Pierneef painting sets SA price record

A Pierneef painting set a new record price for South African art at an auction in London on Wednesday when it sold for more than R11-million, the auctioneers, Bonhams, said.

The painting, “The Baobab Tree”, went for £826 400, the equivalent of R11,8-million.

Bonhams spokesperson Julian Roup said the pre-sale estimate had been £300 000.

According to Bonhams, the previous record for a South African painting of about £500 000 was held by an Irma Stern painting.

Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef died in 1957, and according to Bonhams, probably painted The Baobab Tree in 1934.

Pierneef had presented the work to the South African high commissioner to Britain in the 1930s, Charles te Water, as a gift after Te Water visited Pierneef’s studio, admired the then-unfinished picture, and urged him to complete it.

It was shown at London’s Tate Gallery in an exhibition of South African art in 1948.

Roup said that the painting was sold by a South African expatriate couple who had been living in the United States since the 1970s.

He said the wife, who attended the sale, had been so shocked at the price it achieved that she almost collapsed.

He said Bonhams could not reveal the identity of the buyer, but he understood it was a South African individual.—Sapa