Strauss & co - 8 October 2009, Cape Town

97 Leslie Milner, was born in Lithuania in 1927 and moved to South Africa with his family at the age of six. After matriculating in 1948, he joined the family business, ”Milly’s”, and embarked upon a career defined by industry and innovation. Over the course of the next decades he travelled extensively, pioneering many areas of South African foods. He established a frozen food plant, a pickled cucumber factory and South Africa’s first smoked salmon factory which, in addition to supplying the local market, exported to Germany, Australia and Canada under the name of “King Solomon”. Following the sale of the Milly’s chain in 1984, he relocated to Johannesburg. Five years later, Leslie and his wife, Dorothy, purchased a small factory called New York Bagels in London’s Kentish Town which grew to become a leading producer of fresh and frozen bagels. This became the namesake for the landmark deli and bakery in Sea Point, once the location of an old Milly’s store, which they opened upon their return to South Africa. Leslie Milner’s interest in art was stimulated in the 1950s, when he met Solly Disner, a sculptor and poet of Polish origin who lived above his small factory in Hatfield Street. Disner was also an art dealer and, through him, Leslie was introduced to the leading Cape artists of the time. He would sometimes accept art in lieu of rent and purchased some of his finest paintings from Disner, including important works by Maggie Laubser, Paul du Toit and Maurice van Essche, but his first acquisition was notably Irma Stern’s Still Life with Tiger Lilies and a Melon . His wife recalls how furious she was with him when he brought the painting home, as they still had no curtains or chairs. He formed enduring ties within the art world, including with Gerard Sekoto who he often visited in Paris. Leslie did not speculate in art. He trusted his instincts and made choices motivated by the sheer enjoyment his collection provided. Consequently many of these paintings have never been seen outside the circle of Milner’s family and friends. He was well-known for his pioneering work in the food industry, but many people will be surprised to discover his passion for art. He passed away in March 2009 after a short illness at the age of 81. Leslie Milner 1927 – 2009