African Design Making Waves in London

Christies Hosts South African Designers at Auction

International art collectors were awarded an unusual opportunity to access collectible design pieces from Africa. For the first time in auctioneering history an all-inclusive collection from Africa was presented at Christies’ Design Auction in London. The exhibition ran from the 31st of October until the grand auction on the 3rd of November. During this time 14 exceptional pieces by 12 of South Africa’s top designers and design collaborations were displayed and auctioned. Ten of the 14 lots were successfully sold – some well over the reserve price.

Collaborating to developing African art

Christies is one of the most influential auction houses in the world with operations in over 30 countries and sales amounting to billions of dollars every year. Director of Design at Christies, Jeremy Morrison expressed excitement about an ongoing working relationship with Southern Guild. According to Morrison the South African design platform’s commitment to creating deeper appreciation for African art together with the striking and fresh designs, resonates with what their clients are looking for. Trevyn McGowan, co-founder of Southern Guild, said that the collaboration with Christies is a unique moment for the company. Trevyn and her partner Julian started Southern Guild to expand their business of showcasing and exporting South African design pieces internationally.

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Excitement about future prospects

A relatively young company, Southern Guild has fast gained momentum since 2011, after its first exhibition abroad. Thus far every possible success has been achieved, especially during 2015. The gallery arranged GUILD, the only internationally known design fair in Africa, attended various high-end design fairs in Dubai and a phenomenal show in the US resulting in an exceptional response from Design Miami and a near sell-out show. Trevyn and Julian McGowan were also invited to visit Australia as keynote speakers at a prestigious symposium held in Victoria at the National Gallery. They hope that the company’s success will cement South Africa’s place alongside the best names in design across the globe.

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Online Auctions Trending for Mines

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Redundant Mining Assets Sold at Online Auctions

During the high production years most major mining houses were forced to meet rising demands by purchasing substantial new assets, many of which came with a hefty price tag. Focus was placed on expansion and purchases had to match optimistic growth plans. Production was at an all time high and the future of mining looked bright – until it all changed. In recent years a slowdown occurred in China and commodity prices dropped drastically. The slump has resulted in many of these expensive assets like graders, LDVs, cranes and tankers becoming redundant.

Focus on cost control and efficiency

Because the focus was shifted to frugality and sustainable cost management, mines had to start thinking about recovering some of the funds spent on the now, worthless equipment sitting around idly. For geographic and socio-economic reasons mines started turning to online auctions to start shifting assets. This soon became the preferred method for South African mines to recover funds. As many as seven major SA mining concerns listed stock at online auctioneering companies in September 2015.

A rapidly growing industry

As commodities are on a downward trend, the online auctioneering industry is on an upward trajectory. The top South African online mining auctioneering firm ClearAsset has sold mining equipment worth more than half a billion rand over the past three years. In recent months the company has seen yet further increases in auction stock. Warren Schewitz, CEO of ClearAsset told the local media that they are thrilled to be of assistance to mining concerns that are serious about getting rid of redundant assets in this streamlined way, for a maximum price.
A sleek process

Besides a dynamic industry, ClearAsset’s success is largely due to their positive take on technology. The company uses a sophisticated auctioneering platform that was created in-house to sell the equipment. Bidders can buy mining assets from the industry giants like Anglogold, Ashanti and Anglo American in South Africa from anywhere in the world – and have it delivered to anywhere in the world without as much as leaving their desks – a massive draw card for serious shoppers.

Sable Antelope Sells for US$2 Million

Record Sale for Sable

A sable antelope bull from Zambia was sold at a game auction in South Africa for a record breaking R27 million (approximately US$2 million). Known as Mopanie, the four and a half year old antelope has a beautiful set of curved horns measuring about 1.2 metres. Vleissentraal auctioneer Niel Swart also oversaw the sales of two other bulls. Another Zambian sable antelope called Deuce, was sold for R21 million (approximately US$1.6 million), and an intermediate sable bull named Zulu achieved a R17 million price tag.

More than double the previous record

Mopanie, Deuce and Zulu were sold for record breaking amounts. The preceding record for the sale of a Zambian sable bull was a mere R12.25 million (less than a US$1 million) and the previous intermediate sable bull record was R5.8 million. Their success in achieving such high prices can partially be attributed to their lineage, but also because of the booming industry. Mopanie and Deuce are brothers and their father is a sable bull with very impressive horns of close to 1.3 metres long. According to auctioneer Swart, the record sales were achieved because of breeders hoping to breed a sable antelope bull with horns of 1.5 metres. In an interview Swart said, ‘It’s all about genetics’. In other cases, sales may be due to more sinister reasons.

Driven by an increasing demand

The game industry in South Africa is worth an estimated R12 billion per year. According major financial services provider Barclays Africa, the industry is increasing at around 10% per annum, which is nearly double the speed of the country’s inflation rate. Unfortunately this tremendous growth can be at least partially ascribed to the growing demand for African animals by international hunters, especially exotic animals and animals with large horns. Although this is a sad reality, not all game auctions are for animals on their way to becoming trophies. Many of the South African game ranches that buy animals on auction are eco-reserves and conservancies and the animals are bought for breeding and repopulation purposes. The Addo Elephant Park in Port Elizabeth has drastically improved the elephant population of the Cape, after elephants were nearly eradicated in the early 20th century.

