Strauss & Co Opens in London

12 Feb 2024

Africa’s leading auction house, Strauss & Co will host their first official London private sale and loan exhibition dedicated to Alexis Preller in March.

  • Public Exhibition Devoted to ‘Missing Modernist’ Alexis Preller
  • Special Loans and Works of Art for Private Sale on view at Cromwell Place in March
  • Timed to Coincide with London Surrealist Sales and Growing Interest in Missing Modernists from Africa 

To be staged at Cromwell Place and open to the public from 5 to 10 March, the show comes hot on the heels of the artist’s retrospective at the Norval Foundation. 

It is the first time works by Alexis Preller will be celebrated in London, even though the South African artist was at the Westminster Art school in London graduating in 1934. 

Kate Fellens, Strauss & Co’s, Senior Business Development Specialist has recently relocated to London and pledges to continue their work in better showcasing artists often neglected outside Africa. “As collectors increasingly look to broaden their acquisitions, Strauss & Co continues to offer great works of art from Africa at tempting prices,” Kate Fellens commented. “Due to the turbulent history of South Africa and across the Continent during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there are many ‘Missing Modernists’ whose work has not had the attention they deserve. It is with great excitement that we welcome Dr. Alastair Meredith, Strauss & Co Head of Art Department & Senior Specialist in March who will share great insights about this Surrealist-inspired artist’s work. The price range of the available works in the exhibition will start at £30 000.

Alexis Preller (1911 – 1975) was a mid-century South African painter. Born in Pretoria, he attended Pretoria Boys High School. After completing school, Preller worked as a clerk before persuading his family to allow him to seek a future as an artist. In 1934 he set off for London where he met JH Pierneef, who advised him to enroll at Westminster School of Art. Returning to Pretoria, he held his first exhibition in 1935. In 1937 he went to Paris and studied art at Grande Chaumiere, under Othon Frieze.

Over four decades he developed a beautiful and highly personal iconography drawn from Sub-Saharan African motifs and culture, early Renaissance imagery, and the hieratic traditions of Greece and Egypt,” says Dr. Alastair Meredith. “At various points his painting style relied on gentle Post-Impressionism, linear precision, and broad abstraction. His colour combinations were typically off-key and memorable.” 

While he worked in relative isolation on the outskirts of Pretoria, he was widely travelled and abreast with European modernism. He might have had no official links to the Surrealist movement, but many of his meticulously recreated visions and dreamscapes have obvious Surrealist counterparts.

In 1954 he settled on a farm near Hartebeespoortdam, designed by his friend Norman Eaton. In his last years the artist became increasingly open about his sexuality and was asked by the South African government to sit on its committee reporting on the welfare of homosexuals. 

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