“Discerning collectors recognise that collecting not only involves connoisseurship but also custodianship‚ and by owning a work previously held by an important collector they are participating in a lineage of discernment.”
The Strauss & Co sale‚ in Claremont on October 15‚ features two drawings by Stern and two more of her paintings: Castle‚ Madeira (1963‚ valued at between R2-million and R3-million) and Woman with Orange Headscarf (1949‚ valued at between R250‚000 and R350‚000). Proceeds from these works will go to the Irma Stern Trust.
Art writer Jeremy Lawrence said Labia inherited a love of art from his father‚ also Natale‚ who was Italian ambassador to South Africa in the 1920s‚ and his mother Ida‚ daughter of the “Randlord” Sir Joseph “JB” Robinson.
At least one of the paintings in this month’s auction is from Sir Joseph’s art collection‚ which was displayed at the South African National Gallery in Cape Town in 1959.
Lawrence said one of Labia’s other passions was cars‚ and “in his late 80s he acquired a new navy blue Maserati — although…in the face of old age he took it on the road only a handful of times”.
The Labia name lives on in a cinema in Gardens — once the ballroom of the Italian embassy next-door‚ now Seafare House; and in Casa Labia‚ a cultural centre in Muizenberg which was once the family home.
Even if Dahlias goes for R12-million‚ at the upper end of Strauss & Co’s estimate‚ it will be a bargain compared with her Arab Priest‚ which was sold in London in 2015 for the then-equivalent of R52.3-million. Eleven of South Africa’s most expensive paintings are Sterns.