South African art bags £2.6m in London

25 March 2010

South African Art continued its march onto the world stage as a newly appreciated art form and investment at Bonhams seventh sale of South African Art in London on Wednesday.

Out of a total of 135 works by 42 artists, 82% sold, bringing in £2.6-million (R28.5-million) in total. This was Bonhams seventh South African art sale in five years.

Top prices for Pierneef, Sekoto, Laubser

“Works by Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, Gerard Sekoto and Maggie Laubser all beat their pre-sale estimates,” Bonhams said in a statement. “The top-priced work in the sale was by Pierneef, titled ‘An Extensive View of Farmlands’, which sold for £356 000 (R3.9-million) against an estimate of £120 000 to £180 000.”

The sale’s catalogue cover lot by Gerard Sekoto, “Market Street Scene, Cape Town,” sold for £192 000 (R2.1-million) against a pre-sale estimate of £120 000 to £180 000. And a Maggie Laubser, “Woman Wearing a Red Doek”, estimated at £20 000 to £30 000 sold for £50 400 (R554 000).

“Once again we have been delighted by the response from buyers,” Giles Peppiatt, director of South African art at Bonhams, said after the sale. “You would not have known in the saleroom today that we are cautiously emerging from the worst recession in 80 years. The mood was buoyant, the bidding brisk and the prices excellent.

“After five years of selling South African art, I feel that this is not a blip or a fashion but the start of a long march to real international recognition and appreciation of this vibrant art from the tip of Africa,” Peppiatt said.

Freedom Charter saved for nation

Two potentially controversial items – a South African flag that was flown by helicopter at Nelson Mandela’s presidential inauguration in 1994, and a signed copy of the Kliptown ANC Freedom Charter of 1955 – sold privately before the auction, Bonhams said.

The copy of the Freedom Charter was saved for the nation in a deal negotiated by Bonhams and the Liliesleaf Trust. It was bought for the South African State with funds provided by the Mantis hotel group, mining company Lonmin Plc, and Lord Renwick.

“This is the happiest possible outcome for the Freedom Charter,” Peppiatt said. “We are delighted to have been able to arrange a deal with this South African organisation, which was determined to see the Charter return to where it best belongs.”

The seller, Leon Levy, said in Bonhams’ statement: “This was always my hope, that the Charter would be returned to the State, and I am delighted that this has now been achieved.”

Nelson Mandela wrote in his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom”, that the Freedom Charter “captured the hopes and dreams of the people and acted as a blueprint for the liberation struggle and the future of the nation.”

Flag that flew at Mandela’s inauguration to fly home

A South African flag that was flown by helicopter at Nelson Mandela’s presidential inauguration on 10 May 1994, which was also due to be auctioned on Wednesday, was bought by a private benefactor.

“A London-based South African businessman and philanthropist who wishes to remain anonymous has offered to buy the flag for an undisclosed amount in a sale brokered by Bonhams on the understanding that it would be returned to South Africa and handed over to the South African government,” Bonhams said.

The flag was signed by three former South African presidents: Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and FW de Klerk.

SAinfo reporter

Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo material