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Strauss & Co's Johannesburg sale spotlights a decade that changed everything

  10 April 2017     Archived

Strauss & Co's forthcoming Johannesburg live sale, features a selection of important works by leading South African artists, including standout lots by stalwarts of the auction market, JH Pierneef, Alexis Preller and Irma Stern. The auction, which will be held at the Wanderer's Club on 5 June, also includes a number of iconic works made in the 1990s.

A period of political and cultural renewal for South Africa, the 1990s also marked a decisive change in the art market. Writing in the London-based magazine Modern Painters following his visit to the first Johannesburg Biennale in 1995, musician and art collector David Bowie described the "pure exhilaration" he felt encountering South Africa's unheralded new talent and expression.

Bowie described Kentridge's contribution, a collaboration with Danish artist Doris Bloom, as the "white-heat high point" of his 1995 Johannesburg visit. Kentridge is well represented in the 1990s selection at Strauss & Co's upcoming sale. Notable works include two charcoal process drawings from a 1994 music video Kentridge directed for the much-loved pop act Mango Groove.

Mango Groove cemented their place in history by performing at the Union Buildings for Nelson Mandela's presidential inauguration on 10 May 1994. "There was a real sense of hope, of possibility for change, and I think we need to remember that more," said Mango Groove's lead singer Claire Johnston in 2012.

The song Another Country was released in 1993 and commemorates the tragic events surrounding the 1992 Boipatong massacre, south of Johannesburg. Greg Marinovich, the internationally acclaimed photojournalist whose work also appears among Strauss & Co's 1990s selection, witnessed the massacre first-hand.

The two Kentridge drawings, which describe a drive-in screen and megaphone on pylon, both familiar motifs in his oeuvre, are valued at R1.8 - 2.5 million and R1.8 - 2.5 million respectively. A special-edition portfolio of 41 Marinovich photos, made between 1990 and 1999 and entitled Dead Zone, carries an estimate of R250 000 - R350 000.

Other artists included in Strauss & Co's 1990s selection include Norman Catherine and Anton Kannemeyer. Catherine, whose work was collected by Bowie, is represented by the oil Predator (1993). The work is valued at R550 000 - 700 000. The Kannemeyer lots include a five-page panel Nag van die Wit Skrik (estimate R80 000 - 120 000) from the ground-breaking comic book Bitterkomix. They are signed under his alias Joe Dog.

"We are very excited by this special focus within our larger sale," says Susie Goodman, Strauss & Co's general manager in Johannesburg. "The exceptional lots we have consigned speak to a very particular moment in our collective history, recording its sorrow and great optimism. I am confident audiences will be heartened by this showcase."

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