AUCTION IN CAPE TOWN
A haul of modern masters and contemporary pioneers
Leading auction house Strauss & Co’s forthcoming spring sale in Cape Town, which takes place on 10 October, includes a bumper offering of quality paintings by acclaimed South African masters including Anton van Wouw, Pieter Wenning, JH Pierneef, Stanley Pinker, Alexis Preller, Gerard Sekoto, William Kentridge, Sydney Kumalo, and Karel Nel.
Two still-life paintings by pioneering South African painters, Irma Stern and Penny Siopis, rank among the standout lots. Produced in 1947 and 1982 respectively, the works capture Stern and Siopis at very different moments in their careers.
Stern’s brilliantly coloured Still Life with Lilies (1947) was produced during a frenetic period of travel and work. It depicts a vase of orange lilies accompanied by a plate of fruit and a figure of Buddha. Stern would occasionally incorporate religious icons drawn from her personal collection into her compositions. The painting carries an upper estimate of R7 million, reflecting Stern’s status as a bellwether artist of the auction market.
Stern died in 1966, nearly two decades before Siopis came to prominence with her richly textured “cake painting” series. Lace Cloth (1983), which is expected to fetch between R300 000 and 500 000, is an early example of the artist’s still-evolving interest in painterly technique. Aside from traditional painting implements, Siopis used cake-icing instruments like decorative nozzles and spatulas to produce this painting.
Frank Kilbourn, Strauss & Co’s recently appointed chairman and a noted collector, highlights these two paintings among his top picks from the October sale. His other selections include Alexis Preller’s Egrets (1953), an idiosyncratic landscape study valued between R150 000 and R200 000, and much-loved painter George Pemba’s Pensioners Queuing for Payouts (1993).
“Pemba, a Port Elizabeth artist like Dorothy Kay, often painted scenes reflecting the everyday lives of people under the apartheid regime of the time,” says Kilbourn. “Of particular interest here is the provenance of the work: it was gifted by the artist to The Black Sash, Port Elizabeth.” Pemba’s historically significant painting was exhibited on a 1996 retrospective devoted to the artist at the Iziko South African National Gallery. The painting is expected to fetch between R100 000 and R150 000. Proceeds from its sale will benefit the work of the Black Sash Trust.
Kilbourn’s top picks from the October sale include an expressionist study of two figures in a room by Robert Hodgins, A Golem Couple (2002, estimate R600 000 – R800 000). Strauss & Co is offering five paintings by Hodgins including Ek sal jou‘n klap gee (R600 000 – 800 000) and A Cadette Watching TV (R600 000 – 800 000). Since his death in 2010 at age 89, prices for works by Hodgins have steadily increased. In March 2015, auctioneer and former MD of Strauss & Co, Stephen Welz, knocked down the painter’s J’accuse (1995-96) for R2.6 million, a world record for Hodgins. Strauss & Co has handled all the top ten sales of works by Hodgins.
Although highly prized for his paintings, Hodgins was also a prolific printmaker and occasionally jobbed for Walter Battiss, whose work is also represented in the forthcoming sale by the lyrical oil, After the Bathe (1955, estimate R140 000 – R180 000), formerly owned by East London artist and teacher Jack Lugg. Battiss shared with Stern a love of travel. After the Bathe was produced during a period of extensive travel, including sojourns in Maputo, London, and Venice.
Other notable paintings on the October auction include a cheeky 1975 gouache by Peter Clarke (Cock Stand, estimate R300 000 – R500 000) and a 1957 oil by Stanley Pinker portraying a sun-drenched West Coast landscape at Tietiesbaai (estimate R500 000 – R700 000). Pinker was a close friend of Erik Laubscher, whose most important autobiographical work, Contemplation (1988, estimate R600 000 – R800 000) reimagines a vista in the Koue Bokkeveld, a sandstone mountain range north of Ceres. Laubscher visited the region with his wife, painter Claude Bouscharain, and Pinker.
Francois Krige, one of the three war artists who became a master at capturing the daily genre scenes of life in the desert as opposed to battle pieces or celebrating the glory of war, produced 124 works in his role as ‘paintbrush soldier’. Cairo is an outstanding example of this body of works (estimate R180 000 – 240 000). Modern masters represented on the sale include the expressionist painter Maggie Laubser. Strauss & Co is offering a selection of work charting different periods in her prolific career, notable among them is Boontjieplukkers (estimate R350 000 – R500 000). Painting Yellow (1957, estimate R300 000 – R500 000) by the important post-war abstract painter Christo Coetzee is another highlight. Coetzee’s experimental canvas anticipates the work of contemporary painter Zander Blom, winner of the 2014 Jean-François Prat Prize for contemporary art in Paris. Strauss & Co is offering three lots by Blom.
Contemporary sculpture is also well represented on the Cape Town sale. Highlights include a tender figurative piece by Peter Schütz, St Lucy (2005, estimate R85 000 – 120 000), and an early work by Brett Murray, Policeman (1986, estimate R30 000 – R50 000) that represents his strident mix of political commentary and satire.
Jane Alexander completed her Master’s degree in sculpture in the 1980s, shortly before Murray. Strauss & Co has successfully sold key lots spanning the career of this world-renowned sculptor. But Alexander has also long worked with photography. Kilbourn, who pinpoints the Schütz work as a top-ten pick, is also excited by the inclusion of her photomontage Shepherd (1986, estimate R20 000 – R30 000) in the October sale.
“In this particular work, one recognizes one of Alexander’s iconic Butcher Boys intriguingly juxtaposed with a young man with a shepherd’s staff,” notes Kilbourn. He adds: “The upcoming Strauss & Co auction in Cape Town again offers the discerning collector an ideal opportunity to acquire some outstanding works across many different media and price points.”
The sale also includes a good selection of Furniture, Decorative Arts, and Jewellery including property from the Estate Late Mrs Liselotte Hardebeck (1920 – 2014). Liselotte Hardebeck was a well-known philanthropist and socialite in Johannesburg. The proceeds from the sale of lots 86 – 142 will benefit the Umamawothando Trust which was set up in 2009 by the late Mrs Hardebeck for the advancement of post-graduate study for previously disadvantaged learners. Umamawothando, which means ‘Mother of Love’, was the name given to her by the people she helped during her lifetime.
Strauss & Co’s Auction of Important South African and International Art, Decorative Arts and Jewellery will be held at the Vineyard Hotel, Newlands, on 10 October 2016.
Important South African and International Art, Decorative Arts, and Jewellery
Monday 10 October, 2016, at 11am, 2pm, 5pm, and 8pm
Venue: The Vineyard Hotel, Newlands, Cape Town
Preview: Friday 7 to Sunday 9 October, 10am to 5pm
Walkabout: Saturday 8 October at 11am
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