A tycoon's pricey pictures land up in Sars sales bin

September 14, 2015, 9:00am
Justin Titus with the painting he bought at a Sars auction (Supplied to News24)

A tycoon's pricey pictures land up in Sars sales bin

Durban - Two pieces of art worth nearly R260 000 - purchased by the Patrice Motsepe Foundation - were bought ''by chance" at a South African Revenue Services auction for R2 500 last week.

Durbanite Justin Titus was the lucky buyer, having bought the paintings on a whim without even seeing them.

Why and how the artworks landed up at a Sars auction remains a mystery, with Motsepe Foundation officials having gone to ground.

Now the savvy-minded Titus looks set to turn a massive profit on the paintings, even approaching the Foundation to see whether they would like to be “reunited” with the auctioned items.

But for now, a piece titled Good Days by Rashid Johnson and another by Carrie Mae Weems from her Roaming series have a temporary home in Durban.

Johnson is an African-American socio-political photographer who produces conceptual post-black art, according to Wikipedia, while Weems is an artist best known for her photography.

Easy win

Speaking to News24, Titus said that it was an easy win on his first auction.

“We registered for the auction the day before and they allow you to view the items, but because the auction is so large, things are scattered around at the border posts and depots so I didn’t actually see the paintings,” he said.

Titus said he had purchased the paintings as a parting shot, because some of the items he actually wanted required an import licence.

“I picked up the two paintings and a car, thinking that if I made a loss on the former I would be covered by the vehicle. Turns out I didn’t make a loss,” he said.

On the way back to Durban, Titus examined the provenance documents with the art, only to find that the previous owner had been the Patrice Motsepe Foundation.

A courier’s slip seen by News24 details the date of export as April 28, after the purchase from the Corridor Gallery in Brooklyn, New York.

$19 000 value

It lists the value of the pieces at $19 000 and the contact person on behalf of the ultimate consignee as Patrice Motsepe.

“I contacted them [Patrice Motsepe Foundation] to find out if they wanted to buy the art back and they seemed interested, although apparently Patrice is travelling overseas. I have had them appraised and I am waiting for the ultimate values of the work. The two auction houses I have been in touch with also seem really interested,” Titus added.

“When I saw the value and who had bought them I was elated. It is hard to describe the feeling, it was like fireworks,” Titus said.

Asked if he would be dabbling in more auctions, he answered in the affirmative.

Questions were sent to the Patrice Motsepe Foundation, which had not responded at the time of publishing.

Jeff Wicks: News24