Thu Oct 27 20:44:24 SAST 2016

London now the place to sell South African art

TMG Digital | 10 January, 2016 16:51
ARAB IN BLACK: Irma Stern's work might fetch R19-million

London is now the place to sell South African art‚ with R1bn sold in the last nine years‚ according to UK art auctioneers Bonhams.

With that in mind‚ Bonhams directors Giles Peppiatt and Hannah O’Leary will be visiting the South Africa in January and March to seek more local art‚ and to do valuations and to offer interviews on how South African art has come to achieve the prices it now commands.

With the staggering R17.9m price achieved for its latest Irma Stern painting offered in London – ‘Arab in Black’ picture that helped to save Nelson Mandela’s life – Bonhams London now has the pre-eminent position in selling South African art.

The international fine art auction house headquartered in London has over the past nine years increasingly dominated the trade in South African art sold at auction‚ delivering world record prices for artists like Stern‚ Pierneef and Sekoto whose work has achieved previously unheard of prices.

Selling in Sterling adds huge interest for South African clients‚ Bonham says.

Currently Bonhams holds the record for eight out of the top ten South African pictures sold at auction – all of them by Irma Stern who stands head and shoulders above other South African artists of her generation. The other two pictures in the top ten prices achieved are also by her.

With the last sale of South African art at Bonhams‚ it has become an unchallengeable fact that London is the place to maximize prices for South African artists‚ said Hannah O’Leary‚ Head of Bonhams South African Art Department.

She said after the sale: “Once again our top prices command all others. The flow of art in and out of London makes this the only place to sell if you want to achieve the best prices‚ record prices. No one else is able to sell R150m in one afternoon sale as Giles Peppiatt‚ Director of African Art at Bonhams‚ has done. In the past nine years Bonhams has sold in excess of R1billion worth of South African art.”

The most expensive South African painting sold by the UK auctioneers was Arab Priest‚ which fetched R34.4m in 2011. This was followed by Bahora Girl which sold for R26.4m a few months earlier.

The latest win for Bonhams‚ the ‘Arab in Black’ picture by Irma Stern has a fascinating history. The painting was donated by Betty Suzman‚ the sister-in-law of anti-apartheid activist Helen Suzman‚ to a charity auction in the late 1950s to raise funds for Mandela and other ANC activists during the Treason Trial.


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