By CityLife Arts Writer
Strauss & Co is high-quality art works at its forthcoming virtual auction, which will be led by auctioneers in studios in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and live-streamed through Invaluable.com over three consecutive days in late July. The sale commences on Sunday, July 26, with a session devoted to fine wines from three esteemed Cape winemakers Boekenhoutskloof, Klein Constantia and Kanonkop – and climaxes with the offering of two notable single-owner collections on Tuesday 28 July.
“We are delighted by the range and depth of the wine and art on offer,” says Strauss & Co executive director Susie Goodman. “The two single-owner collections, one from a Pretoria collector, the other from a large survey collection of South African art, affirm Strauss & Co’s leading role in handling properties assembled by discriminating collectors and patrons of the arts. Given the circumstances of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, I am pleased to say that the July sale also includes various lots being sold in support of deserving charities in the arts and the community more broadly.”
Strauss & Co’s art offering includes important works by Robert Hodgins, J.H. Pierneef, Alexis Preller, Athi-Patra Ruga, Mmakgabo Helen Sebidi, Gerard Sekoto, Penny Siopis, Irma Stern and Edoardo Villa. Notable highlights include J.H. Pierneef’s Bosveld (estimate R9 – 12 million), a bushveld landscape from 1953 painted in the artist’s monumental style, and Irma Stern’s Congo Forest Scene (estimate R4 – 6 million), a sensorial portrayal of a plantation made during the artist’s second visit to the Belgian Congo in 1941. Both these works originate from the same private collection, which will be sold in the final evening session on Tuesday 28 July.
“This collection was assembled over many decades and includes top-quality examples of works from a range of periods and locations,” says Alastair Meredith, a senior art specialist and head of Strauss & Co’s art department. “The 45 lots on offer are drawn from a larger survey collection. The selection includes a number of important works by Gregoire Boonzaier, Alexis Preller, Gerard Sekoto, Edoardo Villa and Pieter Wenning.”
Sekoto’s The Visitor, Eastwood (estimate R3 – 4 million), which depicts a cyclist pausing to converse with a mother and child, was painted during his important pre-exile residency in Eastwood, Pretoria (1945–47). Painted a decade earlier, in 1938, Boonzaier’s energetic Street Scene, District Six (estimate R500 000 – 700 000), dates from the year he participated in the formation of the New Group.
The highlight of the Property of a Pretoria Collector is Anton van Wouw’s well-known bronze of a crouching Boer soldier, The Scout(estimate R900 000 – 1.2 million). The work bears the inscriptions of the Massa foundry in Rome. Other notable modern and post-war art consigned to this sale include Alexis Preller’s magnificent abstract from 1963, Temple of the Sun (estimate R1 – 2 million), which once enjoyed pride of place in the artist’s Dombeya home, and Christo Coetzee’s nearly contemporaneous assemblage painting from 1960, After Japan (estimate R350 000 – 500 000).
Strauss & Co is particularly fortunate to be presenting on auction a wonderful selection of sculptures by the master sculptor Edoardo Villa. Among these are two outstanding large-scale works, both bearing the same title. Villa’s Mother and Child from 1974 (estimate R1.5 – 2 million) is a painted tubular steel sculpture measuring nearly 5 metres high. It is one of the most significant Villas ever to come to auction. The other Mother and Child dates from 1983 (estimate R900 000 – 1.2 million) and was cast in bronze by Luigi Gamberini at the Vignali Foundry in Pretoria.
Leading the contemporary art selection in Strauss & Co’s sale is Athi-Patra Ruga’s large textile piece, The Sacred Versatile Queen and Autocrat of all Azania (estimate R700 000 – 1 million). The work elaborates on his queer-positive cosmology of a fictionalised South Africa ruled by female monarchs and was acquired at an art fair in Basel, Switzerland. The sale also includes lots by two important contemporary Zimbabwean painters, Portia Zvavahera and Misheck Masamvu. Both artists work in a colour-drenched expressionist mode dominated by figures and have been widely exhibited internationally.
Notable contemporary paintings by South Africans include a dramatic cityscape by Robert Hodgins from 2005. Titled Memo Painting #1(estimate R1.2 – 1.6 million), the work reimagines elements of the 1994 film collaboration between Hodgins, Deborah Bell and William Kentridge. Mmakgabo Helen Sebidi’s mythical oil, Horse Spirit (estimate R600 000 – 900 000), was presented on her 2019 survey exhibition at Cape Town’s Norval Foundation. This same institution will in 2021 survey the work of painter of Georgina Gratrix, who is represented in the sale by The Advocate (estimate R70 000 – 90 000).
Strauss & Co’s three-day sale commences on Sunday 26 July at 11am with its themed selection of South African fine wine. Pick of the crop from Kanonkop is a single lot of 19 bottles produced between 1988 and 2006 (estimate R200 000 – 250 000). The sale includes two superlative examples of this estate’s red wines, each offered in non-standard volumes: the 1994-vintage Pinotage (estimate R25 000 – 30 000) presents in an 18000 ml bottle, and the 2006-vintage Bordeaux blend Paul Sauer (estimate R25 000 – 30 000) comes in a 12000 ml bottle.
The 1987 vintage of Klein Constantia’s flagship Vin de Constance, produced entirely from Muscat, is regarded as one of the finest vintages produced in the 1980s and 90s. A single 500 ml bottle of the 1987 vintage carries an estimate of R25 000 – 30 000. At 25 years of age, Boekenhoutskloof in the Franschhoek Valley is the youngest of the three winemakers profiled. Its Platter five-star 1997 Syrah helped establish its reputation. The sale includes a three-bottle lot of this celebrated vintage (estimate R9 000 – 11 000), as well as two lots of its lauded 2005-vintage Bordeaux blend, The Journeyman (estimate R10 000 – 12 000 each).
Philanthropy is also playing a part in the auction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The sale includes a single lot of six paintings by Keith Alexander depicting Old and New Testament scenes (estimate R600 000 – 900 000) that were painted for and donated to St George’s Anglican Church in White River by the artist, a member of the congregation. Proceeds from the sale of this lot will benefit the Keith Alexander Fund administered by the church. Proceeds from the sale of two works on paper by William Kentridge will benefit Artist Proof Studio, Johannesburg, and another will be sold in support of Lefika La Phodiso Community Art Counselling and Training Institute. In addition, the sale of two lots by Maud Sumner will benefit the Walter Battiss Art Museum, Somerset East.
The schedule for sale
Sunday 26 July 2020
Session 1: 11am: South African Fine Wine
Monday 27 July 2020
Session 2: 4pm: Post-War and Contemporary Art
Session 3: 7pm: Post-War and Contemporary Art
Tuesday 28 July 2020
Session 4: 4pm: Modern and Post-War Art, including from the Property of a Pretoria Collector
Session 5: 7pm: Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art, including from the Property of a Collector.