A work titled Red Jacket, an image by Vladimir Griegorovich Tretchikoff (1913-2006) of his muse and one-time lover in Java, made a world record price of £337,250 (R4.7m) at Bonhams
, the international auction house, in London yesterday (17.10.12). Before the sale, the painting had been estimated to sell for £50,000 to £80,000.
Top price in the sale was a majestic landscape by Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (1886-1957), titled Kransberg, Rustenberg, Transvaal, which sold for £361,250 (R5m). A pair of sunlit mountain and farm images, titled Cape Farmlands, made a new world record for a Pierneef work on paper (smashing the previous record, also set at Bonhams in 2008, five times over). The pair, estimated to sell for £70,000 to £100,000, was knocked down for £289,250 (4m).
The third world record in this sale was for a work titled The Garden of Eden by Stanley F. Pinker (1924-2012), which had been estimated to sell for £70,000 to £100,000 but sold for £337,250 (R4.7m).
'The newly weds', an intimate scene by self-taught artist Gladys Mgudlandlu (1917-1979), also set a new world record for the artist at £27,500 (R384,000).
Speaking after the sale, Giles Peppiatt, Director of African Art at Bonhams said: The message of this sale is that while the best South African artworks continue to reach world record prices in London where the world comes to buy, bidders are being far more selective. You might say that the market is maturing and that the stampede to buy everything available that we saw five years ago, has passed for now into much more thoughtful and sophisticated buying. The sale made a total of £3.1m (R43.5m).
This sale will force an international rethink on the status of one of South Africas most controversial artists, the Russian émigré, Vladimir Tretchikoff. Tretchikoffs work is among the most reproduced in the world. He found in Lenka, the subject of his world-record picture, the perfect muse. Bright and attractive, she was a Eurasian with a European father and a Malay mother, and embodied the very fusion of East and West the artist was so keen on evoking.
Bonhams has seen prices for Tretchikoff rise over the past ten years. In the March 2012 Bonhams sold 'Fighting zebras' for £58,850.00, more than three times its pre-sale estimate of £15,000-20,000.