Christie’s Contamporary Australian and South African Art Auction

Following the successful inaugural London sale in December 2007, Christie’s is delighted to announce the second sale of Modern and Contemporary Australian and South African Art on Tuesday, 16 December 2008; the sale brings the best artworks from Australia and South Africa to the London marketplace.

Many of the works offered have not been seen in their homelands for a generation or more, with little known works by Frederick McCubbin, Irma Stern and others coming to auction for the first time. Artists range from the Australian impressionists such as McCubbin and Streeton, through to modernists such as Grace Cossington Smith and Roy de Maistre, and the great post-war generation of Nolan, Boyd and Olsen, many of whom made their reputation in the vibrant London art scene in the late 1950s and 1960s. The sale culminates in a selection of contemporary works by such leading artists as Paddy Bedford, Howard Arkley and Tim Maguire in Australia and Dylan Lewis in South Africa.

Australian Modern and Contemporary Art Highlights
Leading this section is a single-owner collection of nine pictures by the pioneering Australian modern artist Grace Cossington Smith, including Wattle (estimate: £20,000-30,000). The property of the artist’s sister Mabel, the suite of pictures features five fine still lifes dating from the 1920s to the 1940s. Cossington Smith was one of the first Australian artists, along with de Maistre and Wakelin, to take an interest in colour. She developed her own individual technique and her works demonstrate the influence of the impressionist and post-impressionist revolution on Australian art. Painting in single dabs of pure colour, Cossington Smith created a language which was completely new in Australian art at the time and which placed her work in the vanguard of modernist art in 1930s Sydney.

Moving forwards by almost a century, the sale will include six flower pieces dating from 1993-94 and 2007-08 by the contemporary Australian artist Tim Maguire. Maguire’s work resonates with that of Cossington Smith, as he too explores the nature of pure colour, this time in the digital age. In his latest work Maguire’s dots of magenta, cyan and yellow, mixed in a computer, generate a uniquely new and intense fluorescence. One of a group of early still lifes from 1993-4 to be offered is the powerful Untitled 94U09 (estimate: £35,000-45,000). Maguire’s extravagantly enlarged images of flowers, blown up from digital DNA – derived from photographed details of those intensely observed 17th century Dutch and Flemish still lifes, and more recently from the artist’s own photographs of flowers – might be viewed as the 21st century cousins of Cossington Smith’s vibrant flowerpieces.

South African Modern + Contemporary Art Highlights
2007 saw significant demand for South African art, with the sale at Christie’s of Irma Stern’s stunning Congolese Woman for £569,300 (ZAR7.7m.), setting a new auction record for the artist. The select group of South African art offered in the upcoming sale is led by two further beautiful Irma Stern canvases from 1944: Roses in a vase (estimate £250,000-350,000), and Malay Girl with Hibiscus (estimate £250,000-350,000). The two works date to the highpoint of Stern’s career in the mid-1940s when she produced some of her most powerful and accomplished work. In a flurry of activity, stimulated and inspired by her travels to Zanzibar and Congo, Stern emerged as a great colourist and the present works show her on virtuoso form. These two paintings, one of a vase of red roses on a sumptuous golden ground, and the other of a richly exotic Cape Malay woman, embellished with the accent of a tropical red hibiscus flower, on a thickly palette-knifed jade ground, powerfully convey the artist’s legendary joie de vivre.

After being commissioned to sculpt a leopard for Johann Rupert’s Leopard Creek golf course, South African sculptor Dylan Lewis developed the project into a series of 18 leopard studies. This project allowed him, as he commented in 2007, ‘to explore the leopard form in a progression of different attitudes (from a state of repose through to awakening, hunting, stalking and killing). The sale will include four of these breathtaking, life-size, bronzes of leopards, including Sitting Leopard, 1996 (estimate: £40,000-60,000), plus a maquette for Running cheetahs, no 2 (estimate: £10,000-15,000). Lewis’s single-owner sale at Christie’s in June 2007 set records for the artist and showed the new levels of international interest that Lewis and his fellow South African artists now attract.

Further highlights include a rare canvas by Pieter Wenning, Cottages at Claremont, (estimate: £40,000-60,000), and a fine veldt landscape by Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, Landscape, (estimate: £60,000-80,000) both works originally from the collection of R. P. Gain, Cape Town.