Mon, 27th Mar 2017 15:00

Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 124
Lot 124 - Deborah Bell (South Africa 1957-)


Deborah Bell (South Africa 1957-)
See-line Woman Dressed in Red, Makes her Man Lose his Head

oil on canvas

Artwork date: 2012
Signature details: signed; signed, dated, inscribed with the artist’s name and the medium on the reverse

Sold for R244,412
Estimated at R250,000 - R350,000

Condition Report


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oil on canvas

Artwork date: 2012
Signature details: signed; signed, dated, inscribed with the artist’s name and the medium on the reverse


120 x 50 cm

John Martin Gallery, London.


Following the birth of her son, Bell turned to watercolours, later switching to diluted acrylic paints, because working with oil paints and turpentine seemed too toxic while breast-feeding a baby. It was almost twenty years before she returned to oils in 2010 in homage to her former teacher and friend, Robert Hodgins. Consciously emulating his practice of using glazes to create figures and objects through colour, she began to allow images and the meanings they generate to emerge through the process of painting. Always interested in the tactile quality of oils, Bell’s shift in medium went hand-in-hand with a renewed concern to explore the carnal lives of women. But unlike her early paintings of lovers trapped in fleshy bodies and claustrophobic interiors, the women who started emerging from her canvases are single, self-assured and assertive. While some have discarded their red shoes, thereby signaling that they are without artifice, others affirm the control they have over their own destinies by carrying them.Echoes of Bell’s fascination with red shoes, which dates back as far as the early 1990s when she worked on an animated collaborative project with Robert Hodgins and William Kentridge, titled Easing the Passing (of the hours), can be found in the songs of some of the musicians she listens to while painting, notably Tom Waits and Nina Simone. She loves Wait’s Red Shoes by the Drugstore, a song about botching a jewelry store heist, in which a man tries to steal a diamond for his woman because “he loved the way she looked in those red shoes.” But as the title suggests, See-line woman also invokes a 19th century American folk song, famously recorded by Nina Simone in 1964. Originally about prostitutes – sea lions – waiting for sailors as they disembark from their boats, the song celebrates the power of women who make men lose their heads: “Empty his pockets and wreck his days, Make him love her, And she'll fly away”. Having achieved her goal, the woman in the Nina Simone rendition bends down, picks up her shoes and throws them over her shoulder, before turning around and walking away.

Sandra Klopper

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Auction: Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art, Mon, 27th Mar 2017

The Inaugural Cape Auction offed a diverse range of top-quality historic, modern and contemporary works. With a focus on critically engaged art and a curated approach, seasoned and new collectors competed to acquire significant works.

Aspire’s commitment to the growth of the art market saw international records broken in recognition of exiled South African artists. Louis Maqhubela’s Exiled King, a definitive, politically motivated work, sold for R341,040 - three times his previous record, and Albert Adams’ Untitled (Four Figures with Pitchforks), his first appearance at auction, sold for R136,416. Top prices were also achieved for established artists including J.H Pierneef, William Kentridge, and Edoardo Villa, and contemporary artwork fared exceptionally with record prices for David Brown, Steven Cohen, Mohau Modisakeng, Moshekwa Langa, and Mikhael Subotzky.


Friday 24 March 2017 | 10 am – 7 pm
Saturday 25 March 2017 | 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday 26 March 2017 | 10 am – 4 pm

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