22 February 2011 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Selling South African art

I recently went for a talk entitled ‘Transcending Local Modernisms: The Art of Irma Stern’ hosted by Stephan Welz and Co., and given by Wilhelm van Rensburg. The talk was a good introduction to Stern’s work - prompted perhaps by the imminent sale of Stern’s ‘Zulu Woman’, scheduled for auction in Cape Town on 22 and 23 February 2011.

It’s a beautiful piece of portraiture - but I am equally fascinated by how South African Art is really coming into its own in investment terms. Described as Lot 642, this oil on canvas dates from 1935 and should sell for between R16 million and R20 million!

Just over ten years ago, on the 8th of May 2000, one of Stern’s paintings sold at Sotheby’s South Africa in Johannesburg for what was then an all time record of R1.7 million. In October 2010, Stern’s ‘Gladioli’ was sold for an all-time high of R13.3 million, followed by the sale of ‘Bahora Girl’ for R26.7 million later that month.

I don’t anything about investing in art (or investing in anything really), but that seems like phenomenal growth to me?

There are lots of good resources on investing in art, like The Art Market Monitor and the Mei Moses Fine Art Index. They seem to indicate in particular that South African art is in a good place right now, with many artists getting international exposure and, recognition they missed out on during apartheid.

Works by artists like Gerard Sekoto, Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, Maggie Laubser,  Alexis Preller, Cecil Skotnes and Stanley Pinker are trading for record prices locally and abroad. William Kentridge, Marlene Dumas and Zwelethu Mthethwa, also sell well, especially overseas.

Which brings me on to my next point - with South African art attracting the attention of investors, it is equally capable of catching the eye of art lovers around the world.

I went to Amsterdam just to see the Van Gogh Museum, I want to see Monet’s Giverny and one day, will travel to Mexico City to see the Frida Kahlo Museum.

And how great would it be to see art lovers flocking to South Africa to see the Irma Stern Museum, to visit the Walter Battiss Museum in Somerset East, and page homage to Gerard Sekoto? A whole new - and wonderfully enriching - way to market South Africa?

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