Sun, 25th Mar 2018 18:00

Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 135
Lot 135 - Deborah Bell (South Africa 1957-)


Deborah Bell (South Africa 1957-)
Unearthed V


Signature details: signed and numbered 3/4

Sold for R511,560
Estimated at R500,000 - R800,000

Condition Report


Please note, we are not qualified conservators and these reports give our opinion as to the general condition of the works. We advise that bidders view the lots in person to satisfy themselves with the condition of prospective purchases.



Signature details: signed and numbered 3/4


236 x 60 x 59 cm


Unearthed V was one of the seven coiled sculptures Deborah Bell first exhibited at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg in 2001. All surmounted by headdresses weighed down by a complex array of human and animal forms, Bell enlivened these robustly monumental figures through gesture and pose: elbows bent, hands gesticulating, they align their legs and necks to balance the large projections above their heads. At once reminiscent of ancient Chinese terra-cotta warriors and the awkwardly animated figures found in Egyptian tomb paintings, the Unearthed sculptures suggest a process of excavation, an unearthing of forms and symbols that have been reconfigured and reframed for a new audience.Although, according to Bell, it was as if the Unearthed figures built themselves, using the artist as their medium, the symbolism of the massive headdress towering above the figure in Unearthed V is extraordinarily coherent, drawing on different sub-Saharan and ancient Egyptian sources to evoke the idea of physical and spiritual security as inseparable. Uraeus, the cobra associated with Egyptian gods and pharaohs, rises protectively above the forehead of the figure. To reinforce this evocation of alert defence, Bell perched a horned ram above the snake, thereby invoking tthe powers associated with the Yoruba deity, Shango, who presides over this panoply of symbols with a double-headed battle-axe protruding from his head. In Yoruba mythology, Shango slays his enemies with ease through his control over the power of lightning.Flanked by hieroglyphic ideographs symbolic of life, the headdress looming at the apex of Unearthed V suggests an optimistic celebration of the ability to overcome adversity. Ultimately, though, Bell’s work is far more than the sum of its parts. Majestically self-assured, the figure in Unearthed V seems to embrace the artist’s polyphonic celebration of entangled meanings with a remarkable sense of dignity.

Sandra Klopper

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Auction: Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art, Sun, 25th Mar 2018

Aspire Art Auctions brought a unique offering to their second auction in the Cape allowing buyers to add quality and rarity to their collections.

Headlining the success of the auction was as a rare intaglio by Alexis Preller, Gold Angel (Arêté), which sold for R4 638 400. The piece was part of Preller’s last body of work shown at the Goodman Gallery in 1975, and took its place alongside the sale of his mid-period work, the exquisite small study Still life with Vase and Carved Head, which sold for R811 720. Other auction highlights included work by contemporary artists Robert Hodgins, Athi-Patra Ruga, Zander Blom, and Penny Siopis and sculpture by Deborah Bell, Willem Boshoff, Wim Botha, and Amadlozi alumnus Sydney Kumalo.


Friday 23 March 2018 | 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday 24 March 2018 | 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday 25 March 2018 | 10 am – 3 pm

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