Press Office

Greater Strength and Variety in the Art Market

  20 May 2011     Archived

JOHANNESBURG: Strauss & Co's auction held on Monday 16 May reinforced the strength of the current art market when a capacity audience bid enthusiastically on key art pieces realising a total of R37 902 555.

Good prices were achieved for top artists like Alexis Preller whose Primavera and A Still Life with Eggs sold for R2 116 600 and R1 114 000 respectively. The cover lot by Cecil Skotnes excited much interest, selling for R802 080 on estimates of R350 000 – 500 000.

Competitive bidding on Jacob Hendrik Pierneef’s An Extensive Landscape at Sunset pushed the price to R1 002 600 and Rosamund Everard Steenkamp’s delightful The Blue Furrow broke the record at R802 080. Frenzied bidding on Pierneef’s casein painting, A Landscape with Trees reached R534 720, proving that buyers are eager to add rare works to their collections.

Several other records were broken in the middle market. Surprisingly, strong sculptures trumped many a painting when Sydney Kumalo’s A Man on a Bull and Lucas Sithole’s Charging Afrikander (Afrikaner Bull) both broke records at R1 448 200 and R946 900 respectively.

Very encouraging to note was the high prices and records achieved for works by black artists, marking renewed interest in their work. George Pemba’s A Portrait of a Young Man achieved R467 880 while Zwelethu Mthethwa’s pastel, A Woman with Angels, broke the record at R245 080.Contemporary art also fared well with a record of R356 480 for a significant painting, A Seated Figure, Red Room, by Robert Hodgins which was the key work in his last exhibition.

The exponential growth of many artists’ prices, other than ‘the top five’, is contributing to broadening and strengthening the base of buyers and laying the foundations for increasing activity and value in the art market. With more buyers able to acquire a wider number of works by artists, the art market is showing encouraging signs.

Says Stephan Welz, Strauss & Co’s highly regarded auctioneer:
Irma Stern’s The Cellist and the two major Pierneefs not selling was obviously a disappointment but I believe readily accounted for. We are dealing in a relatively small market and it has simply been saturated with expensive Sterns and Pierneefs in the last 18 months. The heartening aspect of the auction was the prices paid for good works by lesser known artists and also contemporary artists. In fact this reflects a broadening of the market which is to be welcomed. The market also proved strong for good works realistically estimated which is how it should be.

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