Thu, 3rd Sep 2020 20:00

Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 140
Lot 140 - David Goldblatt (South Africa 1930–2018)


David Goldblatt (South Africa 1930–2018)
Philamon Mabunda, flat cleaner, Geraldine Court, Hillbrow, Johannesburg, July 1972

hand printed gelatin silver print

Artwork date: 1972
Signature details: signed, dated and inscribed with the title on the reverse

Sold for R227,600
Estimated at R200,000 - R300,000

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.


hand printed gelatin silver print

Artwork date: 1972
Signature details: signed, dated and inscribed with the title on the reverse


image size: 47 x 37.5 cm


David Goldblatt recorded the people, landscapes and structures of South Africa from 1948 until his passing in June 2018. The city of Johannesburg, where he himself lived for more than 50 years, and its people represent one of his main and most comprehensive subjects throughout. In the early to mid-1970s, Goldblatt turned his camera to Hillbrow and Soweto. The densely populated inner-city neighbourhood of Hillbrow was, at that time, a whites-only designated hub of high-rise office and apartment developments. On the south-east outskirts of the city, lay the township of Soweto, a sprawling cluster of communities marked for black South Africans under apartheid. Many of Soweto’s residents would take long, daily commutes by public transport to and from the city for work, with their pass books in hand. Goldblatt’s portrait studies of ordinary people from Hillbrow and Soweto are careful and nuanced observations of various individuals; each independent, self-possessed and belonging fully to the complex socio-political moment they inhabit. These photographs show the lived realities of urban life during a very specific moment – a city documented through images of its people in diverse situations, and with it, the crux of forced racial segregation, its impact on human lives, privilege and its absence. This poignant image conveys a sense of affection between the photographer and the subject. Taken in 1972 and masterfully hand-printed in his studio, Goldblatt included the name of the man, Philamon Mabunda, in the descriptive title of the work as a moving acknowledgement and documentation of a personal encounter at a particular date and place in South African history. The image captures the piercing humility of a person reduced by an oppressive regime to a fixed character. In this case, a ‘flat cleaner’ of an apartment block in Hillbrow. Yet, the essence of what Goldblatt reveals in this photo is the presence of someone who is manifestly more than just that.,

Marelize van Zyl

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Auction: Modern & Contemporary Art, Thu, 3rd Sep 2020

This Spring, Aspire Art Auctions broke new ground with a fresh, yet considered selection of artworks that is demographically more representative and reflects the spirit of current times. With a strong focus on South Africa, the sale also proudly represented artists from 10 African countries (Benin, DRC, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Sudan, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe) and international artists from Europe, the UK and USA. 

A great highlight was Edoardo Villa’s monumental steel sculpture titled Traverse from 1957 which achieved R4,893,400 – an auction record for the artist. Other exceptional offerings included works by Gerard Sekoto, George Pemba, Peter Clarke and Nicholas Hlobo.

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