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The firm, specialising in historic and modern art, bring together directors Emma Bedford based in Cape Town and Mary-Jane Darroll and Ruarc Peffers in Johannesburg.

All formerly trained and worked with the late Stephan Welz who died at the end of last year.

The company say that the loss of Welz “has created uncertainty and concern about a paucity of knowledge in the market” and that they identified “a need to bring together a unique team of talent to fill this vacuum”. Aspire is financed by businessmen Brian Joffe and Adrian Gore, collectors who are both “enthusiastic” about the auction industry.

Alongside its commercial aims, the group also hope to develop the art sector in South Africa by raising the profile of local and international artists. As well as offering appraisals, authentication and auction services, they will also be staging exhibitions and a varied programmes of events.

Strauss look to future

With regard to Welz’s former auction house Strauss & Co, a number of appointments were made to its board last month. Carmen Welz, wife of the late founding managing director, joined the board alongside new executive chairman Frank Kilbourn. A venture capitalist and co-founder of the Bright Foundation for the arts and education, he is also a key collector of modern and contemporary South African art.

They have also made two appointments in their picture department with Wilhelm van Rensburg and Marion Dixon joining their Johannesburg office.