Sun, 28th Oct 2018 8:30

Historic, Modern and Contemporary Art

Lot 75
Lot 75 - Robert Hodgins (United Kingdom  1920-2010)


Robert Hodgins (United Kingdom 1920-2010)
The Tenth Circle

oil on canvas

Artwork date: 1994/5
Signature details: signed, dated, inscribed with the title, medium and 'Begun Tues July 5 '94' on the reverse

Sold for R853,500
Estimated at R600,000 - R900,000

Condition Report

Minor surface dirt, minor cracking in bottom portion, small abrasion bottom right area, otherwise good.

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.


oil on canvas

Artwork date: 1994/5
Signature details: signed, dated, inscribed with the title, medium and 'Begun Tues July 5 '94' on the reverse


120 x 90 cm


In Dante’s Inferno, there are, of course, only nine circles of Hell, reserved for all manner of sinners. Hodgins has extended
this to a tenth, most innermost circle, presumably reserved for those who are the very worst of reprobates: the Capitalists. In the lower right foreground, we see a generic representation of this character, familiar from other works by the artist. He stands confidently, leaning against his executive swivel chair, a somewhat blank but also sinister glint emanating from his eyes. One leg is akimbo, suggesting indolent control of his domain. Behind him and to the upper left is the massive portrayal of a hand holding a hammer, as if about to knock on (or through) the panelled doors of the boardroom.

This hand and hammer clearly represents that of the worker and its scale indicate that the mass of workers far outnumbers those who control finance at the upper echelons of the corporate pyramid. The splashes of red that dominate the canvas clearly allude to blood: but to whose? The blood of the workers spilt in creating wealth in apartheid South Africa; or the blood of the capitalist which the artist seems to imply will flow freely in due course. Painted in 1994/95, at a time of massive economic and social restructuring in South Africa, the implication is that the tenth circle will not be reserved for after death but will be coming a-knocking rather sooner. Here Robert Hodgins has used ironic humour to critique a system that would not be supplanted but rather appropriated in the ‘New South Africa’, much to his dismay. Nevertheless, it is a masterful use of painting to summon up an ethical argument that the artist had been exploring for his whole career.

Andrew Lamprecht

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Auction: Historic, Modern and Contemporary Art, Sun, 28th Oct 2018

Aspire Art Auctions brought a significant double-header of top lot leads to this sale.

Stellar results were achieved for internationally prominent William Kentridge and Alexis Preller, one of South Africa’s most respected and collectable modern artists. Collectors were attracted to Kentridge’s remarkable, Drawing from Stereoscope (Double page, Soho in two rooms) (1999), which sold for R6 600 400, while Preller’s Adam (1972), sold for a world record at R9 104 000. Modern offerings also included works by Peter Clarke, Kenneth Bakker, and Douglas Portway, while the contemporary segment included Moshekwa Langa, Penny Siopis, Simon Stone, Clive van den Berg, and Georgina Gratrix, amongst others.

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