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Aspire brings together the best of the best

Aspire Art Auction’s forthcoming Johannesburg sale, set for 12 November, features a roll call of some of the best historical, modern and contemporary art in the South African market at the moment. Here are some highlights from the carefully chosen and exclusive auction lots on the sale.

The undoubted highlight on the show is a powerful work by JH Pierneef, The Commando Tree, on the road to Sibasa (1930). The painting is from the period generally acknowledged to be that of the artist’s greatest work, coinciding with the famous Station Panels. The painting depicts a wild fig tree with huts in the background, a space historically used for lekgotlas, in what is now Limpopo Province. The oil on canvas was bought from Pierneef himself in 1930 and was exhibited for many years at the Pretoria Art Museum. This historically important work will be offered on auction at estimates of R2 500 000 – R4 000 000. Then, two splendid Irma Stern paintings are featured lots. A delightful gouache from 1945, depicting boats in a cove, is doubtless inspired by the artist’s travels in Zanzibar in that year. An unusual landscape is also on sale – a significant earlier work, an oil on canvas from 1941. Entitled The Garden, it is a verdant and rich oil on canvas rendering of the garden in Stern’s home in Rondebosch, the site of the current Irma Stern Museum, and is the view through the French doors of her famous studio, onto the tumultuous camellia trees outside. 

Pieter Wenning |
Skoolgebou Rondebosch

Another highlight is an exceptional painting by Dutch-born Pieter Wenning. Skool, Bishopscourt (The School, Bishopscourt) was painted in 1918 during Wenning’s visit to the Cape, organised by his close friend and mentor D.C. Boonzaier, who praised this work as one of the artist’s finest. Upon completion, Skool, Bishopscourt (The School, Bishopscourt) was first bought by Lady De Villiers Graaff in September 1918. Modern work in addition to the fantastic Stern paintings on offer, includes Maggie Laubser’s Wild Flowers (1958), an excellent example of the painter’s neo-expressionist style, with its strikingly exaggerated colour palette and bold, almost geometric lines. The work’s stylised pastoral flavour chimes well with the rural surrounds of her Cape childhood. After the success of Figures on a Path, Tesselaarsdal, which sold for R682 080 in Aspire’s July auction, another signature pastoral work by the celebrated Cape artist Peter Clarke comes under the hammer in November. Again set in the Overberg town of Tesselaarsdal, a formative influence on the beginning of his difficult but celebrated career as a visual artist, this quiet rural scene has his trademark vibrancy and palette. The work is set at estimates of R400 000 – R600 000. Contemporary work is well represented, and also throws up some unique examples.

Peter Clarke | Tesselaarsdal

Prime among them is a rare early drawing by William Kentridge from Mine, the third in the celebrated film series, 9 Drawings for Projection. The fourth film of the series won the artist his first major recognition and the prestigious Rembrandt Gold Medal at the Cape Town Triennial held at the South African National Gallery in 1991. Drawing from Mine depicts Johannesburg mining magnate, Soho Eckstein, in bed, about to plunge his cafetière, which transforms into a mine shaft or periscope plunging into the world below. One of the drawings from this film is in the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, in Washington DC. This superb image from the internationally renowned films will be offered on auction at estimates of R1 500 000 – R2 500 000. Finally, hot on the heels of his highly acclaimed and successful solo show of video, performance and photographs at WHATIFTHEWORLD gallery in Cape Town, entitled Passage, a photographic work by celebrated South African contemporary artist Mohau Modisakeng goes to auction. He was recently one of the two featured artists at the much-praised SA Pavilion at the latest Venice Biennale, and his current exhibition is a version of the work featured there. The photographic print Ga Etsho 1 (2015) is a unique, one-off inkjet print, and a highly unusual piece by this young talent, made prior to the editioned series of the same name. 

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