Sun, 25th Mar 2018 18:00

Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 148
Lot 148 - Deborah Bell (South Africa 1957-)


Deborah Bell (South Africa 1957-)


Artwork date: 2004
Signature details: signed, dated and numbered 5/AP

Sold for R909,440
Estimated at R800,000 - R1,200,000

Condition Report

Recently cleaned and repatined, otherwise good.

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.



Artwork date: 2004
Signature details: signed, dated and numbered 5/AP


247 x 28 x 22 cm


When Deborah Bell first decided to produce large sculptures in clay, she coiled her figures much like coiling pots, working from the feet upwards. Because of the weight of the clay, she had to stop for the figures to harden once she got to knee-height, in some repeating this process several times before completing a work. First exhibited in 2001, Bell later said of these works that “There was no going back and altering what had been done, nor was there any sense of what was still coming. These personages slowly revealed themselves … it was as if they built themselves, using me as the medium to make them.”Having completed this ‘Unearthed’ series, Bell accepted an invitation for a group of artists to work at a brick factory in preparation for an exhibition. Although she went there thinking that she would continue making coiled sculptures, she was mesmerised by the sight of a solid line of clay being pushed through a pug mill: “I saw the potential for something quite different.[ii] Inspired by the idea of honouring the physical constants that govern the universe, this experience encouraged the artist to carve away at the hard clay, eventually revealing nine distinctively dressed and coiffed ‘Sentinel’ figures.Raised on tall plinths, their surfaces scoured and scrubbed as though marked by the passage of time, Bell’s Sentinels attest to a deep familiarity with African and other sculptural traditions in which iconic figures silently guard the thresholds between secular and sacred spaces. Initially conceptualised through diluted, transparent washes painted onto large sheets of paper, Bell’s figures assume a graceful monumentality once carved, bringing to mind the elongated sculptures on the portals at Chartres Cathedral and the soapstone birds from Great Zimbabwe. Eyes closed, they radiate a calm stillness, like self-contained, sentient beings from another realm.

Sandra Klopper


Smith, Heidi 2009 ‘A Divine Spark: Interview with Deborah Bell. SA Artist on Inspiration and Influences’, SuperConsciousness Magazine, February.

As above

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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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