Press Office

Strauss & Co. breaks R 100 million – now South Africa's leading art auction house

  2 December 2009     Archived

Following statistics released recently by Art Vault, Strauss & Co, South Africa's premier art auction house under Stephan Welz's leadership, is at the helm of the South African paintings auction market ahead of the London auction house Bonhams and Welz's previous company Swelco.

The total turnover for the year of mostly high end paintings is R86 617 150 (R100 million inclusive of premium and VAT), nearly double that of its nearest competitor, having handled half the amount of lots. Strauss & Co. held three highly successful auctions with an average of 192 lots each and an average hammer price per lot of R150 000, by far the highest average achieved amongst the five top auction houses handling South African Art.


Chairman, Elisabeth Bradley is "overwhelmed by the outstanding achievements Strauss & Co. has accomplished in its first year of operation despite being the new kid on the block, the recession and a highly competitive local and international market. In one year, Strauss & Co. has become not only a name that speaks of extraordinary art, as well as unparalleled expertise and service, but is also by turnover the largest Fine Art Auction House in South Africa".

Strauss & Co. has set numerous new auction records for among others, Anton van Wouw, Irma Stern, Jean Welz, Wolf Kibel, Frans Oerder and Freida Lock, Cape furniture and Paul Storr silver. Particularly noticeable amongst these were:

  • the highest price for a painting (Irma Stern's Magnolias in an Earthenware Pot, sold R7 241 000, a world record for a still life by the artist)
  • the highest price for a sculpture (Anton van Wouw, Die Noitjie van die Onderveld, sold R946 900, a world record for the artist)
  • the highest price for a piece of Cape furniture (an 18th Century silver-mounted Coromandel Buffet, sold R 1 058 300 establishing a n ew record.)
  • the highest price for an item of silver (a pair of George III silver wine coolers and liners by Paul Storr, London 1819, sold R1 559 600

The company's vision of encouraging connoisseurship and passion at the top end of the local art market, with emphasis very strongly on quality, service and excellence is proving to be a winning formula as indicated in the attached table.

In their pursuit of rarity and quality, Strauss & Co. was entrusted with the sale of several important works from private hands that were fresh to the market, either acquired directly from artists or their estates or that had been out of the public domain for years. These included Irma Stern's Magnolias in an Earthenware Pot (sold R7 241 000, a world record for a still life by the artist), Carla (sold R5 570 000), Wolf Kibel's arresting Self Portrait (sold R1 225 400, a world record for the artist) and Jean Welz's Still Life Cezannesque (sold R1 225 400, a world record for the artist).

We handled the most important piece of Cape furniture ever to appear at auction, an 18th century Cape silver-mounted coromandel buffet, establishing a new record and a pair of 18th century wine coolers and liners, by master silversmith Paul Storr which sold for three times its pre sale estimate. The Leslie Milner Collection comprising some 42 South African paintings achieved excellent results due in part to our knowledge of the market and our exceptional marketing skills.

Strauss & Co. has done justice to several artists that have tended to be previously overshadowed achieving record prices for their work. These include amongst others Frans Oerder, Wolf Kibel, Dorothy Kay, May Hillhouse and Edoardo Villa. Although the works offered were exceptional examples of the artists' work, the fact that they were professionally presented to the market greatly enhanced their final selling price.