Irma gawd! Two Stern works set to sell for R14m
A family is about to get a lot richer as they flog the still-lifes by the legendary SA artist
Two never-before-seen paintings by South African painter Irma Stern are expected to fetch between R9-million and R14-million at auction later this month.
The artworks, which were held in private family collections, had never been seen in the open market before and have added to the late artist’s burgeoning international reputation.
Steyn is considered one of the most collectable artists in the world and is one of only four SA artists with a ranking in the Global 500 Artprice index, with the others being Marlene Dumas, J.H.Pierneef and William Kentridge.
The index is based on global sales at auction, as well as number of works sold and top prices achieved.The highest price ever fetched for one of Stern’s works was Arab Priest, sold at Bonhams in London in 2011 for R30.5-million. Several of her other works have sold for between R12-million and R14-million in the past five years.
Emma Bedford‚ a director of Aspire Art Auctions which is hosting the sale of the two new paintings‚ said the reason for Stern’s popularity was because of their historical and stylistic importance.
“She was very influential on South African art in the middle decades of the 20th century, and was responsible for marrying European influences in her art, such as Expressionism, with her own African subjects and experiences. In market terms, the value of her work at auction has been steadily increasing over the last few years,” Bedford said.The two paintings, set to go under the hammer in Johannesburg on June 17, are both still lifes painted during the artist’s time at her studio in Cape Town around 70 years ago.
Stern, who studied art in Germany, was not well received when she first returned to South Africa and was dismissed as “immoral” for her art, which had influences of German expressionism.
She later went on to win the Prix d’Honneur at the Bordeaux International exhibition and the Peggy Guggenheim international art prize.
Bedford said: “Given the international interest in Irma Stern, we are delighted to bring these two beautiful works to the market. They both embody her style and her philosophy, which was such a rich mélange of the cultures we are heir to here at the southern tip of Africa.”Stern scholar Dr Marion Arnold‚ of Loughborough University‚ UK‚ said in a statement issued by the auctioneers: “Stern produced still-life paintings throughout her career‚ invariably depicting natural and cultural forms. Flowering plants and fruits‚ often from her garden at The Firs, in Rosebank, Cape Town‚ feature prominently‚ as do artifacts she collected.”
Professor Sandra Klopper‚ art historian and former deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Cape Town‚ told TimesLIVE earlier that the artist’s paintings “almost invariably include not only fruit and flowers‚ but objects d’art from her collection and‚ in some cases‚ her own ceramics.
“A highly inventive painter‚ she repeatedly transcends the constraints imposed by traditional genres to produce works that are often exuberantly energetic‚ but always carefully composed.”