We’ve been avid followers of leading South African auction house Strauss & Co for many years. Since being founded in 2008, Strauss & Co has cultivated a well-deserved reputation for bringing selections of the finest art, wine, and decorative arts to the market. Now, as we adjust to living life from our homes, the auction house has partnered with Invaluable to bring their treasure trove right into your living room, letting you bid on your favourite piece from the comfort of your armchair.
This is the first in a series that will give you, our readers, an exclusive sneak peek of the unique items that will be on offer during Strauss & Co’s online two-day premium auction, 19th century, Modern, Contemporary and Post-War Art, Decorative Arts, Jewellery and Wine, from 10 to 11 May. We’ll profile our top picks from each of the categories on offer, and this week we’ve selected a cross-section of six artists whose work transports you into the big and beautiful South African outdoors. Because if you can’t actually travel, why not do it vicariously through the art on your walls?
1. JAKE AIKMAN
Lake Shoreline, 2014
Aikman’s epically large oils on canvas are usually almost photographic in their detail. Lake Shoreline is different in that the hazy blues, greens, and creams give this dreamlike, impressionistic landscape of a far-off tree line and water a romantic, atmospheric treatment that we love. It’s like remembering a distant childhood memory of a paddle-boat outing on a family holiday.
Estimated to fetch between R30,000-R50,000.
2. IRMA STERN
Still Life with Lilies, 1947
What more can be said about this influential South African artist? Stern’s oeuvre of modernist works are as much a part of our collective heritage as proteas or our national anthem. Still Life with Lilies is bright and vivacious. It’s like taking a trip to distant lands in the East during the golden age of exploration. Art historian Marion Arnold is arguing for a reconsideration of the importance of Stern’s still-lifes, which makes this the best time to add this piece to your collection.
Estimated to fetch between R13,000,000-R15,000,000.
3. WALTER BATTISS
Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe, Undated, possibly late 1970s
Who else misses lazy Sunday afternoon picnics at the botanical gardens? Battiss’ unique and fresh interpretation of Edouard Manet’s famous painting of the same name is a frank confession of his love affair with impressionist and post-impressionist painterly style, figuration and use of colour. We like how Battiss cleverly levels the playing field by depicting the male figure, clothed in Manet’s original, as naked, like his female companions. Sandwich, anyone?
Estimated to fetch between R500,000-R700,000.
4. PETER CLARKE
Harvesters, Teslaarsdal, 1964
As winter creeps ever closer, Clarke’s depiction of two Southern Cape farm workers brings the colour, texture and hazy heat of high summer to vivid life through confident strokes of vivid hue. Like the artist himself, there’s a quiet yet confident serenity in this work that we yearn for during lockdown.
Estimated to fetch between R250,000-R350,000.
5. STANLEY PINKERHis and Hers, or Decline and Fall, Undated
This deliciously silly diptych is as fascinating for its seemingly nonsensical content as it is for the layered messages of the perils of colonialism that Pinker has cleverly woven into the subject matter. Flat areas of colour and clean lines make this a joy to look at, and you’ll discover something new each day. A trip to the beach has never been so fraught with postmodern angst.
Estimated to fetch between R2,000,000-R3,000,000.
6. EPHRAIM NGATANE
Jazz Band, 1969
Ngatane is well-known for his renderings of black South African life during the height of apartheid and for studying under Cecil Skotnes at the Polly Street Art Centre. This depiction of a jazz band in full swing, painted two years before Ngatane’s passing in 1971, succinctly captures the evocative mood of cultural centres like Sophiatown and District Six. You can almost hear the music, and it’s as close as we’ll get to a big night on the town for a while, we think.
Estimated to fetch between R100,000-R150,000.
Vanessa Phillips and Sophie-Louise Fröhlich will present a talk, Decorative Arts: Out of the Curiosity Cabinet, on Friday 8 May, and don’t miss art specialists Jean le Clus-Theron, Matthew Partridge, Dr Gera de Villiers and Kirsty Colledge sharing their knowledge on Erik Laubscher, Maggie Laubser, Walter Battiss, and Irma Stern on Saturday 9 May. Both talks will start at 16:00 and can be accessed via Zoom meeting ID 874 8450 0241.
• Strauss & Co’s 19th century, Modern, Contemporary and Post-War Art, Decorative Arts, Jewellery and Wine auction will take place May 10 and 11 2020. Visit Strauss & Co or Invaluable to register for your virtual auction seat and get your earlybird bids in.