Three Centuries of Art at Aspire Art Auctions

05 Oct 2016

Aspire Art Auction’s inaugural sale on 31 October 2016 at The Park on 7 in Hyde Park, Johannesburg includes an extraordinary range of South African art from across three centuries.

The earliest work on offer, Drying Fruit, painted in 1896, is a fine example of Hugo Naudé’s early academic training at the Slade School of Art in London during the years 1989-90. Before returning permanently to South Africa in 1896, Naudé spent a year working with the artists known collectively as the Barbizon Group at Fontainebleau in France, as art historian Dr Eunice Basson points out in the catalogue. While this painting is reminiscent of famous pastoral paintings like Jean-François Millet’s The Gleaners, Naudé’s later Springtime, Namaqualand brilliantly conveys his understanding and adaptation of Impressionism to the South African landscape that has so endeared him to local collectors.

JH Pierneef’s breathtaking Karoo near Hofmeyer, painted in 1930 probably while traveling to gather visual documentation for the new Park Station panel commission, demonstrates his pioneering approach as one of the first painters to understand and acknowledge the luminosity of the African sun and its impact on the tonal scale and application of colour in paintings that are uniquely South African.

Paul du Toit and Erik Laubscher capture the beauty and particularities of the local terrain while Stanley Pinker and William Kentridge disturb any sense of equilibrium, proving that landscape remains a popular though contested subject in South Africa.

Leading the field amongst the modernists is Irma Stern with no less than three stunning paintings. Malay Girl, painted in 1946 after a second sojourn in Zanzibar, shows one of the treasured woven raffia mats she included in her Zanzibar book and exhibitions to evoke the island that so inspired her. In Congolese Woman, 1946, Stern captures her encounter with such rapid and assured brushstrokes that we feel the very sensual delight she took in this beautiful woman arrayed in her exquisite attire, her head magnificently framed in a soft scarf and simple necklace that echoes the neckline of her boldly patterned dress. Stern’s gouache of a young Watussi dancer was one of a series of works on paper capturing the spectacular royal celebrations of the Fête Nationale in Kigali, Ruanda in 1942.

Maggie Laubser’s Portrait of a Woman with a Head Scarf, from her Langebaan phase, brings, the expressiveness of her German period to bear on her deepening understanding of the working people around her, says Johan Myburg in the catalogue. Whether painting Senegalese dancers or a group of women talking, Gerard Sekoto’s paintings “evidence his lifelong connection to the spirit, nature, people, culture and forms of Africa” as Alexandra Dodd points out.

Alexis Preller’s painting, Profile Figures (Mirrored Image) of 1968, was so highly regarded that it was selected by the artist and Dr Albert Werth, the then-director of the newly built Pretoria Art Museum, to be prominently displayed on Preller’s acclaimed retrospective of 1972. Its installation at the front entrance, to be seen directly on entering the exhibition, is keenly remembered by art historian and artist, Professor Karel Nel, whose authoritative catalogue text provides unique insights into this rare work.

As early as 1965, Edoardo Villa, in his Homage to Maillol, married the sensuality of the French Modernist master with the hieratic qualities of African art to forge a new sculptural language from industrial steel and found objects. Robert Hodgins never fails to expose and entertain through his incisive critiques of
human nature.

Matthews, a gender-bender oil by Walter Battiss, radically subverts the history of the nude while Penny Siopis, winner of the Arts & Culture Trust 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award for Visual Art, is represented by no less than two of her highly sought-after Cake paintings that engage with the female body and the material of paint.

Contemporary art is making serious inroads at auction. Conceptually succinct and acutely distilled in the core ideas they communicate, Wim Botha’s sculptures take their inspiration from a vast range of classical and contemporary sources. By contrast, Ed Young’s cheeky nude self-portrait, entitled My Gallerist Made Me Do It, should raise an eyebrow, to say the least. The most recent work coming up on this auction, a tapestry of wool and gold thread entitled Convention…Procession…Elevation made in 2013 by Athi-Patra Ruga, is described in the catalogue by Lwandile Fikeni, multi-award winning arts journalist, as “a work of extreme beauty and imagination” that “refuses to be hemmed in by the visual language … which trades in graphic African despair”.

While South African photographers are sought after by international museums and private collectors alike, they have not been widely appreciated at home. This auction offers the opportunity to acquire impressive photographs by award-winners, David Goldblatt and Pieter Hugo, who explore, respectively, questions of what constitutes a place in the South African landscape and the economically marginalised of Nigeria.

With their in-depth art knowledge, Aspire’s team are ready to engage visitors looking to develop their art collections and expand their understanding of art. Senior Art Specialists, Emma Bedford, Mary-Jane Darroll and Ruarc Peffers, will conduct walkabouts on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 October at 11:00. These are free and anyone is welcome to attend.

For more information, contact:
Emma Bedford | | 083 391 7235
Jacqui Carney | | 071 675 2991
Mary-Jane Darroll | | 082 567 1925
Ruarc Peffers | | 084 444 8004

For images and Registration:
Jacqui Carney | | 071 675 2991

Aspire Art Auction 31 October 2016
e-catalogue available at

Auction preview
Friday 28 October 2016 10:00 – 17:00
Saturday 29 October 2016 10:00 – 17:00
Sunday 28 October 2016 10:00 – 16:00

The Park on 7, Hyde Park

Image Caption
J H Pierneef | Karoo near Hofmeyer | 1930 | oil on board | 42 x 56.5 cm
Courtesy of Nina Lieska, Repro Pictures

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