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Internationally acknowledged art expert joins South Africa's leading Fine Art Auction House

  1 October 2009     Archived

Strauss & Co is extremely proud to announce the appointment of Emma Bedford as Paintings Specialist starting from 1 November 2009. Although she will be based in the Cape Town office, she will liaise on a regular basis between Johannesburg and Cape Town. According to Stephan Welz, Managing Director of Strauss & Co, it is not often that someone of Bedford's calibre becomes available. Highly regarded both locally and internationally, Bedford played an unequalled role as a Curator at Iziko South African National Gallery and as Director of Goodman Gallery Cape. She is an acknowledged expert in modern and contemporary art with particular reference to South African art, has extensive experience in curating exhibitions and collections management, has written and edited many publications and is a popular public speaker.

Says Bedford of her new appointment: “I’ve known and respected Stephan Welz and his colleagues for many years. They are the acknowledged experts in the field of art and antiques. Ann Palmer and Vanessa Phillips both serve on the Council of the Friends of the SA National Gallery, a testimony to the fact that they care enough about cultural public institutions to volunteer their time. I admire the fact that Strauss & Co and the individuals within it are guided by strong, ethical principles and a sense of responsibility to both the sellers and buyers. In our field, integrity counts as much as expertise in building and maintaining client confidence.”

During her 25 years at Iziko South African National Gallery Bedford became Senior Curator and Head of Art Collections, where she managed a range of projects and initiatives including exhibitions such as the Marlene Dumas: Intimate Relations (2007 – 2008) and William Kentridge (2002), the artist’s first large-scale survey exhibition to be mounted in South Africa. She also devised Fresh, a series of artists’ residencies and publications on young artists including Berni Searle, Robin Rhode, Tracey Rose and Moshekwa Langa.

As Director of Goodman Gallery Cape, which she was head-hunted to start in 2007, she curated many of the thematic and group shows and worked closely with artists such as William Kentridge, Robert Hodgins, Deborah Bell and Mikhael Subotzky in preparing their solo exhibitions. She has developed close relations with most of South Africa’s top artists and several international artists, often assisting in initiating and developing projects. Her reputation is such that she is invited to collaborate on local and international projects including the District Six Public Sculpture Project in 1997 and Authentic/Ex-centric: Africa in and out of Africa at the Venice Biennale in 2001. She was a Member of the Advisory Board of the Atlantic Centre for Modern Art (CAAM), Las Palmas, Gran Canaria in 2005, was a juror and co-curator of Dak’Art 2004 and served on the selection panel for the Artistic Director of the second Johannesburg Biennale.

Bedford has conducted research and is published widely in books, journals, magazines and online publications. She is often invited to present papers at international conferences such as the Congress of the International Association of Art Critics held in Dakar, Senegal in July 2003 and was the only South African curator invited to attend the International Curatorial Workshop at The Museum of Modern Art, New York in March 2005.

“This is a new direction for me,” says Bedford, “and one that I’m going to enjoy immensely. It’s no secret that Strauss & Co has become the leading auction house having succeeded in achieving a turnover of more than R100million in its first year of business. It’s a great honour for me to be joining this winning team. I look forward to working closely with Stephan Welz and his colleagues. I had my first taste of the auction business at Strauss & Co’s inaugural Cape Town sale on 8 October. The sheer pleasure of handling examples of South Africa’s most beautiful art, furniture and silver is such a privilege. The excitement of sourcing works rarely seen in the public domain, the research and preparation and the thrill of the auction defy description.”