31st Oct, 2021 11:00

Art, Life and Love: The Collection of Nwabisa Xayiya (Live Auction)

Lot 24
Lot 24 - Gerard Sekoto (South Africa 1913-1993)


Gerard Sekoto (South Africa 1913-1993)
Bustling street scene

oil on canvas

Artwork date: 1961
Signature details: signed and dated bottom right

Sold for R569,000
Estimated at R350,000 - R500,000


oil on canvas

Artwork date: 1961
Signature details: signed and dated bottom right


51 x 65 cm; framed size: 68 x 83 x 65 cm


Private collection, Cape Town.

Christie's, London, 15 October 2009, lot 10.


Gerard Sekoto was a South African artist and musician with a deep affinity for human subjects, especially portraiture and social scenes. He was a pioneer of modern art and belonged to an early generation of truly cosmopolitan South Africans with a global sense of their place in the world. Sekoto was born in Mpumalanga (then the Transvaal) and studied in what is today the Limpopo Province before moving, aged 25, to Johannesburg in 1938. He looked to pursue a career as an artist there in the dawn of the Sophiatown renaissance. In 1940 the Johannesburg Art Gallery purchased his work Yellow Houses: A Street in Sophiatown (1940). It was the first picture painted by a black artist to enter a museum collection and remained the only work by a black artist in a public collection until the 1960s when acquisition policies slowly started to change.

In 1942 Sekoto moved to Cape Town, District Six, another important centre of black modernity in a changing Africa. Three years later, in 1945, he moved to Eastwood, Pretoria. In 1947 Sekoto left South Africa for Europe where he settled in Paris as an exile national. This sense of travel enthused his art with a deep interest in people, and the rhythm of their lives. Offered in the Nwabisa Xayiya collection are wonderful examples of this impulse in his artistic vision.

Sekoto’s affinity for people watching and the memory of the township street energy in South Africa are captured in two urban scenes, Township Street Scene (1958) and Bustling street scene (1961). The works were painted during Sekoto’s Paris years. He had not been in a South African township for over 10 years and the nostalgia for home, and regular news of troubles from South Africa would have been centre of mind for him. Unlike his other more defined treatments of urban scenes, these works are executed in gestural energetic strokes and marks complemented by the artist’s wonderful use of colour. The works highlight Sekoto’s stylistic versatility as an image maker and modernist. His eye for tone, colour and composition are made even more fascinating by the fact that he was also a musician.

Sekoto grew up as a son of a clergyman in a Lutheran Mission Station which rooted him in music. While in exile, he also practiced as a professional musician playing piano and guitar in hotels and cafes in Paris. Several of his musical compositions were published by Les Editions Musicales between 1956 and 1960. A recording of his music, The Blue Heads – The Music of Gerard Sekoto was released posthumously in 2004.

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Auction: Art, Life and Love: The Collection of Nwabisa Xayiya (Live Auction), 31st Oct, 2021

This October, 2021, we are honoured to present Art, Life and Love:  The Collection of Nwabisa Xayiya, a single owner auction showcasing the cultivated taste and style of Nwabisa Xayiya.

The auction offers examples by great modernists as well as exciting contemporary pieces. Notable is a selection of work by George Pemba. There is also a set of impressive urban scenes and portraits by Gerard Sekoto, a rarely seen Alexis Preller, a glorious Robert Hodgins, and varied examples of Dumile Feni’s work. Within the contemporary offering, there are outstanding works by Blessing Ngobeni, Sam Nhlengethwa, William Kentridge, Teresa Firmino, Athi-Patra Ruga, Kudzanai Chiurai, Nelson Makamo, Owusu-Ankomah and Nicholas Hlobo.


Lots will be on view at the Xayiya residence: 63 4th Street, Houghton, Johannesburg
Saturday 23 October to Saturday 30 October from 10 am to 6 pm

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