6 June 2017
The star of the show at Strauss & Co's winter sale held last night at the Wanderers Club in Johannesburg was undoubtedly JH Pierneef, when a new all-time world record was set by his previously unseen painting, Farm Jonkershoek with Twin Peaks Beyond, Stellenbosch, which shattered its estimate of R6 000 000 - R8 000 000, by fetching a mammoth R20 462 400. This is the second highest price ever achieved for a painting sold at auction in South Africa.
The night also saw Strauss & Co top their own record of R73 million in sales achieved in March this year at their Cape Town auction, with a total of R89 million and an 87% sell-through rate by lot and value combined. Commenting on the success of the sale Strauss & Co's Chairman, Frank Kilbourn, stated "Tonight proved conclusively that South Africa is the most appropriate place to sell high quality local artwork, be it historic or contemporary masterpieces. This merely reaffirms Strauss & Co's position as the global leader for South African art".
From the outset Pierneef dominated the sale when lot 14, a linocut titled Hardekoolboom, Transvaal (Nilant 74), came in at an astounding R193 256, way beyond the given R25 000 - R30 000 estimate. This was followed immediately by another, Bome (Nilant 75) which exceeded its R12 000 - R18 000 estimate by fetching R120 000. This trend was further cemented when lot 16, a third linocut, fetched R140 000, way above the high estimate.
Another of his high performers featuring in the top ten lots of the sale was his Extensive Landscape, Northern Drakensburg which fetched R3 410 400, whilst his Storm over the Lowveld brought in R1 250 480, well above the high estimate of R700 000.
Other regular performers on the auction circuit did not fail to disappoint when Alexis Preller's Still Life with Thangka and Pomegranates came in at number two of the night fetching a total of R7 502 880, above the high estimate R5 000 000. In third position on the night was Irma Stern, whose enigmatic portrait in oil, Malay Woman, fetched R5 456 640, beyond the given estimate of R3 000 000 - R4 000 000.
As a testament to Stern's desirability was the sale of her Original Manuscripts for Congo and Zanzibar which feature her sketches, photographs, hand-written and typed correspondence. Estimated at between R30 000 and R50 000, this lot went on to fetch R227 360, indicating that the interest in Stern is far from over.
Finally, another consistent performer on the secondary market was William Kentridge who held four places on the night's top ten sales, indicating a bright future for contemporary art. His Dancing Couple brought in R4 902 480 well above the given high estimate of R2 000 000, whilst his Untitled Drawing Towards Responsible Hedonism performed similarly well, coming in at R3 978 800, comfortably between estimates.
Likening the sale to its star, the "once in a generation" Pierneef, Bina Genovese, joint MD of Strauss & Co, who conducted the Evening Sale, commented, "It was a honour and privilege to be involved in an auction where works of such exceptional quality and historic importance were on offer. This sale set a new benchmark for prestigious South African art auctions and the outstanding results are the embodiment of Strauss & Co's quest for excellence".
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