South African Art Triumphs at Auction

The auction floor at Stephan Welz & Co. in Cape Town last week was indeed ‘Proudly South African’, with two Maggie Laubser paintings and one Tretchikoff selling for over R1 million each, and an iconic Sydney Kumalo sculpture going for R728 000, nearly four times its estimated value.

Vladimir Tretchikoff (South African 1913-2006) THE HINDU DANCER, oil on canvas, 81 by 104cm

Laubser’s Die Meidjie, which was estimated at R 900 000 – R1 100 000, sold for R1 680 000. “This painting is one of Laubser’s iconic works, and a great example of her portraiture,” said Anton Welz, Director of Stephan Welz & Co. “Adding to its attractiveness is the fact that it is something fresh on the market. It was given to the seller by the artist herself, so has never before been for sale.” Another Laubser painting, Portrait of a Woman with a Headscarf, sold for R1 008 000.

Also new to the market was Kumalo’s bronze of St. Francis of Assisi. The sculpture, which is one of an edition of 10, was purchased directly by the seller from the artist, who is considered one of South Africa’s most important sculptors. “The work is one of Kumalo’s most iconic pieces, and has been featured in a number of reference books,” added Welz. It was valued at R 200 000 – R 220 000.

In recent days, Vladimir Tretchikoff’s oil on canvas painting, The Hindu Dancer, has attracted huge attention, as the whereabouts of Champa Chameli, the woman who posed for the painting nearly 60 years ago, were discovered. The sale of the painting at R1 456 000, did not disappoint, as it was estimated at R800 000 – R1 000 000.
Last week, Chameli’s daughter confirmed that her mother, who is now known as Champa Manooa, was the woman immortalized on canvas by Tretchikoff, and currently lives in Florida, USA. Chameli was a well-known South African Indian dancer from a musical family in the Springfield suburb of Durban. The painting’s new owner is a Durban resident.

Continuing the current trend of high-selling Andy Warhol works, a colour silkscreen of Mick Jagger signed by both Jagger and Warhol, sold for R 448 000. The silkscreen was valued at just R 300 000 – R 350 000. Last November, bidding at the auction house for a funky Warhol cabinet crudely painted with dollar signs reached frenzied levels, with the cabinet (estimated at R15 000 to R18 000) ultimately selling for R134 400. In 2011, Stephan Welz & Co. sold its first Warhol silkscreen of Jagger, which was valued at R200 000, for R268 800.

Other important sales include a rare first edition of J M Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, estimated at R 10 000 – R 15 000, sold for R56 000, and an Anglo-Boer POW cedarwood and inlaid travelling writing desk made in 1902, valued at R20 000 – R25 000, sold for R112 000.