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Strauss Summer Auction headlined by rare and exemplary works by Preller, Stern, Kentridge, Pierneef and Van Wouw

  16 October 2015     Archived

High-quality artworks representing a number of top South African and international artists at their best are among the pieces on auction at Strauss & Co's Summer auction on 9 November at the Wanderers Club in Johannesburg

After the success of Strauss & Co's Spring auction earlier this month, where the headlining work, Still Life of Fruit and Lilies in a Jug by Irma Stern, sold for R4 547 200, the Summer auction in Johannesburg on 9 November promises to be similarly exciting and successful.

In Cape Town, a number of auction records were broken, including a South African auction record for furniture when an 18th century chest of drawers that was once part of the Vergelegen collection sold for nearly R2,6 million. An important painting by Erik Laubscher, Women Arranging Flowers, set a world record for the artist at R2 046 240, and following Time and Again: Penny Siopis, the large retrospective of her work late last year at Iziko and earlier this year at the Wits Art Museum, Penny Siopis' triptych, Hunting and Nature Scene, also set a world record for her work at R1 136 800.

"The results of the Spring auction confirm the strength of the South African art market," said Strauss & Co managing director, Stephan Welz. "There is an undeniable appetite for high-quality art that represents the best of an artist's work."

Among the important works on the Summer auction are remarkable pieces by Alexis Preller, Irma Stern, Hendrik Pierneef, William Kentridge, Deborah Bell, Anton van Wouw, Cecil Skotnes, Lucas Sithole, Karel Nel and Cecily Sash. Among the international pieces, there is a work by British landscape painter Ivon Hitchens, whose work Long Boat sold for R 1 079 960 last year at a Strauss & Co auction.

Headlining the auction are two important works by Alexis Preller, Apollo Kouros II (R4 000 000 - 5 000 000) and The Creation of Adam I (R3 000 000 - 4 000 000). Apollo Kouros II featured on the cover of the catalogue that accompanied Preller's major retrospective exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum in 1972. It is an example of the artist's famous 'intaglio' works, part painting and part sculpture, in which he created a fibre-glass cast from a clay model and then painted the inside of the mould in oil and gold leaf, experimenting with form and light. Both this work and the major oil, The Creation of Adam I, explore the kouros, Apollo and biblical Adam figures - the heroic and beautiful male nudes of antiquity - that represent a major theme of Preller's late career.

Alexis Preller

The Creation of Adam I

signed and dated '68

oil and gesso on canvas

119 by 134cm

R3 000 000 - 4 000 000

An important work by Irma Stern has also caused much excitement ahead of the Johannesburg auction. Meinkie (R3 000 000 - 4 000 000), dated 1948, is a beautifully observed portrait of a Malay woman from a watershed phase of Stern's career. This turning point was characterized by freer, more confident and expressive brushwork by the artist, and with a rich and vivid colour palette that came to characterise the later phase of her career, when she was at the height of her powers: perceptive and uninhibited.

Two remarkable works by Anton van Wouw, the father of South African sculpture, will be on sale: Miner with Hand Drill (R2 000 000 - 3 000 000) and Van Wouw's own favourite work, the Dagga Smoker (R350 000 - 400 000). Both are Italian castings by the Massa foundry in Rome, renowned for their quality and finely detailed finishes. Miner with Hand Drill, dated 1911 and inscribed "Joh-burg", is particularly rare largely because of its high casting price, even when Van Wouw was alive. The incredible detail on the work, such as the wrinkles of the skin on the figure's hands and feet, and the patination and textural contrasts between the figure's skin and muscles and the darker, rougher rockface mark it out as an exceptional work. The Dagga Smoker, similarly inscribed, was a prize in a raffle during World War 2, and was donated by the artist himself. It has been in the possession of the descendants of the winner (who happened to be Secretary of Finance at the time) ever since. It was probably one of the last castings Van Wouw was involved in finishing himself.

Irma Stern


signed and dated 1948; inscribed with the artist's name, title, medium and 'date of purchase (17.4.1948)' on a label adhered to the reverse

oil on canvas

59,5 by 54cm

R3 000 000 - 4 000 000

A number of works by William Kentridge, particularly from the late 1980s and early 90s have generated significant interest. Woman with Pink Knees (R1 500 000 - 2 500 000) is an example, most likely produced between 1991-94 when Kentridge was experimental, but growing in confidence as an artist. In this case he combines collage and charcoal, employing the technique of chine collé, a kind of collage developed in the nineteenth-century to bond thin Chinese and Japanese papers onto paper. The figure of this nude woman, partly inspired by Picasso's figurative prints, appears frequently in Kentridge's works, such as the well-known print series Little Morals (1991).

