A vivid floral still life by South Africa’s foremost painter, Irma Stern, was the top lot at Strauss & Co’s R50-million grossing spring sale in Cape Town, selling for R9.1 million. The sale, Strauss & Co’s fourth and penultimate live sale of the year, also saw two new world records achieved for works by Judith Mason and Fritz Krampe.
Irma Stern, Dahlias. SOLD R9 104 000.
The Stern lot, depicting an arrangement of dahlias, formed part of a consignment of 23 paintings from the illustrious Labia Family Collection and invited enthusiastic bidding during the premier Evening Sale totalling R11 600 000. Highlights from the Labia Family Collection included British modernist Ivon Hitchens’s gestural landscape, Felled Trees (sold for R614 520), and Pieter Wenning’s gripping winter scene, The Yellow House (sold for R796 600). Twenty lots from the Labia Family Collection found buyers achieving an overall total of R11,6 million.
Fritz Krampe, Village Scene with Woman Smoking Pipe, recto; Fishing Boat, verso. SOLD R682 800. WORLD RECORD FOR THE ARTIST
The upbeat mood around this single-owner collection continued into the sale of mostly Namibian works from the collection of the Late Peter and Regina Strack. A noteworthy highlight was the new world record achieved for Fritz Krampe, whose large double-sided painting from 1958, Village Scene with Woman Smoking Pipe/Fishing Boat, sold for R682 800.
All twenty lots from the Strack collection found buyers, including three rare oils by Adolph Jentsch, reaching a total of R4 million. Painted in Jentsch’s typically muted colour palette, his study of the Schaf River near Windhoek sold for R625 900. Jentsch’s Vlei on Farm Teufelsbach, an unusually verdant view of the Otjihavera River, also sold for R625 900.
Frank Kilbourn, Strauss & Co chairman, said: “The sale was the culmination of a successful week for Strauss & Co. We were really delighted by the public interest and turnout at our previews, lectures and social programmes. The strong auction results underscore Strauss & Co’s unmatched ability to handle important single-owner collections, which are an important aspect of Strauss & Co’s business.”
Bina Genovese, joint managing director of Strauss & Co, said: “It was a great joy to handle the sale of both the Labia and Strack collections. The impeccable pedigree of both collections was reflected in the prices we achieved. We won’t see an offering like the Strack collection anytime soon, which included the most important and comprehensive collection of Namibian art ever to come to market.”
Early South African moderns continue to yield good results at auction, notably Maggie Laubser, JH Pierneef and Irma Stern.
Maggie Laubser, Mietje. SOLD R1 138 000
Maggie Laubser’s portrait of a working-class woman wearing a yellow headscarf, Mietje from 1920, sold for R1.138 million. The high prices realised for Stern and Laubscher are a testament to the enduring market power of South African women artists at auction.
Stern enjoyed a red-letter day. All nine telephone bidders presented to bid for Stern’s 1949 oil Woman with Orange Headscarf, prompting auctioneer Bina Genovese to remark: “We have a standing ovation for Irma.” Released by the Irma Stern Trust Collection, with proceeds benefitting the Trust and in turn the museum, Stern’s demure nude eventually sold for double its high estimate, fetching R796 600.
Strauss & Co’s Pierneef offering was wide-ranging and catered to both entry-level buyers and connoisseurs. Red Mountains, a sun-drenched casein acquired from the artist’s studio in the 1930s by the seller’s grandparents, sold for R546 240, well above the high estimate. Bidding for an etching depicting the bushveld scene from the Strack collection sold for R125 180, more than double the high estimate.
The spring sale commenced with two sessions devoted to over 300 lots of decorative arts, furniture and jewellery, an important part of Strauss & Co’s offering that achieved combined sales of R7.17 million.
Four lots fetched over R250 000, with a particularly rare Chinese blue and white Transitional vase, Chongzhen period (1628-44), achieving the highest individual result of R364 160. Fierce rivalry between five telephone bidders helped push the price of this exceptional piece to seven times its high estimate.
An 18th century Cape stinkwood and yellowwood “koskas” sold for R352 780, well above the high estimate. An early Louis Vuitton wood and leather cabin trunk fitted with hanging compartments and original coat hangers drew considerable buyer interest, and eventually sold for R284 500, trebling the estimate.
Silver highlights included a rare set of eight George II candlesticks by renowned silversmith William Gould of London, which sold for R250 360. Enthusiastic bidding for a William IV silver-gilt table snuffbox, Charles Rawlings and William Summers, valued at R8 000 to 12 000, culminated in a sensational sale price of R147 940.
A Japanese Satsuma vase, Meiji period (1868-1912) bettered the guide price in the catalogue and sold for R147 940.
Christo Coetzee, Collection of Storm Elements. SOLD R569 000
“There was strong performance across all the major sectors,” said Frank Kilbourn, “We were delighted with the strong continued interest in the works of Christo Coetzee and Robert Hodgins as well as the recognition that Judith Mason, an accomplished and underrated artist, received at the sale”. Notable individual sales included:
- Christo Coetzee, Collection of Storm Elements, a large abstract painted in Paris in 1964, which sold for R569 000
- Vladimir Tretchikoff, Still Life with Crayfish and Newspaper from 1958-59, which bettered its pre-sale estimate and sold for R739 700
- Cecil Skotnes, Icon No 13, a carved, painted and incised wood panel from 1990, which sold for R500 720
- Judith Mason, Hands of God, an ethereal study of nine candleholders and a biomorphic form, which sold for R227 600
- Robert Hodgins, Predators, a 2005 portrait of a solitary figure in a room, which sold for R910 400
Every auction has its own dynamic. Eager buyers chased after two works by pioneering ceramicist Esias Bosch, with his large hand-painted ceramic tile depicting a Kori Bustard selling for R352 780, more than double the high estimate.
Judith Mason, Hands of God. SOLD R227 600. WORLD RECORD FOR THE ARTIST
Earlier depictions of Cape Town’s Atlantic coastline and environs by, among others, Robert Gwelo Goodman, Siegfried Hahn, George Crossland Robinson and Nita Spilhaus drew enthusiastic bidding. Goodman’s view of the City Bowl from Bo-Kaap sold for R341 400. www.straussart.co.za.
Founded in 2009, Strauss & Co is a global leader in the sale of South African art. The company has sold nine of the ten most expensive paintings ever auctioned in South Africa.