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Irma Stern’s Praying Arab Painting is Fetching for R16-million at the Cape Town Auction Week

Irma Stern’s Praying Arab Painting is Fetching for R16-million at the Cape Town Auction Week

The Cape Town Auction Week running from 17 to 19 September 2023 is an expertly curated series of sales will present fine wines and collectable modern and contemporary art by sought-after South African artists Nicholas Hlobo, William Kentridge, Maggie Laubser, J.H. Pierneef, Alexis Preller, Athi-Patra Ruga and many more.

The highlight of this instalment is Irma Stern’s highly important portrait, Praying Arab from a prestigious private collection.

Irma Stern art auction

Irma Stern’s R16-million masterpiece

‘Praying Arab (estimate R16 – 18 million/ $840,00-950,000) dates from Irma Stern’s second visit to the East African island of Zanzibar in 1945 and is a superb example of the stylistic attributes characteristic of her golden period,’ says Bina Genovese, Managing Executive, Strauss & Co.

‘It is one of four high-value Stern works appearing in our marquee virtual-live sale. There are two gorgeous flower still-lifes from 1955 by Stern, one of them owned by the collector Nedra Jooste. We are also offering an endearing marine landscape with figures from 1933. Whatever the period Stern always commands attention. In March, Strauss & Co established an African record when we sold her 1939 painting Children Reading the Koran for R22.3 million/ $1.17 million.’

wine auction Cape Town

Fine wine and furniture on display

Cape Town Auction Week opened with a dedicated wine sale, and is followed on consecutive days by two sales of collectable art.

The art sale begins with a focus on Cape-themed paintings inspired by the exhibition Cape Moments/Kaapse Oomblikke, curated by Strauss & Co’s Frank Kilbourn and Wilhelm van Rensburg for August Art Month at Welgemeend. An impressive modernist catalogue feature works by Peter Clarke, Johannes Meintjes, Nita Spilhaus and Maud Sumner.

The premier evening live virtual sale include eight paintings from the estate of collector Nedra Jooste, of the esteemed Cordoba wine estate on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain. The session features 85 works spanning more than a century of artistic production in South Africa.

There are important works by early pioneers J.H. Pierneef, Pieter Wenning and Anton van Wouw. Painting features strongly in the contemporary selection, with photorealist Keith Alexander, John Meyer and Neil Rodger represented alongside works by younger painters Zander Blom and Georgina Gratrix. The catalogue also includes works by trailblazers Nicholas Hlobo, Mohau Modisakeng, Athi-Patra Ruga and Berni Searle.

‘We have grouped the works in both our art sales by genre, not period,’ says Jean le Clus-Theron, Head of Sale, Strauss & Co. ‘Our intention is to suggest continuities in art made in changing times. Both sales are supported by detailed e-catalogues that feature extensive notes and special artist focuses. Contemporary painter Ruby Swinney is highlighted in the timed-online sale, and much-loved painters Walter Battiss, Peter Clarke and Robert Hodgins are similarly profiled in the virtual-live sale.’

Contemproary art Cape Town

Sought-after works by South African masters

High-value modernist paintings on sale during Cape Town Auction Week include J.H. Pierneef’s Houtbos, Transvaal (estimate R700 000 – 1 million/ $38 000 – 54 000) and Irma Stern’s Red Dahlias (estimate R4 – 6 million/ $ 216 000 – 324 000), both from the Nedra Jooste Collection. Irma Stern’s Still Life with Flat Irons, Apples and Blossoms in a Jug from 1955 and Figures on a Beach from 1933 are expected to fetch R3.8 – 4.2 million / $205 000 – 226 000 (each). 

There are five works by Alexis Preller in the live-virtual sale. They include Preller’s late painting of a Florentine head (estimate R700 000 – 1 million/ $38 000 – 54 000) and Abstract Composition, a jewel-like triptych from 1969 (estimate R400 000 – 500 000/ $21 550 – 27 000). Norval Foundation in Cape Town will present an exhibition devoted to Preller  opening at the end of November 2023.

Two works by William Kentridge lead a strong contemporary catalogue. The painted steel sculpture World on its Hind Legs (estimate R1.5 – 2 million/ $81 000 – 108 000) is the product of a 2010 collaboration between Kentridge and artist Gerhard Marx.

The etching Sleeper and Ubu (estimate R600 000 – 800 000/ $32 300 – 43 100) is an important work with editions held by numerous American museums. Other notable high-value works with impeccable international pedigree are Nicholas Hlobo’s 2015 ribbon painting Ityhengetyhenge (estimate R1 – 1.5 million/ $54 000 – 81 000) and Berni Searle’s 1998 photo self-portraits from her Colour Me series (estimate R400 000 – 600 000/ $21 550 – 32 300). (another example from this edition can be seen at Norval Foundation, Cape Town, in the exhibition Having but little Gold: Berni Searle closing on13 November 2023.

Works in the sale will be available to view in a curated exhibition at Strauss & Co’s office at Brickfield Canvas, Woodstock, Cape Town.

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