This November, Strauss & Co presents the Harry Lits Collection of Works by the Amadlozi Group, providing a rare opportunity for collectors to acquire a part of this groundbreaking art collective.
This presentation of over 30 works is an important highlight in Strauss & Co’s upcoming auction to be held on 10 November at the Wanderers Club, Johannesburg. It will be the first time that such a significant collection of definitive examples of the work by this seminal group of artists has been offered at auction.
The Lits Collection, one of the most important collections of late 20th century sculpture, is the result of decades of unprecedented collecting. Defying the stereotypical image of an art collector, Lits is a pharmacist who has an extraordinary eye and a commitment to a collection that reflects his abiding love for South African art. Now aged 84, he is selling the collection as part of a lifestyle downsizing.
Lits’ first encounter with the Amadlozi Group came through his friend and neighbour, Egon Guenther, who also designed his house and where the collection was displayed. The term amadlozi translates to ‘spirit of our ancestors’ and Guenther played an instrumental role in creating the Group. In the 1950s, the Egon Guenther Gallery in Johannesburg supported many painters, sculptors and print makers who matched the German’s desire to encourage artists working in an African aesthetic. Among them were Cecil Skotnes, Edoardo Villa, Sydney Kumalo and Ezrom Legae – each of whom was fundamental to the Amadlozi Group during the 1960s. The Lits Collection, which comprises primarily sculptures, includes works by all four of these artists. In addition, it offers a compelling view into the work that emanated from the influential Polly Street Art Centre where Skotnes and, later Villa, both taught, and Kumalo and Legae first studied.
‘The collection is a stunning credit to Harry Lits’ vision,’ says Ruarc Peffers, Senior Art Specialist at Strauss & Co. ‘During the 1960s and 1970s Lits assembled this collection of seminal Amadlozi Group work which is one of the finest single-owner sculpture collections to have emerged in years. The sculptures are all excellent examples: supremely cast, exquisitely finished and with beautiful patinas – we are extremely privileged to have the opportunity to bring this illustrious collection to market.’