The people have voted: SA artists at the 2024 Venice Biennale come up tops at Strauss & Co’s Johannesburg auction 

10 Jun 2024

Johannesburg – George Pemba and Gerard Sekoto, major historical painters who this year are posthumous debutantes at the 2024 Venice Biennale, were among the top-performing artists in Strauss & Co’s recent Evening Sale of Collectable Art, concluded on Tuesday, 28 May 2024. The virtual-live auction, the culminating event of a four-part auction season in Johannesburg, saw strong results achieved for works by William Kentridge and Irma Stern, respectively stars of the Venice Biennale in the 1950s and post-2000s. 

All five works by Sekoto found buyers, including a historically important oil on paper from 1960, Policeman Checking Papers, Paris, which sold for R456 838 / $24 289. Collectors expressed keen interest in a late-period portrait by Pemba depicting the painter with author Alan Paton; it sold well above estimate for R531 415 / $28 255. 

“Strauss & Co’s Johannesburg season of live-virtual and online-only auctions comprised four sales devoted to Jewels and Collectable Art,” says Susie Goodman, Managing Executive, Strauss & Co. “The sales concluded shortly before South Africa’s national election, an important event that diverted attention from social pursuits to political and economic issues. Notwithstanding a cautious mood among collectors, Strauss & Co achieved strong results for our clients. We are committed to our mandate of ensuring the smooth transfer of high-value works of art among collectors.” 

The top-selling artwork in the salesroom at the Evening Sale of Collectable Art was an early work from 1935 by Alexis Preller, Breying the Riems, which went for R1.5 million / $79 055. Vladimir Tretchikoff’s gorgeous still life, Chrysanthemums in a Vase, also commanded value, selling for R1.4 million/ $72 974. Strauss & Co concluded three important post-sale results for works by Irma Stern. Cape Girl with Fruit, an important transitional work from 1930, went to a private buyer for R10.7 million / $569 116. Fire Lilies (Still Life with Amaryllis), a still life from 1956, sold for R4.8 million $254 917, and an intimate work by Alexis Preller Fisherman Mending Nets, Beau Vallon, from his Seychelles period sold for R2 650 000 $140 000.

The highlight of The Diamond Edition sale, held live in Strauss & Co’s salesroom on Monday, 27 May 2024, was an 18k platinum two-tone diamond ring, which sold for R693 150 / $37 939. A platinum ring with a white princess-cut diamond weighing 4.16 cts achieved R519 863 / $28 454. An 18k yellow gold intense fancy yellow diamond ring sold for R368 680 / $ 20 234. 

The online-only Day Sale of Collectable Art saw Maggie Laubscher – an alumnus of the 1952 Venice Biennale alumnus who is enjoying premier billing at the 2024 edition of this important art exhibition – emerge as the top earner. Laubscher’s Two Blue Cranes and Sheep, a 1950 oil on board sketch for a large oil of the same name, sold for R346 575 / $18 969. Gregoire Boonzaier’slate impressionist work, Street with Cart. Dist-Six Cape Town, from 1966, sold for R222 775 / $12 193. Also sold above estimate was Keith Alexander’s Alley, Groot Marico, painted in 1980, which sold for R199 325 /$ 10 910. 


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