The most exciting collections at art auctioneers Strauss & Co’s March sale in Cape Town are the four that have been consigned. “All four were painstakingly assembled and are distinguished by the passion and connoisseurship of their owners,” says Vanessa Phillips, Strauss & Co’s joint managing director.
The four collections are: the Dr JR and Mary Strong collection, the Shill collection, the Sol Munitz collection and the Dr Johan Bolt collection.
Wanted caught up with Johan Bolt ahead of the auction who tells us a little bit more about his collection of Cape furniture pieces and metalware...
STELLAR SELLER: The Dr Johan Bolt Collection
“It’s been nearly 40 years since I started collecting,” Johan Bolt says. “It has been a lifelong journey.” Bolt began collecting what he broadly terms as “yellowwood and stinkwood Cape furniture” but became more specialised and refined over the decades, constantly upping the ante in his pursuit of rare and specialised pieces.
“It started off with all the rational reasons: that it was beautiful, it was a good investment, it’s part of our cultural history,” he says. “When I look back today, those are all postrationalisations. The major motivation behind [my collection] was pursuing the thrill, the joy, the great pleasure that it gave me.”
Over the years, he pursued Regency furniture, then neoclassical, and later Baroque. “Your interest becomes deeper and deeper, and your standards become higher and higher,” he says.
He scrupulously eschewed pieces with replacements, or those that had been over-restored, constantly pursuing the ultimate goal of untouched, patinated authenticity.
“The collection went through a process of purification,” he says. He points out that his pursuit has uncovered pieces never before seen on auctions, some only ever documented but thought to be lost forever.
He compares his relationship with each piece in his collection to the way a musician’s spirit comes alive when you listen to the music. “You live inside the piece; the piece doesn’t live inside you,” he says. As much as each piece reminds him of the quest to acquire it, however, “We are just temporary custodians,” he says. “Many of my pieces are 300 years old.” Nevertheless, he says, “I can’t imagine having lived my life without it.”
• The sale will take place on Monday 18 March at the Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town. Strauss & Co will host a preview of the sale from 15 to 17 March, between 10am and 5pm, which will include an extensive programme of public talks and social events in the lead-up to the sale, all open to the public.
- From the March edition of Wanted 2019.