The trend of surf art is reaching ‘point break’ in South Africa, as evidenced by items on sale at the upcoming Stephan Welz & Co. Decorative and Fine Arts Auction in Cape Town, 19th and 20th of February. Already creating waves amongst collectors are Surfers at Strandfontein, a painting by revered Cape Town artist Peter Clarke, and The Surfboard Table, designed by iconic mid-century furniture designer duo Charles and Ray Eames.
Surfers at Strandfontein, estimated at R180 000 – R200 000, looks likely to be one of the auction’s stand-out sales, with another Clarke painting, Netball Players, fetching double its estimate at a recent Stephan Welz & Co. auction. Considered one of South Africa’s most important living artists, Clarke was born and bred in Simonstown. His family were forcibly relocated to Ocean View, the community adjacent to Kommetjie, which came into existence through the Group Areas Act, and in spite of his great international reputation, Clarke still lives modestly in Ocean View. Besides the painting’s financial value as a Clarke original, it also provides a rare glimpse on canvas of non-white Cape surf culture.
Another piece by Clarke entitled Space (estimated at R250 000 – R300 000) will also be on auction. The large and impressive acrylic on canvas work encapsulates the artist’s first experience of flying in an aeroplane in 1975. This is the first work on canvas by the artist to come under the hammer at auction in a number of years. After a successful Cape Town retrospective at Iziko Museum as well as a recent retrospective in London this year, Clarke is flying high
Surfers in Strandfontein is vintage Cape Town 1973, however, another surfing item in this auction harkens back to 1950’s America, an era whose decor style South Africans have recently been exposed to, thanks to the popular TV series ‘Mad Men’. The Surfboard Table, designed by Charles and Ray Eames (the team behind the classic Eames chair), is a low table topped with a surfboard-like top made of laminated seven-ply Baltic birch core. Also known as an Eames Elliptical Table, it is reputed to have earned its nickname because the surfboard was the inspiration behind the design. This unusual find has an estimate of R12 000 to R15 000.
“Like art, surfing’s always been inarguably counterculture,” said Anton Welz, Director of Stephan Welz & Co. “Even in recent years, with surf-wear becoming mass market, the link between surfing and culture has remained strong. Perhaps it’s because both represent freedom – the freedom to explore, express and be at one, whether it’s with nature or a blank canvas. In any case, we are seeing definite increased interest in art inspired by surfing and surf culture, both here and in the international market.”
Welz isn’t the only one who believes that art and surfing have converged in interesting as well as collectable ways in South Africa. VISI, the art and decor magazine, recently covered the Wavescape Artboard Exhibition, where stand-out surfboards created by top local artists like Brett The Spear Murray and photographer Guy Tillim, pushed the boundary for boards, fetching high prices as well as lots of attention at a charity auction (Murray’s board sold for R42,000). In the current “Bright Ideas” issue of VISI magazine, there’s a page featuring Cape Town-based Wawa, who are reviving the ancient Hawaiian craft of hand-shaped wooden surfboards, and in the process, “elevating functional sports gear into an aesthetic marvel,” according to the magazine.
Also recently making waves on the pages of VISI is the Delft Collection of surfboards from Dutchman, which features 10 blue and white designs created by artists and designers on the classic 1975 Pipeline Gun board, as fashioned by master craftsman Spider Murphy.
Whether you are a diehard surfer or just someone who loves surfing’s place in art and culture, the market for surf art has never been more epic.
The Stephan Welz & Co. Decorative and Fine Arts Auction will take place Tuesday, 19 February and Wednesday 20 February at The Great Cellar, Alphen Estate, Alphen Drive, Constantia, Cape Town. Pre-auction viewing open to the public at no charge, 15 February, 10h00 to 15h00, and 16 and 17 February, 10h00 until 17h00. For more information, 021-794-6461 or e-mail email@example.com. The auction catalogue can be viewed atwww.stephanwelzandco.co.za.