Aspire Art presents a mesmerising painting titled Adam, from 1972,  by the lauded South African artist Alexis Preller as the leading lot in their upcoming live auction which will take place on the 7th of June, in Johannesburg.

This, never before seen, reiteration of Preller’s iconic Adam portraits is a major discovery and a valuable addition to the artist’s documented oeuvre. The painting forms part of Preller’s important series of Adamic-themed works from the late 1960s and early 1970s which comprises several versions and variations of the subject.

Alexis Preller, Adam (in gold), 1972. Estimates: R 5.5 – 7.5 million

The painting first belonged to a well-known medical doctor in Johannesburg, who presumably purchased it directly from the artist after completion in the early 1970s. The work was later bought from his deceased estate in the mid-1980s by an art collector and it has been in a family private collection, out of public view, ever since.

Estimated at R 5.5 million – R 7.5million for sale at auction, this enchanting Adam in gold relates to the notable Icon Barbare (Adam) which was exhibited in Preller’s acclaimed retrospective exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum in 1972 as well as the large-scale, electrifying Adam which was shown at the São Paulo Biennale in 1973, and sold by Aspire Art in 2018 for just over R 9.1million.

Delicately rendered in oil and gold leaf, this image of  ‘the first man’ takes on the archaic quality of a god-like being – it exudes a strong and commanding presence. The facial features of the downcast head, which are seemingly similar to that in ancient Babylonian art, are finely delineated, capturing a sense of introspection and contemplation. The empty eyes, different in colour, reference classical sculpture, while the structure of the upper chest alludes directly to the idealised body type of the ancient Greek kouros figures.

Alexis Preller is considered one of the most important and widely recognised modern artists from Africa. Historically significant, this Adam is an incredible and intellectually engaging portrait that reflects the artist’s deep exploration of mythology, spirituality, and human form and condition. It stands as a testament to Preller’s mastery of technique and his ability to convey profound and complex ideas through his art.

The painting will be on display from 2 – 7 June at Aspire Art’s showroom in Johannesburg before the auction.

The auction: 20th Century & Contemporary Art in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 7 June 2023, in person and streaming live from 32 Bolton Road, Parkwood. 




Alexis Preller, Adam, 1972. SOLD FOR R9,104,000 in 2018 by Aspire Art.


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