14th Feb, 2020 20:00

Aspire X PIASA | Modern & Contemporary African Art

Lot 41
Lot 41 - Dumile Feni (South Africa 1942–1991)


Dumile Feni (South Africa 1942–1991)
Mother and child

charcoal on paper

Artwork date: 1966
Signature details: signed and dated bottom right

Sold for R625,900
Estimated at R200,000 - R300,000


charcoal on paper

Artwork date: 1966
Signature details: signed and dated bottom right


98.5 x 65.5 cm


Dumile Feni (1939-1991) has a formidable reputation as one of South Africa’s great lost black modernist artists. The visceral quality and intensity of his work is consistent, as is the uniqueness of his vision. Forced into exile in 1968 by the Apartheid regime — never to return home alive again — Feni placed great emphasis (by gradually mastering his line work) on the deranged and displaced interiority of his subjects. This work, drawn before he left South Africa for first London, and then New York, demonstrates clearly the anguish and dislocation that he saw in the people around him. Feni would return often to the classical iconography of the Mother and Child motif, imbuing it with a unique twist of his own rather than attempting to wrestle with the centrality of the motif in Western art history. Having lost his own mother at a young age, he returned often to the theme in order to portray the pathos and tragedy of the mothers and children under apartheid whose lives were blighted and disrupted by that regime. This particular drawing attracted the ire of one contemporary reviewer, who pointed to its disturbingly ‘ugly’ appearance. Far from being ugly, the work expresses the disjointed and tortured demeanour of the dispossessed.

James Sey

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Auction: Aspire X PIASA | Modern & Contemporary African Art, 14th Feb, 2020

Aspire Art Auctions partnered with Paris-based house Piasa, to introduce an Africa-focused auction presenting some of the best examples of modern and contemporary art produced on this continent. This was the first time an African and European auction house partnered to present a sale of African art, in Africa, for a global audience. 

The sale included 139 artists representing 27 countries from Africa and the diaspora and spotlighted key collecting segments from 20th century modernism to contemporary production and photography. The lead-lot, Marlene Dumas’ Oktober 1973 achieved a stellar R7,055,600 well above its high estimate of R3-5 million. Also on offer were some of the most in-demand African artists including Chéri Samba, Aboudia Abdoulaye Diarrassouba, Gareth Nyandoro, Mustafa Maluka and William Kentridge.

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