This group of works comes from a private collection whose proprietor had a long association with the mining business in South Africa. We are now selling these screenprints on behalf of our client, and after a few enquiries to put together the background story of these pieces, I came out with more questions than answers.
Once I got over the clash created by the many layers of colour and realised that they are, in fact, quite balanced, my next thought was the unusual subject matter of the prints, especially for this stage of Battiss’ career.
According to Warren Siebrits, Walter Battiss only started making silkscreens in 1956 and he created most of them in the last decade of his life. In addition, Murray Schoonraad dates these works as being done in 1974, which was a particularly busy year for the artist: with trips to New York and London, Madagascar and the Comores, and the launch of Fook Island at the inaugural exhibition of the Goodman-Wolman gallery in Cape Town, alongside Edoardo Villa.
In a recent exchange with Warren Siebrits he confirmed our suspicion: a few years ago, Linda Givon told Siebrits, in passing, that one of her art collector clients in mid-1970 indeed commissioned these works from Walter Battiss.
Considering that three of the works mention the General Mining Company (G.M. Coy), someone who, like me, is not an expert in South African mining, can try to guess that the General Mining Company commissioned these works.
Another interesting aspect is that this may not be the complete series of works commissioned: in 2020, Strauss & Co sold, as part of the old Monarch Hotel auction, a screenprint by Walter Battiss, entitled Cyanide Works – Anglo and Driefontein G. M. Coys. This is a work of similar dimensions to the prints we bring you and also one of an edition of 30.
These limited editions of the mines are quite popular and always show positive results every time they come up on the secondary market.
If you have a particular interest in South African mining or Walter Battiss’ work and know more about how this series of prints came about, we would love to hear from you.
Likewise, if you would like to add these fascinating works to your collection, we would love to hear from you too.
by Susana Pedro Buschor
Resource – Siebrits, Warren. Walter Battiss: “I Invented Myself”: the Jack M. Ginsberg Collection. Johannesburg: Ampersand Foundation, 2016.
Please contacts us for more information regarding this set of works – firstname.lastname@example.org