We’re a country familiar with art auctions. Even in this parallel pandemic universe, we’ve been quick to embrace buying lots of paintings and sculptures via virtual bidding — but taking the auction approach to local contemporary furniture, now there’s a largely foreign notion.
Sure, it’s not completely alien. The auction of antiques and old furniture, even a smattering of now wildly en-vogue, mid-century-modern works — we know that terrain. Though that’s not the same as an auction dedicated entirely to the continent’s fine design.
Which is exactly what’s happening on 26 November in a collaboration between Aspire Auctions and top local design firm Tonic Design. Tonic’s owners Greg Gamble and Philippe van der Merwe have curated a consignment of over 100 pieces by leading African design studios, alongside iconic international products. They’re hoping it’ll be the first in an endeavour to give South African designers an international platform to showcase their catalogue, much like Phillips and other big global auction houses do abroad.
“Putting good local design on par with its overseas collectable equivalents elevates the South African product and reminds you that if you buy good, well-designed furniture, wherever it comes from, it can still have the resale value,” explains Gamble.
In the offing are pieces by top makers like Dokter and Misses, Gregor Jenkin, Houtlander, Mash T, Joe Paine and, of course, Tonic. International product-wise there are gems from icons like Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner.
“There is a market for both primary and secondary sales in South Africa,” adds Gamble, who himself qualifies as the former. “We should be comfortable with the fact that if you buy a good piece of design it’s going to cost you a bit more. In a few years’ time you can sell it and get some money for it.” “It should reinforce the value in both,” adds van der Merwe. Plus, because Aspire is aligned to international platforms, the overseas market will have access to buy too.
“We’ve always enjoyed using design pieces from the 20th century for the interior side of Tonic,” say van der Merwe. “We’re really passionate about it and the auction is special in that it’s a celebration of this kind of design. Also, we’ve also created spaces that are not just about new furniture. The appeal of a good interior is the mix and very often the right items that can’t be found in shops. So often, exciting pieces come from auctions.”
• For more info on the sale go to aspireart.net
• From the November edition of Wanted, 2020.