Press Office

Chairman's Report 2011

  1 December 2011     Archived

Strauss & Co, the worldwide market leader for South African art: We celebrate the closure of the year with
an annual total of R170 million, over 90% of the total achieved in 2010 - which was a boom year for the art market - and double the total achieved in 2009.

Against the background of a challenging market and ever more selective bidding from collectors, we are delighted with this outstanding result for our third year in operation which firmly establishes Strauss & Co’s position as worldwide market leader in South African art. We attribute the success to the company’s unsurpassed professional expertise and marketing strength. Even in the present uncertain economic times, South African art prices reached new levels with records achieved for a number of artists.

Making history:
Irma Stern’s Two Arabs – the most expensive painting ever sold in South Africa

Our most triumphant moment of the year was no doubt the sale of Irma Stern’s important Zanzibari painting titled Two Arabs, which sold for R21 million making it the most expensive painting ever sold in South Africa. We broke the South African auction record for Irma Stern previously set by Strauss & Co for Gladioli which fetched R13 368 million in October last year. This superb example of Stern’s work which had been held in the private collection of Mr and Mrs Louis Schachat and since in another important private collection, had not been seen publicly since 1968 when it was included in the exhibition Homage to Irma Stern, presented by the Rembrandt van Rijn Art Foundation for the Cape Arts Festival at the Rembrandt Art Centre in Johannesburg, the Pretoria Art Museum and the South African National Gallery. A similar example forms part of
the Collection of the Rupert Art Foundation. The packed auction room was abuzz with excitement and broke into rapturous applause as Stephan Welz knocked down
the painting to an elated buyer in the room.

A shift in the market
At the beginning of the year we anticipated an impending and necessary shift of emphasis in the South African art market which in recent years has ridden on the back of Irma Stern. We sensed that collectors were increasingly becoming aware of the good value presently to be had with artists who have somehow fallen out of the limelight due to all the attention and publicity being given to Stern. The market could certainly be described as being out of balance as far as prices are concerned and an adjustment was long overdue. Looking back we have witnessed the exponential growth of many artists’ prices, other than ‘the top performers’, which contributed towards 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 other artists, the art market showed encouraging signs of diversifying. These include Pieter Wenning, Hugo Naudé, Gerard Sekoto, George Pemba, Robert Hodgins, Sydney Kumalo, Lucas Sithole and Rosamund Everard-Steenkamp. Interestingly, strong sculptures trumped many a painting at our auctions for example 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. Contemporary art throughout the year also commanded high prices with records for Robert Hodgins’ Greenpiece ‘99 No 3 (A Godson of the Godfather) which realised R612 700 and William Kentridge’s Blue Head which sold for R779 800, the highest price paid for any South African print at the time.

Bullish estimates do not bring bullish results
Strauss & Co goes to great lengths to ensure the successful sale of the consignments taken on. This includes first and foremost assigning market related estimates that are not driven by sellers or an urge to “clinch deals at all costs” as is often the case in a competitive market. Amongst the small selection of larger Sterns and Pierneefs that were unsold this year, can be attributed to bullish seller-d