By Alexis Preller.
Surreal Minoan Bulls, 1954 By Alexis Preller.
Image: Supplied

Without missing a beat, Strauss & Co has taken its renowned art auctions online, with its winter edition starting on Sunday, 26 July and wine and art sales following on Monday and Tuesday. It will follow the format of its successful May sale, with auctioneers hammering down lots from physical salerooms in Johannesburg and Cape Town, but bidders participating remotely from the safety and comfort of their homes. “The virtual sale, a partnership with Invaluable, the world’s leading international platform for buying art, antiques and collectibles online, will replicate a physical saleroom scenario, with Strauss & Co’s auctioneers conducting the sale live, in isolation,” says Strauss & Co chairperson Frank Kilbourn. “Invaluable hosts hundreds of auctions and provides a fair, safe, public, and accessible auction platform all year round. This partnership will expand our reach internationally, for the benefit of buyers and sellers alike.”

A monumental bushveld scene, Bosveld, by JH Pierneef is the cover lot to the auction, which includes pieces from several private collections that cover a range of periods and locations. It includes exciting works by Gregoire Boonzaier, Dylan Lewis, Alexis Preller, Gerard Sekoto, Irma Stern, Cecil Skotnes, William Kentridge, Norman Catherine, and Edoardo Villa among many other household names. “The two single-owner collections, one from a Pretoria collector, the other from a large survey collection of South African art, affirm Strauss & Co’s leading role in handling properties assembled by discriminating collectors and patrons of the arts. Given the circumstances of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, I am pleased to say that the July sale also includes various lots being sold in support of deserving charities in the arts and the community more broadly,” says Strauss & Co executive director Susie Goodman.

If you’re a collector, you’ll be spoiled for choice here, but we’ve managed to whittle our wish list down to these five picks:

1. JH PIERNEEF: BOSVELD, 1953

We can’t have a list and leave out the star of the show, JH Pierneef’s bushveld landscape from 1953 called Bosveld. It is an unusually large example of the South African master’s work and depicts a treed landscape. According to senior art specialist Dr Alastair Meredith, the piece ticks all the boxes for a Pierneef and is one of, if not the great example of his late masterpieces in the pastel palette he became so well known for. As you would imagine for a work of this significance, it is expected to sell for between R9-million and R12-million.

By JH Pierneef.
Bosveld, 1953. By JH Pierneef.
Image: Supplied

2. ALEXIS PRELLER: SURREAL MINOAN BULLS, 1954

There are several works by Alexis Preller on auction this weekend, including the significant African Head, but the one that caught our eye is the Surreal Minoan Bulls. Dated 1954, it gloriously reimagines three sturdy bulls as decorated boats with mask faces for prows, each bedecked with exaggerated sickle-shaped horns. It’s expected to go for between R2-million and and R3-million.

3. GERARD SEKOTO: THE VISITOR, EASTWOOD

Painted during his important pre-exile residency in Eastwood, Pretoria (1945–47), Gerard Sekoto’s The Visitor, Eastwood is estimated to fetch between R3-million and R4 million. It depicts a cyclist nonchalantly conversing with a mother and child in an effervescent landscape of tonal colour that adds to the inviting feel of the work.

By Gerard Sekoto.
The Visitor, Eastwood By Gerard Sekoto.
Image: Supplied
By Georgina Gratrix.
The Advocate By Georgina Gratrix.
Image: Supplied

4. GEORGINA GRATRIX: THE ADVOCATE 

The inclusion of Georgina Gratrix’s The Advocate is a timely inclusion considering that there will be a survey of her work presented by Cape Town’s Norval Foundation in 2021. The bidding for the portrait of a woman gazing to the left of the viewer with an inscrutable expression that leaves you wondering who she is advocating for, will begin at R65,000. This one is likely to be an excellent investment piece.

5. EZROM LEGAE: MAN ON HORSE

It’s not only paintings on auction, with several important sculptural works going under the hammer, too, including this Ezrom Legae bronze, Man on Horse, expected to sell for around R300,000 to R400,000. Strauss & Co art specialist Richard “Specs” Ndimande describes both the figure and the animal as “deliberately abstracted with the neck on the figure elongated with a flat face and the animal remaining anonymous with no distinctive head.” Legae’s works are politically charged with his sculptures as metaphors for conditions under apartheid with commentary on poverty, racism, and oppression at that time.

Sculpture by Ezrom Legae.
Man on Horse Sculpture by Ezrom Legae.
Image: Supplied

Whether you’re in the market for one of these South African masterworks or have an interest in the subject, Strauss & Co has a number of fascinating video tours and expert discussions of the artworks going under the hammer this weekend. Visit Strauss & Co's website to watch company specialists and guest speakers in conversation about highlights of the July sale.

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