R5.5m a record for South African sculpture

13 November 2013

History was made at an art auction in Johannesburg on Monday night when Jane Alexander’s Untitled sold for a R5.5-million, setting a new record for a South African sculpture.

It was a record for Jane Alexander as well as a record for contemporary art in South Africa.

Untitled soared above its pre-sale estimate of R2-3 million at the Strauss & Co evening auction as two buyers bid ferociously against each other until it was finally knocked down at R5.5 million – double the previous record set for a South African sculpture.

The piece is the companion work to Alexander’s seminal Butcher Boys, widely considered the most arresting acquisition in the Iziko National Gallery’s collection in Cape Town.

Previous record

The record for a South African sculpture was previously held by Anton van Wouw, whose Bad News sold for R2.2-million in 2010.

Alexander’s previous record was also achieved in 2010 for Racework – In The Event of an Earthquake, which sold for just over R1-million. Her West Coast African Angel sold for R682 000 on Monday night.

Works by Alexander rarely appear at auction. Stephan Welz, managing director of Strauss & Co said in a statement: “From the moment Untitled came through Strauss & Co’s doors, we knew it was going to generate tremendous interest.”

Other highlights of the sale

Included in Monday night’s “top 10” were two sculptures by Anton van Wouw – Bushman Hunter, which sold for R909 440, and The Scout, which sold for R863 968. Sydney Kumalo’s Horse and Rider sold for R625 000, while Adriaan Hendrik Boshoff’s Summer Fun sold for R568 400.

Other highlights included works by Walter Battiss – Atlantic Coast of America II and Watermelon Eater – which sold for R909 440 each.

Monday’s sale realised a total of R32-million. South African Art Times reports on other results from the auction:

  • Tretchikoff, Poinsettia: R280 000
  • JH Pierneef, Lanzerac, Stellenbosch: R568 400
  • Bernard Buffet, Bouquet de Pavots: R1.3-million
  • Marion Burnett, Cape Vulture: R70 000, almost double its estimate
  • Irma Stern, Watussi King: R400 000
  • Rosamund Everard, Barbeton Daisies: R240 000
  • Diederick During, Zulu Maiden with pot: R100 000
  • Robert Hodgins, Bad News General: R320 000

Source: Strauss & Co and South African Art Times