Press Office

Blue chip art auction house at the helm of the market in its first year of operation.

  13 October 2009     Archived

Strauss & Co's Cape Town inaugural auction of Highly Important Paintings, Furniture, Silver and Ceramics including the Leslie Milner Collection held on 8 October 2009 at the prestigious Vineyard Hotel in Newlands, realised a remarkable R39 million, bringing the turnover for the auction house in its first year of operation to more than R100 million and thereby placing Strauss & Co. firmly at the helm of the South African art market. The Leslie Milner Collection of South African Paintings alone totalled R4.5 million. With an 89.63% sold rate, several new world records were also achieved for works by Wolf Kibel, Stanley Pinker, Johannes Meintjes, Fanie Eloff, Gerard de Leeuw, May Hillhouse and Jean Welz, amongst others.

Managing Director Stephan Welz observed that this auction featured perhaps the finest examples of South African art seen at auction in the last two or three decades and that the outstanding results achieved, once again, testify that works of art always sell best in their country of origin. As his performance in the evening session demonstrated, he is continuing on his record-breaking path.

A record was achieved for a piece of Cape Furniture when R1 058 000 was paid for an 18th century Cape coromandel buffet, probably the most important piece of Cape furniture to come onto the market in decades. The evening session opened with a rare and important pair of George III silver wine coolers, London, dated 1819, by Paul Storr, the leading Regency silversmith, who is regarded as one of the greatest craftsmen ever. They sold for R1 559 600.

It was however the South African artworks that stole the show, with four paintings by Irma Stern selling for over R16 million, the highest price being for the magnificent portrait, Carla, which fetched R5.57 million, double its pre-sale estimate. Exceptional works by Maggie Laubser featured strongly, all selling well over their pre-sale estimates with R 835 500 paid for Seascape with Boats, House and Seated Woman holding a Baby and R 534 720 for Fishing Harbour.

A satisfying feature of the sale was the number of artists that dominated the stage alongside Irma Stern and Maggie Laubser setting new world records for their work. Foremost amongst these is Wolf Kibel, regarded as one of the icons of South African art, whose Self Portrait sold for R 1 225 400 – the highest price by far ever achieved for a work by this artist. His Nude followed on closely, selling for R1 058 300. Man and Car, an important work by Stanley Pinker, which explicitly addresses the consumerism and objectification of individuality, sold for R579 280, setting a world record for the artist. A rare gem, Athlete Balancing on his Hands by Fanie Eloff, the only South African sculptor known to have met Rodin whilst in Paris, sold for R 401 000. Following on the record price achieved for Frans Oerder in the March Strauss & Co. auction, his lusciously painted Magnolias realised R466 200.

If the price of art and antiques is anything to go by, South Africa is fast emerging from its recession. Needless to say, the majority of these works, which were from private hands and fresh to the market, have disappeared once again from the public domain and are unlikely to appear on the market again for at least the next thirty years. Strauss & Co.’s extremely successful year may be attributed to the long-standing relationships the directors and experts have developed with collectors and dealers both in South Africa and abroad and furthermore confirms that expertise, quality, extensive experience, knowledge of the auction business and client service are the key to achieving and maintaining success.