Sun, 2nd Jun 2019 9:00

Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 58
Lot 58 - David Goldblatt (South Africa 1930-2018)


David Goldblatt (South Africa 1930-2018)
Boiler House Supervisor, City Deep, Johannesburg. 1966

gelatin silver print

Artwork date: 1966, printed later
Signature details: signed and dated in pencil on the reverse

Sold for R250,360
Estimated at R150,000 - R250,000

Condition Report

The condition is good. Archivally framed.

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.


gelatin silver print

Artwork date: 1966, printed later
Signature details: signed and dated in pencil on the reverse


image size: 40 x 40 cm

Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg., number 2, from an edition of 10


These photographs are two of the finest examples from the celebrated historic series. Both images were included in the last exhibition that David Goldblatt actively helped conceptualise before his death in 2018. Staged in its entirety for the first time at the Norval Foundation in Cape Town this year, the exhibition comprises eighty photographs of the inner workings, the surrounding communities, and the people, both black and white, which drove South Africa’s Witwatersrand gold mining industry in the 1960s and 1970s. Different selections from the collection appeared first in 1968, and the first edition of a book documenting the collection appeared through Struik publishers in 1973, with a seminal essay by Goldblatt’s lifelong friend, Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer.[i] The book including Gordimer’s essay was updated in 2012 for a European audience through Steidl publishers.[ii] Goldblatt’s aim was to document the various facets of life on the Witwatersrand mines at the time, but his work goes far beyond journalistic photodocumentation.Of the two editioned prints on offer in this auction, the character study of the boilerhouse supervisor should be familiar to collectors of Goldblatt’s later work. The centrality of its subject is offset by the monumentalism of the surrounding environment, giving a sense of the scale of the machinery required by an industry extracting minerals far beneath unfathomable weights of rock and landscape. It is in that sense a landscape image, despite being ostensibly an interior shot and a figure study. The subject’s diffident gaze out of the frame marks perhaps both his reluctance to be in the frame at all, but also Goldblatt’s skill in composition; the sideways gaze allowing the viewer to observe more clearly both subject and background.The other image, of the team of black underground miners shovelling small rocks into the ‘kibble’, is nothing short of astonishing. All of Goldblatt’s life experience growing up on a West Rand mine comes to bear in a powerfully haunting image that recalls the unforgettable scenes of the underground workers filing in unison into the maw of the great machine Moloch in Fritz Lang’s classic Expressionist film Metropolis (1927).

James Sey


[i] Goldblatt, D & Gordimer, N. 1973. On the Mines. Pretoria: Struik.

[ii] Goldblatt, D & Gordimer, N. 2012. On the Mines. Göttingen: Steidl Verlag.

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Auction: Modern & Contemporary Art, Sun, 2nd Jun 2019

Aspire Art Auctions presented a focused and insightfully compiled selection of top-quality modern and contemporary art in their latest sale in Johannesburg.

The company’s commitment to innovation led to a bold and signature move in this sale, which featured a special section dedicated to photography. The medium has been traditionally strong among South African artists but has been without a proper focus in the local auction market. The ground-breaking segment featured a wide range of the most important South African photographers, including Pieter Hugo, David Goldblatt, Guy Tillim, and Zanele Muholi. In addition, the sale starred a number of the market’s big signatures – Alexis Preller J.H. Pierneef, Gerard Sekoto, and Maggie Laubser and top contemporary artists including, Diane Victor, and Wim Botha.


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