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François Krige @ Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town
2 December 2000 -  Andries Loots

The book " The life and art of François Krige " by Justin Fox,  which coincided with an exhibition of works never seen before by the public, was launched at the Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town on The 30th November 2000.

The opening was well attended but his family and friends  left right after the opening speech. By 20h30 few visitors were left...

François Krige is one of those artists whose work appeared from obscurity onto the art market in a rush after his death in 1994 and within three years the prices have been pushed to the limits and at this exhibition, exorbitant ? Never did any South African artist's work  increase in price from R5 000 in 1998 to R 280 000 in 2000. The prices of work sold at auction are listed below :

April 1995 Xhosa Man Oil on Board 39,5x 35cm R 300 - 500 R 772
May 1998 Still life with Fish Oil on board 33 x 45cm R 3500 - 4000 R 5 792
October 1998  Drawing Charcoal 34,5 x 48,5 R 1800 - 2400 not sold
November 1998 Pulling the Boat oil on board 54x 46cm R 30 000 - 40 000 R 64 612
February 1999 From the artists studio Oil on board 65 x 49,5cm R 15 000 - 20 000 R 37 876
May 2000 Artist' House & Garden Oil not signed 78,5 x 85cm R 80 000 - 100 000 R 100 260
May 2000 Still Life of Quinces Oil on canvas 40 x 64,5cm R 70 000 - 90 000 R 178 240
October 2000 Barrydale Pen and ink  36 x 51cm R 1000 - 1500 R 2 420
October 2000 Stormy day Hermanus Oil on board 38 x 45cm R 12 000 - 16 000 R16 200
November 2000 View of a Town Oil on canvas 46,5 x49,5cm R 15 000 - 20 000 R16 710
November 2000 Still life with Irises Oil on board 70 x 44,5cm R 70 000 - 90 000 R77 980?
November 2000 Cottages at Mamre Oil on board 51 x 65cm R 120 000 - 150 000 not sold
November 2000 Irises Oil on board 69 x 65cm R 90 000 - 120 000 R100 260?

François was a shy man who didn't want to sell his paintings and therefore his work was never exposed to the art market during his life time. When he died in 1994 a few works appeared onto the markets and even made their way to auction houses but they were never snatched up by eager collectors or corporate buyers and therefore never fetched high prices. Before this exhibition,  when it became common knowledge that there will  be a book published about the artist, the prices in Galleries  started escalating overnight from  R 30 000 to a staggering R 70 000. 

When one regards the marketing drive that has been put into place to try and establish Krige as a recognized artist,  one can't but wonder if this was not done too fast. Prices were increased dramatically in Galleries, then estimates at Sotheby's and other local auction houses were increased to unknown levels for a " newcomer "  and then there was the book? Krige was a member of the 'New Group' which included artists like Gregoire Boonzaier, Alexis Preller, Walter Battiss, Terence Mc Caw, Lippy Lipshitz, Maurice Van Essche, Pranas Domsaitis, Everard Haden Ruth, Hugo Naude, Maggie Laubser, Ruth Prowse, Jean Welz, Cecil Higgs, May Hillhouse, Erik Laubser, Neville Lewis, Frieda Lock, Maud Sumner and guest artists Gerhard Sekoto and  Piet van Heerden, to name the most prominent. Most of these artists exhibited their work regularly and their prices grew gradually over a period of many years as paintings changed hands. Their work was also taken up in private and corporate collections. Prices were determined by supply and demand and escalated gradually.

There were already resistance towards Krige's estimated prices at the last Sotheby's Sale when some of his works were not sold. It is therefore not surprising that none of the works on this exhibition were sold on opening night. One can't but wonder how  the price structure will be sustained from here? Will people use this Exhibition Pricelist to try and sell their work for less or will prices return to an affordable and realistic level.  One should keep in mind that one could still buy an Irma Stern Oil painting, 34 years after her death at the last Sotheby's sale for R250 000. This is in a time where the art market is in flux and prices are unstable.

When looking at the various works from his different genres at this exhibition, one can not but wonder who  would pay R 240 000 for an unsigned work - as many of the works on display were not signed.

Although the book functions to introduce the relatively unknown and very private Krige, it is also used as a tool to motivate why Krige should be regarded of equal stature as the rest of the artits from the 'New Group'. It is however only the market force that will determine if his work will sell for the same prices.