South African auction house Strauss & Co boasts an exciting array of contemporary art in an upcoming sale devoted exclusively to the category. Featuring artists from all over the world, and with more 100 lots on offer, the auction is taking place on 16 February during the Investec Cape Town Art Fair (15-17 February).

Standout works in the sale includes this impressive archival ink-jet print on Baryta, The Knight of the Long Knives I by Athi-Patra Ruga. The work is signed, dated 2013 and numbered ⅘ on the reverse.

The costumed figure in the photograph talks to the artist’s love of fashion and his artistic penchant for elaborate scenography and theatricality. Ruga was born in Umtata but raised in East London; he moved to Johannesburg in 2002 to study fashion at the Gordon Flack-Davidson Academy of Design.

The central balloon-clad figure was conceived for a live performance at the 2010 Toffie Festival in Argentina. Ruga also staged appearances in the Netherlands and in Italy, alongside those in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Grahamstown. Over time, his drag-influenced character acquired a mythical context: she is a monarch from a matriarchal dynasty ruling Azania, a fictional utopia once championed by anti-apartheid activists. Ruga has likened his Azania to Walter Battiss’s Fook Island: ‘I think one should always have the idea of a better place’.

Another exciting and ‘otherworldly’ work in Strauss & Co’s standout sale is Simphiwe Ndzube’s Inevitable Journey to Mars I.

The artist’s work is characteristic for its use of materials, artistic techniques, and stylistic choices, which includes painting, collage and assemblage. This diversity within the artworks is reflective of the equally multiplicitous and contentious socio-political landscape of South Africa.

The performative stages and figures Ndzube assembles, as in Inevitable Journey to Mars I, are created out of roadside construction site material and castoff clothing – thrown-away objects that the ‘nobility’ of South Africa have discarded. Through his figures, Ndzube reflects on the ways in which South Africans struggle to face the impact of colonial and apartheid history, particularly within their fragmented families and communities. Ultimately, these figures explore an attempt to heal the wounds of their present.

Frank Kilbourn, Strauss & Co’s executive chairperson, says, ‘This diverse sale of contemporary art is an important part of Strauss & Co’s commitment to exploring and expanding the market for South African art’.

He adds that collector enthusiasm for innovative works by a younger generation of artists is quickly growing. ‘We were thoroughly delighted by the fact that Strauss & Co established 19 new artists’ records at its inaugural contemporary art sale last year. These results, in the context of the rapidly maturing art eco-system, make us very confident of the long-term future and success of South African art.’

Although Strauss & Co’s sale is largely focused on South African artists, the auction includes an excellent selection of works by established and emergent contemporary artists from Africa and beyond. These include lots by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami and London-based German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans.

The contemporary art sale is taking place on Saturday 16 February at the Cape Town Cruise Terminal of the V&A Waterfront, though bidding can also be made online for those based internationally.

Discover Strauss & Co’s entire catalogue here