Mon, 31st Oct 2016 20:00

Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 32
Lot 32 - Wim Botha (South Africa 1974-)


Wim Botha (South Africa 1974-)
Untitled (Bywoner 7)

encyclopaedias, wood and stainless steel on a wooden base

Artwork date: 2014
Exhibited: Grahamstown, Wim Botha: The Epic Mundane, 3 to 13 July 2014.

Sold for R341,040
Estimated at R250,000 - R300,000


encyclopaedias, wood and stainless steel on a wooden base

Artwork date: 2014
Exhibited: Grahamstown, Wim Botha: The Epic Mundane, 3 to 13 July 2014.


bust size: 86 x 60 x 40 cm


Conceptually succinct and acutely distilled in the core ideas they communicate, Wim Botha’s sculptures take their inspiration from a vast range of classical and contemporary sources, and ‘contain references which point in many directions’. ‘The mythical and grotesque are juxtaposed against the medieval, scientific and historical,’ reads an article about his work in The Huffington Post. ‘He surgically adapts books from being houses of knowledge to being as instable and malleable as play dough.’

One of his signature book sculptures, Untitled (Bywoner 7) was exhibited at the National Arts Festival in 2014 as part of a ‘room installation’ entitled The Epic Mundane curated by Brenton Maart. The installation’s central component was commissioned for Imaginary Fact: Contemporary South African Art and the Archive, the South African Pavilion at the 2013 Biennale di Venezia. Constructed of books bolted together and sculpted into the form of a head, this work conveys a sense of the mechanics of thought in action, the deconstructed skull and dripping black pigment introducing an agonistic tone of contradiction and struggle. The title and date of the work introduce some valuable conceptual clues. A ‘bywoner’ is a poor tenant farmer who labours for the landowner and does some farming of his/her own. The title makes particular sense considering that work was made in 2011, the year before the historic farm worker uprising of late 2012 and 2013 in the Western Cape. With similar prescience, the content of the work prefigures the Fees Must Fall movement, connecting the politics of land to contestations around the exclusionary nature of the knowledge economy in South Africa. This lends a particular kind of irony to the gold-embossed words visible on the spine of one of the books – ‘Encylopedia International’, which beg the question: just how international is the production of knowledge?

Irony of a similar nature is embedded into the very material out of which Study for Head of an Outraged Youth I has been wrought. There is nothing coincidental about the head of this angry youth being carved from Rhodesian teak parquet blocks. If anything, this material is a quip on sub-continental politics and the proximate struggles of our northern neighbour. The signification of speed in the carved strata at back of the figure’s head recalls the ingenious efforts of early 20th-century Futurists, like sculptor and painter Umberto Boccioni, to physically represent the idea of dynamism and give shape to the quasi-abstract attributes of industrial technology. At face value, this reference to the speed and motion of Futurism and the very notion of being purposeful, directed, future bound perfectly befits the subject of youth – in all its enraged and passionate idealism for a different and better world. Like the student activists driving South Africa’s Fees Must Fall movement who experience the weight of the past as physically oppressive, the Italian Futurists were exceptionally ‘vehement in [their] denunciation of the past’. At a subtler tier though, the age-old classical form of bust and plinth undercuts the punk energy of youth in a mature moment of irony and wit. Form and content come together in the form of a quiet joke. Nudge nudge, wink wink: nothing is ever so simple.

Alexandra Dodd


Staff writer. (2012) Wim Botha’s Beautifully Grotesque Book Masterpieces. The Huffington Post, [online], Available at: [Accessed 8 Sept. 2015].

Staff writer. (publication date unknown). Futurism. Tate, [online] Available at: Accessed: 7 Sept. 2016.

Staff writer. (2014) Wim Botha: The Epic Mundane. Stevenson, [online] Available at: Accessed: 8 Sept. 2016.

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Auction: Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art, Mon, 31st Oct 2016

The line-up for our inaugural sale included an extraordinary selection of art. Works ranged from JH Pierneef’s breathtaking Karoo near Hofmeyer, painted in 1930, to Dan Halter’s 2006, ultraviolet light, Pefection. 

Sculptures varied from Edoardo Villa’s acknowledgment of French artist, Aristide Maillol to Wim Botha’s heads that draw on classical and contemporary sources and Ed Young’s cheeky nude self-portrait. Also included were impressive photographs by award-winners, David Goldblatt and Pieter Hugo.

The auction set an impressive standard, with an outstanding sell-through rate of over 75% across 121 lots. The top lot of the sale was Alexis Preller’s exceptional Profile Figures (Mirrored Image), selling for over  R7-million. Record sales were achieved for Villa, Goldblatt, and Hugo, amongst others.


Friday 28 October 2016 | 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday 28 October 2016 | 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday 28 October 2016 | 10 am – 4 pm


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