Cover credits: Botanicus store.
Cover credits: Botanicus store.
Image: Sarah de Pina

Ed's letter | Selling the drama

Hi. My name is Sarah and I am an online-auction addict.

It all started during lockdown. One minute I was browsing through a Strauss & Co auction catalogue, the next I’d registered to bid and found myself picking out a new frame for the painting I’d bought.

That, it turns out, was only the beginning. Now, I spend weekends with the Russell Kaplan auction on my computer screen. Bidding wars, a background to whatever I’m doing during the day. A friend and I assemble in our WhatsApp war room, strategising over watched bids. Do I think the Skotnes overpriced? Can he believe that there’s another Kentridge on sale? Is he sure he’s got space for that Persian? Am I worried someone is going to scoop me on the Sydney Carter? (They didn’t, dear reader).

It is, to use the terrible over-used parlance of a shabby year, my “new normal”. I have “pivoted” from mostly functional to lot-dependent. And, with some self-reflection, I know why. Partly, it’s the thrill of the chase. Partly, it’s due to ease. I’m not one for rocking up to live sales, but this pastime — especially on Strauss — is effortless and intuitive, plus I can do it in my leggings and no one will go blind. Primarily, of course, this new “hobby” has given me access to a world of provenance and beauty. I can’t afford the Makamos but I love looking at them. I’d never heard of John Henry Amshewitz but, after spotting his work in the sales, I now know he was a local Impressionist painter, born in 1882 — and I like his work.

LOOK | Page through the digital copy of Wanted's October issue (enlarge for easy viewing):

Therein lies a fascinating element of auctions in all iterations. They are the proof that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I watched a cyber battle for a brown Chobi rug. It went for almost R100k. I was dumbstruck — it was absolutely heinous. Equally, though, I’m sure many would side-eye the bits and bobs I had earmarked for would-be purchase too.

This pseudo-philosophical observation segues rather well into this month’s issue. Flip through it and you will see that it is, by and large, an homage to beauty in its many — potentially debatable — forms. You may not agree that the South African Reserve Bank building in Pretoria is good-looking or that eyes dripping in glossy shimmer (page 17) tick your “attractive” box. Perhaps you’ll even be appalled that Tretchikoff oils and Birkenstock shoes crack a mention as aesthetically pleasing in Graham Wood’s piece on the overlapping worlds of ugliness and beauty (page 28). I’d love to hear your thoughts (@sarahbuiten on Instagram).

Whichever way you see it, may your month ahead be filled with loveliness, however it manifests; in friends, family, your home, nature, travel, good food. And yes, even brown Chobi carpets.

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