An exceptional assembly of bronzes by three trailblazing modernist sculptors – Ezrom Legae, Lucas Sithole and Edoardo Villa – lead Strauss & Co’s robust offering of sculpture at its forthcoming live sale on Monday, 11 November in Johannesburg.
Strauss & Co is especially delighted to present collectors an opportunity to bid on Lucas Sithole’s monumental bronze, Wounded Buffalo (estimate R1.5 – 2 million), a storied piece of South African sculpture that portrays a stricken buffalo.
Measuring over a metre high, the bronze was commissioned by mining house Union Corporation Ltd, Johannesburg, at a price of R10 000. Modelled after a small work that Sithole included in his exhibition at Gallery 101 in 1970, Wounded Buffalo was installed outside the mineworkers’ recreation hall at Bracken Mines, Evander, a year later.
Richly imbued with metaphor – over 69,000 mineworkers died in mining-related accidents from 1900 to 1993 – Wounded Buffalo has a considerable reputation. Sithole’s work is discussed and/or illustrated in important books by art historians Esmé Berman, Frieda Harmsen, Elizabeth Rankin and Sue Williamson, and also featured in two journals published at the University of California, Los Angeles.
When Bracken Mines closed in 1993, Wounded Buffalo was sold to a private collector. It’s appearance on the art market now is an opportunity for collectors to secure a museum-quality piece of South African art.
Ezrom Legae’s African Goat (estimate R1 – 1.5 million) is a fine example of the sculptural style that emerged in Johannesburg in the 1950s. A synthesis of African and European stylistic influences, it saw Legae and his mentor, Sydney Kumalo, frequently portray animal subjects. Legae’s interest in goats was at once formal (he was familiar with Picasso’s goats) and social (he recognised their use in traditional rites).
African Goat was cast at the Vignali Foundry in Pretoria, the oldest bronze foundry in the country, in 1990. It was limited to an edition of seven, one of which is in the collection of Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town. This lot is the artist’s proof.
Strauss & Co is delighted to present six previously unseen works by Edoardo Villa from the estate of Aldo Carrara, an Italian businessman who lived in South Africa from 1949 to 1960. Introduced to the artist by collector and dealer Vittorio Meneghelli, Carrara and Villa struck up a lifelong friendship.
Five of the six lots were originally gifts to Carrara. They include two bronze pendants (estimate R7 000 – 10 000 each) and Heraldic Head (estimate R220 000 – 260 000), a Cubist-inspired portrait made from overlaid metal elements typical of Villa’s earlier style. Carrara’s only purchase was the steel candelabra Caged Light (estimate R250 000 – 350 000). The Norval Foundation featured similar pieces on its Villa survey exhibition in 2018.
“Ezrom Legae, Lucas Sithole and Edoardo Villa have long been revered by collectors, and for good reason,” says Susie Goodman, an executive director at Strauss & Co. “Both Sithole and Villa represented South Africa at the Venice Biennale, in the 1950s and 60s. Legae’s career blossomed later and he appeared on artist Rickey Burnett’s important exhibition Tributaries (1985). The importance of these artists is constantly being reaffirmed. In 2001, Sithole appeared on curator Okwui Enwezor’s much-lauded international exhibition The Short Century (2001), and earlier this year, both Legae and Sithole appeared on the much-discussed exhibition, A Black Aesthetic, at the Standard Bank Gallery.”
Other sculpture highlights from Strauss & Co’s forthcoming sale include editions of:
- Anton van Wouw’s The Bushman Hunter (estimate R1.2 – 1.5 million), a benchmark example of early South African sculpture that was conceived in 1902 and cast at the Nisini foundry in Rome. This bronze is an arresting example of Van Wouw’s peerless realism and is by far the artist’s most sought after desk-scale work.
- William Kentridge’s Horse (estimate R1 – 1.2 million), a schematic portrayal of a mount produced by Bronze Age in Cape Town. The horse is a common motif in Kentridge’s recent practice and the faceted construction of this lot is similar to two Kentridge public sculptures depicting horses in Toledo and Naples.
- Peter Haden’s Batman (estimate R40 000 – 60 000), a diminutive study of an attenuated human figure with sail-like wings – not the superhero. Produced in 1970 by this second-generation Amadlozi Group artist, the work was first exhibited locally in a 2019 exhibition organized by collector Gavin Watkins at Strauss & Co’s gallery in Houghton and at Welgemeend, a manor house in Cape Town.
Strauss & Co will be offering Lucas Sithole’s important work, Wounded Buffalo, on Monday, 11 November at 89 Central Street, Houghton, in Johannesburg. The sale, which starts at 7.00 pm, will also include two important works by painter Penny Siopis, as well as feature a segment devoted to South African artists linked to Paris.
Strauss & Co will be hosting an extensive programme of public talks and social events in the lead-up to this sale.