Local and foreign buyers in stiff competition at Cape Town’s booming art scene

Creating a new record for South Africa and Africa as a continent, approximately $7.3 million worth of art was sold

Collectors seeking a good investment from America and Europe are scouring Cape Town’s booming art scene. They are in search of deals which could be an expressive oil painting by South Africa’s Irma Stern or a sculpture assembled from bottle caps by Ghana’s El Anatsui.

Art by Ghana’s El Anatsui. Photo: ZEITZMOCAA

At a number of venues including the Association of Visual Arts Gallery and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA), pieces were being sold. Creating a new record for South Africa and Africa as a continent, approximately $7.3 million worth of art was sold, including commission, according to executive chairman of auction house Strauss and Co, Frank Kilbourn.

Oil painting by Irma Stern. Photo Credit: Irma Stern Trust

Local buyers snatched up Stern’s works, although they faced stiff competition from abroad. Occupying the top three spots by value was Stern’s paintings, with the highest bidder paying an amount a little above $1.4 million for portrait “Arab”. The painting, a previously unrecorded portrait of an Omani nobleman from the court of the Sultanate of Zanzibar was still in its original carved wooden frame.

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Zeitz MOCAA was launched last year in Cape Town, in what has been touted as the world’s largest contemporary African art museum. For Precious Mhone, co-curator of a multi-disciplinary exhibition of African artists at MOCAA, it becomes the port i.e. an entryway to experience the rest of the continent.  

With increased interest from abroad, there is confidence that more countries will become more interested in buying art.


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