The cars had been carefully positioned to create the traffic jam and the ‘drivers’ sat in the passenger seat to create the impression that this was an American city or someplace else they might drive on the ‘wrong side’ of the road.
Cape Town was being used as a film set and such was the complexity that we assumed it must be for some movie epic, but when we asked, we were told that the reason for all this effort was to make a ad for Iced Tea.
Still, it made for an useful letter I for ABC Wednesday, except that there was another literally around the corner from where we were staying — The Irma Stern Museum in Rosebank.
Irma was born in Schweitzer-Renecke, a small town in the Transvaal, of German-Jewish parents. Her father was interned in a concentration camp by the British during the Boer War and Irma and was taken to Cape Town by her mother.
She was associated with the German Expressionist painters and held her first exhibition in Berlin in 1919. In 1920, she returned to Cape Town with her family where she made little impact as an artist until the 1940s.
She married Dr Johannes Prinz her former tutor, who became professor of German at the University of Cape Town, but they divorced in 1934. Irma then travelled extensively in Africa and Europe and died in South Africa in 1966.
She held a hundred solo exhibitions in her lifetime, but was mostly unappreciated in her country of birth where one review was entitled: “Art of Miss Irma Stern — Ugliness as a cult“.
The Irma Stern museum was established in 1971 at The Firs, the house she had called home since 1927, where there is also a commercial gallery used to display the works of today’s South African artists.
Her Gladioli painting above sold at auction for R13.3 million in October 2010, but this record was smashed later the same month with the sale of Bahora Girl for R26.7 million.
The canvas dated 1946 was sold in its original Zanzibar frame and shows Irma’s young friend, Fatu, the Bahora girl of the title.