Flying Tutu sculpture fetches R850 000

18 March 2015

Contemporary South African art proved to be a big seller at a Strauss & Co auction held on Monday night in Cape Town.

The sale achieved a total of R50-million with a value sell-through rate of over 84%, once again the highest in the current market, the auctioneer said in a statement.

A popular work by Ed Young of Emeritus Archbishop Tutu swinging from a chandelier sold for R852 600, far exceeding pre-sale estimates of between R450 000 and R550 000.

The sculpture depicts a flying Tutu, smiling as he holds on to a chandelier. The sculpture was commissioned in 2010 by the Institute for Democracy in SA (Idasa). The Arch was sold to a private buyer after Idasa closed in 2013.

The Arch
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu jokes with artist Ed Young at the unveiling of “The Arch” at Idasa in 2010 (Image: Idasa/


In a preview of the sale, Strauss & Co wrote on its website: “Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu, the first black Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, well known for his steadfast and unapologetic public voice, is also celebrated for his good humour. Upon seeing Ed Young’s super-realist sculpture depicting a likeness of him swinging from a chandelier, Tutu laughed and pulled a fist at the work’s creator. ‘I’ll send you bad dreams,’ he told Young.”

The top-selling work was Schmerzensmann III, an extraordinary sculpture by Dutch artist Berlinde De Bruyckere that fetched R3 410 400. De Bruyckere was the solo artist in the Belgian Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013, curated by South African author JM Coetzee, Strauss & Co said.

The work comprises “a pale, attenuated figure made from epoxy and wax and hung from the apex of an iron column sourced from a decommissioned 19th-century station. Conceived as a powerful reflection on humanity, it evokes images of war – particularly of World War I fought largely on Belgian soil – as much as of recent atrocities,” the auctioneers say on their website.

A world record was reached for a Robert Hodgins work J’accuse, which sold for R2,5-million, more than double its pre-sale estimate. His Porn King sold for a little under R910 000.

Vladimir Tretchikoff’s Zulu Maiden fetched almost R3,2-million, while William Kentridge’s Head sold for R1,48-million.

JH Pierneef’s Wild Pear Trees, which had a pre-sale estimate of R600 000 to R900 000, sold for more than R2-million; and The Maluti Mountains, depicting the mountains around Ficksburg in the Free State, sold for over R1,8-million.

His Storm Clouds and Trees, a charming landscape painted in 1928 using casein, a milk-based binding agent, sold for R704 816. A fast-drying material casein demands certainty, Strauss & Co says on its website: “Characterised by their notational brushstrokes and impressionistic use of colour, Pierneef’s casein works are a benchmark of his intuition and assuredness as a painter.”

Stokerij (Paarl) and Cape Kitchen, two paintings by Pieter Hugo Naude, fetched over R204 000 and R341 000 respectively.

A Sailing Barge on a Canal, a work by Maggie Laubser, one of South Africa’s most well known expressionists, sold for R250 096.

“The auction proved that great art, well presented, will always achieve great results,” Strauss & Co said.

The top 10 lots, according to Strauss & Co, were:

  • Berlinde De Bruyckere; Schmerzensmann III R3 410 400
  • Vladimir Griegorovich Tretchikoff; Zulu MaidenR3 183 040
  • Wolf Kibel; Portrait of the Artist’s Son R2 955 680
  • Robert Griffiths Hodgins; J’accuse R2 500 960
  • Jacob Hendrik Pierneef; Wild Pear Trees R2 046 240
  • Jacob Hendrik Pierneef; The Maluti Mountains R1 818 880
  • Alexis Preller; Mapogga Wedding R1 477 840
  • William Joseph Kentridge; Head R1 477 840
  • Robert Griffiths Hodgins; The Porn King R909 440
  • Ed Young; Arch R852 600

SAinfo reporter