Still a money-spinner

Despite the noble intentions of many of the ranches in the country, wild animals are a big buck business. The auction in which Mopanie, Deuce and Zulu were sold had 41 studs on sale and generated R137.7 million. In 2013 a group that included billionaire Johann Rupert bought Mystery, a buffalo with a horn span of 1.3 metres, for R40 million. The following year Cyril Ramaphosa, the former deputy president sold three impala antelope for nearly R30 million. Just a few weeks ago a kudu was sold for R9.4 million. Besides the striking Zambian sable antelope with their dark coats and interesting white markings, there are other animal breeds that command high prices. For example those that present new blood lines and colour variations, like the golden gnus – a wildebeest with a yellowish coat instead of the ordinary blue-black hide. Whether the animals are bought to be hunted, saved or put on display, wildlife auctioneering is skyrocketing in South Africa.

SA’s Finest Wines under the Hammer

Fine Wines on Auction in South Africa

Although the time periods in which top vintage wines are produced are debatable, there is no dispute that South Africa is one of the finest wine-making countries in the world. The Nederburg Winery is a highly respected wine and brandy producer in South Africa, and also the home of the annual Nederburg Wine Auction.

A toast to some of the greats

This year’s auction will be held in September, and the theme is to honour some of the top vintages throughout the history of wine-making in South Africa. Auction manager and wine enthusiast Dalene Steyn announced that the selection was carefully made with the aim of seeking out tastes that prove that SA wines are not only of superior quality, but also age well.

Heroes of the past

Simpler methods were used during the 60s and 70s and varieties were interchangeable. Although the contents may not be in line with today’s legislation when it comes to labelling, these wines remain remarkable in many ways. Many of these vintages are consistently impressing wine critics, both locally and abroad. As well as being of high quality, wines of that era were not made to be aged over decades, making well stored South African vintage very rare. According to Steyn, a variety of these heroes of yesteryear will make for highly competitive bidding in what is to be the 41st annual auction.

Bidders, whet your appetites

Some of the older wines due to make an appearance at the auction are:

• A 1957 Lanzerac Cabernet Sauvignon, the very first Lanzerac wine bottled. Two cases will be offered at R2,000 each, a case consisting of three bottles.
• The legendary 1965 Chateau Libertas that featured at the 2011 and 2013 and was sold at R11,000 per case.
• The 1965 Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon which sold for R22,000 at the auction in 2012.
• A 1975 Alto Cabernet Sauvignon
• A 1986 Meerlust Rubicon

The cream of the crop

Besides these very fine wines, the star of the auction will be South Africa’s oldest wine, the Joubert Family Muscat, produced in 1800. The dessert wine was bottled from a barrel that has been looked after by the Joubert family for over two centuries. Only two 275ml bottles are on offer, with a reserve price of R42,500. Although this is a hefty price tag, the muscat was awarded the highest score ever attained by a South African wine.

The Multimillion Rand Kitchen Notice Board

SA Painting Worth Millions Found on UK Fridge

Bonhams fine art and antique auction house made an exciting announcement in August 2015. According to the auctioneer, a painting by the renowned South African artist Irma Stern was accidentally discovered during a routine appraisal. Stern achieved national and international recognition for her works and travelled extensively all over Africa and Europe for inspiration and for her exhibitions.

Well spotted

The painting was noticed by Hannah O’Leary, who is Bonhams’ specialist in South African art. O’Leary was doing a standard valuation at a London flat when she spotted the art in the kitchen. It was stuck on the fridge where it was being used as a kitchen notice board: the owners had no idea of its value.

The painting

Named ‘Arab in Black’, the masterpiece is 76 years old and has been on foreign shores for around four decades. It was originally owned by art collector Betty Suzman, the daughter of Woolworths South Africa founder Max Sonnenberg. Suzman was a relation of Helen Suzman, the MP and anti-apartheid activist. The painting moved with its former owner to the United Kingdom in the 70s and was eventually handed down to its current owner.

Not just an Irma Stern

The particular work of art is not only valuable because of the artist who created it; it also has great political significance. ‘Arab in Black’ was put up for auction in the early 60s to raise money for Nelson Mandela and his co-conspirators, when they were on trial for treason between 1956 and 1961. The funds that were raised helped with legal fees and with supporting the defendants’ families while they were in prison. It was claimed that Stern was sympathetic to their plight and had donated the painting to the cause. In a statement to the press Hannah O’Leary said, “It was a hugely exciting find, even before I learned of its political significance.”

The current estimated value of ‘Arab in Black’ is between R13 million and R20 million. It is due to go on sale in London in September 2015.

Madiba’s Freedom Torch on Auction

When apartheid ended in South Africa, Nelson Mandela lit a flame to symbolise the birth of a new and bright future and the end of a very dark era. It was lit on 3 February 1994 at a gathering of the former President and other political incarcerates at the Victor Verster prison – the last place Mandela was held in captivity. The torch that was used to light the flame is called ‘Mandela’s Freedom Torch.’ It is not only a symbol of freedom, but also of the long walk this hero made to bring liberty to the people of South Africa.

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Can a New Code Restore Credibility to the Auction Industry?

The aftershock that followed the demise of Auction Alliance a couple of years ago continues to be felt sharply throughout the South African real estate market; perhaps shown most clearly in the dramatic decline in sales since the crisis started.

There has been a reduction of almost half in the volume of sales of distressed properties since the start of the crisis and according to a report in the Financial Mail, sales values have tumbled from almost R6 billion per year prior to the collapse of Auction Alliance, to a figure that is currently around R2.5 billion.

It’s unquestionably a worrying time for the auction industry, which must resolve numerous issues if it is to get back on track; the first being to restore a reputation that has been severely damaged as a result of suspected ghost bidding.

The lack of trust, both in the eyes of the public and more importantly in the relationship between the auction houses and the banks, which are still holding on to many nonperforming mortgage loans on their balance sheets, needs to be resolved.  Continue reading