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South African Artists Put African Art on Higher Pedestal

Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957), The Bush Camp of Anton van Wouw, Rooiplaat, oil on canvas 51 x 66cm (20 1/16 x 26in). Sold for £146,500 (US$ 217,923) inc. premium. African art. Image courtesy of Bonhams

Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957), The Bush Camp of Anton van Wouw, Rooiplaat, oil on canvas 51 x 66cm (20 1/16 x 26in). Sold for £146,500 (US$ 217,923) inc. premium. African art. Image courtesy of Bonhams

ART AUCTION 

Contemporary African art continues to make great impact in the global art market  as  works by South African artists achieved record auction prices

Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957), Mountains, Prins Albert, oil on board 54.4 x 66cm (21 7/16 x 26in). Sold for £134,500 (US$ 200,072) inc. premium. Image courtesy of Bonhams

BY KAZAD

LONDON–African art took center stage recently as works by South African contemporary artists went on sale at Bonhams South African Sale in London. In all, more than 70 artworks including painting and sculptures were presented at the art auction that drew new and seasoned art collectors from across the globe. 16 of the works presented were sculptors by famous South African sculptors.

Topping the Contemporary Africa art sale was Irma Stern’s painting titled Fisherman, Madeira. The 93 x 67cm oil on canvas board painting estimated at £300,000-500,00 sold for £338,500 (US$ 503,529) inc. premium.

Jacob Hendrik Pierneef also made great showing at the Contemporary Africa art sale in London. His Bush Camp of Anton van Wouw, Rooiplaat, a 51 x 66cm, oil on canvas painting sold for £146,500 (US$ 217,923) inc. premium. Several of his other works also made great impression at the art sale. Mountains, Prins Albert, an oil on board painting sold for £134,500 (US$ 199,051) inc. premium, while A Bend in the River, an oil on board painting sold for £43,750 (US$ 65,079) inc. premium.

One of the major highlights of the Contemporary Africa art sale was the sculpture titled The Prisoner by DF. The Prisoner is a bronze sculpture created in New York in the 1980s, when the artist was on a self-imposed exile in the United States, in protest against the maltreatment of South African artists during the apartheid regime. At 23, the artist was at the forefront of the struggle to get recognition for South African artists, who were been oppressed and suppressed during the South Africa apartheid era.

Also known as “Goya of the Streets,” F used his voice and works to speak about the repression of artists in South Africa. He never failed to speak of the repressive social, economic and political condition of his time. The Prisoner is a great example of one of his sculptures, which speak of the powerlessness of South African artists in the face of the massive oppression engineered by the apartheid administrators. Estimated at £70, 000-90,000, The Prisoner did not sell in spite deep interest from collectors.

Sydney Kumalo’s sculpture titled Imbagi was another major highlight of the contemporary African art sale that generated a lot of interest from collectors around the globe. Estimated at £30- 50, 000, it was unsold. Kumalo who represented South Africa at the Venice and Sao Paulo Biennales,’ had two other artworks in this Contemporary Africa art sale: Joy (£10,000-15,000) and Patriarch (£20,000-30,000) are warrior-like images that use ancient associations to powerful contemporary effect. At the end of the bidding session, Joy realized £12,500 (US$ 18,594) inc. premium, while Patriarch fetched £22,500 (US$ 33,469) inc. premium.

Stella Shawzin’s sculpture titled Recumbent Nude combines politics with aesthetics. The sculpture carved in white Carrera marble illuminates South Africa’s complex multi-racial society. Exploring the simplified and bare human figure stripped of skin colour, cultural associations, tribal traditions and political affiliations, Shawzin’s sculpture reveals her idea of an utopian society where people are not defined by their identity. With the sculpture, she explores her primary concern for the human form and the universal human condition. Estimated at (l£12,000-18,000), Recumbent Nude  sold for £35,000 (US$ 52,063) inc. premium.

Dylan Lewis is one of South Africa’s foremost living sculptors, the famous artist, who is internationally celebrated for his powerful depictions of animal forms was represented by some of his important sculptures, including  Walking Leopard III Maquette (£20,000-30,000) and Leopard Scratching Tree (Maquette II (£8,000-12,000).

Lewis’s sculptures are anatomically precise and serve as metaphors for landscape and wilderness. The uniqueness of sculptures put them at the heart of the auction. They generated bidding wars among collectors as they strove at the sculptures to their collection. In the end, Walking Leopard III Maquette  sold for £27,500 (US$ 40,907) inc. premium, while Leopard Scratching Tree sold for £22,500 (US$ 33,469) inc. premium

Anton van Wouw’s relief sculpture titled Women’s Memorial Bas-Relief Panel estimated at (l£2,000-3,000) made great impression at the art sale. The excitement at the art sale among art collectors about the relief sculpture was not unexpected. Besides van Wouw’s   reputation as the father of South African sculpture, the bronze Women’s Memorial bas-relief panel is a preliminary study for the Women’s Memorial in Bloemfontein. Sadly, it remained unsold at the end of the Contemporary Africa art sale.

