A packed salesroom punctuated by rapturous applause acknowledged the fierce rivalry among collectors for top paintings, unseen in decades, at Strauss & Co’s red-letter autumn sale.
The sale culminated in a record-breaking tally of R106 million in sales at a value sell-through rate of 93%. This performance is unrivalled in the marketplace.
Irma Stern cemented her status as the most sought-after South African artist at the auction when three paintings from her celebrated Zanzibar period (1939-45) sold for a combined value of R39 million.
Adding to the buoyant mood was the sale of Alexis Preller’s seminal cabinet painting Collected Images (Orchestration of Themes) for just over R10 million, a new world record.
Frank Kilbourn, Strauss & Co’s chairman, said: “This the first-ever art auction in South Africa to achieve over R100 million in sales. The sell-through rate of 93% is also unprecedented. It is a historic moment for the company and a wonderful way to celebrate our tenth year of business.
“This outstanding result is a major vote of confidence for Strauss & Co and the SA art market. We are especially grateful to our clients, both buyers and sellers, for entrusting their works with us.”
The top-selling lot at Strauss & Co’s sale was a previously unrecorded Stern portrait of an Omani nobleman from the court of the Sultanate of Zanzibar.
Painted during Stern’s second visit to Zanzibar in 1945 and acquired directly from the artist by the late collector Sol Munitz, Stern’s painting Arab sold to a telephone bidder for R20 484 000.
The Munitz Collection consigned 15 lots to the sale, including Stern’s The Mauve Sari from 1946.