Strauss & Co’s forthcoming November sale in Johannesburg includes a session titled An Unsung History that is dedicated to highlighting the achievements of unheralded modernist artists working through the country’s most tumultuous periods.
The themed session includes early pioneers like Ernest Mancoba, John Koenakeefe Mohl, Gerard Sekoto and Moses Tladi. The special session is intended to commemorate a groundbreaking event held three decades ago at Johannesburg’s premier public art institution.
On 23 November 1988, curator Steven Sack presented his landmark exhibition, The Neglected Tradition: Towards a New History of South African Art (1930-1988), at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Informed by an earlier 1986 exhibition of works by, among others, painters Ephraim Ngatane and George Pemba, at the Alliance Française, Pretoria, Sack’s 1988 exhibition was widely hailed for casting a spotlight on a neglected canon of black artists.
Along with Sekoto, Pemba and Ngatane are now well-known figures at auction. In March 2009, at its debut sale in Johannesburg, Strauss & Co sold Pemba’s portrait of a dapper musician, The Guitar Player (1977), for R401 040.
Standout offerings from Strauss & Co’s selection of overlooked and unsung artists from the past century includes two oils by Ngatane and Sekoto’s Women and Baby in the Street (estimate R800 000 – 1.2 million), which was painted shortly after his return to Pretoria in 1947.
Tladi was the first black artist to be exhibited at the South African National Gallery. His work Mountain Landscape (estimate R80 000 – 120 000) portrays Mont-aux-Sources in his typically enraptured manner. Mohl, who appeared on Sack’s Neglected Tradition, is represented by a pastoral scene painted in Serowe, Botswana (estimate R40 000 – 60 000).
The sale also includes a strong selection of sculptures by, among others, Jackson Hlungwani, Noria Mabasa, Phillip Rikhotso, Cyprian Shilakoe, Winston Saoli and Lucas Sithole, as well as Zimbabweans Tapfuma Gutsa and Brother Andrew.
Dr Phuthuma Seoka’s carved and painted wood figures, Page vs. Coetzee (estimate R40 000 – 60 000), depicts two prominent heavyweight boxers from the 1980s and reads like an allegory of the politically troubled period it was created in.
‘The range and depth of talent South Africa produced throughout the 20th century is truly astonishing,’ says Susie Goodman, a director at Strauss & Co. ‘We are an auction house – not a museum – and our aim with this specially themed section of our sale is to stimulate collector interest in the diversity and variety of South Africa’s art history. Our aim is to broaden appreciation among collectors by introducing them to overlooked artists and practices from this country.’
Strauss & Co is a global leader for South African art and has sold nine of the ten most expensive paintings ever auctioned in South Africa. The An Unsung History sale forms part of the company’s day-long sale of modern and contemporary art at the Wanderers Club in Johannesburg on 12 November 2018. For further details consult the website: www.straussart.co.za
Important South African and International Art Auction
Monday 12 November 2018
14:00 Session One | 18:00 Session Two | 20:00 Session Three
Venue | The Wanderers Club | Ballroom, 21 North Street, Illovo, Johannesburg
Preview | Friday 9 to Sunday 11 November from 10:00 to 17:00
Walkabouts | Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 November at 11:00