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    Virtual auction sparks hope

    Numbers have a way of speaking for themselves. Small wonder that fine art auctioneers Strauss & Co say that they are very satisfied with the results of their recent maiden virtual sale. Over 500 bidders from over 20 countries vied for rare and collectable wines in the opening session. And that was just the beginning of things. Held over two days, from studios set up in Cape Town and Johannesburg, the nearly 650-lot sale earned R79 million.

    Still life with lilies. Image: Strauss & Co

    The stars
    Established bellwethers at auction JH Pierneef, Irma Stern and Alexis Preller once again proved their durability in difficult times, while Walter Battiss, Peter Clarke, Erik Laubscher, George Pemba and Vladimir Tretchikoff all posted better than expected results.
    Irma Stern’s Still Life with Lilies achieved the highest price. This “gorgeous confection of hot orange” painted in 1947 sold to a telephone bidder for R14.8 million. Stern’s Zanzibar Arab, painted in 1939 at the start of her golden period, sold for R11.4 million, also to a telephone buyer.

    Alexis Preller’s Space Angel, an oil and gesso work from 1971, sold for R5.7 million to an online buyer who bested one early telephone bidder. The sale of this work rounded off the top three lots traded at this – in many ways – extraordinary sale, reports the auction house.

    Strauss & Co’s decorative arts offering included jewellery, silver, furniture and objets d’art from various countries and epochs. A 19th Century black japanned and chinoiserie decorated brass-mounted cabinet-on-stand was sold to an online bidder for R431 984, far above estimate. A 25-lot selection of VOC items assembled by a collector generated consistent interest, with sales often besting estimates. A trio of Arita blue and white VOC dishes, all from the late 17th century, sold to a telephone bidder.

    Over 500 bidders from over 20 countries vied for rare and collectable wines in the opening session of the virtual auction, culminating in a White-Glove sale (auction parlance for 100% lot sell-through rate earning a total of R2.12 million.

    An endorsement
    “We are delighted and deeply grateful for the strong results generated in every session of the sale,” says Strauss & Co chairperson Frank Kilbourn. “It is an important endorsement of the value and collectability of South African art, wine and furniture, as well as the technology-driven approach taken by Strauss & Co to bring much-needed liquidity to the secondary art market.”

    “The strict terms of the Disaster Management Act necessitated an action-orientated plan by Strauss & Co’s executive team, both to secure the livelihoods of our staff as well as ensure continuity and liquidity for our clients,” says Strauss & Co’s joint managing director Bina Genovese. “We have a huge responsibility to our sellers, especially during the current health and economic emergency, when the disposal of assets is an immediate necessity, not a luxury. It is our duty as South Africa’s leading auction house to be steadfast and inventive during difficult times so that we can offer our clients an effortless transactional service to secure their livelihoods.”

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