Cecil Skotnes tapestry by Marguerite Stephens, 1965 goes on sale at Strauss & Co.

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From the Strauss Auction Catalogue, Lot No.

"The President Hotel, bounded by Eloff, Plein and De Villiers Streets in Johannesburg, opened in October 1967 and cost its investors then in excess of R7,000,000.  Thankfully, a significant share of the budget was set aside to fund a number of commanding, site specific new artwork by Transvaal artists.

Major paintings by Aileen Lipkin, for instance, depicting the geological wealth of the Rand were hung on the first floor of the bulding, while Walter Battiss and Larry Scully, both concouraged to draw inspiration from the local countryside and cityscape, provided a pair of paintings for the second floor.

Carved and painted mural panels offering wide views of the veld, moreover, were executed by Pinto Cattaneo for the so called Transvaal room.  But perhaps the showpiece of the hotel's decorative scheme was the present lot, a luxurious vast tapestry woven by Marguerite Stephens from a design by Cecil Skotnes.  Composed with geometric and contrasting segmetns of yellow, amber, maize, ochre, olive and charcoal, and measuring nearly 3.5m by 4.5m when unfurled, the tapestry took pride of place in the hotel's central lobby.

This tapestry was one of the earliest commissions for Mags as a professional weaver.   Without any assistance, limited by a modest Gobelin loom in her mother's hand-weaving studio in Swaziland and using dyed, hand spun mohair she completed it according to the artist's original cartoon over a period of six months. 

Besides its striking and obvious decorative quality, there are few better examples in a South African context of the power of collaboration.  The splendour of the work relies just as much on the artist-designer as it does on the artist-weaver."


The tapestry sold for R409,000.00