From Azaria to Zerffi – an eclectic collection from an art connoisseur family

By CityLife Arts Writer
Leading South African auction house, Strauss & Co, has announced the offer of  a single-owner collection sale, curated over decades by a family of art connoisseurs. The sale, titled Azaria to Zerffi: Selected Works from a Family Collection, features over 300 lots, collected over two generations. The collection weaves a golden thread between South African post-war and contemporary art and encompasses, as the title suggests, artists as varied as leading contemporary African printmaker Azaria Mbatha (1941-2018) to British-born modernist, and founding New Group member, Florence Zerffi (1882-1962).

“The wide-ranging collection shows one family’s huge enthusiasm for the South African art scene. Spanning a diverse range of styles and media, the collection is an interesting cross-section of local art making. Each family member has contributed their unique perspective and preferences, resulting in an eclectic assortment of attractive works,” says Dr Alastair Meredith, senior art specialist at Strauss & Co.

The timed online auction, which went live on Monday, 8 May has three sessions. The first session focuses on painting, with works by the likes of Hugo Naudé, Frans Oerder, Terence McCaw, Aileen Lipkin, and Alice Tenant. Meredith highlights Gardens, Durban (oil on board, est. R20 000 – R30 000) by Mauritian-born artist and architect, Clément Sénèque, who grew up in Durban, as a lot to watch. Sénèque’s Durban pictures reflect his interest in the city’s architecture, harbour and lush tropical landscape. Gardens, Durban uses oily brushstrokes in hues of emerald, veridian and sage.

 The second session, titled Works on Paper, Prints and Multiples, has a strong emphasis on Black Modernism, featuring works by masters like John Muafangejo, Ezrom Legae, Azaria Mbatha, Stanley Nkosi, Dan Rakgoathe, Gerard Sekoto and Cyprian Shilakoe. Leading modernist Sekoto is well known for portraying black people with dignity, resilience and pride in the face of adversity, and challenges stereotypes to highlight the strength and complexity of Black identities. One of the sale’s headliners is undoubtedly Sekoto’s The Woman in Red (gouache on paper, est. R120 000 – R180 000), an exuberant, expressionistic portrait of a woman dressed to the nines in crimson and flame red. Another noteworthy lot in this session is by Charles Gassner: titled Still Life with Pear (oil on paper, est. R 10 000 – 15 000), the work is bold and abstract, featuring simplified geometric forms arranged in a dynamic, cubist-like composition.

 The third session focuses on sculpture, with a strong representation of Limpopo sculptors such as Jackson Hlungwani, Noria Mabaso and Dr Phuthuma Seoka, known for their themes of magical realism and indigenous spiritualism.  A remarkable lot in this session is Figure with a Snake (bronze with green patina, R10 000 – R15 000), by sculptor Coert Steynberg, best known for his statue of President Paul Kruger at the Kruger National Park’s Kruger Gate and the pronking springbok on all gold Krugerrands.

‘This distinctive collection is sure to enrich the collections of future art connoisseurs seeking to expand their horizons and explore the diversity of the South African art world,’ Meredith concludes. The Timed Online Auction opened on Monday 8 May, in the lead-up to Strauss & Co’s Johannesburg auction week and ends on Monday, 15 May starting from 2pm.


WALKABOUT –  10:00 Sat 13 May 2023

FAMILY DAY & WALKABOUT – Sun 14 May 2023 – To Book:

10:00  Children’s art workshop – 20 slots available 

12:00 Children’s art workshop – 20 slots available 

LIVE VIRTUAL AUCTION   – Rare and Fine Wine from Italy and Spain:  11:00am Sun, 14 May 2023 

TIMED ONLINE AUCTION – Azaria to Zereffi: Selected Works from a Family Collection: Opens: Monday, 8 May from 8am – Closes on Mon 15 May 2023 from 2pm

LIVE VIRTUAL AUCTION  –  Modern and Contemporary Art :  7:00pm Tuesday, 16 May 2023 (Drinks and final viewing from 6pm)

PREVIEW  –  Tuesday 8 May – Tuesday 16 May 9am – 5pm

VENUE  –  Strauss & Co, 89 Central Street, Houghton

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