single-owner collections generate exceptional results at strauss & co sale


Single-owner collections generate exceptional results at Strauss & co sale

13 Aug 2021

The excellent results achieved by Strauss & Co from the virtual live sale of the Professor Leo Strydom and the David Hall collections, once again demonstrated the company’s mastery in handling the sale of single-owner collections.

This boutique sale of 289 lots of South African art and design netted a total of R9.86 million and a value sell-through rate of 92.6%.

A 1962 portrait of a flute-playing youth painted by Alexis Preller in 1962 was the top-selling lot achieving a credible price of R2.7 million. The fantastical Preller oil was part of a large consignment of artworks amassed by Professor Leon Strydom, a respected figure in Afrikaans literary and art circles.

“Strauss & Co takes real pleasure from handling important single-owner collections and communicating the heritage around them,” says Frank Kilbourn, Strauss & Co’s executive chairperson. “The Professor Leon Strydom Collection and David Hall Collection originated out of a passion for South African artists and designers. Strauss & Co devoted a lot of care in its marketing and education to sharing the stories behind these collections with collectors and art enthusiasts. As a young collector I was very much influenced by my interactions with Leon Strydom, and it was a pleasure and privilege to host an exhibition of, and a series of talks about, his extensive collection prior to the sale.”

“I am delighted with these excellent results for this boutique auction,” says Bina Genovese, Strauss & Co’s joint managing director, who led the premier evening session from a studio in the historical manor home of Welgemeend in central Cape Town. “The value sell-through rate of 92.6% and lot sell through rate of 89% surpasses industry standards. The sale attracted nearly 500 bidders, some opting to attend the livestreamed sale in person.” An experienced auctioneer, Genovese knocked down the estimate-beating Preller, as well as other top-selling lots by Maggie Laubser, Stanley Pinker and Irma Stern. “It was immensely gratifying to hear a bidder whoop with delight in the room when they secured an impressive figural composition by Cecil Skotnes.”

Strydom, a published poet and literary academic who turned to art dealing in his retirement, had a strong interest in the human figure. The hard-won panel painting by Skotnes depicting three standing figures attending a prone figure sold for R398 300. Pinker’s JOKO (Hoop Rolling), a work portraying two children in Victorian finery playing in a rural landscape, also attracted strong bids and sold for R455 200. Stern’s Madeira Portrait, an enigmatic gouache from 1931 portraying a harbour youth swaddled in yellow, sold for R432 440.

The Strydom Collection also included exceptional figure paintings by former Goodman Gallery compatriots Deborah Bell, Norman Catherine and Robert Hodgins. Confession, a rare 1989 expressionist painting by Bell depicting two figures in embrace, sold for R193 460. Strydom possessed catholic tastes and his collection also included outstanding landscape paintings. Painted in 1921 on card, Laubser’s colourist impression of Lake Garda rightfully fetched R364 160. Other notable landscapes that found buyers included Walter Meyer’s Hopper-influenced Kalahari Dawn, sold for R147 940, and a 1919 watercolour of a farmhouse in a landscape by JH Pierneef, sold for R79 660.

Encompassing artworks in various media, as well as Cape furniture, carpets and specialist books, bidders showed particular enthusiasm for Strydom’s painting collection. Works by Fred Page, Judith Mason, Nigel Mullins, Jan Vermeiren and Adriaan van Zyl all surpassed their pre-sale estimates. Best known for his late-career paintings of hospital environments executed in a remarkable photorealist style, Van Zyl’s undated diptych The Waiting Room drew considerable interest and eventually sold for R216 220, signalling a very strong start to the evening sale. Mason’s Artist and Angler, a large composition on board featuring exquisite surrealistic figures, sold to a telephone bidder for R216 220.

A lime green-glazed vase with russet highlights bearing a Ceramic Studio signature was the standout lot from the superb collection of Linn Ware accumulated by David Hall. Predating the rebranding of this art pottery in Olifantsfontein, near Pretoria, to Linn Ware in the later 1940s, the Ceramic Studio vase was the subject of fierce bidding and sold R34 140. Hall was a regular visitor in his youth to Cullinan Refractories, the company that manufactured Linn Ware. His collection was an expression of his deep familiarity with Linn Ware and the personalities who shaped this storied design company.

Key lots that traded hands included a large Linn Ware blue-and-lime-glazed vase, sold for R21 692; a large Linn Ware green-glazed bowl with flared sides, sold for R11 725; a large Linn Ware turquoise-glazed jug, sold for R10 553; and a Linn Ware pale green-glazed vase, sold for R10 553. The Hall Collection included a superior and representative collection of coloured plates. An assembled set of seven Linn Ware glazed dinner plates sold for R10 553, and a separate lot of eleven Linn Ware glazed dessert plates achieved the same price. A Cape yellowwood and stinkwood table, sold for R34 140, was the highlight of a small consignment of furniture, also consigned by Hall.

The sale of the Strydom and Hall collections was timed to coincide with the start of Art Month at Welgemeend 2021. This annual celebration of arts and culture, held every August in the historic Cape Town manor home of Welgemeend, returns in 2021 with a diverse programme of events including an art exhibition, piano recital and public lectures. A joint initiative between the Friends of Welgemeend, collectors Frank and Lizelle Kilbourn, Strauss & Co, Delaire Graff Estate and others, Art Month at Welgemeend 2021 will officially commence on Saturday, 14 August 2021 and concludes Friday 17 September 2021 with a springtime finissage of works on show from the Kilbourn Collection.

The theme of the exhibition is “60/360” and features a selection of works from the Kilbourn Collection spanning a hundred years and includes some unusual works from South Africa’s best known artists.

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