Strauss & Co’s sculpture-only sale explores the story of SA sculpture, from past to present

27 Oct 2022

South Africa’s impressive sculpture tradition receives its due in Strauss & Co’s forthcoming live-virtual auction season in Johannesburg (3-9 November 2022), with a dedicated sculpture session titled IN/FORM: Exploring South African Sculpture.

The 47-lot catalogue for IN/FORM tracks various developments in three-dimensional artistic production – from modernist pioneer Anton van Wouw to contemporary artists Josephine Ghesa, Frances Goodman and Angus Taylor. The sale commences at 6pm on Monday, 7 November 2022.

Featuring highly collectable pieces by Sydney Kumalo and Edoardo Villa, key agents of renewal in mid-20th-century sculpture, the catalogue for IN/FORM also includes a number of unusual lots that will be of interest to collectors. There is a dashing and rare self-portrait by Edoardo Villa from the 1940s (estimate R150 000 – 200 000 / $8 334 – 11 112) and seven petite figural bronzes by painter and printmaker Walter Battiss (estimate R30 000 – 50 000 / $1 670 – 2 780). IN/FORM will additionally feature timely artist focuses on two formidable talents, Job Kekana and Josephine Ghesa.

“The broad range of work featured in our November sculpture focus reveals the diverse trajectories adopted by artists, as well as the strong localisation of these activities in the Gauteng region,” says Dr Alastair Meredith, Art Department HOD, Strauss & Co. “Anton van Wouw’s evocative study of Paul Kruger in exile (estimate R400 000 – 600 000 / $22 165 – 33 240), conceived in 1907 and cast at Giovanni Nisini’s foundry in Rome, announces the beginnings of a western tradition of sculpture that persists. Important historical milestones include the founding of a modern art workshop at Grace Dieu Mission in Polokwane in the 1920s, the launch of Renzo Vignali’s artistic foundry in 1930s Pretoria, and the influence of dealer Egon Guenther’s eponymous gallery in 1960s Johannesburg.”

IN/FORM includes strong examples of work linked to these formative institutions. Edoardo Villa’s majestic two-metre-tall bronze, Mother and Child (estimate R1 – 1.4 million/ $55 450 – 77 640), was produced at the Vignali foundry. The catalogue includes two important works by Sydney Kumalo, both made during his association with Egon Guenther. Kumalo’s bronze Head Big Ears (estimate R400 000 – 600 000 / $22 165 – 33 240) was exhibited at the 33rd Venice Biennale in 1966. Trained at Grace Dieu Mission, Job Kekana’s 1984 self-portrait (estimate R18 000 – 24 000 / $1 000 – 1 333) is a wonderful entrée into his animated figurative style. Three works by Ardmore-trained Josephine Ghesa lead a strong selection of contemporary pieces by David Brown, Norman Catherine, Frances Goodman, Dylan Lewis, Walter Oltmann and Anton Smit. Ghesa first came to prominence in the 1990s and is currently one of the highlights of Norval Foundation’s survey of black women artists, When Rain Clouds Gather. Her painted and fired terracotta piece The Meeting (estimate R50 000 – 70 000 / $2 775 – 3 890) presents a mystical amalgam of human and animal subjects. Angus Taylor’s experimental 2008 bronze, Portrait of a Man (estimate R120 000 – 160 000 / $6 665 – 8 885), is a fine addition to a strong selection of artist likenesses in the catalogue.

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