Sotheby’s is delighted to present their March sale of Modern & Contemporary African Art, with an exhibition opening Friday 15 March at 34-35 New Bond Street, ahead of an on-live auction on Thursday 21 March. From ground-breaking pieces by pioneering masters to exciting works by emerging contemporary talents, this auction showcases the vibrant narratives and diverse expressions of creativity from artists from Africa. Highlights include outstanding works by Alexis Preller, Irma Stern, Amoako Boafo, Gerard Sekoto, Ben Enwonwu, Mohamed Melehi, Ouattara Watts, Vladmir Tretchikoff, J.H Pierneef, and Sydney Kumalo, among many others.

Alexis Preller
Portrait of the Artist as a Visionary
(est. £200,000-300,000)
© Courtesy of Homestead Group

Leading this season’s curated selection is Portrait of the Artist as a Visionary (est. £200,000-300,000) one of Alexis Preller’s final masterpieces. Originally included in the artist’s 1972 retrospective in Pretoria, it is evident that by the time it came under the gavel at his estate sale that Preller had revisited this canvas, with additions including a kingfisher and an apple. The former symbolises both mortality and immortality and the latter expands on this representing knowledge, immortality, temptation, the fall of man and sin. Currently the subject of an in-depth retrospective at the Norval Foundation in Cape Town, the surrealist artist often referred to as ‘South Africa’s Gauguin’ is undoubtedly enjoying a revival. Accompanying this portrait are two works by another South African Master, Irma Stern. Hamida Hamed (est. £40,000-60,000) is a fresh-to-market work from the artist’s famous 1945 visit to Zanzibar, a sumptuous portrait of a local Muslim lady in repose, and is accompanied by a serene still life featuring two of the artist’s favourite subjects Watermelon and Dahlias (est. £100,000-150,000) against a luminous turquoise background.

Sydney Kumalo
St Francis
(est. £30,000 – £50,000)
© Estate of the Artist

These tour de force works share the spotlight with Sydney Kumalo’s iconic St Francis (est. £30,000-50,000) sculpture. Property of a distinguished private collection, this important sculpture depicting St Francis of Assisi – patron saint of animals and the environment – is one of Kumalo’s most recognized and sought-after sculptures. Conceived in 1962 and cast by Vignali Foundary (Pretoria) for Egon Guenther Gallery (Johannesburg), Kumalo expertly marries both Christian and African symbolism, to not only capture the compassion of the revered saint, but also the strength of the South African people. Following this work is Acacia Trees in the Veld (est. £30,000-50,000), a perfect example of Jacob Hendrik Pierneef’s famed bushveld scenes. Over the course of his long and hallowed career, which mirrored the rise of Afrikaner nationalism in South Africa in the wake of independence from the British, Pierneef’s elegant and simplified portrayals would come to define South African landscape painting of that period.


Ben Enwonwu
Africa Dances
(est. £50,000-70,000)
© Courtesy of The Ben Enwonwu Foundation

Finally, Sotheby’s is thrilled to share a remarkable fresh to market painting by renowned Nigerian modernist Ben Enwonwu, titled Africa Dances (est. £50,000-70,000). This captivating painting offers a glimpse into Enwonwu’s perspective on rapidly evolving modern Nigerian culture, utilizing symbolic imagery from his Onitsha-Igbo heritage, particularly in scenes of dance and ritual performance.

Kudzanai Chiurai
A few hours later
© The Artist and Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Cape Town, London and New York

Sotheby’s is also delighted to introduce striking works by contemporary superstars, Kudzanai Chiurai, Nicholas Hlobo, Zanele Muholi and William Kentridge, amongst many others.

Click here to view the complete catalogue. The auction will open for advance online bidding from 13 March and live bidding will take place on 21 March at 14:00 GMT

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