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On the centenary of Irma Stern’s debut solo exhibition in South Africa and the half-centenary of the opening of the Irma Stern Museum in Cape Town, Strauss & Co is proud to be hosting a single-artist auction entirely devoted to this illustrious artist. Titled Irma Stern: Time | Line, Works from the Irma Stern Trust Collection and other properties and due to be held on Wednesday, 8 June 2022 at Welgemeend Manor House in Cape Town, this landmark sale will feature 140 works encompassing many of the artist’s major themes and interests. Strauss & Co is privileged to present four major oils depicting singular and powerful women.

“Irma Stern: Time | Line is a continuation of Strauss & Co’s longstanding commitment to support the activities of the Irma Stern Trust in realising the artist’s wish to promote art within and outside South Africa,” says Kirsty Colledge, Cape Town Art Department HOD. “The auction includes 124 artworks from the Irma Stern Trust Collection including an important portrait of her close friend and supporter Roza van Gelderen, executed in 1929. Proceeds from the sale of these works will benefit the Irma Stern Trust Collection, housed in the much-loved Irma Stern Museum in Cape Town, an enormously important cultural institution that houses and displays a collection of Irma Stern’s artworks and artefacts.”

Irma Stern lived in Cape Town for nearly a half century. Following her death in 1966, and in pursuance of the terms of her will, Stern’s entire collection of artworks and her personal collection of artefacts were placed in trust. The Trustees of the Irma Stern Trust, Syfrets Trust (Pty) Ltd now Nedgroup Trust (Pty) Ltd, were further instructed to make a selection from this collection and to arrange for the resulting collection to be permanently or temporarily housed and displayed. 

Strauss & Co has for many years assisted the Irma Stern Trust with the sale of works from its collection Irma Stern: Time | Line is a further extension of this collaboration. Income derived from the sale will strengthen the Irma Stern Trust Collection for the future by preserving the collection and making it accessible by developing the existing Irma Stern Trust website into an important research resource. A detailed explanation of the Irma Stern Trust’s formation and mandate appears in the print catalogue and e-catalogue for Irma Stern: Time | Line, and is also available on request.

The contents of Irma Stern: Time | Line will be presented chronologically and features works made in every decade from 1920 until the artist’s death in 1966. Stern’s consistent focus on women is evident in a number of important oils. They include Psychic: An Old Malay Woman (estimate R7 – 9 million/ approx USD 437 500-562 500), a 1941 portrait of a Cape Muslim sitter from Stern’s golden period. Stern’s 1929 portrait of Roza van Gelderen (1890–1976) portrays a charismatic educator and cultural figure who was also a life-long friend of the artist and important model (estimate R4 – 6 million/ approx USD 250 000-375 000).

Other important oils in Irma Stern: Time | Line include a 1936 portrait titled Woman in Black Dress that shares striking affinities with works by Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso (estimate R2.5 – 3.5 million/approx USD 156 250-218 750). Woman with Open Blouse from 1948 is a fine example of Stern’s inventive engagement with the nude, a genre that commanded the artist’s attention throughout her career (estimate R1.5 – 2.5 million/approx USD 93 750-156 250).

Irma Stern: Time | Line opens with seven lithographs from the artist’s print portfolio Visionen (Visions), published in 1920 by the Berlin-based Hesperiden Verlag. It is bookended with a number of lively drawings of beach revellers made in 1965. Notable individual lots in this sale include an outstanding terracotta vase in a female form from 1951 (estimate R40 000 – 60 000/approx USD 2 500-3 750) from the Shill Collection, a gouache titled Mother and Child, Congo from Stern’s first trip to Belgium Congo in 1942 (estimate R200 000 – 300 000/approx USD 12 500- 18 750), as well as a sought-after copy of Stern’s limited edition artists’ book Congo, published in 1943 (estimate R20 000 – 30 000 approx USD 1 250-1 875). The sale offers excellent value for starter collectors, with estimates for works on paper beginning at R10 000/ approx USD 625.

Irma Stern’s debut South African exhibition at Ashbey’s Art Gallery in Cape Town in 1922 thrust her into the cultural spotlight. Even now, five decades after her death, Stern continues to fascinate and astonish.

  • Artist Athi-Patra Ruga is currently showing his new paintings at the Irma Stern Museum following an extensive residency in Stern’s former home and engagement with the artist’s portrayals of especially women.
  • Sanlam Art Gallery is presently hosting an exhibition devoted to Irma Stern’s nudes, curated by Professor Michael Godby, who has also authored an outstanding new monograph canvassing this important aspect of Stern’s output.
  • The Joburg Contemporary Art Foundation will shortly be hosting a three-person exhibition featuring Stern in conversation with international artists Frida Kahlo and Amrita Sher-Gil
  • In May, Dutch theatre maker Eva Bartels collaborated with South African director Iman Isaacs on a play about Stern, presented at Artscape in Cape Town
  • Norval Exhibition

Irma Stern: Time | Line is supported by a detailed print catalogue (also available to download at www.straussart.co.za), exhibition and education programme. The public is invited to view works from Irma Stern: Time | Line at a special preview exhibition at Welgemeend Manor House (2–8 June 2022). Dr Kathy Wheeler, curator of the Irma Stern Trust Collection, will be in conversation with Strauss & Co senior art specialist Matthew Partridge on Saturday, 4 June 2022 at 10am at the exhibition venue. The talk will be followed by a walkabout with Strauss & Co specialists at 11 am.

The auction starts at 6pm promptly on Wednesday, 8 June 2022 and will be run as a live virtual auction. DM/ML



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