16th Mar, 2022 19:00

Modern and Contemporary Art | Cape Town

Lot 94
Lot 94 - Sam Nhlengethwa (South Africa 1955-)


Sam Nhlengethwa (South Africa 1955-)
Inspired by the upright bass

oil and collage on canvas

Artwork date: 2007
Signature details: signed and dated bottom right

Sold for R170,700
Estimated at R120,000 - R160,000


oil and collage on canvas

Artwork date: 2007
Signature details: signed and dated bottom right


130 x 180.5 x 8 cm


Private collection, Cape Town.

Obert Contemporary, Johannesburg.


One of South Africa’s favourite contemporary artists, Sam Nhlengethwa composed this monumental work around the upright bass – his favourite musical instrument.

The spotlight shines directly onto the large string instrument, illuminating it against the moody blue background, while the grand piano recedes into the shadows on the left. The musician – who is in fact a street musician, a guitarist, selected by the artist because he liked his pose – is intensely focused on each note he plays. [1]

Nlengethwa’s work is largely figurative. He often uses collage, incorporating ready-made elements into his paintings and explores themes close to his heart, including human social interaction and the physical space of contemporary Africa. Jazz is, however, a much favoured subject.

“I don't think I could be who I am, what I'm doing in the art world, if there was no jazz" stated Nhlengethwa. Music is a daily inspiration for the artist, who maintains that his, “life belongs to the jazz”. He started listening to musicians including Miles Davis and Sua Ra with his two older brothers when he was young and today has over 4,000 vinyls in his collection.

A major survey exhibition of the artist’s work, titled Life, Jazz and Lots of Other Things, was hosted by SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia in 2014. In 2020, Nhlengethwa presented an installation based work My Grundig Lounge at the Rupert Museum in Stellenbosch. The installation featured furniture (including a grand piano – a recurring image in his work) and personal items from his private life, alongside his entire vinyl collection. Amongst numerous prestigious accolades and exhibitions, he was awarded the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year award in 1994 and in 1995 his work was included in the Whitechapel Gallery’s Seven Stories About Modern Art in Africa in London.

Sarah Sinisi

[1] Oberholzer, S. (2021, August 6). Sam Nhlengethwa draws inspiration from jazz in his latest international exhibition. Sowetan Live, S Mag. Retrieved from https://www.sowetanlive.co.za/s-mag/2021-08-06-sam-nhlengethwa-draws-inspiration-from-jazz-in-his-latest-international-exhibition/.

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Auction: Modern and Contemporary Art | Cape Town, 16th Mar, 2022


The collection of 111 works by 74 artists boasts a selection of highly collectable modern and contemporary art-historical treasures. Rare and important pieces by artists including William Kentridge, Marlene Dumas and Robert Hodgins present collectors with a unique opportunity to add significant pieces to their collections. Also on offer are 4 fantastic oil paintings by South African modern master George Pemba and an impressive body of sculptural work, including artists Sydney Kumalo, Edoardo Villa, Bruce Arnott and David Brown.

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