Irma Stern painting sells for R17.2m

12:59 (GMT+2) Tue, 12 Jun 2012

Irma Stern's painting "Arab" has been sold at an auction for R17.2-million - the second-highest price ever for a painting sold in South Africa.

The highest price was reached last year when Strauss & Co sold Stern’s Two Arabs for R21 166 000, the company’s spokesperson Bina Genovese said on Monday.

Arab, a painting of a distinguished Omani Arab man, had been expected to fetch between R7-million and R9-million. It went to a South African buyer after “fierce bidding”.

Another notable record at the auction was that Alfred Thoba’s 1976 Riots sold for R913 480 – over R800 000 more than his previous record.

Two works by Robert Hodgins – Et in Arcadia Ego and A Gentleman from Mexico – sold for R1 002 600 and R779 800 respectively, setting a new record for the artist.

Arab was painted on Stern’s first visit to Zanzibar in 1939, when Zanzibar was still under the reign of an Omani Sultan – Seyyid Khalifa Bin Haroub.

It had been in the same family since it was purchased directly from the artist by the present owner’s mother over 70 years ago, and had never before appeared on the market. – Mail and Guardian Online