Stephan Welz & Co tries new angles

Michael Coulson:



Stephan Welz & Co is certainly breaking with tradition in its first two auctions of 2014. Its first Cape Town sale, on February 25/26, does not have the customary two sessions for SA art, with minor works relegated to the first session; and its first Joburg sale, on March 7, is not on a weekday/night, but on a Saturday. 

Richard Stone (American/British 1951), “A study for the portrait of Nelson Mandela” (detail)

While the latter is clearly a marketing decision, the former may be due to the fact that a whole (third) session is devoted to traditional. African art from the Colin Sayers collection. Probably for the first time, Welz is opening the season in both venues, with Strauss & Co’s first sale coming as late as March 17, in Cape Town.

Rarely, the cover of the catalogue for the Cape sale is not an SA work but, cashing in on the Mandela mania, a study for a portrait of Madiba  by the UK artist Richard Stone, estimated at only R100 000-R150 000. A contributory reason may also be that the highest priced SA work is an Ndebele Woman by Irma Stern, estimated at R1m-R1.5m that, at least as reproduced on the inside front cover, has little visual appeal.

Overall, some 163 works of SA art carry a gross low estimate of about R16.6m.   Last year there were 292 such lots but the low estimate was just over R10m, suggesting that the firm is having some success in moving the average value of its lots upwards. Ten works carry low estimates of R300 000 and upwards.

Apart from the Stern, they are headed by a Maggie Laubser Portrait of a Woman with Headscarf and Cloud (the latter in the background), estimated at R700 000-R900 000. A Freida Lock interior is put at R600 000-R900 000. On R400 000-R600 000 are landscapes by Laubser and Pieneef, a Maud Sumner Thames scene, and a Clement Seneque view of Mont Blanc; and on R350 000-R550 000 two landscapes by Fred Page, one of which is the inside back cover. Completing the list is Anton van Wouw’s bronze Kruger in Ballingschap, at R300 000-R350 000. The other featured work is a maquette by Dylan Lewis on the page indexing artists included in the sale, est R250 000-R300 000.

Five lots each are attributed to Terence McCaw and Seneque, with four each from Frans Claerhout, Laubser, Cecil Skotnes, Sumner, Piet van Heerden and Marj Wallace.