Mercury Correspondent

TWO of the most acclaimed Vladimir Tretchikoff artworks, Herb Seller, owned by former apartheid ministers Jan Haak and Pik Botha, and Chinese Girl are to be auctioned in London next month.

Chinese Girl is expected to fetch between £300 000 (R4 million) and £500 000.

Herb Seller was Tretchikoff’s first work to be exhibited in the South African National Gallery as part of the “1910-2010: From Pierneef to Gugulective” exhibition, a survey of a century of South African art.

It is expected to sell for between £80 000 and £120 000 when it is auctioned by Bonhams in London on March 20.

Tretchikoff, a self-taught artist, was born in Russia and moved to Cape Town in 1946.

He painted Herb Seller in 1949.

In 2002, he suffered a stroke which left him unable to paint.

He died in August 2006.

Tretchikoff is known as one of the most successful commercial artists.

Herb Seller was owned by Haak, the minister of economic affairs in the late 1960s and then by Botha, the minister of foreign affairs from 1977.

In a statement released by Bonhams, University of Cape Town Michaelis School of Fine Art lecturer Andrew Lamprecht said: “The painting depicts a well-known ‘character’ in Cape Town, disenfranchised because of South Africa’s race policies, which were expanding to devastating effect soon after Tretchikoff arrived in his adopted land.

“Behind the direct gaze of the main figure are the torn posters of two political rivals: Smuts of the ‘liberal’ United Party and Malan of the apartheid-initiating National Party.”

Giles Peppiatt, the director of South African Art at Bonhams, said: “This picture offers a fascinating glimpse into the street life of apartheid South Africa. It is unusual, too, in being owned by two South African government ministers.

“Both initially helped to implement and sustain the policy of apartheid – the forced removals and political disenfranchisement of people like this herb seller – and yet they had this image hanging in their homes.

“It is both ironic and fascinating.”

American Mignon Buhler bought Chinese Girl directly from Tretchikoff in Chicago in the 1950s.

It has been in the same family since and is being sold by Buhler’s granddaughter.