Irma Stern painting sells for R 17 million

A portrait by celebrated artist Irma Stern sold for a startling R 17 267 000, the second highest price ever achieved for a painting sold at auction in South Africa in Johannesburg recently.

Arab has been in the same family since it was purchased directly from the artist by the present owner’s mother over 70 years ago, and has never before appeared on the market. It is still in its original Zanzibar frame embellished with flowers and foliage.

The highest price was achieved last year when Strauss & Co auctioneers sold Two Arabs, also by Irma Stern for R 21 166 000.

The painting depicting a distinguished Omani gentleman was proudly introduced to a packed auction room by His Excellency Mr Khalid Ba’Omar, Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman who spotted it in the Sunday Times and recognised the sitter as being from his country.

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Thereafter the auctioneer took over and after fierce bidding between the room and the telephones, the painting was finally ksold for double the auction house’s pre-sale estimate of R 8 million. The buyer was a South African who was attending the auction.

Numerous other record prices were established with many lots realising three to six times their pre-sale estimate. A notable record was that for Alfred Thoba’s 1976 Riots which sold for R 913 480, over R 800 000 more than his previous record.

Two works by Robert Hodgins, Et in Arcadia Ego and A Gentleman from Mexico, sold for R 1 002 600 and R 779 800 respectively, setting a new record for the artist.

A spokesman for Strauss & Co expressed his delight at the amazing result which can be likened to some of the major sales taking place in London and New York. The total of R 39 257 943 of art was sold at the auction.