Fresh from the remarkable successes of its recent Johannesburg auction in November 2017, Aspire Art Auctions is lining up another top roster of high-quality fine art in its upcoming Summer sale at The Avenue, the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town on 25 March.
Aspire’s last auction sale demonstrated their expertise in each of the major segments of historic, modern and contemporary art, with records being achieved across the board. The work on offer in the forthcoming sale shows the same depth and excellence, offering buyers another opportunity to add quality and rarity to their collections.
A leading highlight on the sale is a rare and unusual work by revered South African modern artist Alexis Preller. Gold Angel (Arêté), from 1970, combines the artist’s interest in African masks and Egyptian and Greek murals, gleaned from his extensive travels in Europe and North Africa. In addition to his interest in these themes, Preller developed a highly idiosyncratic personal cosmology, in which a variety of ‘Angel’ and regal ‘King’ figures are depicted, often just their heads, and often, like this one, in profile. This Egyptian-inspired Angel head is subtitled ‘Arêté’, a Greek word meaning ‘excellence’, or ‘living up to one’s potential’ – a key concept in Preller’s visual cosmology. This striking work is executed in the artist’s innovative intaglio method: the image appears at a distance to be in high relief but is in fact produced as a negative, a concave form, cast in fibreglass resin. The cast is then meticulously painted to create the illusion of a convex rendering of the form.
Another significant modern artist on the sale is Cape Town’s own Peter Clarke. Clarke’s work has been a great success in recent Aspire auctions, one fetching a world record price of R932 176 in Johannesburg in November. This is the highest ever price at auction for one of his gouache works. An early gouache and watercolour work goes on auction in Cape Town, Bathers from 1967. It is on the sale alongside an even earlier oil on paper still life by Clarke, Fruit Bowl from 1958.
Maggie Laubser needs no introduction to most serious buyers and collectors, and one of South Africa’s most significant modern painters has a beautiful still life on the Cape Town show. Still life with vase and sunflowers (1940) is a representative painting from the artist’s mature period, when she had become something of an icon for a younger generation of contemporary SA artists, the so-called ‘New Group’.
Judged on the outstanding success of the sale of Sydney Kumalo’s Mythological Rider in the Aspire November 2017 sale, where it achieved a world record price of almost R2 million, buyers will be interested in another arresting sculpture by the venerated Amadlozi artist. Figure on a Bull is from an edition of nine, but has the distinction of being a posthumous cast.
Lastly, the upcoming show has a special focus on contemporary art, an area in which Aspire has consistently led the secondary auction market, and which forms a strategic focus area for the company.
One of the contemporary highlights at this auction is by one of the most exciting contemporary artists in the country at the moment. Mohau Modisakeng’s star continues to rise. The work on auction is from 2012’s Frames series, Untitled (Frame XVI). This series was instrumental in establishing Modisakeng’s characteristic visual style – a cool, abstracted and stylised photographic performance in which the artist stages his own body in ‘frames’ of implicit violence, indicative of the global situation of the black body. In this particular instance from the series, the trope of the blinkers implies both violence and control over the subject.
Another significant contemporary work on auction is the tapestry work by Athi-Patra Ruga from 2013, Uzukile the elder. This arresting piece is newly arrived on consignment from the prestigious Fondation Louis Vuitton show in Paris entitled Being There, which featured new South African talent.
Emma Bedford is Director, Senior Art Specialist and head of Aspire’s Cape Town office. She was also the Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at Iziko South African National Gallery, where she worked for 25 years. She comments: ‘We are very excited to bring such a considered and valuable range of work to the local market. Given that the record-breaking successes in our last sale ranged from the world-record price for a sculpture by Kumalo to a South African record for a drawing by contemporary doyen William Kentridge, we can confidently assert that we are demonstrating our expertise in the art market across the board. We are especially looking forward to further affirming our presence and expertise in the contemporary market with this sale.’