Writing Art History Since 2002

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A still life by celebrated artist Irma Stern sold this week for R13 368 000, setting a new record price for a South African painting at auction.

The auction conducted by Strauss & Co
featured several works which sold for well in excess of R1 million rand
each. The sale totalled over R43 million bringing Strauss & Co’s
total for the year thus far to over R120 million rand confirming the
strength of the local art market and Strauss’s leading position as
auctioneers of South African art.Major collectors and art lovers packed the auction house to
capacity to witness the sale that has been the talk of the art world.
Stephan Welz, Managing Director of Strauss & Co and the country’s
top fine art auctioneer, set a cracking pace from the start. J H
Pierneef’s Koringlande, Agter Paarl, which as a rare Cape
landscape has excited much public interest, exceeded its pre-sale
estimate of R2 500 000 – 3 500 000 and sold for R4 678 000. Hot on its
heels two remarkable paintings by Maggie Laubser achieved excellent
results: Flamingos on the Beach sold for R2 673 600 and a second
landscape sold for R1 782 400, both well beyond their pre-sale

The highlight of the evening, Irma Stern’s Gladioli, was sold
for R13 368 000, far beyond its pre-sale estimate of R5-7m, the highest
price ever paid for any South African painting on auction. When Welz’s
gavel went down, spontaneous applause erupted both for the buyer and in
recognition of the auctioneer’s expertise. Two late paintings by Stern
also performed well with the innovative Yachts and Houses achieving R2 673 600 and her Figure on a Beach selling for R1 448 200, comfortably beyond the pre-sale estimate of R1,2m.
The auction finished on an exhilarating note with high prices for contemporary art. Stanley Pinker’s The Wheel of Life sold

for R2 450 800, more than double its pre-sale estimate of R1m and anelegant still life painting by Cecil Skotnes fetched R946 900 (estimates

R300 000 — 500 000). A bidding frenzy ensued on a John Meyer landscape
which sold for R267 360 and on two graphic works by William Kentridgewhich also sold well above their estimates.

Significantly, sales were good at the top, middle and lower ends of the
market, bucking predictions that the financial climate would put a
dampener on buyers’ enthusiasm for art purchases and proving yet again
that quality sells. By close of evening it was clear that Strauss &

Co had achieved the highest total yet for any of its six auctions todate, since the company’s founding in late 2008. With the year’s total
thus far standing at R120 million, Strauss and Co have already passed
their previous highest annual turnover figure, with two sales to go.
This firmly establishes them as the leading auction house worldwide for
South African art by turnover, expertise and quality.

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