7th Jun, 2023 18:00

20th Century & Contemporary Art

Lot 10
Lot 10 - Aida Muluneh (Ethiopia 1974-)


Aida Muluneh (Ethiopia 1974-)
99 Series (part seven)


Artwork date: 2013
Exhibited: Savanna College of Art and Design, Savanna, 'The Divine Comedy, Contemporary African Artists', 16 October 2014 to 25 January 2015, an example from the edition exhibited.; Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, 'New Works and Conversations around African Art', 16 January to 13 March 2016, an example from the edition exhibited.

Sold for R171,562
Estimated at R150,000 - R200,000



Artwork date: 2013
Exhibited: Savanna College of Art and Design, Savanna, 'The Divine Comedy, Contemporary African Artists', 16 October 2014 to 25 January 2015, an example from the edition exhibited.; Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, 'New Works and Conversations around African Art', 16 January to 13 March 2016, an example from the edition exhibited.


image size: 99 x 99 cm; framed size: 103.5 x 103.5 x 4 cm


Private collection, Pretoria.

David Krut, Johannesburg.


Aida Muluneh is an internationally acclaimed photographer known for her captivating and bold images. Born in Ethiopia, Muluneh spent her early years living in various countries such as Canada, Yamen, and the United States due to her family's diplomatic background. Drawing from her cross-cultural upbringing and her background as a photojournalist, Muluneh uses vibrant colors, intricate compositions, and symbolism to explore the complexities of not only her own identity but the identity of Africans and the African diaspora.

This work forms part the artist’s 2013 7-part series titled The 99 Series. Giving insight into her thought process the artist notes:

“…I painted her body white because for me, living in this city we call Addis Ababa, we don’t need to fantasize about going to the Inferno – I have seen and experienced enough things to really make me question humanity. I have realized that in order to get ahead here, many people wear masks in order to protect their future. But while doing this, the reality is that I have seen the various atrocities and the great lengths that many will go to in order to maintain their success. So with that in mind, for me the red hands symbolize the guilt associated with the thirst for upward mobility. The cloth wrapped around Salem’s body is specifically from the southern region of Ethiopia, which has endured several centuries of oppression, slavery, and so forth. For the background color, I chose the off-grey because it reminds me of dirty snow; this reminds me of my childhood growing up in Canada, in the midst of the bitter cold, and also the challenges that I faced being an African immigrant in an all-white community.”[1]

The artist has shown in a number of international exhibitions and fairs; most notably the Being: New Photography 2018 exhibition at MoMA, Reflections of Hope at the Agha Khan Museum in Toronto in 2018, Afrique Capitales in Paris in 2017 and the Noble Peace Prize exhibition, shown digitally, titled Aida Muluneh: Road to Glory in 2020/2021. The artist also founded the Addis Foto Fest, Ethiopia’s first biennial exhibition of photography in 2010.

[1] Njami, S., Museum Für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt Am Main, Germany and U.S, A. (2014). The Divine Comedy: heaven, purgatory and hell revisited by contemporary African artists. Bielefeld: Kerber.

The artwork is accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity.

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Auction: 20th Century & Contemporary Art, 7th Jun, 2023


Aspire Art will impress collectors with this focused, boutique-style auction in Johannesburg. A feature of the carefully compiled collection is a strong focus on contemporary African artists. Collectors of contemporary works from Africa will be spoilt for choice with works by Thierry Oussou (Benin), Richard Mudariki (Zimbabwe) and Banele Khoza (Swaziland). Local contemporary favourites include Nandipha  Mntambo, Cinga Samson and Gerhard Marx amongst others. Contemporary photographers are also well represented with works by Aida Muluneh (Ethiopia), Kudzanai Chiurai (Zimbabwe) and South African international superstar, Zanele Muholi, while important historical images are included with works of Winnie Mandela by Alf Kumalo and a portfolio of twelve works – chronicling the hardships of apartheid – from Ernest Cole’s seminal House of Bondage (1967).

A highlight of the sale is South African modernist Alexis Preller’s, Adam (1972) – a recently discovered, never before seen, work forming part of Preller’s series of Adamic-themed works from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Other significant modern pieces include a unique terrazzo sculpture by Edoardo Villa, still lifes by Maggie Laubser and works by Cecil Skotnes, Walter Battiss and J.H Pierneef. 

The sale concludes with a special section of  William Kentridge editioned prints led by the impressive Blue Head (1993 – 1998).



Viewing will be open from  Friday 2 to Wednesday 7 June 8:30 to 16:30 and Saturday 3 June from 10:00 to 14:00.

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