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LONDON - A sale of South African art in London raised nearly R53 million on Wednesday, including R19.6m for a work by Irma Stern.
Giles Peppiatt, director of South African art at auctioneers Bonhams, said the sale highlighted the growing interest in the country’s artwork alongside wider African art from countries like Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda.
He said: “We’ve been holding these sales for 10 years now and they’ve grown in popularity. A lot of it is fuelled by great artists like Stern, Sekoto and Pierneef, but there’s also buyers looking for the ‘next big thing’ after a peak in the contemporary Chinese art market.
“The African and South African market had a lax time a few years ago but now it’s as strong as ever.”
Top of the bill yesterday was Stern’s The Malay Bride, which was painted in the mid-1940s after her second visit to Zanzibar, when she became fascinated by Muslim women and their ornate dress code. It was by far the most expensive sale, with a private buyer paying R19.6m.
It will remain in South Africa because it does not have an export licence.
There were a total of 14 Irma Stern paintings in yesterday’s sale, totalling 128 lots, including Still life with amaryllis and Malay girl with fruit in carved wood, which achieved second and third on the sales table with R5.3m and R4m respectively.
Other noted artists on sale were Gerard Sekoto with nine paintings, Jacob Pierneef with 14, Vladimir Tretchikoff – painter of Chinese Girl – with nine and sculptor Anton van Wouw with six pieces.
Interest in Sekoto’s work is growing, said Peppiatt, with his reputation as the “father of black painting in South Africa” establishing him as an important figure in the anti-apartheid Struggle.
Painting the bleakness of life for many black people, his work also offered a “window” for the privileged white secluded society to see how others lived, said Hannah O’Leary, head of South African art at Bonhams.
On , his painting Girl with guitar sold for R1.4m, while Waiting went for R1.2m.
Peppiatt said half the buyers were international with a sizeable proportion of South African expats, and the remainder from within South Africa. - The Star