Aspire Art Auction’s next major sale takes place on March 3 at Avenue, V & A Waterfront, Cape Town. Collectors will be intrigued in particular by the spectacular line-up of contemporary art on offer. Aspire’s reputation as the leading South African auction house for top quality work in this segment is growing apace, with several world records set at its sales in the last calendar year alone, including benchmark prices for younger artists Georgina Gratrix, Zander Blom and Mohau Modisakeng.
In what is something of a coup for the local auction market for contemporary art, Aspire is presenting as one of its lead lots on the sale a high-quality early painting by world-renowned South African-born, Dutch-based artist Marlene Dumas.
With its atmospheric colour palette of olive greens and inky Prussian blues, Love Lost is amongst her earliest works exploring the experience of love found and lost. This transformative experience raises questions of how we relate to one another, not only sentimentally in the picture postcard renditions of Victorian England which appear on the painting in collage, but fundamentally. Here, the effects of these profound emotions are recorded in the personal experience of a young woman whose tousled hair and body are not unlike those of the young artist herself. The auction market in South Africa has not been notable for major works by Dumas, who once held the record for the highest global price fetched for a painting by a female artist. This remarkable early work redresses the balance somewhat.
Few such auction offerings in the local market are complete without an exemplary William Kentridge drawing, and Aspire is presenting a splendid example of the work of this doyen of the local scene with one of his Colonial Landscape series. This series renders implicit critiques of the struggle over the representation of territory in the colonial era. Kentridge seems to be telling us that the attempt to represent land in a particular way lies at the heart of the ideology of the colonial enterprise. Allegorical and subtle, this work is a particularly strong instance of his landscape drawing.
Also on offer is a much wider range of contemporary works than usual on auction sales. There is even some international flavour in the offer of two works by highly regarded Scottish painter Stephen Conroy, associated with the so-called New Glasgow School emerging in the 1980s around the famous Glasgow College of Art. Both works on the sale are figurative, in the particular mode of Conroy’s painting that has attracted comparisons with Gilbert and George.
Another South African artist with an international market comes to a South African auction for the first time. Critically-lauded Berlin-based Robin Rhode has a series of studies from a photographic series on sale, titled Pan’s Opticon.
Of the remaining contemporary pieces on the sale, ranging from another South African artist, like Dumas, with connections to the Netherlands in Moshekwa Langa; to several pieces by esteemed local favourite Sam Nhlengethwa, attention will focus on the section of the sale devoted to photography.
Aspire has seen notable success in sales of this medium in recent times, and has been responsible for developing a market for South Africa’s many highly regarded fine art photographers. Recent successes have included top prices achieved for work by David Goldblatt, Pieter Hugo and Guy Tillim, and a world record for a photographic work by Cape Town’s Athi-Patra Ruga.
On this sale, apart from the aforementioned work by Robin Rhode, a range of highly collectable photography by Tillim, Hugo and Modisakeng will feature.