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Contemporary art shines on Strauss & Co Johannesburg sale

  22 May 2018     Archived

A museum-quality artwork included in William Kentridge’s first career survey in the United States leads a strong selection of contemporary art lots at Strauss & Co’s forthcoming Johannesburg sale on 4 June.

Captions left to right

Lot 307

William Kentridge
Deep Pool, from the series Colonial Landscape
signed and dated '96
charcoal and pastel on paper
120 by 160cm
R 3 000 000 - 4 000 000

Lot 220

Pieter Hugo
Gauba Rando with Rando, Abuja, Nigeria
signed, dated 2005, numbered 6/8 image size: 51 by 51cm; sheet size: 63 by 61cm
R 40 000 - 60 000

Lot 316

Robert Hodgins
Fête Champêtre
signed, dated 2000
oil on canvas
90 by 120cm
R 800 000 - 1 000 000

Lot 213

Jake Aikman
signed with the artist's initials on the reverse
oil on canvas
158,5 by 159cm
R 100 000 - 150 000

A market leader in this emergent category, Strauss & Co successfully hosted South Africa’s first dedicated contemporary art sale in Cape Town this past February, netting R13.335 million from 71 lots. Kentridge was the top earner at this sale, a charcoal drawing from his stop-animation film Felix in Exile (1994) fetching R2.27 million.

Produced two years later, in 1996, Kentridge’s charcoal and pastel drawing Deep Pool (estimate R3 – 4 million) has exceptional provenance. Part of a suite of polished drawings based on nineteenth-century colonial drawings of Africa, Deep Pools was exhibited at New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art in 2001 and later at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

A further 11 works on paper by Kentridge feature on the sale. The earliest is a suite of six colour silkscreen prints from 1989, Six Russian Writers (estimate R80 000 – 120 000). Kentridge’s output is studded with references to Russian modernist literature and early Soviet avant-garde art.

Others include the undated colour etching White Iris (estimate R300 000 – 500 000) and Sleeper Red (estimate R800 000 – 1.2 million), a nearly two-metre wide study of corpulent male figure set against a vivid red ground that was produced in 1997.

Kentridge continues to shine, locally and internationally, at auction as well as in museums. The artist is due to premier The Head and The Load – a new collaborative theatrical production featuring input by composer Philip Miller, musical director Thuthuka Sibisi and choreographer Gregory Maqoma – on a 70-metre long stage inside the Turbine Hall of London’s Tate Modern in July.

One of Kentridge’s models as an artist was Robert Hodgins. The sale includes 7 lots by this late-blooming painter, including his abstracted portrayal of a rural feast, Fête Champêtre (estimate R800 000 – 1 million), complete with romping bathers executed in fleshy pinks and reds, Reaching for the Sun (estimate R500 000 – 700 000) and A Portrait for the Boardroom (estimate R350 000 – 500 000) which capture his bravura wit and ranging art historical references.

In March 2015 Strauss & Co established the world record for Hodgins with the sale of J’accuse for R2 500 960. Similarly, Strauss & Co achieved the benchmark high prices for artists Jake Aikman, Wim Botha, Brett Murray, Sam Nhlengethwa, Penny Siopis, Alfred Thoba, Diane Victor and Ed Young all of whom have works on the sale.

Anticipation surrounds Nhlengethwa’s Thupelo workshop period abstract composition Image IV (estimate R200 000 – 300 000), as well as Aikman’s large canvas depicting a body of water Beneath (estimate R100 000 – 150 000), and Wim Botha’s rough-hewn painted bust A Thousand Things, Part 50 (estimate R250 000 – 350 000). The contemporary selection also includes fine lots by Willem Boshoff, Conrad Botes, Norman Catherine, Esther Mahlangu, Cameron Platter and Joachim Schönfeldt.

Younger artists still making their impact felt in the primary market also feature in this sale. They include Nelson Makamo (Portrait of a Girl, estimate R150 000 – 200 000), Blessing Ngobeni (untitled canvas, estimate R50 000 – 70 000) and Khaya Witbooi (Looking After Yourself, estimate R40 000 – 60 000).

Photography is at last making its mark at auction. The sale includes a work from Pieter Hugo’s career-defining Hyena Men series from 2005 portraying an itinerant Nigerian salesman, Garuba Yaku, with his hyena, Rando (estimate R40 000 – 60 000).

Strauss & Co’s strong belief in contemporary art has seen the company renew its commitment to participating in the Turbine Art Fair, Johannesburg (12 – 15 July 2018). Strauss & Co’s experts are currently accepting consignments for their second standalone contemporary art sale, due to be hosted in Cape Town in February 2019.

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