Valentine’s Day and ultimately #ZumaExitDay was an auspicious day to have been chosen for the Strauss & Co Preview of its first ever dedicated Contemporary Art Auction, due to take place on Saturday. The Preview was held at the new Cape Town Cruise Liner Terminal in the Cape Town Harbour.

Traffic into the Port was a challenge from various parts of Cape Town, but the three-hour Preview was more than enough time to allow us to walk around the Preview exhibition, to enjoy the Kleine Zalze bubbly, generously topped up, and the serving of delectable canapés made with love by Escoffier Catering, each platter decorated with red roses in honour of Valentine’s Day. I had invited Eugene van Eck to accompany me, and learnt that he studied art, making him a perfect and attentive companion. Little were we to know with what jubilation the evening would end, with the announcement of his resignation by our former President Zuma at 23h00. 

I had not previously seen the new Cape Town Cruise Liner Terminal, and an unused section of the building was set up for the Preview, the art works professionally presented throughout the venue, each with details of the artist, the title of the artwork, its method of preparation, and an estimate of the Auction bidding price range. The estimations surprised Eugene and I, and it was clear that the works by William Kentridge (one of the four works is on the left) will be likely to achieve the highest prices at the Auction on Saturday.  A total of 71 lots is to go on Auction on Saturday. I am unable to present them all in this Blogpost, selecting a few to demonstrate the diversity of artists and their work. 

The invitation to attend the Preview featured the ‘Kiss Kiss’ painting by Georgina Gratrix, and is estimated to fetch R80000 – R120000. It is the main photograph above and was a perfect choice for the Valentine’s Day event. 

The Auction includes works by South African as well as African contemporary artists, and coincides with the Cape Town Art Fair running from 16-18 February. This event is held annually, in the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

The media release highlighted the following works of art, not all of which intrigued me nor did I photograph each of them:

• an important charcoal and pastel drawing by William Kentridge from his film Felix in Exile (1994), estimated at R2-2.5 million (right)

• an early ‘Cake’ (1983) painting by Penny Siopis, estimated at R600 000 – R 800 000 (left)

• Joachim Schönfeldt’s portfolio of 27 painted and embossed works on paper, ‘The Model Men’ (2000-12), estimated at R800 000 – R1,2 million;

• a pyramid sculpture, ‘Third World Disorder’ (2010), by Kendell Geers, estimated at R600 000 – R800 000.

• Robert Hodgins, ‘Drunk in the Docks’, estimated at R800 000 – R1 200 000 (right)

Works by top contemporary painters Lisa Brice, Kate Gottgens, Helen Sebidi, and Jessica Webster, as well as by Zander Blom and Ayanda Mabulu, are included in the Auction. The ‘Locust’ wire work by Walter Oltmann (left) was the most unusual,  in our opinion. 

Recognising the emergence of photography in the period since 1990, photographic works by Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou, Kudzanai Chiurai, Abrie Fourie, Cyrus Kabiru (right), David Goldblatt, Mohau Modisakeng, Tracey Rose, Mikhael Subotzky, and Guy Tillim are offered.

The launch of our first contemporary art auction during the Cape Town Art Fair heralds an exciting new direction for Strauss & Co and should, in time, further enhance our relevance and sustainability’, said Strauss & Co chairperson Frank Kilbourn. Together with Strauss & Co’s joint managing directors, Bina Genovese and Vanessa Phillips, Kilbourn has been instrumental in guiding the company towards a more diversified offering that now includes six online auctions and a contemporary sale, as well as their four live auctions.

Works by artists by Jane Alexander, Deborah Bell, Norman Catherine, Robert Hodgins, William Kentridge, and Penny Siopis have performed consistently well at art auctions. Kentridge ranks among the top performing artists at auctions in our country, alongside blue-chip artists like JH Pierneef, Gerard Sekoto, and Irma Stern. Strauss & Co has sold 240 Kentridge lots since 2009, with a cumulative value of close to R82 million. The two other top-performing contemporaries are Hodgins and Catherine. Hodgins brought in R44 million from 195 lots sold since 2009, while Catherine has achieved R11 million from 157 lots sold over the same period.

The canapés we were served by very friendly professional staff included Thai chicken and cucumber lollipops; Parmesan shortbread with beef carpaccio; oysters with salmon and ginger; chicken liver pâté; salmon and Avo on crisps; potato fondant, pea purée, and beef fillet; Prawn and chilli jam; and mushroom crumbed balls. The piece de resistance was chocolate hearts with caramel and marshmallow fillings, and Lindt chocolate balls, a perfect ending to this Valentine’s Day event. 

Strauss & Co Contemporary Art Auction. 17 February at 18h00.  Cruise Terminal, E Berth, Duncan Docks, Duncan Road, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. PREVIEW 15 February, 10am to 5pm, 16 – 17 February, 10am to 6pm. WALKABOUTS Thursday 15 February at 11am, Saturday 17 February at 12.30pm. Tel (o21) 683 6560

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein