African art accounts for about R12 billion of the total global top-end art market valued at about R900 billion, according to the South Africa 2018 Wealth Report released by AfrAsia Bank and New World Wealth in April.

About R5.5 billion of the top-end African art is held in South Africa.

These are South Africa’s most expensive paintings right now.

1. The highest price ever achieved for a South African painting is Irma Stern's Arab Priest, at R52,303,600.

This forgotten Irma Stern painting was unexpectedly found in a London apartment. Stern had donated the piece to a charity auction to help finance Nelson Mandela’s legal defense in the late 1950s. (Picture: Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers)


2. Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers sold Irma Stern's Bahora Girl for R40,756,944.

The Zanzibari beauty which caught Stern’s eye, titled ‘Bahora girl’ is an enchanting image dating from 1945. An oil on canvas it comes with its original Zanzibar frame which adds additional interest. (Picture: Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers)


3. Another Irma Stern painting Seated nude with oranges, sold for R29,210,000 also by Bonhams.

An oil on canvas signed and dated Irma Stern, 1934. (Picture: Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers)


4. One of the highest prices ever achieved for a South African painting is Irma Stern's Two Arabs, at R21,166,000.

Irma Stern has captured the attention of art lovers and serious buyers alike with her paintings achieving phenomenal prices, including the highest price ever paid for any work of art at auction in South Africa when the painting, Two Arabs, was sold by Strauss & Co for R21 166 000 in September 2011. (Picture: Strauss & Co)


5. Farm Jonkershoek with Twin Peaks Beyond, Stellenbosch by Jacob Hendrik Pierneef sold for R20,462,400.

Painted in 1928, Farm Jonkershoek with Twin Peaks Beyond fetched R20 462 400 at auction in 2017. (Picture: Strauss & Co.)


6. Chinese Girl by Vladimir Tretchikoff sold for R17,267,000.

The popular painting features‚ amongst others‚ in David Bowie’s The Stars Are Out Tonight music video‚ in a Don Paterson poem God’s Gift To Women‚ The White Stripes music video Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground and Alfred’s Hitchcock’s film Frenzy. (Picture: Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers)


7. Arab by Irma Stern sold for R17,267,000.

Stern chose to focus all attention on a single Arab, his contemplative face infused with kindness and bathed in glowing light. (Picture: Strauss & Co.)



8. The Pink Sari, also by Irma Stern, R17,029,194.

The pink sari is a stunning example of the beauty Stern encountered on the island. In the women of the Zanzibar in particular, she had found her greatest inspiration. (Picture: Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers)


9. Young Arab, also by Irma Stern, R13,641,600.

Most of Irma Stern’s Arab subjects derive from the artist’s two visits to Zanzibar in 1939 and 1945. (Picture: Strauss & Co.)


10. Gladioli by Irma Stern, R13,368,000.

Stern’s fondness for flowers is given free rein in this unusually large canvass. Softer colours seduce the eye while unexpected colour groupings create visual excitement in a symphony of subtle and complementary colour combinations. (Picture: Strauss & Co.)


11. Extensive Landscape with Farmlands by Jacob Hendrik Pierneef sold for R11,936,400.

An oil on canvass reflecting Pierneef’s joy, enthusiasm and understanding of what he had just been exposed to. (Picture: Strauss & Co.)


12. Irma Stern’s Malay Girl at R11,697,000.

Painted in 1938, Malay Girl contains all the elements of Irma Stern’s finest works and is one her most compelling portraits providing extraordinary insights into the curious life of a child. (Picture: Strauss & Co.)


13. Irma’s Stern R11,140,000 White Lilies.

White Lilies was included in Irma Stern’s solo exhibition at the Argus Gallery in March 1941, where it was identified as among the best works. (Picture: Strauss & Co.)


14. Still Life of Delphiniums by Irma Stern sold for R10,583,000.

Still Life of Delphiniums broke the R200 000 barrier for a 20th century South African painting back in 1995. The record stood for just over five years. (Picture: Strauss & Co.)


15. Extensive Landscape Northern Transvaal by Jacob Hendrik Pierneef sold for R10,583,000.

Extensive Landscape Northern Transvaal made auction history in 1985 when it became the first South African painting to break the one hundred-thousand rand mark, selling for R120 000. (Strauss & Co.)

READ: Four South African paintings were sold for more than R1 million each in one evening

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