Mandela Art Never More Poignant

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The first authenticated  co-signed Jürgen Schadeberg photograph of Nelson Mandela to come to an auction house in South Africa will be sold at the Stephan Welz & Co. Decorative and Fine Arts Auction, 25 February in Constantia. The iconic photo of Mandela gazing out through the barred window of his Robben Island prison cell, signed by both Mandela and Schadeberg, is one of the significant works in a Mandela Collection, which will be a feature of the auction.

Valued at R70 000 – R90 000, the photo was taken during Mandela’s first revisit to Robben Island since his release. “I asked Mandela if he would stand against the window and put his arm on the windowsill and look out through the bars,” said Schadeberg*. “I took quite a few frames, and I noticed that his expression was changing…he was first smiling and relaxed, then started looking very serious. I said: ‘Thank you very much; I better stop.’ He looked around and gave me a tiny little smile — not his normal big smile — and I suddenly realised that the 17 years he had been in this prison must have gone through his mind in these few seconds and it must have been a terrible and very emotional experience for him. I hope [this photo] will help remind people of Mandela and his spending so many years in prison,” said Schadeberg.

According to Schadeberg, only twenty copies of this image, signed by both Mandela and himself, were made. German-born Schadeberg was one of the key Drum photographers during the turbulent 1950s and early 1960s and is widely considered a great documentarian of South Africa, over the past 60 years.

“With his recent passing, Mandela is even more on the minds of collectors these days,” said Anton Welz of Stephan Welz & Co. On the eve of the South African launch of his acclaimed movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (and just a week prior to Mandela’s death), film producer Anant Singh bought what is possibly the biggest lot of signed Nelson Mandela memorabilia ever to be auctioned. The collection was purchased for R1 121 000 at a Stephan Welz & Co. auction in Johannesburg.

Another auction highlight is the study of Nelson Mandela created by British Royal portrait painter Richard Stone, which served as the blueprint for his famous portrait of Mandela, now residing in New York. The celebrated painter of queens, princes, Pavarotti and former Bishop Desmond Tutu amongst others, painted Mandela in 2008, and had this to say about their time together:

“The experience of painting Mr. Mandela has been unforgettable, and a truly humbling circumstance to be in his presence. The challenge was not only to capture a good likeness, but also to fulfil a great public expectation and record something of his extraordinary spirit. Really, getting a sense of the essence of the man.”

Mandela Study

“On seeing the work for himself, Mr. Mandela smiled broadly and clutched my hand in his. His eyes twinkled and I guess for such a modest man, he felt that the portrait did him justice. He has a marvellous face, with all life’s experience etched upon it. The intelligence in his eyes, the care and compassion, the heroism and gentleness are all part of the man. I hope that this portrait has gone some way to capturing his charisma and great personal dignity.”

It is rare that artists showcase their studies, however Stone has donated his Mandela study, to be auctioned for charity by Stephan Welz & Co. at its Fine Art and Design Auction in Cape Town on 25 February. The proceeds of the sale of the study will go to CIDA.

“Stone’s famous Mandela portrait, which currently resides in New York sold for R6.8 million a few years ago, on Nelson Mandela’s birthday.  Stone, one of the world’s most famous living portrait artists, who frequently paints members of the Royal Family has asked us to auction the study, upon which his famous portrait is based.  We have therefore decided to start the bidding at R100 000 to encourage as much interest as possible in its auction.  In many ways the Study is unique as it captures the blueprint of Mandela’s image it was painted during private sittings in 2008.  Artists also rarely part with their studies or reveal them to the world,” said Alan Demby, Chairman of Stephan Welz & Co.

Bid online

Anyone can bid for pieces online via www.the-saleroom.com, Europe’s leading portal for live art and antiques auctions, which is now operating in South Africa.  Users of the website can search catalogues and place their bids over the internet in real-time, with live audio and video feeds recreating the auction room atmosphere – all from the comfort of their laptop or computer.

The Stephan Welz & Co. Decorative and Fine Arts Auction will take place on Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 February at The Great Cellar, Alphen Estate, Alphen Drive, Constantia. Pre-auction viewing open to the public at no charge, daily from Wednesday 19 – 23 February from 10h00-17h00 (Wednesday 19, Thursday 20, Saturday 22 and Sunday 23); 10h00-14h00 (Friday 21 February). For more information contact 021-794-6461 or e-mail ct@stephanwelzandco.co.za. The auction catalogue can be viewed at www.stephanwelzandco.co.za

Follow Stephan Welz & Co. on Twitter @StephanWelzCo

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