Charlotte Burns, article for The Art Newspaper, reminds us that “art appeals because it is tangible, can be traded in any currency, and comes with kudos—collectors cannot hang stocks and shares on a wall to show their friends. Art may be particularly attractive now because of the uncertainties of the stock markets, big currency fluctuations and the looming specter of inflation in some major countries, and deflation in others”.

 Irma Stern (South African 1894-1966)


Painted during her return trip to Zanzibar in 1945, Irma Stern’s Young Arab, lot 425, (R10 000 000 – R15 000 000) headlines the Johannesburg Stephan Welz & Co (Pty) Limited auction being held at 13 Biermann Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg on the 16th August 2011 at 18h30.  Follow on page 2

Young Arab displays all the elements of Stern’s method fused into a mature composition. The work is a richly painted tapestry of colour and strongly assembled form “with all the complicated and inbred sensuality...laid bare”[1].  In Young Arab, cool painterly planes of the dominant wall and the sitter’s white tunic are in strong contrast to the ornate patterning of his turban. The turban is a multi-hued profusion of colour and texture which lends warmth to the otherwise sallow tones of his skin. This is further enhanced by the grey-whites and creams in much of the composition. This background is recognisable in other of Stern’s compositions of this period, the high walls of the city containing and subjugating her subjects.

This portrait rests in an original, intricately carved frame; crafted by repurposing sections of the border of a traditional Zanzibar wooden door. Rich in symbolism, the frame itself is an exquisite cultural relic.  Young Arab is a vital work in the artist’s coveted oeuvre from her trips to Zanzibar. Together with her equally passionate works from her Congo trips, these, mainly portrait studies, remain the finest of hillustrious career. Young Arab is certainly a highlight of Stern’s ‘Golden Period’.

Alexis Preller’s  


When a private collector in Polokwane received a R600 000 to R900 000 valuation from Stephan Welz & Co (Pty) Limited for a work he had bought at a fractional price 20 years previously, he was utterly astounded.  The work, Alexis Preller’s ‘Self-Portrait’ (1940) is regarded as both historically significant as well as exemplary in its representation of the artist’s distinctive style. Originally held in Preller’s personal collection, this rare painting is one of the highlights of the forthcoming Stephan Welz & Co (Pty) Limited sale. 


Arguably Pierneef’s most important project, the ambitious Station Panels commission comprised 32 individual canvases designated for the interior of the then-new Johannesburg Railway Station. The commission began in 1929 and was completed 3 years later. Unveiled on the 26th November 1932, the panels capture the beautiful and varied landscapes of South Africa and present a striking piece of South African heritage. The panels were removed from the Station in 1971 and are now on permanent loan from the Transnet Foundation to the Rupert Art Foundation. 

In preparation for the final paintings, a number of preliminary studies were executed and it is likely that lot 410, Old Harbour, Hermanus (R1 000 000 to R1 500 000) would have originated in this way. This comprehensive painting brings together distinctive geometric structuring and understated shades of umber in the creation of an essential and independent work. Pierneef had a strong affinity for Hermanus - the unusual and picturesque site was the subject of many of his other works.