Aspire Art Auctions breaks records in latest sale

13 Nov 2017

Highest ever South African price reached for Kentridge drawing and world record for Kumalo sculpture

Aspire Art Auctions’ latest Johannesburg sale on 12 November 2017, blew several auction records out of the water. The sale took place in Aspire’s spectacularly successful new venue in the tranquil surrounds of the Illovo campus of the Gordon Institute of Business Science. The sale attracted huge interest in the varied and superbly compiled range of contemporary, modern and historical work on offer. Aspire’s strategic vision is to grow into an innovative and dynamic South African and international auction house, and the latest sale attracted widespread interest from local and global collectors, curators and buyers.

The top lot by value on the sale was the superb drawing by the world-renowned South African artist William Kentridge, the Drawing from Mine (Soho with coffee plunger and cup) (1991), which sold for R5 456 640. This is a record price for a drawing by Kentridge in South Africa, beating its high estimate of R2 500 000 by more than double. This jewel in the contemporary crown at this auction is taken from one of the original four animated films produced at the time, and first exhibited at the Goodman Gallery in 1992. A fierce bidding war ensued to acquire the piece. The next best lot by value, by one of South Africa’s best known historic artists, sold for R4 092 480, exceeding its high estimate. J.H. Pierneef’s Kommandoboom, op pad na Sibasa (The Commando Tree, on the road to Sibasa) (1930) is an exceptional example of work by this much-loved South African landscape painter, produced right in the middle of his peak creative period, during which he painted the famous Station Panels. Says Aspire Senior Art Specialist and Director Emma Bedford, “It’s really exciting for us that work of this stature is being entrusted to us to sell in the auction market – it’s a testament to our positioning and expertise in a highly competitive field that we can do so well with both of these works – one historical, and one contemporary work.”

The successes extended to modern sculpture, with a pair of works by Sydney Kumalo doing brilliantly. His Mythological Rider from 1970 sold for R1 932 560, well over the high estimate of R1 000 000. This represents a significant world record, and an exciting development in the local market for this well-liked sculptor. Another Kumalo work on auction, Praise Singer 1 (1987) was also snapped up for R568 400, which was almost double its high estimate. Aspire’s authoritative presence in the market for Edoardo Villa continued, with a significant price of R1 023 120 fetched for his Reclining figure from the 1960s.

These spectacular successes took their place alongside remarkable sales for other South African work from the mid to late twentieth century.

The Peter Clarke gouache Tesselaarsdal, from 1958, fetched R932 176, the  highest ever at auction for one of his gouache works. Other South African artists performed extremely well, with a George Pemba from 1987 fetching R454 720.

The contemporary market is one in which Aspire has consistently led the market, and forms a strategic focus area for the company. The performance in this segment was spectacular on this auction. Two works by European-based Cape Town artist Mustafa Maluka earned their highest ever prices at auction, The smell of fear is thicker than you think (2007) fetched R272 832, and One day it will all make sense (2007) fetched an impressive R318 304. A tapestry by Marion Arnold fetched R96 628, and a work by Pierre Fouche, Peter of the Galatea, (2007), attained a very respectable price of R68 208, over double its high estimate. It is testament to Aspire’s expertise in the contemporary arena that, in his first time at auction, Fouche fetched this serious price in a very competitive bidding war. A stalwart figure of the contemporary market, Robert Hodgins, again did well, his Office Hours (2006) attaining R728 920. A rare work on auction by Willie Bester, renowned anti-apartheid multimedia artist, did very well, fetched over a quarter of a million rand, equalling his best price ever at auction.

Ruarc Peffers, Director, Senior Art Specialist and auctioneer, comments: “We are delighted to be doing so well with this kind of contemporary work, which forms a central strategic focus for our business.” The contemporary field is one in which many living South African artists who sell on Aspire’s auctions gain the benefit of the company’s self-generated and managed Artist’s Resale Rights (ARR) scheme. “Aspire remains committed to pioneering the Artist’s Resale Right in South Africa,” says Peffers, “because we have an abiding commitment to the development of the industry and support of emerging and established artists.”

Consistent with Aspire’s ethos of museum-quality presentation and display, the exhibition of work in the new GIBS venue received unanimously positive responses.

Aspire director Mary-Jane Darroll concludes: “Our brand continues to grow as the success of our sales increases. Our commitment to innovation, quality, knowledge building and market change in the fine art auction field in South Africa is unparalleled.”