The Strauss & Co art, fine wine and collectables combined online auction will go ahead as planned from Monday 6 – Tuesday 14 April 2020. (You can read more about it here.) Bina Genovese of Strauss & Co and Roland Peens of Wine Cellar fine wine merchants share their insights into the lots on offer, with this Q&A.Delivery of lots purchased on auction will be made with all necessary precautions post-Lockdown. Q: Roland, this year Strauss & Co will be offering a series of fine wine, art and collectables online auctions based on categorised themes. Please tell us a bit about the ‘Rhône online auction’ taking place from Monday 6 – Tuesday 14 April? A: This year Strauss & Co fine wine auctions has an amazing line-up and the Rhône theme is an exciting and important one for South Africa. Although Shiraz was only widely planted from the 1990s and the rest of the Rhône varieties much later, many of SA’s top wines are made with these varieties. We produce some of the finest Shiraz in the world and all the top producers are listed. The line-up includes Porseleinberg, Mullineux, Hartenberg, Luddite, de Trafford, Boekenhoutskloof and more. Q: Under these disruptive circumstances, delivery of lots purchased on the auction will be made post the lockdown. Please provide some detail on this? A: Since the Rhône auction closes just before the last few lockdown days, the delivery of the wines will be delayed by just a short while. The wines are sitting happily in our temperature controlled cellars for the moment. Q: Can you give us some insight into this wine region of France and outline highlights from your own travels there? A: Split into the Northern and Southern Rhône, the two areas are rather different in their style and make-up. The South is spearheaded by Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the first ever appellation in France. In 1933 it was decided that French law would be used to protect the quality of wine from this special town. Based on Grenache, the wines are rich, spicy and savoury with relatively big alcohols and generous texture. The Northern Rhône has a relatively short history of fine wine, with most of the region focused on subsistence farming before the 1970s. The rocky, steep slopes of Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie are simply the best Syrah vineyards in the world and produce incredibly refined, long-aging, complex wines. Q: What are some of the benefits of buying fine wine on an online auction? A: You can bid during Lockdown! The online auctions also give you a long period to consider your bid, as well as research the wine. Q: Are there any specific lots you’d like to highlight for this auction? A: We are humbled to offer the Porseleinberg 2011 – a vintage that was not released commercially due to the very low yields. We also have a great vintage of Chateau Rayas, the most famous and sought-after Chateauneuf-du-Pape! Q: And Bina, this Strauss & Co combined fine wine, art and collectables online auction includes enviable art auction lots. Please tell us about your personal highlights? A: The Strauss & Co April Online sale features some very exciting and affordable lots across all categories including art, decorative arts, jewellery and fine wine. Two works of art that attracted my attention are:
Zander Blom’s Untitled, mixed media on paper, executed in 2010This appealing monochromatic work by Johannesburg-based contemporary artist Zander Blom, caught my eye as I scrolled through the sale. I am a fan of Blom’s works which are generally very recognisable with his bold use of black and thick ‘blobs’ of paint often on unprimed canvases. This work was produced shortly after his exhibition The Travels of Bad held at the Johannesburg Art Fair in 2009 at the Rooke Gallery stand. Fred Schimmel’s Abstract Landscape also attracted my attention. His work epitomizes twentieth-century abstract and informal art within the South African context. This attractive print carries the Fred Schimmel chopmark and is an ideal entry point for a young collector who is interested in South African abstraction from the 70s and 80s. It is unfortunate that Fred Schimmel is often overlooked in terms of his contribution to abstraction in South African art. In these difficult times of lockdown where we are confined to our homes, I find solace in allowing my gaze to wander down the meanders of landscape paintings and photographs. Q: These Strauss & Co combined auctions mark a departure from the traditional Strauss & Co auctions, please tell us about the addition of fine wine to the portfolio? A: In 2019 Strauss & Co ventured on a new and exciting path, in line with international practice, introducing wines to their auction repertoire in an endeavour to elevate South African vintage wines to the level they deserve and at the same time presenting them to collectors of fine and decorative arts. We hope that our seasoned auction stalwarts will be attracted by the fine vintage wines on offer and that wine afficionados will notice the other appealing lots on offer. Q: Please tell us about your background in the arts and what led you to become an auctioneer? A: After completing a BA HONS degree at the University of the Witwatersrand, I attended a one year Fine and Decorative Arts Course at Christie’s Education in London. This marked the start of my lifelong career in the exciting and challenging world of auctions. Since then I had the pleasure of working closely with art guru, the late Stephan Welz, who taught me the reins and so much more. I had the pleasure of working for 9 years at Christie’s in Rome which at the time was located in a 16th century palazzo overlooking the famous Piazza Navona – a unique experience to work in the heart of the European art market and in such an elegant setting. The frescoed auction room was reputed to be the most beautiful of all the Christie’s auction rooms. In 2009 Strauss & Co was established – I was invited to join the board as a director and shareholder and was one of the three founders of the Cape Town office. I always dreamt of becoming an auctioneer – it is the culmination of all the work that we do after securing, researching, cataloguing and marketing the properties that we procure for sale. As auctioneer our role is to achieve the best possible price for the seller and to match top quality works of art and objets d’arts to collectors. This was not a natural fit for me due to my reserved personality but that was not going to stop me from realising my dream. I learnt to manage this side of my personality and instead focused on challenging myself and on the job in hand. I believe that preparation is key. It is important to know what you are selling, engage with clients beforehand, be in control but not intimidating and retain a sense of humour. I feel honoured to have sold Pierneef’s masterpiece Farm Jonkershoek with Twin Peaks Beyond, Stellenbosch for R20 500 000, achieving a world record for the artist and the second highest price realised in South Africa for a painting at auction. Q: In these interesting times, an online auction provides a safe platform on which to purchase art and collectibles. Please tell us about which measures have been put in place to ensure secure door to door delivery of items purchased? A: Global sales in the online art and antiques market continue to gain popularity and account for around 9% of the value of global sales. In these times of self-isolation however, e-commerce is set to soar as people embrace virtual living. Our March online auction which was the most successful to date, confirmed this trend. Until the current situation is resolved we will address the question of delivery and collections. Appropriate precautions will be taken at such time as the lockdown situation persists. Go to www.straussart.co.za to find out more.