Sun, 3rd Mar 2019 12:00

Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 22
Lot 22 - Christo Coetzee (South Africa 1929-2000)


Christo Coetzee (South Africa 1929-2000)
Kleidoscope 1 (sic)

oil, ink and sand on canvas

Artwork date: 1971
Signature details: signed and dated; signed, dated, inscribed with the title and dimensions on the reverse

Sold for R341,400
Estimated at R300,000 - R500,000

Condition Report

Surface dirt (especially around edges).

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.


oil, ink and sand on canvas

Artwork date: 1971
Signature details: signed and dated; signed, dated, inscribed with the title and dimensions on the reverse


150.5 x 150.5 cm


The symbol of the circle or the orb-like form entered Christo Coetzee’s paintings in the late 1950s in the shape of found objects such as ping-pong balls, bicycle wheels and coins, and remained with Coetzee throughout his career. When these objets trouvés disappeared toward the end of the late 1960s, the circle as form remained and Coetzee used this shape to synthesise his work: to control it, to give it a form and a basis, as he explained in an interview with Linda Goodman in 1969.1 Coetzee’s exhibition that opened on Sunday, 28 March 1971 at the Goodman Gallery in Hyde Square, Johannesburg, was dominated by circles, by ‘circle shapes floating and orbiting in space’, as Die Vaderland2 reported in a review. Perhaps it was what Ballot labelled Coetzee’s fascination with ‘the multitude of mysteries and ideas distinctively associated with the circle as a perfect and closed unity and symbolic source of energy’3 that informed so many of the paintings in this exhibition, dealing with the cosmos, constellations and nature in both macroscopic and microscopic structures.

The titles of the individual works echo these manifestations: Venus, Sun 70/89, Snow Structure and the triptych Snowflake, of which Kleidoscope 1 is the first of three panels. On white canvas within the ubiquitous circle Coetzee created a hexagonal structure, reminiscent of a snow crystal, surrounded by irregular petal-like forms (the half of the infinity symbol that characterised his earlier work), textured by means of parallel hatching. At the time this painting was made Coetzee was living in Spain: aged 42 and at the zenith of his career in Europe; an established master of assemblage; a torchbearer of the avantgarde. The next year, in 1972, he returned to South Africa to settle in Tulbagh.

Johan Myburgh


1 Ballot, M. (1999). Christo Coetzee. Cape Town: Human & Rousseau. P.108.

2 Van Rensburg, N. (1971). ‘Coetzee se sirkelskilderye is treffend’ in DieVaderland, 8 April 1971.

3 Ibid. P.35.

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Auction: Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art, Sun, 3rd Mar 2019

Aspire Art Auctions set a new bar for the market in its Autumn 19 Auction in Cape Town, with a South African auction record for its cover lot.

An early work, by international star Marlene Dumas, Love Lost (1973/4) achieved R7 283 200, more than doubling its pre-sale estimate of R3 000 000. Further successful sales included a range of paintings by Alexis Preller from across his career, and new world records for work by Jane Alexander, Simphiwe Ndzube, and Moshekwa Langa. These results further establish Aspire’s growing reputation as the discerning auction house for handling contemporary South African art.  

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