Treasures & Trailblazers: Aspire Art Auctions sets the stage for exciting sale of Modern and Contemporary Art in Johannesburg

This Spring, Aspire returns to Johannesburg with a much-anticipated auction of Modern and Contemporary art taking place on 3 September. With this large-scale auction, which presents a collection of 168 works by 103 artists, the company is breaking new ground with a fresh, yet considered selection of artworks that is demographically more representative and reflects the spirit of current times.

With a strong focus on South Africa, the sale also proudly represents artists from 10 African countries (Benin, DRC, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Sudan, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe) and international artists from Europe, the UK and USA. More than half of the lots on offer are by artists of colour, with over a third by women artists. Rare and important historical works are presented alongside an impressive and diverse collection of contemporary art which accounts for a solid 70% of the sale. Photography and new media works make up over 30% of the collection, while 12 new rising stars are introduced.

Art collectors can look forward to the opportunity to acquire sought-after pieces by outstanding artists through an engaging virtual auction format that will be live-streamed from Aspire’s gallery in Johannesburg. Buyers are invited to make use of telephone and various real-time online bidding platforms.

The leading lot in the sale is an exceptional early painting by Gerard Sekoto titled In the beer hall. Painted before Sekoto permanently left South Africa in 1947 and was first exhibited at Gainsborough Gallery in Johannesburg circa 1939/40. The painting is a fine example of Sekoto’s new found oil technique at the time and considered one of the earliest images of black people painted sympathetically by a black artist. Another important painting from Sekoto’s ‘golden-era’ period on auction is the radiant Portrait of a young woman. Early paintings by Sekoto of this quality are very rare and seldom come to market.

Gerard Sekoto, In the beer hall, 1939/40 | Estimate: R 1 500 000 – R 2 000 000

Two impressive works by Sekoto’s brother-in-arms, George Pemba, also feature. Both painted in the 1970s, a period of great artistic maturation for Pemba, The Wedding and Congregation are exemplary of Pemba’s unique social realist works.

George Pemba, The Wedding, 1973 | Estimate: R 180 000 – R 240 000

A great highlight is Edoardo Villa’s monumental steel sculpture titled Traverse from 1957. Originally commissioned by Monty Sack for the Carlton Hotel, it is one of the largest works Villa ever produced and is testament to his innovative use of steel and new construction methods. Breath-taking in scale, the work is a welded piece constructed from a series of intersecting flat and curved planes of steel. Also on offer is Villa’s impressive Standing Form, a large vertical figure of tubular forms epitomising South Africa’s rapidly growing industrialisation in the 1960s and 70s.

Edoardo Villa, Standing Form | Estimate: R 700 000 – R 900 000

Works by Ablade Glover, Peter Clarke, Gladys Mgudlandlu, Helen Sebidi, Jackson Hlungwani, Speelman Mahlangu and Diederick During further complement the modern offering.

Ablade Glover, Crowd | Estimate: R 150 000 – R 200 000

Headlining the contemporary section is a collection of significant works by William Kentridge, spanning his career. The spotlight falls on the limited edition bronze sculpture set Three Sisters (2016) which underlines Kentridge’s masterful use of medium and materials. Each sculpture takes the form of a human torso with their heads transformed into a propeller fan, a cone dial and a cubic box. Cast in bronze, they are meticulously painted to appear as if made of wood, cardboard and fabric. Ideas around the technological transformation of the human, so beloved by the avant-garde, are beautifully realised in these delightful works, which were recently exhibited in Kentridge’s retrospective Why Should I Hesitate at Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town.

William Kentridge, The Three Sisters, 2016 | Estimate: R 3 000 000 – R 4 500 000


William Kentridge, Dancer Twice (dark and light), 1996 | Estimate: R 1 900,000 – R 2 400 000

The two gracious Dancer Twice charcoal drawings from 1996 are unique for their sublime beauty. Each portrays a dancer leaping forward with effortless ease while the folds of their diaphanous tunics gracefully animate the action. Complementing these drawings are two sets of prints Dancer Twice and Dancer Twice (Reverse), each with their own distinctive handmade elements. This editioned series, made from the original drawings also on sale, marked the birth of digital printing in South Africa. And, by working with charcoal and wash on the prints, Kentridge transformed each into a unique piece.

Works by eminent contemporary artists include early ceramic sculptures by Nicholas Hlobo from his Sit – on or stand up and be counted installation; Sam Nhlengethwa’s large oil and collage on canvas interior diptych; a large bronze sculpture titled One Party State (2010) by Brett Murray, and captivating bust by Wim Botha from his Witness series. A welcomed addition is Gerald Machona’s delicate work The Tulip (Turkey).

Brett Murray, One Party State, 2010 | Estimate: R 150 000 – R 200 000

Of the mighty women’s voices featured in the sale is Penny Siopis with a striking painting Spirit Matter (2016) rendered in ink and glue on canvas – an experimental medium now synonymous with the artist’s work, but rarely available on the secondary market. Represented alongside Siopis is Judith Mason, Diane Victor’s captivating large-scale triptych No Hope, No Guts, No Glory (1991), and significant photographic and performative works by Zanele Muholi, Berni Searle, Tracy Rose, Mary Sibande, Bridget Baker and newcomer to auction Khanyisile Mbongwa with photographs from Umnikelo Oshisiwe – Ibandla Lomlindo.
Following Aspire’s recently achieved world record at auction of €34,150 for a single photograph by renowned photographer David Goldblatt in Paris in June, four scarce and highly sought-after photographs from his Particulars, Johannesburg, Some Afrikaners Photographed and Fietas series’ are offered as part of an outstanding photographic range which further include photos by Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou, Hasan and Husain Essop, Jo Ractliffe and Guy Tillim.

Sam Nhlengethwa, Untitled interior, diptych, 2007 | Estimate: R 100 000 – 150 000


Gerald Machona, The Tulip (Turkey), 2017 | Estimate: R 60 000 – 80 000


Berni Searle, Spin, 2006 | Estimate: R 150 000 – R 250 000


Bridget Baker, The Maiden Perfect, 2005 | Estimate: R 120 000 – R 180 000


David Goldblatt, Philamon Mabunda, flat cleaner, Geraldine Court, Hillbrow, Johannesburg, July 1972, 1972 | Estimate: R 200 000 – R 300 000


Penny Siopis, Spirit Matter, 2016 | Estimate: R 350 000 – R 500 000

Available on auction for the first time locally is a sculpture by El Loko whose permanent installation can be seen at Zeitz MOCAA, and a large expressive painting from 2001 by George Hughes titled Yellow Rage.
Concluding the auction from the very serious to the more satirical is Robert Hodgins’ delightful painting A Suit of Flames and a Brooks Bros’ Shirt (1997) which is sure to draw attention.

George Hughes, Yellow Rage, 2001 | Estimate R 100 000 – R 150 000


Robert Hodgins, A Suit of Flames and a Brooks Bros’ Shirt, 2008/9 | Estimate: R 600 000 – R 900 000

The fully illustrated and interactive catalogue is available online and can be downloaded at For more information, contact 011 243 5243