2021 a great year for Strauss & Co


Even though the South African art market has had to go through two difficult years, collectors are showing a comparable interest to pre-pandemic, said Frank Kilbourn, president of Strauss & Co.

“This is encouraging news for everyone in the art industry, not just the aftermarket.” South Africa’s leading art auction house has had a tremendous year, with several world records, sold-out white glove sales and a growing base of first-time buyers and clients, locally and internationally.

“We believe that our ability to switch between direct, online and hybrid sales modes is an important asset. Over the past two years we’ve also learned that the geographic location of an auction is no longer relevant – we don’t have to limit ourselves to that anymore, ”he explains.

“The past 18 months have been a defining period for Strauss & Co as they have tested our capabilities and we have responded with an even greater commitment to operate effectively in the digital world. I want to thank our customers for their loyalty and trust and for adapting so easily to our new advanced, technology-driven platforms, ”he said.

The highlights of the year are as follows:

Pierneef remains a perennial

South African JH Pierneef once again demonstrated his status as one of the darlings of South African modernism at a first single artist auction held in July. The 69 lots of paintings, linocuts and books on the artist found buyers at this auction. A new world record for a Pierneef linocut was set by a silhouette image of a driving baobab tree. Estimated to sell for R40,000, it drew 36 bids and ultimately sold for R432,440.

“The depth of interest in Pierneef, one of our revered former masters, is remarkable,” notes Dr Alastair Meredith, senior art scholar. During the Johannesburg auction week in November, the 15 Pierneef lots on offer found buyers again, reaching a combined total of R25.4 million. The best-selling individual lot was Pierneef’s Magnificent Landscape in 1952 Bushveld, Pafuri, which sold to a telephone bidder for R11.6 million.

Mid-century painting remains popular among collectors

“The demand for mid-20th century painting remains clearly strong,” says Kilbourn. Collectors continue to seek post-war and Modernist works – the top five selling lots in value during Strauss & Co’s auction week in Johannesburg in November were all painted in the 1940s and 1950s. In addition to Pierneef, South African modernist Alexis Preller also had an exceptional year, with several lots exceeding the mark of one million rand. A new record was also reached for this artist when the 1965 composition Boy with a crocodile sold for R10.4million in October. Namibian artist Adolph Jentsch broke another record when his 1938 landscape, The Kleepforte farm, near Windhoek, sold for 2.5 million rand, the highest price ever for a painting by this artist.

Ceramics are growing in popularity

“The overwhelming response to our special art ceramics sessions follows the innovative stand-alone ceramics sale we hosted in 2020,” says Bina Genovese, Co-Managing Director of Strauss & Co. “I am delighted to see this continued enthusiasm. for this medium continued among our collectors in 2021. During the Johannesburg Auction Week, the 51 lots of Perfectly imperfect, a session composed entirely of a sole proprietorship collection of ceramic sculptures by Hylton Nel and Nico Masemola, has found a buyer. The strong demand for 20th century art and decoration in this category was underscored by two other successful auctions of South African ceramics this year, one of which was the Juanita Bird Collection of items produced by Globe, Ceramic Studio and the iconic Linnware. The demand for locally produced collectible ceramic works continues to increase.

SA wine makes its mark on the online platform

South Africa’s place among the great wines of the world received an additional boost with several record prices achieved at auction in 2021. “We are incredibly pleased with the results, not only for the sellers, but also for the South African wine industry in general. These positive results have particularly elevated the status of South Africa’s iconic and historic wine, ”says Higgo Jacobs, wine specialist at Strauss & Co.

Chris Alheit’s rare 2018 Radio Lazarus, of which only 72 bottles were produced but never released, achieved an incredible R25,036 for a single bottle in the October sale. It is by far the most expensive young South African wine ever sold. Lots of South Africa’s ‘Wine Messiah’, Eben Sadie, generated similar interest with a vertical batch of 12 bottles of the flagship red, Columella, dating from 2001 to 2012, fetching R113,800. A 2004 Columella magnum has reported R12 898 and a box of 6 bottles of the 2010 exceeded the 2001 vintage at R51 210.

But without a doubt the highlight of the year was the rare bottle of Grand Constance sweet wine from 1821 which reached a staggering sum of R967,300, commission included, doubling a previous auction record set in April of This year. “The world record set for the bottle of Grand Constance was an extremely important event for the South African wine industry,” says Kilbourn.

“South Africa has a rich wine heritage and the performance of South African wines in the secondary market this year underscores the value of this region as a producer. International buyers and collectors were willing to pay huge sums for our wines, indicating that this part of the market is taking on real meaning as sophisticated investors realize the return on investment this asset class offers ”, said he declared.


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