The sale also features 43 lots by accomplished ornithological artists such as Phillip Clancey, Dick Findlay and Leigh Voigt.
In addition to these offerings, Wilhelm van Rensburg, Strauss & Co’s head curator and senior art specialist has identified a number of exciting themes and lot combinations in the catalogue for the September sale. They include works with shared themes and/or affinities by Sipho Ndlovu, Durant Sihlali and Sam Nhlengethwa, as well as – unexpectedly – Robert Hodgins and Vladimir Tretchikoff.
Over the past year Strauss & Co has been assisting banking group FirstRand in de-accessioning its extensive holdings of high-quality botanical and wildlife artworks by established twentieth century artists. The present consignment of bird art is part of this long-term project by FirstRand, which includes FNB and RMB, to responsibly find buyers for these works. All proceeds from these various auctions will be re-invested in contemporary South African art.
The FirstRand consignment includes two works by Richard “Dick” Findlay, a well-known natural history painter who achieved national renown when his ornithological paintings appeared on South African stamps. Findlay’s study of a mating pair of Pied Kingfishers dates from 1960, and his depiction of an African Paradise Flycatcher is from 1968 (estimate R4 000 – 6 000 for each). Phillip Clancey has two gouaches in the sale: his majestic Cape Eagle-Owl was made in 1976, and Grey Plover is from 1978 (estimate R12 000 – 18 000 for each).
Leigh Voigt, the daughter of botanical artist Barbara Jeppe, has three watercolours in the FirstRand consignment. The earliest is a study of a Southern Red Bishop from 1988 (estimate R 6000 – 9 000). The other Voigt works are a tightly framed frontal study of a Snowy Owl and gregarious depiction of Namaqua Sandgrouse (estimate R12 000 – 18 000 each). Voigt is best known for her collaboration with Marguerite Poland and David Hammond-Tooke on The Abundant Herds (2003), a descriptive study of the Nguni cattle of the Zulu people.
Also included in the FirstRand consignment are works by artists Simon Calburn, Peter Fogerty, Christopher Haskins, Johan Hoekstra, Penny Meakin, Rodger McPhail, Bronwen Mellor, Kenneth Newman and Linda van Someren. Geoff Lockwood, a South African bird expert and artist, generously agreed to an interview in support of the sale. The interview can be viewed on Strauss & Co’s website and YouTube channel.
Other bird-themed works in the September online-only sale include an Indian silk and metal threaded embroidered table runner with six peacock in full display (estimate R10 000 – 15 000), a Qing dynasty blue and white jardinière that includes cartouches enclosing a bird amongst foliage (estimate R4 000 – 6 000) and two unique bronzes by Guy du Toit depicting Lapwings (estimate R15 000 – 20 000) made circa 2012.
Throughout 2021, Strauss & Co has invited curators and museum administrators to guest curate a session of its online-only sales. Kutlwano Mokgojwa, the curator in charge of WAM’s important African art collections, will curate the September selection. Mokgojwa has extensive museum expertise, having previously worked as a curatorial assistant at the Javett Art Centre, University of Pretoria, and Norval Foundation in Cape Town. She follows on guest contributions by Amohelang Mohajane, curator of the NWU Gallery at North-West University, and Kim Kandan, gallery director of the KZNSA Gallery in Durban.
Painter Sipho Ndlovu, an auction regular, has four oils in the sale. They include the agricultural scenes Irene Farm in Pretoria (estimate R15 000 – 20 000) and Near Sasolburg, Free State (estimate R12 000 – 18 000). The strong regional focus of Ndlovu’s works link him to two other artists – Durant Sihlali and Sam Nhlengethwa – interested in portraying Gauteng landscapes and labours. Sihlali, an important figure of post-war art in Johannesburg, has five lots in the sale. They include the autobiographical woodcut Man Making Prints from 1980 and monotype Old Pimville Location from 1981 (estimate R2 000 – 3 000 for each). Produced in 2012, Nhlengethwa’s woodcut The Launch (estimate R6 000 – 8 000) is also autobiographical in nature and shows a gallery opening.
Wilhelm van Rensburg points to the strong religious theme in works by two secular and temperamentally very different artists. The Third Hour by Robert Hodgins (estimate R30 000 – 50 000) is an etching triptych from 2005 and presents a stylized crucifixion scene showing Christ flanked by the good thief and bad thief. Vladimir Tretchikoff’s portfolio The Ten Commandments (estimate R8 000 – 12 000) comprises photolithographic prints illustrating the biblical principles relating to ethics and worship in the Hebrew Bible.
“Collectors of JH Pierneef, Erich Mayer and Walter Battiss need no introduction to their interest in indigenous rock art,” says Wilhelm van Rensburg. “Many South African artists have been fascinated by this foundational art, making it a subject of their own art. They include Simon Lekgetho, whose oil Composition with Rock Art (estimate R6 000 – 9 000) deserves serious consideration by collectors.”
Van Rensburg contrasts Lekgetho’s resolutely figurative art with the abstract compositions of veteran painter Louis Maqhubela and Mongezi Ncaphayi, whose large-scale textile compositions have generated significant notice in the past few years. Maqhubela, who was the subject of a travelling retrospective exhibition in 2010 curated by Marilyn Martin, has two lots in the sale. They include Choral Move (estimate R10 000 – 15 000), a watercolour from 1996. Ncaphayi has two works in the sale, including an untitled mixed-media diptych from 2020 (estimate R40 000 – 60 000).
Strauss & Co’s wine department has helped establish reliable benchmark prices at auction for Kanonkop’s sought-after Paul Sauer wines. The sale includes a 2011 vintage of this internationally acclaimed, long-ageing Bordeaux blend (estimate R15 000 – 20 000), as well as a 2011 vintage of Kanonkop’s Black Label Pinotage (estimate R15 000 – 20 000). This limited-edition pinotage is produced from grapes from one of the oldest pinotage vineyards in South Africa, one planted in 1953. Other notable lots include a 2011 vintage of Sadie Family’s critically revered and highly coveted Columella (estimate R 18 000 – 24 000).
Strauss & Co’s online-only sale, which also includes jewellery pieces such as a diamond and platinum ring with baguette-cut diamonds weighing 1.55 carat (estimate R25 000 – 30 000), will commence on Monday, 20 September 2021. The sale concludes a week later, at 8pm, on Monday, 27 September 2021. DM/BM