Circe (R1 000 000 - 1 500 000) belongs to a period in the mid-80s during which Kentridge's work frequently commented on the decadence and privilege of the white middle classes, approached most often via literary or artistic references such as, in this case, Greek mythology. Circe is a minor goddess who featured in Homer's Odyssey, and could turn men into pigs. Kentridge uses warthogs, here, one of his favourite motifs.

Fish and Chips (R1 200 000 - 1 500 000) is an undated charcoal, pastel and gold ink drawing that includes another recurring figure in Kentridge's work, a homeless man he knew as Harry from his days living in the Johannesburg suburb of Bertrams. Harry most often stands in for a fool or clown figure, satirically inverting the roles of dignity and dereliction, as in the portfolio of prints Kentridge based on William Hogarth's engraving series Industry and Idleness (1747).

Sometime Kentridge collaborator Deborah Margaret Bell's Four Horsemen (R1 200 000 - 1 600 000) is a series of small bronze horse-and-rider figures. Bell once said these figures were 'really about the notion of the complete fusion of self and spirit'. They represent intermediaries between the physical world and the worlds of myth and archetype, and are exemplary of the mystical spirituality that is central to her work and her task as an artist.

An interesting range of distinctive landscapes by Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, undeniably the great master and innovator of South African modernist landscape painting, is perhaps best illustrated by Houtbos, Transvaal (R500 000 - 800 000). Although smaller in scale, it is remarkably similar to one of the famous Station Panels commissioned for the Johannesburg Station Concourse in 1929, and now kept at the Rupert Museum in Stellenbosch. It is unclear whether it was a study for the station panel or an existing work that Pierneef developed later for the commission. Pierneef is enjoying a critical renaissance since the large exhibition of his work at the Standard Bank Gallery this year, A Space for Landscape: The Work of JH Pierneef.

JH Pierneef

Houtbos, Transvaal


oil on board

39 by 29cm

R500 000 - 800 000

Other notable works that will go under the hammer include a large panel and two totems, Five Figures (R800 000 - 1 200 000), by Cecil Skotnes, a Msimbithi sculpture by one of Skotnes's protégés at the Polly Street Art Centre, Lucas Sithole, entitled Witchdoctor (R300 000 - 500 000), as well as a large semi-abstract oil Target Composition I (R80 000 - 120 000) by Cecily Sash, who along with Skotnes was a founding member of the Amadlozi Group. Works by Karel Nel, who currently has a solo exhibition in London, are also on auction: Rods Alpha to Omega (R300 000 - 500 000) and The Lambent Territory (R300 000 - 500 000).

Lucas Thandokwazi Sithole

Witchdoctor (LS8211)

signed; executed in 1982

Swazi Msimbiti wood, on a wooden base

height: 76cm, excluding base

R300 000 - 500 000

Press enquiries
Bina Genovese - / 083 680 9944

Important South African and International Art
Monday 9 November 2015

4 pm Day Sale
8 pm Evening Sale

The Wanderers Club Ballroom, 21 North Street, Illovo, Johannesburg
Preview: Friday 6 November to Sunday 8 November from 10 am to 5 pm
Walkabout: Sunday 8 November at 11 am
Enquiries and catalogues: Office: +27 (0) 11 728 8246   Fax: +27 (0) 11 728 8247
Contact numbers during viewing and auction:Mobile +27 (0) 79 407 5140 and +27 (0) 79 367 0637   Fax: +27 (0) 11 728 8247

Note for editors:
Strauss & Co is South Africa's leading fine art auction house and the global leader in the South African art market. With an average turnover per annum of over R160 million and an average sell-through rate of 85%, Strauss & Co has sold 9, of the 10, most expensive paintings ever auctioned in South Africa and holds numerous artist's records. Strauss & Co is founded on exceptional expertise and prestigious presentation and is synonymous with top quality art, decorative arts and jewellery. Strauss & Co was established in 2008 by celebrated figures in the business world, Elisabeth Bradley and Dr Conrad Strauss, and art doyen Stephan Welz, with the purpose of placing auctioneering on a plane worthy of the best South Africa has to offer in both the fine and decorative arts.

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