South African Cultural Observatory

Aspire Art Auctions makes history in latest sale

BY 14.11.17

Auction house fetches highest ever South African price reached for Kentridge drawing and world record for Kumalo sculpture.

Aspire Art Auctions’ latest Johannesburg sale on 12 November 2017 blew several auction records out of the water. The company drove substantial new records for South African work, selling the top lot, a rare William Kentridge drawing, for approximately 25% more than the previous best price achieved in the SA market. In addition, a major triumph was achieved for a work by a black South African artist, with a sculpture by Sydney Kumalo fetching almost R2m, around a 20% increase over the previous best price, and a world record for the artist.

The sale took place in Aspire’s spectacularly successful new venue in the tranquil surrounds of the Illovo campus of the Gordon Institute of Business Science. The sale attracted huge interest in the varied and superbly compiled range of historic, modern and contemporary work on offer.

The top lot by value on the sale was the superb drawing by the world-renowned South African artist William Kentridge, the Drawing from Mine (Soho with coffee plunger and cup) (1991), which sold for R5 456 640. This is a record price for a drawing by Kentridge in South Africa, beating its high estimate of R2 500 000 by more than double. This jewel in the contemporary crown at this auction is taken from one of the original four animated films produced at the time, and first exhibited at the Goodman Gallery in 1992. A fierce bidding war ensued to acquire the piece.

The next best lot by value, by one of South Africa’s best known historic artists, sold for R4 092 480, exceeding its high estimate. J.H. Pierneef’s ‘Kommandoboom, op pad na Sibasa (The Commando Tree, on the road to Sibasa)’ (1930) is an exceptional example of work by this much-loved South African landscape painter produced right in the middle of his peak creative period, during which he painted the famous Station Panels. Says Aspire Senior Art Specialist and Director Emma Bedford, “It’s really exciting for us that work of this stature is being entrusted to us to sell in the auction market – it’s a testament to our positioning and expertise in a highly competitive field that we can do so well with both of these works – one historic, and one contemporary work.”

The successes extended to modern sculpture, with a pair of works by Sydney Kumalo doing brilliantly. His Mythological Rider from 1970 sold for R1 932 560, well over the high estimate of R1 000 000. This represents a significant world record, and an exciting development in the local market for this well-liked sculptor. Another Kumalo work on auction, Praise Singer 1 (1987) was also snapped up for R568 400, which was almost double its high estimate. This sculpture is distinguished by being the only cast of this work made while he was alive, unusually also made last to have been cast by the artist himself in Johannesburg. Staying with sculpture, Aspire’s authoritative presence in the market for Edoardo Villa continued, with a significant price of R1 023 120 fetched for his Reclining figure from the 1960s.

These spectacular successes took their place alongside remarkable sales for other South African work from the mid to late twentieth century.

The Peter Clarke gouache Tesselaarsdal, from 1958, fetched R932 176, the highest ever at auction for one of his gouache works. Other South African artists performed extremely well, with an oil on board by George Pemba from 1989, titled Revival, fetching R454 720.

The contemporary market is one in which Aspire has consistently led the market, and forms a strategic focus area for the company. The performance in this segment was truly well ahead of the game on this auction. Two works by European-based Cape Town artist Mustafa Maluka earned their highest ever prices at auction, The smell of fear is thicker than you think (2007) fetched R272 832, and One day it will all make sense (2007) fetched an impressive R318 304. A tapestry by Marion Arnold fetched R96 628, and a work by Pierre Fouché, Peter of the Galatea, (2007), attained a very respectable price of R68 208, over double its high estimate. It is testament to Aspire’s expertise in the contemporary arena that, in his first time at auction, Fouché fetched this serious price in a very competitive bidding war. A stalwart figure of the contemporary market, Robert Hodgins, again did well, his Office Hours (2006) attaining R728 920. A rare work on auction by Willie Bester, renowned anti-apartheid multimedia artist, did very well, fetching over a quarter of a million rand, which equalled his best price ever at auction.

Ruarc Peffers, Director, Senior Art Specialist and auctioneer, comments: “We are delighted to be doing so well with this kind of contemporary work, given our commitment to the contemporary and our expertise in the area.” The contemporary field is one in which many living South African artists who sell on Aspire’s auctions gain the benefit of the company’s self-generated and managed Artist’s Resale Rights (ARR) scheme. “Aspire remains committed to pioneering the Artist’s Resale Right in South Africa,” says Peffers, “because we have an abiding commitment to the development of the industry and support of emerging and established artists.”

Consistent with Aspire’s ethos of museum-quality presentation and display, the exhibition of work in the new GIBS venue received unanimously positive responses.

Aspire director Mary-Jane Darroll concludes: “The huge success of the top lots in this sale speaks volumes about what Aspire is achieving as a company. We’re doing something unique in our chosen market segments, with these record-breaking performances for Kentridge and Kumalo the evidence. Our commitment to innovation, quality, knowledge building and market change in the fine art auction field in South Africa is unparalleled.”

Upcoming Auction details:

Aspire’s next sale on 26 March 2018, at the Avenue, V&A Waterfront offers a breath of fresh air. Visit this beautiful venue to enjoy some choice works, sure to delight viewers and collectors.

For gratis and obligation-free valuations, and to consign works of art to the upcoming Cape Town auction, before end January, please contact:

Cape Town

Emma Bedford | emma@aspireart.net | +27 83 391 7235

Marelize van Zyl | marelize@aspireart.net | +27 83 283 7427

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