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Hats Off to Strauss & Co

  28 April 2016     Archived

High-quality artworks by top South African and international artists will feature at Strauss & Co's auction on 23 May at the Wanderers Club in Johannesburg

Strauss & Co's upcoming auction on Monday 23 May at the Wanderers Club in Johannesburg offers a wide range of exceptional works by major South African artists including Irma Stern, JH Pierneef, Pieter Wenning, Walter Battiss, Anton van Wouw and Gregoire Boonzaier. Among the contemporary works on show are a good selection by Robert Hodgins, William Kentridge and Peter Clarke.

Headlining the auction is a remarkable oil painting by Irma Stern, Portrait of Freda Feldman in Basuto Hat, which provides insights into the enduring friendship between the artist and Feldman, her closest friend and protégé. The painting is accompanied by the Basotho hat worn by the sitter who, like Stern, was known for her individualistic style. In her seminal work on Stern, Irma Stern: A Feast for the Eye, which features this portrait in a full colour illustration, Marion Arnold notes in a caption, "Freda Feldman was well known in Johannesburg for her collection of hats, a fashion foible she shared with Irma Stern."

Strauss & Co senior art specialist, Emma Bedford, says of this work: "It reveals their common interest not just in fashion and stylish hats and clothes, but also their shared passion for African culture and their ingenuity in forging an aesthetic that draws on both African and European inspiration."

This painting is expected to fetch between R5 000 000 and 7 000 000 when it goes under the hammer. Strauss & Co has sold the seven highest-priced Stern paintings in South Africa, and set the South African record for a work by Irma Stern - also the record for a work of art sold at auction in South Africa - when Two Arabs sold for R21 166 000 in 2011.

Irma Stern
Portrait of Freda Feldman in Basotha Hat
Signed and dated 1943
Oil on canvas
60 by 55cm
Accompanied by the Basotho hat worn by the sitter.
R5 000 000 - 7 000 000

The Johannesburg auction also includes a number of high-quality artworks by other leading South African artists. An impressive selection of oil paintings and watercolours by the great master and innovator of South African modernist landscape painting, JH Pierneef, will feature among them, as will two still lifes by Pieter Wenning and a pair of oils by Gerard Sekoto. A number of works by the father of South Africa sculpture, Anton van Wouw, including a maquette of the much loved The Hammer Worker cast by the Nisini foundry in Rome, are also likely to appeal to connoisseurs.

A large and striking still life painting of sunflowers by the flamboyant and controversial Russian-South African painter Vladimir Tretchikoff has already generated considerable excitement. The work hung for many years in a tea room in Pietermartzburg. Press clippings from the time include one in the Sunday Tribune, which noted how its owner, who ran the tearoom "says it attracts a lot of interest - it's so lifelike that many customers want to touch the flowers, painted with a raised technique, to see if they are real".

Other notable works that will go under the hammer in May include a number of abstract sculptures by Edoardo Villa. Ahead of the Walter Battiss exhibition opening at the Wits Art Museum in July, titled Walter Battiss: I Invented Myself, works by Battiss are drawing considerable interest among collectors, and a number of fine examples will appear on this auction. A good variety of paintings by local favourite Robert Hodgins, who has recently been fetching high prices, will also be on offer. A fascinating work, Hot Day Karoo, by British South African abstract modernist artist Jack Heath, who has steadily been gaining in interest and stature since his 2009 retrospective exhibition at the Tatham Gallery, will also attract aficionados. Similarly, since the major retrospective of Peter Clarke's work in 2011 at the Standard Bank Gallery and the publication of an extensively researched and illustrated monograph, Listening to Distant Thunder, this artist's work has begun to take its rightful place among South African art of the 20th century.

Key contemporary works by globally recognised artists such as Willem Boshoff, William Kentridge and Karel Nel will also appeal to collectors of important South African art. A good selection from among South Africa's most exciting young contemporary artists include Kudzanai Chiurai, Michael MacGarry and Cameron Platter.

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Bina Genovese - / 083 680 9944

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