French South African auction partnership offers powerful African art sale on Valentine's Day

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French South African auction partnership offers powerful African art sale on Valentine's Day
Pierneef’s Baobabs with Soutpansberg in the distance, 1920. Estimate: £315,000 – £470,000 (R6–9million).

CAPE TOWN.- French flair and passion from Piasa combined with South African energy and local knowledge from Aspire promises to deliver an auction sale of Modern & Contemporary African Art to remember on February 14th at 3pm in Cape Town.

This collaboration is unprecedented and represents the first time an African and European auction house have partnered to present a sale of African art, in Africa, for a global audience.

The landmark auction: Modern and Contemporary African Art takes place on Friday, 14 February at OroAfrica House in Cape Town. The curated collection comprises 198 lots, featuring 139 artists representing 27 countries from Africa and the diaspora. While presenting a broader pan-African offering, it spotlights key collecting segments from 20th Century modernism to contemporary production and photography.

Christophe Person, of French auction house Piasa, says: “The South African market is one of the most dynamic on the continent. But until now collectors have been mostly focussed on local artists and less on art from other African countries. What is special about this new partnership between Aspire and Piasa is that it offers a pan-African vision of contemporary creation.” Ruarc Peffers of Aspire, adds: ”We are delighted to be working with Piasa who have made significant inroads into the Contemporary African Art Market in Europe. Creating both depth and breadth geographically is one of the real excitements of this joint initiative.”

Ever-increasing global interest in art from Africa is changing the art market. To meet the growing demand, Aspire has partnered with Paris-based house Piasa, to introduce an Africa-focused auction that presents some of the best examples of modern and contemporary art produced on this continent.

Headlining the collection, and the top lot by value, is J.H. Pierneef’s Baobabs with Soutpansberg in the distance, 1920 (R6–9million). Pierneef’s baobab paintings are extremely rare. Painted a century ago and never before seen on the market, this large, splendid painting, with impeccable provenance, will enhance any serious art collection.

Adorning the catalogue cover is a superb, early painting by internationally acclaimed Marlene Dumas, never before seen on the market. Oktober 1973 is only the third Dumas painting ever offered at auction in South Africa. Estimated at £160,000 – £260,000 (R3–5million), the work is set to attract significant interest.

An impressive variety of drawings and sculpture by William Kentridge leads the contemporary selection. Topped in value, Kentridge’s mixed media work Whilst Reaching Down (Slowly), 2013, £160,000 – £260,000 (R3–5million) is a series of drawings on dictionary paper which highlights the artist’s command of drawing, text and animation.

The auction introduces some of the most in-demand African artists on the market. A remarkable painting by Chéri Samba (Congo) titled Retour au Bercail, 1995, (R225,000 – 300,000), is the first work to be offered at auction in South Africa by this seminal painter.

Other prominent artists debuting locally on auction include Aboudia Abdoulaye Diarrassouba (Ivory Coast), with two expressive mixed media works from the mid-1990s; Marc Padeu (Cameroon) with a large and iconic, figurative painting; Salah Elmur (Sudan) with an enchanting work The Green Forest, 2016 (R195,000 – 255,000) and Gareth Nyandoro (Zimbabwe) with a 2016 paper-based work titled Tauya Nadzo Tsoka Dzenyu (Brand New Second Hand Nikes), estimated at R180,000 – 240,000.

Collectors of contemporary art are particularly well provided for. Works by Kudzanai Chiurai (Zimbabwe), Zemba Luzamba (Congo) and Kay Hassan, alongside Mustafa Maluka’s large scale We forgot how life’s supposed to be, 2007 (R250,000–350,000); Moshekwa Langa’s Untitled abstract in blue ink, 2010 (R300,000–400,000) and a striking city-scape Full Moon, 2017 (R100,000–150,000) by the late, much celebrated David Koloane, amongst others, add to the strength of the overall offering.

A strong lead of women artists showcases an exceptional still life painting by Irma Stern from 1954. African and Chinese ceramics with oranges and open book reflects her sophistication, love of travel, delight in the discovery of diverse cultures and their artefacts, and her mastery of oil painting. Helen Sebidi’s colourful Figures and birds, 1991 (R80,000–120,000) will appeal to the discerning collector.

Contemporary highlights include work by Lisa Brice, Deborah Poynton and Frances Goodman, as well as Georgina Gratrix’s compelling portrait Girl with Purple Hair, 2013 (R250,000–350,000) and Mary Sibande’s powerful photograph, A Terrible Beauty is Born (from the Long Live the Dead Queen series), 2013 (R300,000–400,000).

Aspire has made meaningful advances in developing the market for photography at auction, and the exciting range of photographic works and lens-based media will excite discerning collectors. Included are works by some of the best-known, established and emerging, names in film and photography from Africa, like Guy Tillim, Cyrus Kabiru, the brothers Hasan & Husain Essop, Nyaba Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso), Mario Macilau (Mozambique) and Mohau Modisakeng.

Rarely exhibited in South Africa and making its inaugural local auction appearance, is an early 1980s photograph Every Mother’s Son / Children of Suffering (R70,000–90,000) by the late Nigerian/British photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode. Legendary photographer David Goldblatt is represented with seminal images from his famous photobooks Some Afrikaners Photographed and TJ/Johannesburg Photographs, including the highly sought-after work; A railway shunter who dreamed of a garden without concrete or bricks, watered by this dam, Koksoord, Randfontein. 1962 (R250,000– 400,000). Aspire currently holds the world auction record for Goldblatt’s work and continues to dominate this market globally.

Three striking examples from Benin photographer Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou draw upon his hallmark portrait vernacular while José Chambel (São Tomé and Príncipe) documents the preservation of cultural heritage in his Tchiloli series of studio-like photographs.

Two remarkable sets of pen and ink drawings; Oja Suite, 1962 and Nok Suite, 1958/59 by Uche Okeke, a seminal figure in modern Nigerian art and academia, together with a powerful, early drawing by Dumile Feni Mother and Child, 1966 (R200,000–300,000) introduces the outstanding selection of rare and sought-after 20th century modernist works by artists from the continent – one of the key strategic focus areas pioneered by Aspire.

Impressive works from established, canonical artists like John Koenakeefe Mohl, Ablade Glover (Ghana), Ernesto Shikhani (Mozambique), Alexis Preller, Cecil Skotnes and Walter Battiss will draw attention.

Namaqualand landscapes are the most sought-after subject by early Cape impressionist, Hugo Naudé. The beautifully painted Namaqualand flowers and quiver tree (R750,000–1million), is to date one of the best – and largest – oil on canvas paintings by this artist ever to come to market.

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