South African art breaks world record prices at Bonhams in London again

Pierneef, Tretchikoff and Pinker head R43m sale

The South African Sale, part II
17 Oct 2012
London, New Bond Street

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 Africa's most controversial artists, the Russian émigré, Vladimir Tretchikoff. Tretchikoff's 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.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

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