15 September 2015 Archived
Strauss & Co's Spring auction on 12 October at the Vineyard Hotel in Newlands promises a veritable cornucopia of rare and beautiful South African and international art from Irma Stern, JH Pierneef, Pieter Wenning, Jean Welz, Walter Battiss and Erik Laubscher to Robert Hodgins, William Kentridge and Penny Siopis. Younger artists include Georgina Gratrix, Athi-Patra Ruga, 2015 winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Performance Art, and Mohau Modisakeng. An early hand-coloured print by Colin Richards is likely to appeal to discerning collectors. International works range from seventeenth-century portrait paintings to works by Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse and Diego Rivera.
Headlining the sale is Irma Stern's Still Life of Fruit and Lilies in a Jug (R4 000 000 – 6 000 000), a sublime work of art, combining her intuitive understanding of the complex logic of picture-making with years of practice in perfecting her craft. One of the best works of her later period, the painting is an exuberant expression of her powerful personality.
Much loved for his hard-edge abstractions portraying South Africa's rural landscapes, it is Erik Laubscher's early formalist paintings from his years in Paris that are greatly prized by collectors. Women Arranging Flowers (R1 200 000 – 1 600 000), the most significant work by this artist to come to the market in recent years, demonstrates the influence of his teacher at the Académie Montmartre, the Cubist painter, Fernand Léger.
Could several Hodgins paintings add to Strauss' run of the top 10 consecutive records achieved at auction for this artist? Clubmen of America: Academy Cadets (R600 000 – 800 000) presents a corps of military men marshalled into one unit. The "grim gash of an epaulette", as Brenda Atkinson termed it, clearly has the power to control its wearer. The artist's handling of the formal elements of art to evoke his enduring interest in the avaricious workings and effects of power make this a superb work.
Hodgins' End Game (R500 000 - 700 000), painted in 1994, draws on a cache of artistic and literary sources to prefigure both the upheavals of South Africa's first democratic election and the prospects of the new millennium. By contrast, The Man in the Fairground Booth (R500 000 - 700 000), painted in 2003, as much about the pleasure of the funfair as it is about the pleasure of art, vibrates with energy and good humour and demonstrates the supreme colourist that he was.
In Raconteur: As I said to Winnie at Yalta (R350 000 – 450 000), Hodgins employs a jocular title to belie the underlying tensions and hidden agendas between the super-power leaders on the brink of the Cold War. Two Ubu paintings from the 1980s portray the Alfred Jarry character that Hodgins described as "the clown in power".
With My Typewriter (R200 000 - 300 000) Walter Battiss transformed a functional object into a sculptural piece, creating an iconic object so unique that it has featured on major exhibitions from Gentle Anarchist at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg in 2005 to the ground-breaking Dada South? at Iziko's South African National Gallery in Cape Town from 2009 to 2010. According to Stephan Welz who sold this remarkable work at auction on 27 August 1990: "It amazed and amused me then as it still does. Battiss was just so far ahead of his time, so much so that few people in 1990 appreciated it as a work of art thus my placing it as frontispiece to my book, Art at Auction in South Africa: The Art Market Review 1969 to 1995. How times have changed."
The Penny Siopis triptych, Hunting and Nature Scene (R800 000 – 120 000) is sure to garner major attention, considering that her pastel drawing, Imaging, sold at Strauss & Co in 2013 for R668 400. Other works by her include paintings from the Shame and Pinky Pink series as well as an early large canvas entitled Grahamstown (R80 000 – 120 000). William Kentridge's Telephone Lady (R600 000 – 900 000) is a rare example on canvas of this 2-metre print, which forms part of the Museum of Modern Art Collection, New York.
Pieter Wenning's Jonkershuis, Groot Constantia (R400 000 – 500 000) was painted during a visit to the Cape between March and September 1917, when the artist took a studio at the Vineyard Hotel. Jean Welz's unique use of oils is well-illustrated in his Still Life with Pumpkin and Fruit (R400 000 – 600 000) painted in the mid-1950s.
Strauss & Co is indeed privileged to have been given the mandate to auction property from the Rodwell House Collection. This renowned period home in St James, built for Randlord 'Lucky Jim' JB Taylor, was acquired in 2005 by Robin von Holdt and Gavin Watkins. The art collection includes a selection of works by no less than eleven of South Africa's top artists and includes two impressive early paintings by JH Pierneef. In Mission Station, East Africa (R800 000 – 1 200 000) the artist displays the naissance of his technique with the cumulonimbus clouds which were to characterise so many of his later paintings, while Landscape with Two Cottages (R400 000 – 600 000) features the precursors of what were to become his signature trees.
Bina Genovese, email@example.com 021 683 6560/083 680 9944