Aspire sets a new bar for the market in its latest Autumn 19 Auction in Cape Town, with a South African auction record for its cover lot, an early work by international star Marlene Dumas achieving over R7 million. Further successful sales include a range of paintings by Alexis Preller from across his career, and new world records for work by Jane Alexander, Simphiwe Ndzube and Moshekwa Langa. These results further establish Aspire’s growing reputation as the discerning  auction house for handling contemporary South African art.  


NEW SOUTH AFRICAN RECORD: Marlene Dumas, Love Lost (1973/4), sold for R7 283 200.

Aspire Art Auctions’ latest auction was held on 3 March 2019, at Avenue, the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. The company has developed their reputation as an agile, innovative and discerning auction house, with proven expertise across all segments in the historical, modern and contemporary periods. Despite the competitive nature of the Cape Town art market, and this sale immediately following the Cape Town Art Fair, Aspire has demonstrated its growth and consistency with impressive results. Led by the sale’s catalogue cover lot – a brilliant performance from the significant early painting by South African-born and Dutch-based international artist Marlene Dumas – Love Lost (1973/4) achieved R7 283 200, more than doubling its pre-sale estimate of R3 000 000.

Leading signatures

Aspire’s ability to perform well in selling historical work was strongly demonstrated in this sale. A pair of landscapes by the South African historic master, J.H. Pierneef, both delivered strong results. Sunlit Mountains, Clarens (1918) sold for R1 128 000, as did an exceptional casein painting by the artist, Acacia Trees, which fetched R739 700. Inimitable work by Irma Stern was present on the auction with one of her quintessential still lifes, Still life with roses (1948) selling for R2 276 000.

Aspire has developed a reputation as the auction house to successfully sell the work of South Africa’s foremost modern signatures, particularly that of Alexis Preller. Aspire holds the world record for the artist, selling his Adam (1972) last year for over R9 million. This auction included several of his works across the timeline of his career. Leading the offering was a beautiful figurative post-expressionist early work from 1939, Congo Figures, which sold for R4 552 000. A mid-career still life followed; The Blue Plate from 1956 – featuring some of the artist’s famous ‘household gods’ in its composition, achieving R2 276 000. An impressive abstract work, Tower – Zimbabwe Ruins, from 1967 and amply demonstrating his mastery of colour, sold for R455 200.

A highlight of note was the exemplary incised wood panel by Cecil Skotnes from 1983, which sold significantly above its high estimate. After a fierce bidding war, Head sold for R1 365 600, realising one of the artist’s highest prices at auction in recent years. Important twentieth-century works by market stalwart Walter Battiss were also sold. Sunbathers and Surfers, both with a similar style and subject matter, sold for R455 200 each.

Says Aspire Director and Senior Art Specialist Emma Bedford, “As established and reliably astute judges of quality in the market, our clients trust our judgment. Coupled with our successes in the various segments, our consistently reliable performance affirms our strategy of focusing on quality within the market and of being more selective in our approach”.

 Contemporary success

Aspire is highly regarded for its success in the contemporary market – testament to its strategic positioning and depth of understanding. This sale saw works by emerging and established artists perform incredibly well, including achieving several world and auction records.

Leading the contemporary work by value was a ‘performance photograph’ by one of the rising stars of the South African art scene, Cape Town’s own Athi-Patra Ruga. His Night of the Long Knives I sold for R591 760, almost double its high estimate. Renowned contemporary painter Penny Siopis fetched R512 100 for her painting Cakes, which equals the second highest price for a work from this series, after Aspire sold one for the same price in 2018.

World records for contemporary work

A world auction record was achieved for a work by rising star, South African born, LA-based, Simphiwe Ndzube, whose multimedia work Sarah and Some Gentlemen (2014) sold for R512 100, well above its pre-sale estimate of R250 000.

NEW WORLD RECORD: Simphiwe Ndzube, Sarah and some Gentlemen, sold for R512 100

 Another highly respected contemporary artist on the sale was Dutch-based South African Moshekwa Langa. His the cyclone that never abates fetched R448 000, significantly above its high estimate; a world auction record for the artist and Aspire.

 NEW WORLD RECORD: Moshekwa Langa, the cyclone that never abates, sold for R448 000

A notable niche that is being developed and grown by Aspire in the local market is that of contemporary photography. South Africa has several world-class fine art photographers, and, including the exceptional photographic work by Athi-Patra Ruga, the sale featured a range of their best quality work. A photomontage by Cape Town’s Jane Alexander, Grand Salon, Hotel Dajti, was the highest price achieved for a photomontage by her at auction when it fetched R128 800. Award winning photographer Guy Tillim saw his diptych Opunohu – Rotui – Cook’s Bay, sell for R79 660. The highly reputable Daniel Naudé had his photograph Xhosa bull on the shore. Mgazi, Eastern Cape, 18 May 2010 fetch R66 280, a remarkably strong showing on his auction debut.

Ruarc Peffers, MD, Senior Art Specialist and auctioneer, comments: “We are gratified to see our reputation as purveyors of the finest contemporary art in the South African auction market grow, further solidifed by this sale. Consistently good performance in our sales, especially in the contemporary segment, allows us to pay royalties to those artists under the terms of our Artist’s Resale Rights (ARR) initiative, awarded the Best Strategic Project Award by Business Arts South Africa last year. More than this, we’re pleased that our strategy of a focus on quality, across all the segments of historic, modern and contemporary art, and on developing and deploying our expertise within these segments, is being recognised by our clients“.

Upcoming Auction details:

Aspire’s next sale is on 2 June 2019, at Gordon Institute of Business Science, Illovo, Johannesburg.

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


Jacqui Carney | | +27 71 675 2991

Kathryn Del Boccio | | +27 82 567 1925

Ruarc Peffers | | +27 84 444 8004

Cape Town

Emma Bedford | | +27 83 391 7235

Marelize van Zyl | | +27 83 283 7427

About Aspire Art Auctions

Aspire Art Auctions is a South African-based, specialist auctioneering company formed to respond to the requirements of the country’s rapidly growing art industry.

Specialising in historical, modern and contemporary art, the company is headed by a grouping of partners with formidable collective knowledge and expertise – together representing the longest combined secondary art market presence in South Africa.

With collective art industry experience of more than eighty years, Art Specialists Emma Bedford, Jacqui Carney, Kathryn Del Boccio, Ruarc Peffers and Marelize van Zyl produce curated auctions of top-quality international, African and South African art.

In the short time since Aspire’s inception, the company holds some of the most significant records for Modern and Contemporary artists from this country and the continent, namely, Alexis Preller, Sydney Kumalo, Dumile Feni, William Kentridge, Marlene Dumas, Moshekwa Langa, Guy Tillim, Georgina Gratrix, Simphiwe Ndzube and Mohau Modisakang, to name a few. This is testimony to the growing strength and following of this coveted brand. Buyers and sellers alike are reliably rewarded by choosing Aspire to handle their most cherished and significant artworks.