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Strauss & Co to visit London with Irma Stern 'fresh-to-the-market' after 24 years with perfect provenance
‘Dahlias’ by Irma Stern for sale with Strauss & Co for £430,000 - £646,000.

LONDON.- Three directors of Strauss & Co, South Africa’s record breaking fine art auction house, are heading to London to introduce themselves to new audiences, bringing with them a gem-like Irma Stern painting, titled ‘Dahlias’ (1947) that has not been seen on the market for almost a quarter of a century. The picture has an immaculate tracked provenance and is for sale for £430,000 to £646,000.

The Strauss & Co team will be at the Royal Over-Seas League, St James’s, on Tuesday 25 September from 11am to 5pm and all are welcome to view this wonderful Irma Stern picture and other important South African and British paintings.

‘Dahlias’ by Irma Stern was last sold on 24th March 1994, 24 years ago. It’s provenance is well documented. It was purchased directly from the artist by Ben and Cecilia Jaffe for their collection and passed by descent to Mrs Phyllis Levenstein, their daughter who sold it to Stephan Welz & Co in association Sotheby's, Cape Town, 24 March 1994, lot 343 when it was purchased by Count Luccio Labia.

The focus of this first trip by Strauss & Co to London is on the works from the Labia Family Trust coming up for sale in October in particular, Irma Stern’s Dahlias. While Stern’s taste in flowers was catholic - any and all flowers, from common varieties that grew in her garden, to blooms from the giant Magnolia grandiflora that still graces ‘The Firs’, her former home and now the UCT Irma Stern Museum, to lush hothouse varieties that she would have acquired from local flower sellers – were painted with the same sense of reckless delight. Nonetheless, she would return to some varieties again and again, particularly those, like chrysanthemums, lilies, anthuriums and dahlias, that lent themselves to her expressive impasto technique. In particular, dahlias were a recurrent theme during the 1930s and 40s, with five still lifes – of which this painting is the fifth – featuring these sumptuous cut flowers dating from this period.

Other exceptional artworks coming to London with Strauss & Co include Pieter Wenning’s The Yellow House (Bishopscourt in Winter) – with an estimate of £27,000 (R500 000) to £38,000 (R700 000. In his book DC Boonzaier en Pieter Wenning, Verslag van ’n Vriendskap (Tafelberg, 1973) J du P Scholtz describes it as follows: “It is a canvas measuring 15x11 inches and it seems to me that [Wenning’s] colour scheme has never been more beautiful, refined and harmonious…he has done nothing better.” The painting was bought by Count Labia at an auction (Stephan Welz & Co in association with Sotheby’s) at Mostertsdrift, Stellenbosch, in August 1996.
Amongst the British paintings is a fine oil, Felled Trees, by Ivon Hitchens in his familiar tachiste, semi-abstract style. This, too, has an estimate of £27,000 (R500 000) to £38,000 (R700 000).

Strauss & Co Chairperson, Frank Kilbourn, Joint Managing Director, Vanessa Phillips, and Director, Caro Wiese, will be on hand to talk to prospective clients about the South African art market. A small selection of paintings will be on display including the star of the show, Dahlias, by Irma Stern, South Africa’s best performing artist. Kilbourn comments: “Over the past decade we have seen a phenomenal growth in the value of African art. This visit to London is designed to give prospective buyers and investors an opportunity for an in-depth briefing on the latest that is happening in Africa from the perspective of South Africa which has the biggest slice of this market of 54 countries”.

Strauss & Co was established in 2008 by celebrated figures in South Africa’s art and business worlds, Mrs Elisabeth Bradley and Dr Conrad Strauss as well as art doyen, the late Stephan Welz, auction stalwarts Vanessa Phillips, Ann Palmer and Bina Genovese. With an average turnover per annum of over R193 million and an average sell-through rate of over 80% (unique in the current market), Strauss & Co has sold nine of the ten most expensive paintings ever auctioned in South Africa as well as holding numerous artists’ world records.

The Strauss & Co viewing takes place on Tuesday 25th September from 11am to 5pm at the in The Evelyn Wrench Room, Royal Over-Seas League, Over-Seas House, Park Place, St James's Street, London SW1A 1LR. Tel: +27 (0) 72 445 4717.

South African and European art from the Labia Family Trust will be included in Strauss & Co’s upcoming auction, in Cape Town, on Monday, 15 October 2018.

Count Natale (“Luccio”) Labia died at his Cape Town home in Wynberg, Hawthornden in November 2016, and his heirs are now offering for sale twenty-two artworks which once hung in that house. At least one of these paintings formed part of the celebrated art collection assembled by the Count’s maternal grandfather, the “Randlord” Sir Joseph Benjamin Robinson (1840-1929).

Count Labia’s father – also named Natale – was an Italian who served with distinction in his country’s diplomatic service in South Africa. He was created a Count in 1924 and then, a year after his untimely death in 1936, a Prince. In 1921 he had married Ida, second daughter of J B Robinson. Count Luccio Labia bought art that reflected his own discerning taste, and a number of pictures from this collection will be sold by Strauss & Co in October.

The Labia family have been generous benefactors to the arts, and their name is familiar to Capetonians through, inter alia, the popular cinema complex of that name (which originated in a conversion of the ballroom of the former Italian embassy – now called Seafare House), and the Casa Labia Cultural Centre in Muizenberg (once the Labia family home). The opportunity now arises to acquire important artworks that formed part of this illustrious collection.

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