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By Citizen Reporter


The Venice connection: Global South artists featured in Strauss & Co’s auction

Live auction: Artists are set to showcase their modern and contemporary works.

The Venice Biennale, an important recurring international art exhibition, which celebrates its 16th edition this year, has over time become a reliable benchmark for judging artist careers.

The catalogue for Strauss & Co’s flagship live auction of modern and contemporary art on Tuesday, 19 March, includes work by more than a dozen artists linked to this prestigious international showcase, among them Irma Stern and Zanele Muholi.

Strauss & Co’s 94-lot flagship auction includes a highly important Zanzibar-period portrait by Stern, The Smoker, from 1945 (estimated at R15 million to R17 million). Muholi, a star of the 2019 edition of the Venice Biennale, has two photo self-portraits in the auction. They include Mumu X (estimated at R400 000 to R600 000), from Muholi’s renowned Somnyama Ngonyama (“Hail the Dark Lioness”) series.

The photo was made in London shortly before the artist’s Tate Modern solo exhibition in 2020, which will be restaged at the same museum in June.

“The lineup for the main curated exhibition of the 2024 edition of the Venice Biennale includes 331 modern and contemporary artists, among them Kudzanai Chiurai, Maggie Laubser and Gerard Sekoto,” says Jean le Clus-Theron, head of sale at Strauss & Co.

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“We are delighted that our auction includes works by all three of these artists, as well as previous Venice Biennale exhibitors like Walter Battiss, Peter Clarke, Marlene Dumas, David Goldblatt, Cecil Higgs, Alexis Preller, Mary Sibande, Berni Searle, Irma Stern and Edoardo Villa.”

Chiurai is represented in the auction by a satirical 2009 photo of the minister of finance (estimated at R100 000 to R120 000) from his Dying to be Men series.

Laubser’s recto-verso painting, (now two separate works to be sold as one lot), Malay Girl and Still Life with Cat (estimated at R900 000 to R1.2 million) is one of two powerful portraits by this pioneering expressionist in the sale.

Sekoto has two late works on offer; they include Senegal and Paris from 1973 (estimated at R300 000 to R400 000).

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Live auction excitement

“Much in the way this year’s Venice Biennale draws attention to globalised contemporary practices and modernisms of the Global South, our March live auction will draw attention to pioneering modernists and trailblazing contemporary artists,” says Le Clus-Theron.

“Our live auction will open with a 2016 self-portrait by Zanele Muholi. This contemporary focus will be sustained throughout the next 21 lots and features works by internationally recognised contemporary artists like Lisa Brice, Marlene Dumas, Georgina Gratrix and Sthenjwa Luthuli.

Much like Muholi, Lisa Brice’s current global renown was made, in part, by her 2018 solo exhibition at Tate Britain.

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Strauss & Co is delighted to offer two important works from the decade Brice returned to painting: an untitled nude from 2005 (estimated at R800 000 to R1.2 million) and a dreamlike landscape made in Trinidad in 2009, titled Ten Years Gone-Gr (estimated at R1.6 to R2 million). The sale also features works by Blessing Ngobeni, Mary Sibande and Berni Searle, all past winners of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award, as well as a large painting by new painter Brett Charles Seiler.

South African painters have for generations held the awe of collectors, and consequentially also commanded dear prices. Among an earlier generation of sought-after painters in the catalogue, Strauss & Co is excited to be offering a vivid portrait by Vladimir Tretchikoff, Flower Seller from 1949 (estimated at R1.8 million to R2.4 million).

JH Pierneef’s Mountains in an Extensive Landscape from 1940 (estimate R3 million to R5 million) is one of four works by this foundational modernist.

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The March live auction will also include four impressive mythical works by Alexis Preller, among them his magnificent painting Young King from 1964 (estimated at R4 million to R6 million).

In the lead up to the sale of Preller’s works in Cape Town, and as part of our wider drive to internationally promote neglected modernist painters, Strauss & Co is hosting the exhibition Alexis Preller: Surreal Discovery at Cromwell Place in London (which will end on Sunday). This will be the first time that works by Preller, a pre-eminent modernist who studied in London in 1934, are celebrated in this way in the English capital.

Online auction

“Alongside our live flagship evening auction, we are presenting the day sale – a separate online auction, which concludes on Wednesday, 20 March,” says Le Clus-Theron.

“Presented under the title Re/ Presentation of the Figure, the 65 lots in this separate auction include exciting contemporary painters like Banele Khoza, Talia Ramkilawan and Mostaff Muchawaya, as well as ceramics by Nico Masemola, Hylton Nel and Ben Orkin.”

Strauss & Co’s will host a dedicated programme of social and educational events in support of these important auctions at its gallery in Woodstock, Cape Town.

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