Look to Kentridge, Clarke, Hodgins and other contemporary artists as the momentum of contemporary South African art sales looks to further increase in 2016, so says Anton Welz, auctioneer at Stephan Welz & Co. According to Welz, 2015 was a year marked by a very active contemporary market, during which published results of local fine art auction houses were in excess of R290 million across all categories. First time and experienced contemporary collectors alike should take note of the upcoming Stephan Welz & Co. fine arts auction in Cape Town, which will take place 1 and 2 March 2016.
Some of the highly collectable artists with works going under the hammer include Robert Hodgins, Peter Clarke and William Kentridge. Kentridge’s Arc Procession 2 is one of a number of studies exhibited at Cassirer Fine Art in 1990. Many panels were exhibited overlapping to form large arcs of figures in processional combinations, and the head of a figure, possibly a miner, wearing a visor appeared in a number of the large works and studies. This work is one of the very few to be offered from the Arc Procession series. It was gifted by the artist to the current owner and will be offered for the first time on the auction market at an estimate of R500 000 – R700 000.
“Prolific artists like Kentridge play a major role in attracting new and younger audiences,” says Welz. “Besides the fact that he produces so much extraordinary art, Kentridge works in so many mediums, from prints and drawings to animated film. This makes his appeal very broad: there’s a Kentridge for every age group.” Over 100 Kentridge works of varying media were offered on the combined local and international auction market in 2015 alone.
Fire and Drought
Other important contemporary works include Peter Clark’s Refugees From The Drought-Stricken Zone and The Fire in the Borgo by Robert Hodgins. The much-loved Peter Clarke has proven to be one of South Africa’s leading artists, with prices for his paintings having risen dramatically in the last five years. Stephan Welz & Co. hold the artist’s record of R700 000, paid for Landscape with Sheep in October 2014.
Refugees From The Drought-Stricken Zone is Clarke’s 1958 copy of a work from Candido Portinari’s ‘Retirantes’ (Refugees) series. Like Portinari, Clarke has captured the suffering of the poor and the horrors of war – in this case, an old man with a walking stick with woman and child. He has reproduced it in his own distinct style, which bears elements of early Cuban influences. The original Portinari was a painting Clarke himself admired, which adds intrigue to this work. “Having dealt with many of the Peter Clarke works that have set world records, both on paper and canvas, Refugees From The Drought-Stricken Zone is one of the best pieces by the artist I have had the privilege of offering,” says Gary Shean, Head of Paintings at Stephan Welz & Co. This work is valued at R200 000– R250 000.
Robert Hodgins, whose The Fire in the Borgo is also up for auction, was one of South Africa’s leading contemporary artists up until his death in 2010. It was at Wits University where he was lecturing on painting that he met art historian Elizabeth Rankin, the owner of the work for sale, which was painted between 1976 and 1986. The story of how the painting came to be – as a demonstration of art techniques — is intriguing and endearing, as was the relationship between two great figures in the history of South African art, namely Elizabeth Rankin and Robert Hodgins. The comical aspect of poking fun at Raphael’s grandiose ‘Fire in the Borgo’ adds to the work’s intrigue as well as the fact that Hodgins chose to revisit the painting and rework it after nearly a decade. Prices for works by Hodgins have increased over the last five years, with five paintings selling over the R1 million mark on the auction market since 2012. The Fire in the Borgo is valued at R200 000 – R250 000.
There are also a number of works by contemporary and 20th century international artists, such as Mr. Brainwash, Salvador Dali, Alexander Calder and Pavlos Dinyssopoulos, a 20th century Greek painter. “These, as well as a rare Pablo Picasso ceramic we are selling, should further intensify bids from international collectors, who benefit from our weaker currency,” said Welz. Picasso’s quirky ceramics have taken some of the limelight away from his paintings in recent months, with a group of 126 Picasso ceramics selling for $19.4 million internationally, tripling its presale estimate.
“While contemporary is the big attraction these days, investing in South African classics is always a good idea; such as Frieda Locke’s work Still Life with White Hat, which goes on auction next month,” said Welz. “Seldom do we see a work of such exceptional quality on the market,” said Welz. Known for her still lifes and interior scenes, Locke is a highly collectable South African master. It is not often that one comes across a Locke still life that is executed with such a vibrant choice of colour. The paint is thickly applied throughout the work, the artist’s bold brush stroke is evident, and the composition is balanced, with the table in the top right corner and books in the lower left corner. The work is valued at R350 000 – R450 000.
The Stephan Welz & Co. Decorative and Fine Art Auction will take place in The Great Cellar, Alphen Estate, Alphen Drive, Constantia on Tuesday 1 and Wednesday 2 March 2015. Pre-auction viewing is open to the public from Wednesday 24 February to Sunday 28 February, 10am – 5pm, and a cocktail event will take place on 23 February. Catalogues will be available from both the Cape Town and Johannesburg offices as well as the Stephan Welz & Co. website www.stephanwelzandco.co.za.
Anyone who can’t attend the auction in person can bid for pieces online via art and antiques auctions portals www.the-saleroom.com and www.invaluable.com. Users of these websites can search catalogues and place their bids over the internet in real-time, with live audio and video from the auction room.