03 Sep 2019

Aspire Art Auctions’ latest offering in Cape Town demonstrated the company’s pre-eminence in the South African market in the strategic art segments in which it specialises. Contemporary art took centre stage, with Aspire’s special focus on work by William Kentridge, coinciding with the artist’s magisterial exhibitions in Cape Town, performing well. Aspire is also the foremost auction house in the country to sell work in two other specialised and previously neglected areas, the work of black South African artists from the twentieth century, and fine art photography. Both of these offerings again sold well on this auction.

TOP LOT: William Kentridge, Untitled (Witwatersrand landscape) (1988), sold for R2 731 200.

Aspire Art Auctions’ latest auction was held on 1 September 2019, at Avenue, the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. The company has a clear strategic outlook focused on developing value in particular market segments – especially contemporary art, black modernist South African art, and fine art photography – while still demonstrating the expertise and market nous to handle and successfully sell the major signatures of the South African art auction market. A well-positioned focus on the work of William Kentridge, South Africa’s most prominent international contemporary artist, led the sale, timed to coincide with his major exhibition happening in Cape Town at two museums, the Zeitz MOCAA and the Norval Foundation.

Kentridge Specialists

Aspire’s ability to successfully sell contemporary art was signalled by the special focus on the work of Kentridge. An early landscape drawing from 1988 led this section on the artist, Untitled (Witwatersrand landscape) which fetched R2 731 200. One of the master’s most prominent and internationally exhibited print portfolios, Portage, sold for R682 800, and a range of other Kentridge prints on offer also performed – Four Cats, Summer Graffiti and Black Monkey Thorn all selling well, the latter well over its high estimate. The strong showing by the Kentridge section of the sale was rounded out by his three-dimensional work Head I, which achieved R170 700.

While Kentridge is a pre-eminent contemporary signature, Aspire also performed well in more traditional areas of the modernist market, with a beautifully expressionist landscape by Maggie Laubser, By die see (Seascape with boats and birds) selling for R796 600.

Comments Aspire Director and Senior Art Specialist Emma Bedford, “Our expertise and ability in selling the work of Kentridge in the auction market is by now well established, but it is pleasing to also demonstrate our ability to handle and successfully sell more traditional signatures like that of Laubser. It proves that our clients trust us across all market segments”.

BLACK MODERNIST SUCCESS: Dumile Feni, Mother and child, sold for R546 240

Black Modernist market leaders

Aspire has been consistent in its approach to this previously neglected market segment, and has had notable recent success developing value and building market knowledge in what is becoming a much better understood and respected area of South African art. The sale in this segment was led by a remarkable drawing by the influential and important Dumile Feni, Mother and child, which sold for R546 240. A lyrical watercolour and gouache work by Gerard Sekoto, Portrait of a woman, sold for R295 880, above its high estimate, and was joined by other successful sales for the likes of Dr. Esther Mahlangu, Mmakgabo Mmapula Mmangankato Helen Sebidi and George Pemba.

Contemporary and photography success

The sale again demonstrated Aspire’s established market leadership in the contemporary and photography segments. Leading the showing in contemporary art was a piece by Deborah Bell, Tapestry I hear you with my heart, which sold for R295 880, and an exquisite work by Billie Zangewa, The Cotswolds, which fetched R227 600. Aspire innovated in the South African fine art auction market earlier this year by pioneering the first dedicated fine art photography section at auction, which performed remarkably well. The company followed up this success in the current auction, with David Goldblatt, with whom Aspire achieved a world record price earlier this year, again leading the market. His photograph The farmer’s son with his nursemaid, the farm Heimweeberg, near Nietverdiend in the Marico Bushveld. Transvaal (North-West Province), 1964 fetched R318 640, to go along with major successes for works by Zanele Muholi and Mikhael Subotzky, both of whose works sold above their high estimates.

PHOTOGRAPHY SUCCESS: David Goldblatt, The farmer’s son with his nursemaid, the farm Heimweeberg, near Nietverdiend in the Marico Bushveld. Transvaal (North-West Province), 1964, sold for R318 640

Ruarc Peffers, MD, Senior Art Specialist and auctioneer, concludes: “We are once more proud to see our strategic positioning vindicated by the market as we continue to have sales success in our specialised segments. And we are also vindicated by our focus on expertise and quality in these segments. As we grow and develop as a business, this focus will stand us in good stead as we look to diversify our offerings both in content and in geographic reach. And of course we want our loyal clients to join us on that journey”.


Upcoming Auction details:

Aspire’s next live sale is on 3 November 2019, at Gordon Institute of Business Science, Illovo, Johannesburg.

For obligation-free valuations, and to consign works of art to our upcoming auction sales, please contact:


Johannesburg | 011 243 5243


Cape Town | 021 418 0765