Online art auction – Many artworks for aspiring collectors

Strauss & Co’s upcoming September online-only auction offers art collectors a variety of works across all mediums, styles, and periods.

“There is something there for every budget. Aspiring collectors will find artworks by well-known South African artists at value-for-money prices to start their collection.

“If you’re an established collector interested in broadening your collection, the auction also features some rising contemporary stars on the secondary art market’s radar,” says Wilhelm van Rensburg, Senior Art Specialist and Head Curator at Strauss and Co, who is leading this sale.

The multi-session online-only sale of modern, post-war, and contemporary art includes well-known twentieth-century stalwarts like Cecil Skotnes, Walter Battiss, Irma Stern, Robert Hodgins, and William Kentridge.

Rising stars

Van Rensburg is especially excited by the works of contemporary South African artists featured in this auction. “Although we always advise our clients to buy for love, not investment, it is a question our art specialists get asked most often. ‘Who should I invest in?”

Ever since one of his artworks appeared on the cover of TIME magazine in 2019, there has been a significant rise in interest in Johannesburg-based artist Nelson Makamo. Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani and musician Annie Lennox are among the collectors of his work.

Van Rensburg points out Makamo as one of the auction’s stars. “We are excited to have several of his works in this auction. With estimates below R10 000, they are accessible to many. An example is lot 331, Figure with a clenched fist, which is an evocative work on paper featuring a haunted figure enrobed in a soft powder iridescent blue halo.

Sam Nhlengethwa, founder of the Bag Factory in Newtown, Johannesburg, is one of South Africa’s most multifaceted artists. Nhlengethwa is best known for his figurative paintings and collage works that explore themes such as art history, jazz, mining, and social issues. There are several examples of his artworks in this auction, most notably two exquisite lithographs of the musician, Miles Davis, (lot 57 and lot 58), as well as a series of mixed media works depicting everyday life in South Africa.

Another artist to watch is Mongezi Ncaphayi, who received the prestigious Absa L’atelier Gerard Sekoto Award in 2013.  His works feature in several important collections, notably the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington DC, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, The Ampersand Foundation (TAF) in London, and the Fondazione Benetton.

Like Nhlengethwa and Wassily Kandinsky, two artists he was influenced by, music also forms the inspiration for his artwork. In an interview with Art South Africa, he compared his abstract works to musical compositions in a visual form. When creating, he also follows a similar method to a jazz improvisation musician. “I don’t really plan my compositions.  I rely on my intuition and spontaneity. They evolve as I make them. I let the artwork guide me through its various directions.”  Van Rensburg highlights two works on paper by Ncaphayi, Abstract 1 (Lot 23 ) and Abstract 2 (Lot 24).

The auction also features lots from important Venda sculptors, most notably Noriah Mabasa, Jackson Hlungwani and Owen Ndou.  Ndou and Hlungwani sculptures were featured in the seminal 2016 exhibition, South Africa: Art of a Nation, held at the British Museum in London, alongside national treasures such as the Mapungubwe rhino, sculptures by Mary Sibande and paintings by JH Pierneef.

An erotic romp

Collectors looking for a quirky conversation starter can consider three artworks by Walter Battiss. The artist created a vast selection of erotic works during the 1970s, in protest against apartheid’s censorship laws. Works from his Orgy series are some of his best-loved works.

Two drawings, Orgy 1 (Lot 408) and Orgy 2 (Lot 409) depict a bacchanalian romp, with figures enthusiastically engaged in various carnal pursuits. The auction also includes a silk screen print, Orgy 5 (Lot 237)  portraying various figures “in flagrante delicto”. For this series Battiss drew inspiration from the elegant simplicity of indigenous rock art.

“When Battiss debuted his Orgy Series during an exhibition in Pietermaritzburg in the 1970s, there was a moral uproar. The artworks were classified as pornography by the puritanical authorities. The police closed the exhibition, after receiving complaints from the public,” Van Rensburg says. Today they are some of the most sought-after prints.

Classic themes in still lifes

Still lifes, from the Dutch Golden Age’s evanescent realist vanitas to the more vivacious, vibrant work of the post-impressionists, are currently trending in interior design. Semi-abstract tropical landscapes and scenes reminiscent of Scottish painter Peter Doig, are also popping up everywhere from art prints to wallpaper.

Rather than buying prints, why not invest in some original art pieces by a South African artist?

The auction features a selection of still lifes in different styles and mediums – from the impressionistic style of Adriaan Boshoff to more abstract, semi-figurative styles by  Aileen Lipkin,  Flowers in a Vase, and Nel Erasmus, Still life.

The Dutch-born artist, Frans Oerder, is one of the country’s most skilful pre-war still life artists. His oil painting Still Life with Pink and Red Roses (lot 83) demonstrates delicate beauty, but also the ephemeral transience that Golden Age Dutch still lifes are known for.

The late artist Andrew Verster is well known for his vivid use of jewellike tones and descriptive lines in his artwork. Judge Albie Sachs paid a beautiful tribute to the artist after his passing in 2020 referring to Verster’s art as “beautiful, unusual, elegant, striking, thoughtful and accessible – just like the mind and creative sensibility of its maker.”

Idyllic landscape (lot 1), a verdant abstract landscape, with fluid expressive brush strokes in hues of emerald, peridot, saffron and malachite, set against a cerulean blue sky is one of the most striking artworks in the auction, according to Van Rensburg..

The auction opens for bidding on Monday 26 September at 8am and concludes on Monday 3 October 2022 with the first session of the staff highlights closing at 6pm and the second half of the auction closing at 8pm.

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