Sun, 25th Mar 2018 18:00

Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 98
Lot 98 - Gerard Bhengu (South African 1910-1990)


Gerard Bhengu (South African 1910-1990)
Inyanga in traditional dress; Inyanga with coat, two

watercolour on paper

Signature details: signed

Sold for R193,256
Estimated at R120,000 - R180,000

Condition Report

Good. Not examined out of the frame, full report available on request.

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.


watercolour on paper

Signature details: signed


35 x 25.5 cm each

Johans Borman Fine Art, Cape Town.


Wealth creation in South Africa at the time these portraits were done, was primarily from the mining industry, predominantly gold and diamonds. Labour and its cost to mining capital, was a large part of the cost structure of the industry. In 1913 the Native Trust and Land Act was passed into law by the South African parliament, which prohibited Natives from purchasing land outside of a tiny area. As the demand for cheap labour in the mining industry increased, the primary thrust of the legislation was to create a class of landless natives to feed this voracious demand. However, as long as black people still possessed a small portion of land, which meant they had no need to work as miners, the available labour pool was insufficient for the industry.To force them out of the land reserves additional legislative measures were required, which included the poll tax of one pound per head per annum. This forced more of them out of the reserves resulting in the further destruction of the euphemistically termed rural idyll where black people could still live an agrarian lifestyle. These two portraits of Inyangas are estimated to have been done between 1926 and 1931 and are very early examples of Bhengu’s mature style and therefore more likely the latter date, which was after the poll tax. This is further evidenced by the polarity of the sitters. The one Inyanga is characterised by a regal elegance and confidence of pose and is dressed in completely traditional regalia, whilst the other exhibits consternation and uncertainty and is dressed with an element of Western attire.Bhengu could hardly be described as an overtly political artist but in executing his form of social realism, the polarised characterisation of the two portrait subjects could be construed as articulating the influence of legislation and its accompanying taxation elements imposed by the government of the day, resulting in the further destruction of the rural way of life. The fact that the sitter with the Western attire exudes an uncertain consternation is more than likely not a coincidence. It confirms the fact that cultural production does not take place within a social, political and economic vacuum, even though the artist may not have executed these portraits with the intention of a direct socio-political commentary in mind.

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Auction: Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art, Sun, 25th Mar 2018

Aspire Art Auctions brought a unique offering to their second auction in the Cape allowing buyers to add quality and rarity to their collections.

Headlining the success of the auction was as a rare intaglio by Alexis Preller, Gold Angel (Arêté), which sold for R4 638 400. The piece was part of Preller’s last body of work shown at the Goodman Gallery in 1975, and took its place alongside the sale of his mid-period work, the exquisite small study Still life with Vase and Carved Head, which sold for R811 720. Other auction highlights included work by contemporary artists Robert Hodgins, Athi-Patra Ruga, Zander Blom, and Penny Siopis and sculpture by Deborah Bell, Willem Boshoff, Wim Botha, and Amadlozi alumnus Sydney Kumalo.


Friday 23 March 2018 | 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday 24 March 2018 | 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday 25 March 2018 | 10 am – 3 pm

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