Thu, 5th Nov 2020 19:00

Aspire X PLP | African Photography Auction 2020

Lot 48


Ernest Cole (South Africa 1940-1990)
Twelve works from The House of Bondage

hand printed silver gelatin prints on Ilford fibre-based paper

Artwork date: circa 1965, Estate Edition printed 2020
Signature details: each inscribed with the title and numbered; signed in pencil by Dennis da Silva and Leslie Matlaisane on the reverse; embossed with the Estate stamp
Edition: number 3 from an edition of 10 + 2AP

Sold for R586,250
Estimated at R350,000 - R500,000

Condition Report

The condition is mint.

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.


hand printed silver gelatin prints on Ilford fibre-based paper

Artwork date: circa 1965, Estate Edition printed 2020
Signature details: each inscribed with the title and numbered; signed in pencil by Dennis da Silva and Leslie Matlaisane on the reverse; embossed with the Estate stamp
Edition: number 3 from an edition of 10 + 2AP


most image sizes: 36.5 x 55.5 cm each (one is 37 x 46 cm), sheet sizes: 50.5 x 61 cm each, unframed


Ernest Cole was born in Eersterust, near Pretoria (Tshwane), in 1940 and died in New York in 1990. Cole worked for Drum magazine, Bantu World and Sunday Times. On his own initiative, he undertook a comprehensive photographic essay in whichhe chronicled the horrors of apartheid. Out of this emerged the seminal book, The House of Bondage, which was published in New York in 1967. As Cole wrote in the book, "Three-hundred years of white supremacy in South Africa has placed us in bondage, stripped us of our dignity, robbed us of our selfesteem and surrounded us with hate." He paid a price for his commitment and documentation – the book was immediately banned and so was he. Cole lived in exile until his death in New York in 1990, a week after Nelson Mandela and others were released from prison.There has been much speculation about what happened to his negatives and prints. Until relatively recently, it was thought all his negatives and many prints were lost. However, in 2017, 60 000 negatives which had been rediscovered in Stockholm, were handed to the Ernest Cole Family Trust by the Hasselblad Foundation. These include never-before-seen South African work, as well as his documentation on the American South and black life in the USA. The portfolio o"ered by the Ernest Cole Family is a part of this ‘lost’ archive and legacy. The PLP is working with the Ernest Cole Family Trust, Magnum Photos and Historical Papers, Wits University, to digitise and make this work accessible for educational and research purposes.This Estate Edition of silver gelatin prints, feature twelve of the most iconic images from House of Bondage. They have been printed from the lost negatives of Ernest Cole by Dennis da Silva, South Africa’s premier black and white photography printer, and produced through the Ernest Cole Family Trust in South Africa.

You can place an absentee bid through our website - please sign in to your account on our website to proceed.

In the My Account tab you can also enter telephone bids, or email to log telephone/absentee bids.

Join us on the day of the auction to follow and bid in real-time.

The auction will be live-streamed with an audio-visual feed.

Auction: Aspire X PLP | African Photography Auction 2020, Thu, 5th Nov 2020

A collection of pan-African works, straddling the terrain between historical and contemporary photography, were auctioned to support the digitisation of African photographic legacies by the Photography Legacy Project (PLP). Bidders participated from across Europe, the USA and UK, Asia, Australia and Africa – a testament to Aspire’s increasing global reach and collectors’ enthusiasm for African photography.

The auction included photographic luminaries such as David Goldblatt, Alf Kumalo, G.R. Naidoo, Ranjith Kally and Ian Berry, as well as more contemporary internationally acclaimed photographers like Guy Tillim, Jo Ractliffe, Syowia Kyambi and Mikhael Subotzky. The lead lot, a portfolio of 12 silver gelatin prints from the legendary photographer Ernest Cole’s seminal 1967 book House of Bondage sold for an astounding R569,000 – a new world auction record.



View all lots in this sale

Images *

Drag and drop .jpg images here to upload, or click here to select images.





While we endeavour to assist our Clients as much as possible, we require artwork(s) to be delivered and/or collected from our premises by the Client. In instances where a Client is unable to deliver or collect artwork(s), Aspire staff is available to assist in this process by outsourcing the services to one of our preferred Service Providers. The cost for this will be for the Client’s account, with an additional Handling Fee of 15% charged on top of the Service Provider’s invoice.

Aspire Art provides inter-company transfer services for its Clients between Johannesburg and Cape Town branches. These are based on the size of the artwork(s), and charged as follows:

Small (≤60x90x10 cm): R400

Medium (≤90x120x15 cm): R800

Large (≤120x150x20 cm): R1,200

Over-size: Special quote


Should artwork(s) be collected or delivered to/from Clients by Aspire Art directly, the following charges will apply:

Collection/delivery ≤20km: R400

Collection/delivery 20km>R800≤50km

Collection/delivery >50km: Special quote



A flat fee of R100 will be added to the invoice for packaging of unframed works on paper.


International Collectors Shipping Package

For collectors based outside South Africa who purchase regularly from Aspire Art’s auctions in South Africa, it does not make sense to ship artworks individually or per auction and pay shipping every time you buy another work. Consequently, we have developed a special collectors’ shipping package to assist in reducing shipping costs and the constant demands of logistics arrangements.

For buyers from outside South Africa, we will keep the artworks you have purchased in storage during the year and then ship all the works you have acquired during the year together, so the shipping costs are reduced. At the end of the annual period, we will source various quotes to get you the best price, and ship all your artworks to your desired address at once.

Aspire Art will arrange suitable storage during, and cost-effective shipping at the end, of the annual period.



Collections are by appointment, with 24-hours’ notice

Clients are requested to contact the relevant office and inform Aspire Art of which artwork(s) they would like to collect, and allow a 24-hour window for Aspire Art’s logistics department to retrieve the artwork(s) and prepare them for collection.


Handling Fee

Aspire Art charges a 15% Handling Fee on all Logistics, Framing, Restoration and Conservation arranged by Aspire.