Edoardo Villa, the Italian-born ex-prisoner of war, presented two large steel sculptures at the Contemporary Africa art sale. The sculptures were estimated at £4,000-6,000 and £10,000-15,000 respectively. Villa taught at the Polly Street Art Centre, the only place where black artists in 1950s’ Johannesburg could pursue their art and show their works. Although there were high hopes for the sculpture even before the art auction opened, Villa’s works were unsold.

The contemporary art sale also included works by Lucas Sithole, one of Villa’s students at Polly Street Art Centre. Celebrated for his indigenous wood sculptures six of which, ranging in price from £5,000 to £50,000, were offered for the first time in forty years at the art sale. One of his works, a 80.5 x 26 x 15cm   titled I Wish I was a Queen sold for £11,875 (US$ 17,574) inc. premium.

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Before the auction opened, there was greater focus on South African sculpture to archive record auction prices. Beyond the amazing qualities of the sculpture, the popularity of the South African sculptors gave Bonhams auction house the reason to be of high hope.  Hannah O’Leary, head of South African Art at Bonhams, noted: “South African sculpture is among the glories of the nation’s art. The works in the sale cover more than a century of South African art history and it’s a real pleasure to be able to offer so many fine and fascinating pieces.”

At the end of the art sale paintings did better than sculptures. However, it was clear that works by contemporary African art continues to make great impact in the art market place. While this art sale was focused on South African artists, what is clear is that Contemporary African art and artists continue to attract collectors from across the globe. As the auction year goes on, there is no doubt more works by African artists will make record auction prices.

Here are the top ten of South African sculpture and painting sold at the Bonhams auction in London. The contemporary African Art sale realized 1, 426,893

Irma Stern (South African, 1894-1966), Woman with Blue Scarf, oil on canvas, 51 x 48.5cm (20 1/16 x 19 1/8in). African Art. Sold for £134,500 (US$ 200,072) inc. premium

1. Lot 21. Irma Stern (South African, 1894-1966), Fisherman, Madeira oil on canvas board 93 x 67cm (36 5/8 x 26 3/8in). Sold for £338,500 (US$ 503,529) inc. premium Provenance

2.Lot 4A. Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957), The Bush Camp of Anton van Wouw, Rooiplaat, oil on canvas 51 x 66cm (20 1/16 x 26in). Sold for £146,500 (US$ 217,923) inc. premium. African art

3. Lot 13. Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957), Mountains, Prins Albert, oil on board 54.4 x 66cm (21 7/16 x 26in). Sold for £134,500 (US$ 200,072) inc. premium

4. Lot 31. Irma Stern (South African, 1894-1966), Woman with Blue Scarf, oil on canvas, 51 x 48.5cm (20 1/16 x 19 1/8in). Sold for £134,500 (US$ 200,072) inc. premium

5. Lot 14. Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957), A Bend in the River, oil on board 53 x 64cm (20 7/8 x 25 3/16in). Sold for £43,750 (US$ 65,079) inc. premium

6. Lot 23. Maggie (Maria Magdalena) Laubser (South African, 1886-1973), Coloured Woman with Cottage (recto); Portrait of a Lady, Unfinished (verso), oil on canvas, 51 x 46cm (20 1/16 x 18 1/8in)African art. Sold for £43,750 (US$ 65,079) inc. premium

7.Lot 33. Irma Stern (South African, 1894-1966), Fishing Boats, Amalfi, oil on board 79.5 x 91.5cm (31 5/16 x 36in). Africa art. Sold for £37,500 (US$ 55,497) inc. premium

8. Lot 16. Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957), Umbrella Acacia, oil on board 42.5 x 49cm (16 3/4 x 19 5/16in). Sold for £35,000 (US$ 52,063) inc. premium. African Art Sale.

9.Lot 65. Stella Shawzin (South African, born 1923), Recumbent Nude, white Carrera marble 64 x 38 x 28cm (25 3/16 x 14 15/16 x 11in).(including base). Sold for £35,000 (US$ 52,063) inc. premium

10.Lot 24. Maggie (Maria Magdalena) Laubser (South African, 1886-1973), Landscape with Houses and Figures, oil on board, 44.5 x 50cm (17 1/2 x 19 11/16in). Sold for £31,250 (US$ 46,485) inc. premium. African art.

Irma Stern (South African, 1894-1966), Fisherman, Madeira oil on canvas board 93 x 67cm (36 5/8 x 26 3/8in). African Art. Sold for £338,500 (US$ 503,529) inc. premium Provenance. Image courtesy of Bonhams

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