2nd Jun, 2019 9:00

Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 21
Lot 21 - Gerard Sekoto (South Africa 1913-1993)


Gerard Sekoto (South Africa 1913-1993)
Lady in Red

oil on board

Artwork date: circa 1940
Signature details: signed bottom left; printed with the artist's name, the date and title on a label on the reverse

Sold for R1,115,240
Estimated at R800,000 - R1,200,000


oil on board

Artwork date: circa 1940
Signature details: signed bottom left; printed with the artist's name, the date and title on a label on the reverse


41 x 29.5 cm


Gerard Sekoto has cemented his reputation as one of South Africa’s most important black artists of the twentieth century. His work is always piercingly observational – not simply in the sense of a well-observed social realism or a slavishly representational style. His skill emerges in the dynamism with which he realises his subjects. In South Africa Sekoto has become increasingly influential for his position, along with George Pemba, as an early Black Modernist, documenting the black experience in the different societies he lived in.His early work in South Africa, before his 1947 voluntary exile to Paris, was characterised by portraits, figure studies and the painting of urban scenes which brought vividly to life black society in the first decades of racial segregation, which would become high apartheid shortly after his exile. His potential as a painterly chronicler of the South African black experience was recognised immediately by critics and by his peers. John Koenakeefe Mohl, a friend and fellow artist, actively tried to dissuade Sekoto from leaving the country, seeing the value in Sekoto painting “our people, our life, our way of living, not speaking in the spirit of apartheid or submission.”This lambently beautiful figure study dates to 1940, a year after Sekoto’s first Johannesburg exhibition as part of a group show at the well-known Gainsborough Gallery. A brilliant example of his early work, it demonstrates his grasp of colour, composition and characterisation. The humanity and quiet vitality of his subject shines through, proving the validity of Mohl’s pleas to Sekoto. The contrast between the woman’s red top, her blue headscarf and the consummately realised backlighting all make her face come vividly to life.

James Sey


[i] Gerard Sekoto Foundation website: http://gerardsekotofoundation.com/artist-overview.htm. Accessed 3 May 2019.

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Auction: Modern & Contemporary Art, 2nd Jun, 2019

Aspire Art Auctions presented a focused and insightfully compiled selection of top-quality modern and contemporary art in their latest sale in Johannesburg.

The company’s commitment to innovation led to a bold and signature move in this sale, which featured a special section dedicated to photography. The medium has been traditionally strong among South African artists but has been without a proper focus in the local auction market. The ground-breaking segment featured a wide range of the most important South African photographers, including Pieter Hugo, David Goldblatt, Guy Tillim, and Zanele Muholi. In addition, the sale starred a number of the market’s big signatures – Alexis Preller J.H. Pierneef, Gerard Sekoto, and Maggie Laubser and top contemporary artists including, Diane Victor, and Wim Botha.


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