Mon, 27th Mar 2017 15:00

Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 175
Lot 175 - David Goldblatt (South Africa 1930-2018)


David Goldblatt (South Africa 1930-2018)
Girl in her new tutu on the stoep (from the Boksburg series)

silver gelatin print on fiber-based paper

Sold for R125,048
Estimated at R80,000 - R120,000

Condition Report

Not laid down, minor dog ear top right corner, minor cockling top left corner, otherwise good, not viewed out of frame.

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.


silver gelatin print on fiber-based paper


39.5 x 31 cm


While doing commercial work for Johannesburg Consolidated Investments (JCI) in Boksburg in 1979, David Goldblatt for the first time became aware of some of the new white suburbs popping up around Johannesburg. Goldblatt began to think about these suburbs in relation to a question he often faced while in the United Stated in the wake of the Soweto Uprising: Who are the whites of South Africa? Boksburg became a space through which to explore this question. Shot in 1979 and 1980, the photographs, almost without exception, offer a version of white visibility that is ritualised over black invisibility. The photographs’ first public outing was meant to be in Anglo-American’s Optima magazine as an accompaniment to an essay written by Alan Paton. But then a new editorial direction for the magazine squashed this opportunity. One of the people exasperated by Optima’s refusal to publish the photographs was fellow photographer Paul Alberts who, bemoaning the poor state of photographic book publishing, had just started The Gallery Press to publish and sell photo books through subscription mail order. The venture caused the near financial ruin of Alberts, but it did result in two of the seminal South African photo books of the period – Goldblatt’s In Boksburg (1982), and The Cordoned Heart (1986), edited by Omar Badsha. In Boksburg was Goldblatt’s third book after On the Mines (1973) and Some Afrikaners Photographed (1975).The photographs and their captions – a flag raising on Republic day, ballroom dancing, childhood ballet, a youth organisation meeting, mowing the lawn, choir rehearsal, and a billboard advertising new suburban homes – could have come from a classic photo book Goldblatt himself had only briefly encountered: Bill Owens’ Suburbia (1972), that photographic anthropology of the people, spaces and rituals constituting an American suburbia clinging to the tarnished dreams of older decades. What the two books also share is a sense of the absurdity of an everyday life that accumulates through the books. But where Owens tends towards a mocking humour, Goldblatt builds a relentless vision that records the elevations and reductions of the racially marked body. In Boksburg is a rigorously constructed long photo-essay, showcasing Goldblatt’s storytelling at its finest.Goldblatt begins his introduction to In Boksburg as follows: “These photographs are about life in a small-town, middle-class, white community in South Africa.” Ironically, the first photograph in the book, ‘Saturday morning at the corner of Commissioner and Trichardts Streets’, presents mainly black pedestrians with a visibility and presence that is otherwise absent in the rest of the book. It is within this featureless sprawl to the east of Johannesburg that Goldblatt probed the extent to which Boksburgis shaped by white dreams and white proprieties. … Blacks are not of this town. They serve it, trade with it, receive charity from it and are ruled, rewarded and punished by its precepts. Some, on occasion, are its privileged guests. But all who go there do so by permit or invitation, never by right (Goldblatt, 1982: unpaginated).Girl in her new tutu on the stoep is on the cover of In Boksburg, giving it an elevated visibility that is probably one of the reasons for its frequent reproduction in publicity material associated with Goldblatt’s retrospective exhibitions in the 1980s – including a six-page spread in Leadership magazine (August 1983) to coincide with the Johannesburg leg of David Goldblatt: Thirty Five Years, and a 24-page booklet released on the occasion of David Goldblatt: South Africa at The Photographer’s Gallery in London three years later. But another likely reason for its reproduction is the image itself, which encapsulates all of the dominance, confidence and innocence of white South Africa in the early 1980s.Equally innocent, but with none of the same dominance or confidence, is another image from In BoksburgBefore the fight: amateur boxing at the Town Hall. The young boy boxer, with his oversized gloves and apprehension all over his face, listens to but doesn’t look at his coach. It is an altogether more vulnerable whiteness that Goldblatt has captured here, and is perhaps a reason why, while it was included in one of the first reviews of the book in Frontline magazine, it was rarely reproduced again in the 1980s. In these two photographs, there is a dissonance and rhythm indicative of Goldblatt’s remarkable ability to probe and reveal the visual complexities of a troubled time in South African history.Goldblatt’s work is included in South Africa: The Art of a Nation, the first major UK exhibition on South African art that is currently on view at the British Museum in London. The Art of a Nation spans 100,000 years of South African history, with Goldblatt being part of a very select group of contemporary artists represented in the exhibition. Later this year Goldblatt will be the subject of a major retrospective exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.In his early photographs and books, David Goldblatt’s influences and references were more often literary than photographic. In figures, such as Lionel Abrahams, Athol Fugard, Nadine Gordimer and Barney Simon, he not only found writing that mirrored his photographic sentiments, but in their personal support of his work, Goldblatt found a critical community that not only engaged his photography but also even contributed the essays that accompanied the publication of his photographs in magazine and book form. This relatively small literary world was Goldblatt’s initial intellectual reference, and where he found support for his early photographic critiques of life under apartheid.When Goldblatt produced a full mock-up of what became his second book, Some Afrikaners Photographed, he based it on a design template provided by fellow photographer Sam Haskins. His intention was to find a publisher for the book in London or New York. When he returned to South Africa, having failed in this task, Goldblatt showed the book dummy to Barney Simon, the recently returned theatre director who went on to become a founder of The Market Theatre. Simon has a personal interest in Goldblatt’s work, but also often used the photographer’s images in the research and preparation of actors for his theatre productions. Simon’s response to the dummy provided Goldblatt with a critical opportunity to reflect on the shortcomings of the design and layout of the book dummy. According to Goldblatt:He questioned whether the meanings and relationships set up between my pictures by Sam’s interlocking layouts were what I intended them to have. Very reluctantly I had to admit that the photographs were ‘speaking’ to each other in ways that I had never intended. So I made a completely new dummy at the opposite extreme of design: one picture to a spread, lots of white space and very carefully considered short captions. And that’s how I published it (Bester, 2012:112).This account is testament to the character of the relationship between the two men, and provides some perspective on an otherwise unassuming photograph taken by Goldblatt of Simon’s house in Kensington, Johannesburg in 1974, one year before the publication of Some Afrikaners Photographed. The image, while never featured in any of Goldblatt’s major books, was used on the cover of Simon’s own collection of writing, Joburg, Sis!

Rory Bester


Simon, Barney (1974). Joburg, Sis! Johannesburg: Bateleur Press, illustration dustjack cover.

Rory Bester (2015). Writing Photography’s Archive of Apartheid: Theories and Methods for Understanding the Work of David Goldblatt. PhD Thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, p 112.

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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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