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Contemporary art sale sets new records

Held on Saturday 16 February 2019, Strauss & Co’s Contemporary Art Sale established an impressive 23 world records and six South African records. In particular, painting and photography struck a chord with bidders on the night.

The venue was packed with art lovers and collectors.

The top achiever was a large, vivid colour photograph by Athi-Patra Ruga. The Knight of the Long Knives I sold for R1.707 million, six times more than its presale estimate. According to Strauss & Co, the sale marked the first time a photograph has ever sold for more than R1 million at a South African auction.

The Knight of the Long Knives I by Athi-Patra Ruga.

In keeping with the contemporary nature of the art on offer, the sale was held in an industrial building in the cruise terminal of the V&A Waterfront. Stark white walls and concrete floors formed an effective backdrop for the modern artworks on display. The range of artists clearly resonated with collectors and art buyers as the seats were packed, with interested art lovers making do with standing room.

“Our aim when we launched this dedicated sale of contemporary art in 2018 was to build new audiences and widen the base of collectors. We were delighted to see so many new bidders and first-time buyers at the sale,” said Frank Kilbourn, Strauss & Co’s chairman. “I think the broad and representative selection of art on offer by artists from South Africa, the continent and beyond, all of them working in innovative ways, enticed exciting new collectors into the secondary market for contemporary art.”

Other notable sales were recorded for painters Marlene Dumas and Mustafa Maluka.

Left: Naked Man by Marlene Dumas. Right: You Say the Things You Think You Have to Say by Mustafa Maluka.

Dumas’ Naked Man, a portrait of her lecturer Dimitri Fanourakis, achieved the second highest price of the night, selling for R1.593 million. Maluka’s work You Say the Things You Think You Have to Say fetched R477,960, a world record for the painter.

Timed to coincide with the Investec Cape Town Art Fair, the 107-lot contemporary art sale achieved R12.8m gross in sales. The impressive results proved good news for Strauss & Co’s social initiative: a post-graduate bursary for art and art history studies. Instituted last year, the bursary is funded by 20% of the net proceeds of the contemporary art sale.

Investec Cape Town Art Fair.

Strauss & Co’s next live sale takes place on 18 March 2019 at The Vineyard Hotel in Newlands, Cape Town. Four major private collections will go under the hammer, including important works by Irma Stern and Alexis Preller.