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These paintings are set to be auctioned for millions at exciting Cape Town auction

Beautiful artworks by South African masters Irma Stern, William Kentridge, and more to fetch millions after setting R22.3 million record this year

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By Kimberley Schoeman  | September 8, 2023 | Art

On 19 September 2023, Strauss & Co, Africa’s leading art auction house, will present Irma Stern’s highly important portrait, Praying Arab for an estimated R16 – 18 million from a prestigious private collection.

Strauss & Co are also offering an endearing marine landscape with figures from 1933. Whatever the period Stern always commands attention. In March, Strauss & Co established an African record when we sold her 1939 painting Children Reading the Koran for R22.3 million/ $1.17 million. Stern’s work is the highlight of Cape Town Auction Week (17 – 19 September 2023). This expertly curated series of sales will present fine wines and collectable modern and contemporary art by sought-after South African artists Nicholas Hlobo, William Kentridge, Maggie Laubser, J.H. Pierneef, Alexis Preller, Athi-Patra Ruga and Berni Searle.

Nicholas Hlobo, 1975, ‘Ityhengetyhenge’, signed, dated 2015 and inscribed with the title on the reverse. Ribbon and rubber on canvas. R 1 000 000 - 1 500 000. Image: supplied

“Praying Arab dates from Irma Stern’s second visit to the East African island of Zanzibar in 1945 is a superb example of the stylistic attributes characteristic of her golden period,” says Bina Genovese, Managing Executive, Strauss & Co. “It is one of four high-value Stern works appearing in our marquee virtual-live sale. There are two gorgeous flower still-lifes from 1955 by Stern, one of them owned by the collector Nedra Jooste.”

Cape Town Auction Week commences on Sunday, 17 September 2023 with a dedicated wine sale, and is followed on consecutive days by two sales of collectable art. During auction week, a timed-online sale of 54 artworks, beginning with a focus on Cape-themed paintings inspired by the exhibition Cape Moments/Kaapse Oomblikke.

‘Praying Arab’ by Irma Stern is estimated to fetch R16 – 18 million. Image supplied

The premier evening live virtual sale on Tuesday, 19 September 2023 starts with eight paintings from the estate of collector Nedra Jooste, of the esteemed Cordoba wine estate on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain. The session features 85 works spanning more than a century of artistic production in South Africa. There are important works by early pioneers J.H. Pierneef, Pieter Wenning and Anton van Wouw. Painting features strongly in the contemporary selection, with photorealist Keith Alexander, John Meyer and Neil Rodger represented alongside works by younger painters Zander Blom and Georgina Gratrix. The catalogue also includes works by trailblazers Nicholas Hlobo, Mohau Modisakeng, Athi-Patra Ruga and Berni Searle.

High-value modernist paintings on sale during Cape Town Auction Week include J.H. Pierneef’s Houtbos, Transvaal (estimate R700 000 – 1 million) and Irma Stern’s Red Dahlias (estimate R4 – 6 million), both from the Nedra Jooste Collection. Irma Stern’s Still Life with Flat Irons, Apples and Blossoms in a Jug from 1955 and Figures on a Beach from 1933 are expected to fetch R3.8 – 4.2 million each. There are five works by Alexis Preller in the live-virtual sale. They include Preller’s late painting of a Florentine head (estimate R700 000 – 1 million/ $38 000 – 54 000) and Abstract Composition, a jewel-like triptych from 1969 (estimate R400 000 – 500 000/ $21 550 – 27 000). Norval Foundation in Cape Town will present an exhibition devoted to Preller opening at the end of November 2023.

Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, 1886 - 1957 ‘Baie Storms Weerstaan (Many Storms Withstood)’, signed, inscribed with the title on a metal plaque and the artist's name. Oil on canvas laid down on board,R 400 000 - 600 000. Image: supplied

Two works by William Kentridge lead a strong contemporary catalogue. The painted steel sculpture World on its Hind Legs (estimate R1.5 – 2 million) is the product of a 2010 collaboration between Kentridge and artist Gerhard Marx. The etching Sleeper and Ubu (estimate R600 000 – 800 000) is an important work with editions held by numerous American museums. Other notable high-value works with impeccable international pedigree are Nicholas Hlobo’s 2015 ribbon painting Ityhengetyhenge (estimate R1 – 1.5 million, and Berni Searle’s 1998 photo self-portraits from her Colour Me series (estimate R400 000 – 600 000.