Strauss & Co’s Auction Spotlights Pemba and Hodgins

Strauss Co Auction

Strauss & Co is pleased to announce details for its live broadcast auction of modern, post-war and contemporary art, decorative arts and jewellery, as well as a standalone sale of sweet and fortified wines and whisky, due to be held on 11 and 12 July 2021. This live auction will be conducted in real-time by Strauss & Co’s experienced team of auctioneers and temporarily replaces the online-only format of the annual July sale so as to enable digital infrastructure maintenance.


“This fantastic mid-winter auction will showcase selections from each of Strauss & Co’s departments,” says Susie Goodman, an executive director at Strauss & Co. “The two-day sale features four sessions exclusively devoted to art and one to decorative arts and books. It commences with a special session compiled by our wine department that features rare natural and fortified sweet wines from renowned South African and international producers. In addition, I am delighted to announce that Strauss & Co will also be hosting a non-selling exhibition of works by artists Robert Hodgins and George Pemba at our Johannesburg offices.”

Titled “Social Stances”, the exhibition (1–30 July, in-person visits by appointment only) is the third in a series on on-going exhibitions exploring synergies between pairs of historical artists. The first exhibition, in 2019, paired Louis Maqhubela and Douglas Portway, and the second, in 2020, placed works by Gladys Mgudlandlu and Maggie Laubser in conversation. The current exhibition is accompanied by a downloadable e-catalogue and extensive online education programme (schedule available on Strauss & Co website).

“This exhibition reassesses the work of both Hodgins and Pemba as essentially complex acts of creation, as both intellectual and emotional in origin,” says Wilhelm van Rensburg, Strauss & Co’s head curator and organizer of the exhibition series. “The works are products of a disciplined knowledge of the skill of painting and the art of transforming life into art.”

The July sale features six graphics by Hodgins, a tireless experimenter with the medium, and an early watercolour by Pemba depicting a young girl in a pensive mood (estimate R100 000–120 000). Painted in 1947 when the artist was 35, Pemba’s realist portrait leads a strong selection of works by contemporary figurative artists, among them Richard Mudariki, Nelson Makamo and Bambo Sibiya.

The six Makamo lots include Relocating (estimate R40 000–60 000), a study of family separation in bold acrylic colours, and This Real Cool (estimate R60 000–80 000), a watercolour showing the artist’s early interest in depicting subjects wearing eyepieces. Both works were made in 2009, when the artist was 27.

“To optimise the experience of inspecting and buying works remotely, as well as enjoying our important historical exhibition of Hodgins and Pemba, Strauss & Co is using Matterport, a powerful 3D platform that enables the online visualisation of physical spaces,” says Susie Goodman. “The results are immersive and give a sense of scale of the various works on the sale.”

Strauss & Co’s live broadcast auction will commence on Sunday, 11 July 2021, and will be led by auctioneers based in Johannesburg. The opening session features a strong selection of rare, natural and fortified sweet wines. Strauss & Co is delighted to be offering 18 vintages of Vin de Constance, the most recent being a lot of four 500ml bottles of the 2009 (estimate R8 000–10 000), and the earliest a single 500ml bottle of the highly regarded 1987 (estimate R25 000–30 000). Other local producers included in this showcase of South African sweet wine history are Boplaas, De Trafford, KWV, Monis, Mullineux, Nederberg and Overgaauw. The iconic international line-up includes Chateau d’Yquem, Suduiraut, Chapoutier, Kracher and Egon Muller.

“We are also proud to introduce a small selection of fine spirits in this sale as Strauss & Co looks to expand this rewarding category,” says Roland Peens from the auction house’s wine department. “The highlight is a 30-year-old Port Ellen single malt whisky as part of Douglas Laing’s Old & Rare Platinum Selection.”

The decorative arts department will present its offering in a single session starting at 10am on Monday, 12 July, and will be led by auctioneers based in Cape Town. Highlights from the jewellery selection include an Edwardian seed pearl and aquamarine gold pendant/brooch (estimate R5 000–7 000) and a ruby, emerald and diamond gold pendant/brooch (estimate R12 000–15 000). There are also exquisite timepieces by makers such as Ebel, Georg Jensen and Mont Blanc.

The extensive selection of George III-period silverware and mahogany furnishings includes a set of ten dining chairs (estimate R25 000–30 000) and figured mahogany bowfronted tallboy/chest-on-chest (estimate R15 000–20 000). The silverware offering also includes an Edward VII silver teapot and hot water jug from 1901 (estimate R12 000–15 000) and a George V silver presentation tray from 1931 (estimate R20 000–25 000), both by Walker & Hall, Sheffield.

The sale concludes on Monday, 12 July with a session beginning at 6pm. The opening lot of the evening sale is a glazed ceramic by Nico Masemola titled Hare with Blue Patches (estimate R15 000–20 000). A gorgeous depiction of two hares by Masemola, a former apprentice of Hylton Nel, received considerable attention in Strauss & Co’s inaugural ceramics focus in November 2020 and sold for R62 590.

The art selection for the July live broadcast auction includes auction mainstays such as Hugo Naudé, J.H. Pierneef and Anton van Wouw, who is represented by a Massa foundry maquette of Miner (estimate R250 000–350 000). The auction includes two early Pierneef lots: a charcoal and pencil still life from 1906 (estimate R180 000–240 000) and a 1925 pastel in autumnal colours portraying willow trees, a favourite arboreal subject of the artist’s (estimate R200 000–300 000).

Contemporary photographers Pieter Hugo and Mikhael Subotzky have a solid track record at auction. Hugo is represented with two early portraits: Sam, Klein Karoo (estimate R120 000–150 000), from a 2003 series portraying people with albinism, and Vian Mthembu, Durban (estimate R50 000–70 000), from a 2005 series on taxi washers. Subotzky’s Fancy Dress Competition, Beaufort West Agricultural Show (estimate R8 000–12 000) is from an important 2006 essay on Beaufort West.

The July sale includes two large single-owner collections. Banking group FirstRand has consigned a large batch of wildlife artworks by established twentieth century artists, among them Paul Bosman, Kim Donaldson, Johan Hoekstra, Liz McMahon, Sydney Rogers and David Shepherd. All proceeds from the sale of these works will be re-invested in contemporary South African art. The Victor Holloway Collection reflects the friendships and tastes of this Cape newspaper critic and author of a 1974 monograph on painter Cecil Higgs. Highlights include an energetic abstract composition by Higgs, Bus Ticket (estimate R18 000–24 000), and Willie Bester’s mixed-media painting Freedom Now (estimate R20 000–30 000), previously owned by Constitutional Court justice Albie Sachs.

The graphics selection includes contemporary printmakers like Mr Brainwash, William Kentridge and Diane Victor, as well as earlier innovators with the medium such as Hodgins, Walter Battiss, John Muafangejo and Jules van der Vijver. Ten of the 15 Battiss lots in this sale are graphics. Van der Vijver, who taught at Evangelical Lutheran Church Art and Craft Centre at Rorke’s Drift in the 1970s, and later at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town, is represented by six serigraphs showcasing his impeccable innovation and brilliant iconography.

Strauss & Co’s live broadcast auction commences on Sunday, 11 July, and includes three sessions. The sale continues on Monday, 12 July 2021, with a further three sessions. Details of each session and comprehensive lot information can be viewed on the Strauss & Co website. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Strauss & Co offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town are open by appointment only.

Editor's choice