from the professor jan k coetzee collection


From the Professor Jan K Coetzee Collection

4 Nov 2021

Strauss & Co is delighted to offer a special standalone auction of 43 lots of artworks from the collection of Bloemfontein academic and art-lover Jan K Coetzee on Tuesday 9 November at 7pm.

The professor’s interest and expertise in sociology and art grew alongside one another, stemming from two formative moments: in 1979, at the age of 31, he purchased his first significant work of art – a painting by Freida Lock, and he became a Professor of Sociology.

As a sociologist, Coetzee is a widely published academic with more than 70 scientific articles in accredited international journals. He has also written/co-written more than 20 books, two of which – Plain Tales from Robben Island (Van Schaik, 2000) and Fallen Walls (Robben Island, 2002) – earned him the 2002 Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor’s Book Award. In 2011 he took up a Senior Professorship in Sociology at the University of the Free State, where he initiated and directs a postgraduate programme, The Narrative Study of Lives. His 2019 book Narrating the Everyday (Sun Media) features work from within this project.

Coetzee’s narrative gazes on society, and on art, inevitably began to converge with his own practice of carving and sculpting, which developed in the background for over three decades. The outcome was a body of work presented in his remarkable book, Books & Bones & Other Things (Sun Media, 2018).

His artworks set up a dialogue between sculpted and found objects and old books, to call attention to some of the social, cultural and historical refrains from our past and present worlds. A collection of 60 of his ‘bookworks’ – featured in Books & Bones & Other Things – was exhibited at Everard Read’s CIRCA gallery in Johannesburg in February 2019. A follow-up exhibition, The Book & Domination, is scheduled for early 2023 at the same venue.

As Coetzee’s career has unfolded, so his eye for art evolved. And as the collection on offer at Strauss & Co demonstrates, these processes are accompanied by stories and reflection, and by narratives and books.

Kentridge collectors will relish the opportunity to bid on a library of 74 books by and on William Kentridge (estimate R250 000 – 300 000). Assembled by Coetzee over a number of decades, the library includes rare early books from the 1990s by art historians Michael Godby and Rory Doepel, as well as two books by celebrated American art historian Rosalind Krauss. All are signed and two even include original doodle drawings by the artist.

There are three paintings apiece by Robert Hodgins and Penny Siopis in the upcoming sale. The highlight of the Hodgins trio is the egg-yellow and red composition Artist Resting (estimate R80 000 – 120 000) from 2010, a commanding lot completed towards the end of the artist’s career. The top Siopis lot is No-No (estimate R70 000 – 90 000), an affecting 2005 study of weeping women achieved in deep reds.

A consummate draughtsperson with few peers, Diane Victor is represented in the sale by The Three Fates (estimate R160 000 – 180 000), an ash drawing that reinterprets the three Moirai, incarnations of destiny in Greek mythology, as contemporary figures. This remarkable drawing was originally presented at the artist’s University of Johannesburg show Ashes to Ashes and Smoke to Dust in 2012.

Coetzee’s eclectic collection includes rare works by sculptors as diverse as Albert Dasheka, Ben Macala, David Brown, Stanley Nkosi, Percy Konqobe, Joss Nell and Ernest Ullmann as well as a number of iconic works on paper by iconic wordsmith artist Willem Boshoff.

These works 20th century and contemporary paintings, sculptures and works on paper will be offered to the public on Tuesday, 9 November 2021 from 7pm. The lots can be previewed on Strauss & Co’s website at and in their dedicated exhibition space at 89 Central Street, Houghton, Johannesburg. Covid-19 regulations apply.

2021 Press Releases