CityLife Arts

Highlighting women’s role in society through fine art auction

By CityLife Arts Writer

Women’s month is marked with several activities running with the theme of

women in South Africa, but in the case of leading fine art auction house Strauss

&Co. as part of its commitment to marking this annual celebration, the company

annually invites Amohelang Mohajane, curator of the North West University

(NWU Gallery) at North-West University, to guest curate a session of its

forthcoming online-only sale, which runs from 16 to 23 August 2021. 

Every August, South Africa marks Women’s Month in tribute to a march on 9

August 1956 in which more than 20 000 women converged on the Union Buildings

in Pretoria to protest the extension of Pass Laws to women.

Mohajane’s session highlights the achievements of women artists through the

ages. The 31 lots she has chosen include a multi-generation cohort of acclaimed

artists, among them Nel Erasmus, Kate Gottgens, Esther Mahlangu, Judith Mason,

Cecily Sash, Mmakgabo Helen Sebidi, Maud Sumner and Diane Victor. In many

instances Mohajane has opted to showcase multiple works by a single artist. 

Sebidi, a student of painter John Koenakeefe Mohl and exhibitor in the 2018 São

Paulo Biennale, has three works in Mohajane’s session, and Mahlangu, the only

South African to show in the landmark 1989 exhibition “Magiciens de la Terre” in

Paris, has two selected. Sebidi’s oil pastel on paper, Modern Life: You Have Lost

the Bird, You Only Have the Feathers (estimate R18 000 – 24 000), is characteristic

of her mythological late style.

Victor, a major figure in printmaking and a Venice Biennale alumnus, has three

works in Mohajane’s session, including Bearer (estimate R70 000 – 100 000), a

2010 etching from the Four Horses series. Paris-trained Sumner, a member of the

avant-garde New Group, is represented by two figural compositions: Woman

Knitting (estimate R30 000 – 50 000) and Still Life with Fruit (estimate R120 000-

160 000).

“Amohelang Mohajane’s contribution as guest curator highlights the central role

of women in our art history and marks an important intervention in the sale as a

whole,” says Susie Goodman, an executive director at Strauss & Co. “It is a

pleasure to have her trained eye review our catalogue and highlight an important

narrative so easily overlooked within the context of a sale. Strauss & Co

welcomes these rewarding collaborations – in March this year, we invited Kim

Kandan, gallery director of the KZNSA Gallery in Durban, to curate a session.

The most valuable lot by value in the forthcoming online-only sale is William

Kentridge, Four Figures, a 2015 collage of Indian ink drawings of silhouetted

figures on dictionary pages, mounted on Vélin d’Arches (estimate R180 000 – 240

000). This large work on paper relates to Kentridge’s 2015 production of Alban

Berg’s opera Lulu, a co-production of the Dutch National Opera, Metropolitan

Opera New York and English National Opera. 

Other notable high-value lots on sale include three works by in-demand portraitist

Bambo Sibiya, among them Kuyoze Kuse Sithakathana Makhelwane (The

Morning’s Going to Come while We Bewitch each Other, Neighbour), estimate

R80 000 – 100 0000. There are also two strong examples of Mongezi Ncaphayi’s

gestural abstractions, which gained him star billing at the 2020 Stellenbosch

Triennial. Now an auction regular, Beezy Bailey’s large incised board from

1996, Flying Figure and Beast (estimate R70 000 – 100 0000), depicts a naked

figure floating over a sun-bleached landscape.

Photographer Patrick de Mervelec is represented by an abstract graphic (estimate

R70 000 – 90 000), while Roger Ballen has a Dorps-period photo taken in 1984 of

a building façade in Aberdeen (estimate R50 000 – 70 000). Alexis Preller’s

miniature paintings are highly prized by collectors; the sale includes his mixed

media on wood panel study Shell (estimate R50 000 – 70 000).

For a discriminating curator with an eye for the overlooked, Wilhelm van

Rensburg, Strauss & Co’s head curator and senior art specialist, directs

buyers to the work of four painters: WH Coetzer, Amos Langdown, Dirk

Meerkotter and Gordon Vorster. Coetzer’s Still Life with Bottles (estimate R20 000

– 30 000) offers a skilled throwback to the realism of the mid-19th century, a style

that held sway over city officials in Johannesburg as late as the 1980s.

“I am reminded of the controversy in 1986 with the opening of the newly

renovated Johannesburg Art Gallery, the trade off with the city council being that

all is good and well as long as there is also a section dedicated to Coetzer in the

range of special exhibitions organised for the opening,” says Van Rensburg.

Meerkotter’s Still Life with Fruit and Jug (estimate R8 000 – 12 000) is a School of

Paris genre work by a self-taught artist who also worked full-time as a pharmacist.

Langdown’s But the Cat Comes Back (estimate R10 000 – 12 000) similarly invokes

continental traditions, recalling for Van Rensburg English artist Eduardo Paolozzi’s

1964 portrayal of a cat. Vorster’s Abstract Composition with Buffalo and

Wildebeest (estimate R6 000 – 8 000) is probably the most complex work in his

style of expressive abstraction.

As part of its commitment to honouring Women’s Month, Strauss & Co is

dedicating a session in the sale to the 12 women artists shortlisted for RMB’s

2021 Talent Unlocked. This professional mentorship programme, which includes a

four-month boot camp, features a dozen young women artists selected by curator

Londi Modiko and other stakeholders. Concurrent with their introduction on

Strauss & Co’s auction platform, collectors can also view their work on

display at Everard Read Circa Gallery in Johannesburg until 21 August. The 12

participating artists are: Nindya Bucktowar, Nombuso Dowelani, Aneesah Girie,

Nicola Holgate, Claire Manicom, Selloane Moeti, Tayhe Munsamy, Nicky Newman,

Lerato Nkosi, Tamara Osso, Kgaugelo Rakgwale and Michele Rolstone.

 Strauss & Co’s online-only sale features a dedicated session of fine wine lots

by acclaimed French and South African producers. The lot offering includes a 2003

Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape (estimate R15 000 – 20 000), a selection

of 2012 to 2015 vintages of Porseleinberg Syrah (estimate range R9 000 – 12 000)

and a 2009 Sadie Family Columella (estimate R7 000 – 9 000).

Session 4 of the August Online-Only auction features 8 lots, ranging from artworks

to prestige weekend getaways, which have been generously donated to raise

funds for the preservation and conservation of the historic Cape Dutch

homestead of Welgemeend, located in Cape Town, and the Boerneef Collection it

houses. Boerneef, the late poet and linguist Prof IW van der Merwe, amassed a

significant collection of South African art and books. The custodian of

Welgmeeend, Hoërskool Jan van Riebeeck, manages the homestead and the

collection in collaboration with the volunteer organisation Friends of

Welgemeend. Together they are committed to the preservation of this significant

cultural heritage for future generations.

.The sale commenced on Monday, 16 August and concludes a week later on Monday, 23 August 2021.

Please share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *