Strauss & Co’s August online sale covers half a century of South African ceramic art

8 Aug 2023

Strauss & Co’s August online auction comprising 250 lots in three sessions with a dedicated South African ceramics focus, is now open for bidding. The timed online auction opens with the  latest iteration of Strauss & Co’s Art Club and  Impression/Expression sessions.


The dedicated ceramic session opens with two special Linn Ware bowls, (c.1930s and 40s), setting the scene for a brief overview of contemporary South African ceramics covering roughly half a century of excellent ceramic art produced in South Africa.

Linnware | Blue Bowl

Wilhelm van Rensburg, Strauss & Co Senior Art Specialist & Head Curator, explains that these two lots are “the first examples from small-scale potteries and refractories that started to counter the introduction of large-scale commercially produced tableware at the time”.

Also present in the sale are plates from the Kalahari Studio and the Dykor Refractory which stem from the next generation potteries and studios in the 1950s. The late-1960s saw the wonderfully sculptural ceramics produced at Rorke’s Drift in KwaZulu-Natal, amply represented on the sale.

Dykor Ceramics Studio | Green Starburst Platter
Kalahari Studio | African Woman with Headdress

“In the 1970s, the phenomenon of the ceramic artist-potter began to emerge, with the likes of Esias Bosch, Tim Morris and Digby Hoets, all of whom are well-represented in this session, says Van Rensburg. “Equally remarkable is the group of ceramic artists inspired by traditional African vessels, rendered in a contemporary idiom.”

Lots by Nesta Nala, Clive Sithole and Simon Mashile are excellent examples from this era, and Elizabeth Mbatha’s ‘Ceramic Birds I’ with its decorative incisions and soft, blue glaze is another stand-out lot.

The session concludes with decorated porcelain plates by Robert Hodgins and the popular contemporary ceramic artist, Ruan Hoffmann, an artist whose market is very much on the rise and whose work has appeared regularly at Strauss & Co  over the last five years. Hoffmann’s Blue Flowers (estimate R 8 000 – 12 000), an earthenware piece decorated with porcelain slip and underglaze, is a highlight.

Clive Sithole
Ziphi Nkomo? (Where are the cattle?)
Elizabeth Mbatha
Ceramic Birds I
Ruan Hoffmann
Genetically Modified Plant
Robert Hodgins
Skullpiece No.5
Ruan Hoffmann
Space Junk


Opening the August online sale is the Art Club session. This session is named after Strauss & Co’s monthly Art Club evenings which take place at Strauss & Co every month alternating between Johannesburg and Cape Town.  It features some wonderful highlights, including a rare, early lithographic portfolio by Jarred Ginsburg titled Digging for Oil (estimate R 15 000 – 20 000). 

David Goldblatt | Adverts on the Wall at the Base of the Telkom Microwave Tower, Hillbrow, 15 January 2002

The session also includes stand-out work by contemporary artists such as Kendal Geers’ well-known Breathless (Yellow Christ, David Goldblatt’s Adverts on the Wall at the Base of the Telkom Microwave Tower, Hillbrow, 15 January 2002 (estimate R 100 000 – 150 000), and the Claudette Schreuders lithograph titled Rivals (estimate R 15 000 – 20 000).

Speaking to some of the highlights of this first session, Strauss & Co’s Head of Department and Senior Art Specialist Dr Alastair Meredith cites an early small-scale work by Alexis Preller – an oil painting on plaster tile titled Woman Carrying a Bowl (estimate R 30 000 – 50 000) executed in the mid-1930s.

“Works from this period are incredibly rare, these are works from before he joins the war effort and goes up to the North Africa campaign in 1940,” explains Meredith.

“We also have an early work by Walter Meyer titled Surreal Space Painting from 1991. Of course, Meyer changed his style dramatically later in the late 90s and into the 2000s and this catches him at an interesting and experimental phase in the 80s through to the early 90s. So, that’s a very interesting work.”

Also featured in August’s Art Club, which takes place in Johannesburg this month, is the opening of a small exhibition of selected works from the collection of the University of Pretoria (UP). The exhibition will run until the 24August and can be viewed daily from 9am to 5 pm.


Maud Sumner | Winter Landscape

The third session of the sale is titled Impression/Expression and features a wide range of works.

Here, a stand-out lot is a painting by Alice Elahi, titled Evening Before the Rio Race(estimate R30 000 – 50 000) depicting a steep, green carved-out bank, a glistening lavender sea, and a collection of boats and masts bobbing in the wind.

“Elahi is a little-known, undervalued, and underappreciated painter and I have to say this is one of her masterpieces,” says Meredith. “This is a painting that I would absolutely love to own myself.”

Also in this session are stunning works by Maud Sumner. These include a few of her oil paintings, and some fantastic watercolours in very good condition, of which Winter Landscape (estimate R30 000 – 50 000), with its curved bridge before a cluster of snow-topped homes and thin, wintry trees, is an excellent example.

Representing sculpture are bronzes by the likes of Ivan Graham Mitford-Barbeton as well as Sidney Beck, Rhona Stern, Donald Greig, and some interesting works by Job Kekana and Peter Schütz.

Alice Elahi | Evening Before the Rio Race

Strauss & Co’s August timed online sale opened for bidding on Monday, 7 August.  The auction closes in 1-minute intervals from 2pm on Monday 14 August.

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