The Oliver Powell and Timely Investments Trust Collection

Live Virtual Auction, 20 September 2022

The Oliver Powell and Timely Investments Trust Collection
About the Session

Strauss & Co is pleased to present this extraordinary collection as the featured session this September Live Virtual Auction. An established insolvency practitioner with a passion for the arts, Oliver Powell's principal focus has been collecting South African painting, sculpture and works on paper made since 1950. Colour, graphic ingenuity and emotional weight are all attributes in an artwork that Powell is drawn to. Powell also emphasises the importance of his many encounters with artists. “There is so much value in meeting an artist,” says Powell. “Aspects and details of their life are reflected in what and how they paint.”

Sold for

ZAR 23 450
Lot 102
  • Brett Murray; Sycophant Narcissus, two
  • Brett Murray; Sycophant Narcissus, two
  • Brett Murray; Sycophant Narcissus, two

Lot Estimate
ZAR 20 000 - 30 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 23 450

About this Item

South African 1961-
Sycophant Narcissus, two

signed and numbered 2/5 on the reverse

aluminium, paint and resin
each height: 50cm; width: 66cm; depth: 2,5cm


In 2008, Brett Murray presented a solo exhibition in Cape Town titled Crocodile Tears, followed in 2009 by an exhibition of the same name in Johannesburg. These lots derive from those two exhibitions. They bear testimony to his meticulous craftsmanship, a talent nurtured as a student by sculptor Bruce Arnott. Named for the idiom connoting superficial sympathy and the insincere display of emotion, Murray’s works in Crocodile Tears satirically explored political manners in the ruling party during the twilight of Thabo Mbeki’s presidency of the ANC and South Africa. The lots 100, 101 and 102 exemplify Murray’s longstanding interest in providing social commentary through figurative sculpture, in particular by anthropomorphising human vanities and foibles using animals. The works from this period are also noteworthy for Murray’s rhetorical use of Late Baroque design motifs. An important motivator for this merging of African and European histories was Mbeki’s interest and popularisation of the African Renaissance philosophy developed by Senegalese intellectual Cheikh Anta Diop in Paris, liberation theory that by 2008 had become party political dogma in South Africa. “With this group of artworks,” Murray said, “I have synthesised an optimistic vision of an African Renaissance with images of pomp and ceremony from 16th and 17th century European High Renaissance, mocking our new elites’ indulgences and their shameful indifferences. I have attempted to expose political cant and sycophancy.”1 Critics favourably reviewed both exhibitions.

1. Brett Murray (2013) Brett Murray. Johannesburg: Jacana Media, page 183.


Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, 21 October 2013.

The Oliver Powell and Timely Investments Trust Collection.


Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, Crocodile Tears, 10 April to 3 May 2008.


Brett Murray (2009) Crocodile Tears, Johannesburg: Goodman Gallery Editions, illustrated on page 21.

Brett Murray (2013) Brett Murray, Johannesburg: Jacana Media, illustrated on pages 182, 188 and 191.

View all Brett Murray lots for sale in this auction

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