strauss & co celebrates women’s month with a strong drive to profile women

Strauss & Co celebrates Women’s Month with a strong drive to profile women

13 Aug 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.

As part of its commitment to marking this annual celebration, Strauss & Co has invited Amohelang Mohajane, curator of the 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.

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 which have been generously donated to raise funds for the preservation and conservation of Welgemeend and the Boerneef Art Collection, housed at Welgemeend, Cape Town. Art Month at Welgemeend, which takes place in August every year, is aimed at:

  • Creating an awareness and promoting the cultural gem in our midst;
  • Making private collections available for public viewing; and
  • Most importantly: Raising funds for essential maintenance and restoration of Welgemeend.

It is a collaboration between the Friends of Welgemeend, Strauss & Co, Delaire Graff, Frank and Lizelle Kilbourn and others, with the support of Jan van Riebeeck Hoërskool. Art Month at Welgemeend 2021 celebrates the role of art in maintaining a 360-degree view of life. This year’s exhibition celebrates a special milestone: collector Frank Kilbourn, who with his wife, Lizelle, initiated this month-long art event in 2014, turns 60. The 60/360 art exhibition is open to the public from 14 August – 16 September 2021. (Entrance fee: R50 p/person).  Visit  https://www.welgemeendart.co.za/ for more informtion.

The August Online-Only sale commences on Monday, 16 August and concludes a week later on Monday, 23 August 2021.


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