A lodestar at auction in 2021, JH Pierneef once again proved his appeal to collectors when his 1945 oil composition, Landscape with Cliffs with Cypress Trees, sold for R328 300, topping the individual rankings in Strauss & Co’s November online-only auction. The three-part auction, jointly organised by Strauss & Co’s decorative arts, wine and fine art departments, featured 13 sessions and netted a total of R7.1 million.
“Strauss & Co successfully concluded its first ever online-only auction in November 2013, and over the ensuing eight years this automated format has contributed to streamlining our digital infrastructure and, at the same time, enabled us to reach new audiences globally,” says Susie Goodman, an executive director with Strauss & Co. “Our November 2021 sale attracted nearly 500 bidders of whom 69 were new to us, which is very encouraging. The staggered conclusion of the 931-lot sale enabled us to better service our clients, as well as offer our collaborating partners adequate exposure.”
All five lots by Pierneef in November Online sold above their pre-sale estimates, confirming the momentum established with Strauss & Co’s sell-out auction devoted exclusively to this much-loved landscape painter in July. The auction also saw robust interest in contemporary artists. Painter Lionel Smit posted the next highest results after Pierneef, with two portraits from 2012 and 2013 selling for R175 875 each.
Other notable sales in November Online included William Kentridge’s ink and conté on dictionary paper, 2nd Hand Reading, offered with an accompanying book, which sold for R117 250. Sam Nhlengethwa’s Street Scene with Red Taxi, an oil and collage on canvas from 2001, sold for R93 800. The work appeared in a session guest curated by Nhlengethwa, who follows Kutlwano Mokgojwa, a curator at the Wits Art Museum, as invited contributor to Strauss & Co’s online sale programme.
In addition to the large consignment of fine art, November Online included collectable furniture and silverware, rare Italian and Spanish wines as well as ceramics by Andile Dyalvane. An important figure in contemporary ceramics, Dyalvane’s Elwalweni, IIndonga Series, a vessel made with white stoneware and charcoal clay in 2019, fetched R117 250. The lot formed part of a concise session jointly organised by Strauss & Co, Sanlam Private Wealth Bakusasa Trust and Dyalvane, with proceeds from the sale benefitting the artist’s former school in Qobo Qobo in the Eastern Cape.
South African ceramics has a storied history, as was highlighted in a consignment of important makers presented by Strauss & Co’s decorative arts department in November Online. A mottled blue-glazed bowl by Ceramic Studio, the art pottery established at Olifantsfontein in 1926 and a precursor to Linn Ware, drew justifiable interest and sold for R14 070. A Linn Ware mottled celadon-and-russet-glazed vase sold for R3 752.
A 20th-century Mexican silver two-handled tray that sold for R35 175 was the highlight of the decorative arts department’s fine consignment of silverware. Among the English makers, a Victorian silver two-handled tray by Atkins Brothers of Sheffield achieved R12 898, while a George III silver coffee pot by Peter and Ann Bateman of London sold for R14 070. Connoisseurs also delighted in a silver rhinoceros beetle set to a petrified wooden base, which sold above estimate for R3 283.
Notable furniture pieces in November Online included an LPC plastic reclining chair designed by Kartell, Italy, sold for R15 243, and a bone inlaid kist, probably of Indian origin, sold for R10 553.
Strauss & Co’s wine department ended a robust year of trade with a curated selection of rare Italian and Spanish wines. Wines by producers from Piedmont in northwest Italy were among the top performers, with a six-bottle lot of Gaja’s Barbaresco (2009) fetching R29 313. Also from Piedmont, three bottles of Giuseppe Rinaldi’s Barolo Brunate-Le Coste (2001) sold for R19 933. Interest in the revered Tuscan wine producer Tenuta San Guido saw three bottles of The Sassicaia (2012) sell for R18 760.
The top performing Spanish wines were all non-vintage blends from Vega Sicilia, a producer whose founder, Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, trained in the Bordeaux wine region of France. All offered in three-bottle lots, the Ribera del Duero Unico Reserva Especial sold for R22 278, the Ribera del Duero Unico Reserva Especial for R25 795, and the Unico 2010 Release for R25 795.
Social engagement with the wider art community is central to Strauss & Co’s daily operations. Every year Strauss & Co assists the Friends of the Tatham Art Gallery with a charity auction to raise funds for the purchase of new art works for this public museum in Pietermaritzburg. This year’s online format did not disadvantage the cause: all 21 lots on offer sold. Ayanda Mthethwa-Siwila’s Ngiyiqanda, a terracotta clay vessel from 2012, was the star performer, selling for R19 933. Other notable sales included paintings by Hussein Salim and Siyabonga Sikosana.
Strauss & Co frequently assists corporate partners to equitably and transparently dispose important works from their collections. November Online included a consignment of high-quality botanical, bird and wildlife artworks from the FirstRand (including FNB and RMB) corporate art collection. Various watercolours depicting birds by Gail Denise Darroll and Liz McMahon were among the notable pieces sold. FirstRand will reinvest the earnings in contemporary South African art.
Strauss & Co will conclude its 2021 sales activities with a benefit auction in service of the Norval Foundation, a centre for art and cultural expression located in Steenberg, Cape Town. The in-person auction will be held on Thursday, 9 December 2021 at Norval Foundation, with proceeds benefitting its mission of research, education and the exhibition of 20th- and 21st-century visual art from South Africa and beyond.
Lionel Smit Pendere #3 | Sold for R 175 875