Figuration is a powerful conceptual thread linking historical, traditional, modernist, and contemporary art in Africa. Strauss & Co’s first offering of the year will be a prestigious non-selling exhibition, Giving Direction: Figuration, Past and Present, curated by the auction house’s specialists Leigh Leyde and Wilhelm van Rensburg. On view at the historical homestead of Welgemeend in Cape Town, the exhibition and its accompanying schedule of events will run from Monday 14 to Sunday 20 February 2022, timed to coincide with the Investec Cape Town Art Fair.

Jürgen Schadeberg, Priscilla Mtimkulu “Brushing up” 1955, (The Schadeberg 50’s Collection), silver gelatin archival hand print, 36,5 x 36,5 cm, Private Collection

This exhibition is not an historical survey of figurative art from the continent,” explains Leyde. “Rather, it aims to ask questions and contribute to the dialogue around African-ness, as an essential identity marker, and to showcase a post-modern contemporary art praxis that uses figuration as a means of articulating, critiquing and transgressing personal and public representations and stereotypes.” Museum-quality works by contemporary artists who are making their mark internationally will be on show, including Georgina Gratrix, Eddy Illunga, William Kentridge, Lutanda Zemba Luzamba, Cinga Samson, Billie Zangewa, and Portia Zvavahera.

Twentieth century stalwarts Sydney Kumalo, Maggie Laubser, Noria Mabasa, George Pemba, Alexis Preller and Irma Stern will also be represented, with works in a variety of media including oil on canvas and sculpture. A strong showing by artists who use photography as a means of expression will interest collectors of works on paper, with iconic images by Jabulani Dhlamini, Pieter Hugo, Nandipha Mntambo and Zanele Muholi vying for attention.

Co-curator Wilhelm van Rensburg stresses that “figuration operates on a stylistic continuum, with, at the one end, naturalistic optical representation, and at the other, purely conceptual, or abstract expression.” A special treat will be the ‘traditional’ African artworks included in the diverse selection, including a Chokwe chief’s stool from Angola, a pair of Chokwe Tuponya figures made in Zambia and a maternity figure carved by an unrecorded Makonde artist in northern Mozambique or Tanzania.

Wondering how much your own art and collectables are worth? Strauss & Co’s team of art specialists will be on hand for valuations and consultations at Welgemeend on Tuesday 15 February from 9h00 to 16h00.
The exhibition will be accompanied by an educational webinar series, between 7 – 11 February and scheduled walkabouts with the curators, between 15 – 20 February. Visit for more information.

Exhibition Details:
Monday 14 until Sunday 20 February 2022.
Open daily from 9h00 to 16h00, open to all, no entrance fee.
Venue: Welgemeend, 2 Welgemeend Street, Gardens, Cape Town, 8001.
Public opening event: Wednesday 16 February 2022, 18h00.

Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, Reconnaissance 1, oil and acrylic on canvas 170 x 150 cm, Private Collection


Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Wishes Above Needs, oil on canvas, 80 x 65cm, Private Collection.


Gerard Sekoto, Self Portrait, oil on canvas on board, 45,7 x 35,6 cm, Private Collection

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