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By Citizen Reporter

Journalist


Snap up Stern masterpiece

Two high-value Kentridge drawings also on May sale catalogue.


A major Irma Stern painting from 1930 leads Strauss & Co’s diverse catalogue of modern and contemporary art at its May sale in Johannesburg.

The details of the auction:

  1. Online day sale and live-virtual evening sale scheduled for 28 May.
  2. Modernist catalogue led by Irma Stern’s 1930 portrait Cape Girl With Fruit.
  3. Two charcoal drawings by William Kentridge anchor contemporary offering.
  4. Day sale features strong survey of contemporary sculpture.

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For generations of progressive South African collectors, the names Dumile Feni, Maggie Laubser, Esther Mahlangu, George Pemba, JH Pierneef, Alexis Preller, Gerard Sekoto, Lucas Sithole, Irma Stern, Anton van Wouw and Edoardo Villa have represented a rock-solid canon.

These modernist artists, many now receiving overdue international recognition, are represented in the catalogue. Cape Girl With Fruit is an important, large-scale work, which records the early beginnings of Stern’s celebrated and sensual mature style.

Stern has five works in the evening session including Still Life With Amaryllis (estimate R5-R7 million), which was painted during a pause in her epic run representing South Africa at four editions of the Venice Biennale (in 1950, ’52, ’54 and ’58).

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Paradise also looms large as theme in Alexis Preller’s sun-drenched beach scene, Fisherman Mending Nets, Beau Vallon (estimate R3-R4 million), from his important visit to the Seychelles in 1949.

Preller, the subject of a career retrospective at Norval Foundation in Cape Town, has two works in the evening session.

“More than a decade ago, The New York Times wrote that South African avant-garde painting of the 20th century had not loomed large in the international public imagination, which was perhaps true of affairs at the turn of this century but definitely does not apply today,” says Dr Alastair Meredith, head of department of fine art, Strauss & Co.

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“South African modernists have in the last few years received growing recognition in international exhibitions and publications.

“The 2024 Venice Biennale, which features nearly a dozen of the country’s best modernists, including George Pemba, Gerard Sekoto and Irma Stern, marks a further step in the international rehabilitation of our historical artists.”

The evening sale offers a representative survey of South African art, from its early beginnings with painters like Frans Oerder and Pieter Wenning, through the emergence of the black modernist canon with figures like Pemba and Sekoto, up to the vibrant present day.

There are two high-value Kentridge drawings: Preparing The Flute, related to his celebrated 2005 production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and a World War 1 battle scene from his 2002 stop-animation film Zeno Writing.

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Notable works by Walter Battiss, Peter Clarke, Robert Hodgins, Maggie Laubser, Nelson Makamo and John Meyer join Vladimir Tretchikoff’s striking Chrysanthemums In A Vase (estimate R1.2 to R1.6 million) on the catalogue. Sculpture is not overlooked.

The evening session includes an important Nisini foundry casting of Anton van Wouw’s bronze Slegte Nuus (estimate R3 to R4 million).

Contemporary sculptor Dylan Lewis has three works in the evening sale.

The online-only day sale is especially strong on sculpture and includes bronzes by Deborah Bell, Andries Botha, Guy du Toit and Herman van Nazareth.

For more information visit www.straussart.co.za.

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