entitled ‘Water: the [Life’Delicate] Thread of Life at the Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg in 2011. The exhibition featured some 30 contemporary South African artists.
Elisabeth Bradley says, ‘Since its inception in 2009 Strauss & Co has gained the confidence and respect of its clients, and is made up of people with drive, expertise and integrity. We are delighted that Marion and Wilhelm are joining us and are confident that their respective strengths, academic learning and experience in art and business will be a great asset to the Strauss & Co family.’
Kilbourn concludes, ‘With the recent appointments, the company has not only provided for succession, but also ensured that it has the skills and energy necessary to maintain its leadership in the market.’
About Strauss & Co
Strauss & Co is South Africa’s leading auction house and was founded in 2009 by a consortium of business leaders and industry experts, including Stephan Welz, Elisabeth Bradley, Conrad Strauss, Vanessa Phillips, Ann Palmer and Bina Genovese. In March 2009 Strauss & Co held their first record breaking auction in Johannesburg. Today the company has the highest market share amongst the three leading auction houses specialising in South African art internationally.
The past full financial year, 2015, was a particularly successful one with the company achieving its highest turnover in its eight year history as its annual turnover surpassed R200 million for the first time. In addition Strauss set 21 new artist records – the most ever achieved – and a record for furniture, breaking its own two previously held records.
The results of the first semester of 2016 show a continued dominance in the market, with sales totalling in excess of R90 million and an over 80% sell-through rate which remains the highest in the current market. Apart from four successful live Johannesburg and Cape Town auctions, and four online auctions, Strauss & Co is also involved in a number of important fundraising art events throughout the country, firmly entrenching its position in the cultural development of this country.