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ALEXIA WALKER: Record sales and major events make for a sterling art year
ALEXIA WALKER: Record sales and major events make for a sterling art year avatar

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Sibande was honoured in November with the 2017 African Arts Award from the Smithsonian in Washington.

The global interest in African art received a further boost with Sotheby’s first standalone sale of modern and contemporary African art taking place in London in May.

Also in London, Bonhams held two sales of modern and contemporary African art and two sales of South African art, bringing to four the total number of auctions dedicated to art from the continent.

On the local auction circuit, the main auction houses set several new artist records.

The top lot by value on Aspire’s November sale was the drawing Soho with Coffee Plunger and Cup by Kentridge from his film Mine, which sold for just under R5.5m with premium. This is a record price for a drawing by Kentridge in SA, nearly doubling the work’s high estimate of R2.5m.

Sydney Kumalo’s Mythological Rider from 1970 sold for R1.9m, far exceeding its top estimate of R1m. This is a significant world record and an exciting development in the market of this sculptor.

Local interest in global contemporary artists also picked up. Earlier in 2017, Golden Mask, a photographic print by acclaimed artist Marina Abramovic was acquired for just under R1.5m.

Strauss & Co achieved its highest single sale turnover with its Johannesburg June sale achieving a total of R89m and an 87% sell-through rate by lot and value combined.

The previously unseen Pierneef painting, Farm Jonkershoek with Twin Peaks Beyond, Stellenbosch, broke the artist’s previous record selling for R20.5m. It was the second-highest price yet achieved for a painting on auction in SA, just short of Irma Stern’s Two Arabs, which sold at Strauss for R21.1m in 2011.

The soaring prices for the works of Alexis Preller were recently confirmed in the Strauss November sale in Johannesburg, where Fleurs du Mal went for R8.1m against a top estimate of R6m.

In September, the FNB Joburg Art Fair celebrated its 10th anniversary with artist Robin Rhode invited as the featured artist — he was at the fair’s inaugural edition too.

The Cape Town Art Fair held its fifth edition in February and recently announced a new partnership with title sponsor Investec which has signed for an initial three years. This bodes well for the future of art in SA.

On the gallery circuit, the calendar ends off on a high note with an exhibition of world renowned Ghanaian artist El Anatsui showing his bottle cap works for the first time on the African continent.

The show entitled Meyina (I am going in the Ewe language of Ghana) has been curated by the Nigerian curator Bisi Silva and runs at the Goodman gallery in Johannesburg until December 20.

• Walker is a partner at Walker Scott, which offers end-to-end art management services.

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