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Summer auction features works by Billie Zangewa and William Kentridge

‘Cat’ by William Kentridge. Picture: Supplied

‘Cat’ by William Kentridge. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 8, 2023


The works of acclaimed South African artists garnered international praise during Strauss & Co’s premier live-virtual Evening Sale.

The artworks by Johannesburg artist William Kentridge and Billie Zangewa, who is both South African and Malawian, formed an influential part of the leading South African auction house’s live sales last week.

Strauss & Co said Kentridge’s bronzes and early drawings were highly rated during its marquee auction.

The works of other South African artists including painter and sculptor Deborah Bell, painter and artist Marlene Dumas and Durban-born artist Georgina Gratrix were also highly sought after at the auction. Photographs by Athi-Patra Ruga and Mikhael Subotzky also featured.

Chief curator Wilhelm van Rensburg said Zangewa’s artwork was the talk of the town at the live auction.

“Johannesburg artist Billie Zangewa has garnered international attention and representation with her compelling narrative tapestries made by layering fragments of raw silk,” he said.

“We are delighted to be presenting an early work by the artist from 2008.”

Van Rensburg said Zangewa’s “Business as Usual” piece, which is estimated to be worth R900 000 – R1.2 million, is dominated by a sumptuous ground of seductive pink silk.

“It showcases why the artist has been invited to collaborate with luxury brands like Dior and Louis Vuitton,” he said.

In addition to Zangewa’s striking work, the live-virtual auction included part of a consignment of works by Kentridge. His contemporary consignment featured nine works representative of his major media and themes, Van Rensburg said.

“The five bronzes include an edition of the artist’s iconic electrified cat – estimated to be worth around R2 – 3 million – inspired by a Cecil Skotnes graphic in his childhood bedroom.”

The sculpture series “Shadow Figure I-IV”, is linked to Kentridge’s 2015 stage production of Alban Berg’s opera “Lulu” for New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

Van Rensburg said the four editioned bronzes, with estimates ranging from R1.5m to R4m, were first exhibited in Sydney, Australia, as part of a larger exhibition.

Also on offer were two early drawings: a circa 1985 study of a seated woman (R1.2m – R1.5m) and a surrealistic landscape from the “Deluge Series” (R2m – R3m).

Van Rensburg said collectors of Kentridge’s prints would also be interested in “Defining Impressions”, a curated auction of 80 prints which are published by six studios. This will be a live-virtual auction, organised by Van Rensburg, and is set to take place this week.

He said this specialist auction included three rare etchings from Kentridge’s 1978 series “Carlton Centre Games Arcade” (worth R50 000 – R70 0000) and is presented in a single lot. Other important Kentridge prints on offer include “Iris II” (in clamp) from 2005 (worth R750 000 – R850 000) and the 2013 linocut “Hope in the Green Leaves” (R600 000 – R800 000).

Strauss & Co managing executive Bina Genovese said the auction house is anticipating strong demand from international collectors interested in Kentridge and contemporary art from South Africa in general.

Meanwhile, Johannesburg Auction Week is set to culminate with a timed online auction of modern and contemporary art on Wednesday (November 8).

“The catalogue for this auction is brim-full with wonderful examples of contemporary art,” Genovese said.

This includes Tracey Rose’s photo self-portrait “MAQEII” (worth R120 000 – R150 000) from her Ciao Bella series; as well as a consignment of photographs by Cyrus Kabiru, David Goldblatt and Subotzky.