Thursday, 20 February 2020

Top auction sale results achieved for Modern and Contemporary African Art

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Aspire X Piasa Auction shines with unprecedented offering, accessing new global markets while benefitting Africa.

The landmark Aspire X Piasa Auction: Modern & Contemporary African Art, took place on Friday, 14 February at OroAfrica House in Cape Town. With a curated collection of 198 artworks, the large-scale Africa-focused auction offered collectors a diversity of works by artists working on the continent and from the diaspora. 

This pioneering collaboration between Aspire Art Auctions and Piasa was unprecedented and is the first time an African and European auction house have partnered to present a sale of African art, in Africa, for a global audience.

This auction not only introduced new artists to auction, but reinforced some of the most in-demand African artists on the market, locally and abroad. Proving the strength of the global African art market, Aspire X Piasa achieved many outstanding results, setting numerous new records for modern and contemporary art from Africa.



The cover lot of the sale, internationally renowned Marlene Dumas’ sensational Oktober 1973 excited competitive bidding before being selling to a new buyer in the room for R7,055,600, well above the pre-sale high estimate of R5 million. This was only the third unique Marlene Dumas work ever to be sold at auction in South Africa, achieving the second highest price for the artist’s work locally. Aspire currently holds the South African auction record for the artist.

Says Emma Bedford, Senior Art Specialist and Director of Aspire Art Auctions: “What a privilege it has been to handle this work at auction after it first appeared in the catalogue of the exhibition Marlene Dumas: Intimate Relations that I co-curated with the artist for Iziko South African National Gallery and Standard Bank Gallery in 2007 and 2008. Seeing it again reminds me of Dumas’ extraordinary power to imbue her paintings with emotional experience and intellectual depth – rare qualities that have made her work so sought-after in the global art market”.

William Kentridge’s multi-media work Whilst reaching Down (Slowly) sold for R2,503,600, followed by John Meyer’s impressive Cape landscape, Edge of the Hexrivierberge which achieved R1,138,000.

Andy Warhol’s Grevy’s Zebra (from the Endangered Species series) was a delightful thematic inclusion and sold for an impressive R1,024,200.



Featuring 139 artists and representing 27 countries from Africa and the diaspora, the auction presented the broadest pan-African offering to date in Africa, with many of these artists being introduced to auction in South Africa. 

This segment performed remarkably well, showing progressive market interest and price growth. A highlight was Chéri Samba’s Retour au Bercail selling for R432,440, well above its high estimate. Salah Elmur’s enchanting work The Green Forest, sold for R318,640 and Michael Musyoka’s Time 5 achieved a momentous R250,360.

Zemba Luzamba’s New Generation 3 sold for R204,840 and both of Aboudia Abdoulaye Diarrassouba’s expressive paintings sold well at R147,000 and R125,180 respectively while Marc Paudeu’s iconic painting achieved R125,180.

Christophe Person, Head of African Contemporary Art at Piasa states: "This first Aspire X Piasa partnership provided the opportunity for works by many artists to appear at auction for the first time. The selection generated strong interest from collectors and reached a wider audience from across the globe. For Piasa's collectors, this auction provided access to works by internationally established artists such as Marlene Dumas and William Kentridge as well as established South African artists like David Goldblatt, Mary Sibande, David Koloane, Athi-Patra Ruga and Mohau Modisakeng, amongst many others. At Piasa, we strongly believe that the way forward to develop the contemporary African art market is to operate globally across borders. We see this as our role to assist clients in building pan-African collections."



The sale once again demonstrated Aspire’s strength and established market leadership in the contemporary art and photography sectors. This segment delivered astonishing results with many new records set and auction debuts.

The collection included two sculptures by William Kentridge, Untitled IV (Horse with Raised Leg) and Man with Globe which sold for R853,500 and R455,200 respectively. Wim Botha’s sculpture Portrait VI sold for an admirable R398,300 while Kudzanai Chiurai’s White Wall achieved R227,600.

Making his auction debut was Gareth Nyandoro with Tauya Nadzo Tsoka Dzenyu (Brand New Second Hand Nikes), selling at a record R284,500. Another newcomer to auction is bright young star Pierre Vermeulen, whose large-scale gold-leaf diptych sold for R113,800.

Works by women artists took the lead with Lisa Brice’s Adult Show (sold for R364,160), Mary Sibande’s A Terrible Beauty is Born (sold for R342,400), Satiated (sold for R250,360) by Frances Goodman and Portrait of Guy (sold for R182,080) by Deborah Poynton all setting impressive new world auction records.

Legendary photographer David Goldblatt’s highly sought-after work A railway shunter who dreamed of a garden without concrete or bricks, watered by this dam, Koksoord, Randfontein 1962 achieved R341,400 and Athi-Patra Ruga’s photograph The Future White Women of Azania II sold for R227,600.



As one of Aspire's key strategic focus areas, the selection of rare and increasingly sought-after 20th century modernist works by artists from the continent drew considerable attention. A beautiful study by Maggie Laubser, Violet sails and birds, from 1964 sold for R682,800, followed by a remarkable drawing by the renowned Dumile Feni, Mother and child, which, after competitive bidding achieved a remarkable R625,900. This is currently the second highest price for a work on paper by Feni while Aspire still holds the record for the artist's work.

Cecil Skotnes’ delicately carved Totem fetched an impressive R318,640 alongside Alexis Preller’s golden relief Abstract selling at R273,120. Cecily Sash’s Birds (from the Migration series) fetched a remarkable R204,840.

Ghanaian Ablade Glover’s bird’s-eye view of an African Market in Blues achieved R182,080, well above its high estimate. Other significant sales include John Koenakeefe Mohl’s Daybreak After Snow Falling selling for R182,080.

A significant and historical result was achieved by Gerard Sekoto’s 1959 lithographic poster for The Second Conference of Negro Writers and Artists by the Society of African Culture achieving a record-breaking R204,840. 

Ruarc Peffers, Managing Director and Senior Art Specialist concludes: “I am proud that we have pioneered the presentation of a truly pan-African offering of modern and contemporary art on our home continent to a global collector audience. While we have already seen huge growth in the art markets of Europe and the US, the African art market remains largely underdeveloped market with enormous potential for growth. Astute collectors are increasingly aware of this reality and are consequently diversifying their collections, making them more Afro-centric. It is an exciting time for African art! Although the global economic environment is still under significant pressure, the strong results from this sale show the robustness of the art market and collector’s abiding perception of art as a resilient store of wealth”.


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