Female Artists Lead Second South African Sale to World Record Figures at Bonhams in London

Pictures by Irma Stern and Maggie Laubser dominated prices at Bonhams second South African sale in London yesterday (30.1.08) which was over £2m up at £3.7m on the previous sale in May 2007 which achieved £1.4m.

The packed saleroom in Bonhams’ Bond Street Headquarters said it all, as 200 bidders in the room and many more on the bank of phones drove prices sky-high. Many commented that it was not only South African gold that was attracting attention now. The sale which took place during a very turbulent week on the financial markets, was seemingly untroubled by any uncertainty.

The success of the sale was also evident in the number of pictures which beat the top price achieved at the last sale – an Irma Stern titled The Tomato Seller which made £186,00. At yesterday’s sale the top price was £378,400 (estimate £250,000 to £350,000) for Lot 79, Irma Stern’s ‘Still life with chrysanthemums and a pumpkin’. This set a new world record for a still life by this artist. Irma Stern (1894-1966), South Africa’s artistic grande dame, entrenched her reputation at this sale with seven paintings in the top ten pictures sold. Prices ranged from £378,400 to £120,000.

Another well-known female artist, Maria Magdalena (Maggie) Laubser, (1886-1973), achieved a stunning result with lot 65, The Harvesters which made £126,000 against an estimate of £25,000 to £35,000. This is a world record price for a Maggie Laubser landscape painting.

The only other painter to make the top ten was Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (1886-1957) who was represented by two pictures, lot 38 Olifants River, Northern Transvaal, which made £108,000 and lot 39 Acacia trees on the veldt, £81,600.

Giles Peppiatt, Director of Bonhams South African sales expressed delight at the growth and strength of this particular art market. “We have seen great strength in depth with 72 per cent sold by value. What we are seeing is knowledgeable buying with the best prices achieved by quality. One is always nervous to speak about investment value but the best works have always appreciated in value.”

With the largest proportion of buyers being from the USA and Europe, South African Art is now truly well established as an international market.

This second Bonhams South African sale featured 295 pictures by 100 artists. The next South African Sale at Bonhams in London’s Bond Street, will take place in September 2008.


Lot 79: world record for an Irma Stern still-life

Lot 65: world record for a Maggie Laubser landscape

Lot 59: world record for an Adolph Jentsch (beating our previous record)

Lot 267: world record for a Helen Sebidi (£36,000; previous record was US$2,750!)

Lot 150: world record for a Francois Krige

Lot 151: no.2 for a Krige

Lot 19: world record for a Frans Oerder still-life

Lot 191: world record for a Frederick Hutchison Page

Lot 201: world record for an Alexis Preller installation

Lot 34: world record for a Tinus de Jongh