14th Sep, 2022 18:00

20th Century & Contemporary Art

  Lot 27
Lot 27 - Brett  Murray  (South Africa 1961-)


Brett Murray (South Africa 1961-)
Love Over Fear

metal and gold leaf

Artwork date: 2017
Signature details: signed on the last letter and each numbered on the reverse
Edition: number 3 from an edition of 3
Exhibited: Art Miami, Miami Beach, Dean Project, 5 to 10 December 2017.

Sold for R147,940
Estimated at R200,000 - R300,000


metal and gold leaf

Artwork date: 2017
Signature details: signed on the last letter and each numbered on the reverse
Edition: number 3 from an edition of 3
Exhibited: Art Miami, Miami Beach, Dean Project, 5 to 10 December 2017.


210 x 165 x 10 cm


Private collection, Johannesburg.


Four letter words are rude, crude – you cannot unsee them. In the case of Brett Murray’s relief work in gold leaf and metal; Love Over Fear – the wager is fundamentally triumphal. Love, as we well know, is a tricky theme in art, all too glibly dismissed as sentiment. However, this prejudice fails to recognise that sentiment, in the late 18th early 19th century, was an integral aspect of the battle on behalf of the rights of women and slaves. Love, as a sentiment and principle, remains profound.

Created in 2017, when the Syrian Refugee Crisis dominated our newsfeed, one cannot ignore its driving concern – human dignity. Today, in 2022, Murray’s wager has become more horrifyingly relevant, given the resurgence of fascism globally, the cruel disregard for those who do not belong to one’s ‘clan-caste-tribe-nation-people’. Isolationism is the new embittered normal, its trigger – fear. Thus, when Murray advocates ‘Love Over Fear’ he is signalling the toxicity of the threat, and providing a solution – conviviality, mutual care – EMPATHY.

In his major work, I and Thou (1923), philosopher Martin Buber defines the vital importance of love, of empathy: ‘I imagine to myself what another man is at the very moment wishing, feeling, perceiving, thinking, and not as a detached content but in his very reality, that is, as a living process in this man…. The inmost growth of the man is not accomplished as people like to suppose today, in man’s relation to himself, but in the relation between one and the other, between men’[1]. This is the reckoning that grounds Murray’s vision. Love overcomes Fear because it fosters connection, embraces diversity, honours others irrespective of one’s personal point of view. This is the great love shown by Angela Merkel, Former Chancellor of Germany, when she welcomed over a million Syrian refugees into Germany. That her canny vision has been challenged by the fearful, by those who seek to provincialise Europe, is all the more grimly in evidence today.

Love is not merely the generic content of a pop song, a blithe quip in a greeting card, but the foundation of human survival. That we recklessly disregard this vital element – the pandemic that is narcissism a case in point – reveals the dark side of the human condition – our nihilism.

Brett Murray’s declaration, boldly gold, reminds us of the catastrophic cost that comes with lovelessness. It serves as a mantra, a prayer. Nurturing, protective, consoling, LOVE OVER FEAR is an antidote to the defining zeitgeist of our embattled and immoral age – stoicism. For if stoicism prescribes endurance in the midst of affliction, it fails to make the critical next step, the ‘inmost growth’ that comes through love.

Ashraf Jamal

[1] Buber, M. (1971). I and Thou. New York: Charles Scribner.


The artist is represented in numerous local and international collections, notably, Norval Foundation, Cape Town.; Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town.; Johannesburg Art Gallery.; The South African Reserve Bank, Johannesburg and Red Bull, Salzburg.

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Auction: 20th Century & Contemporary Art, 14th Sep, 2022


Aspire Art will impress collectors with this focused, boutique-style auction. Including 81 carefully selected lots the sale boasts impressive examples by many of South Africa’s most celebrated artists. A fine selection of William Kentridge works, including two original drawings, Eduardo Villa sculptures, painting by Robert Hodgins and Walter Battiss and a wonderful early Penny Siopis drawing are on offer.

Also featured are two special sections – Black Modernism and Photography. Aspire has firmly cemented itself as a champion of both these collecting segments and collectors will be spoilt for choice with a rare drawing by Dumile Feni as well as works by other modernists including Gerard Sekoto, George Pemba and Lucas Sithole and photographs by David Goldblatt, Mohau Modisakeng and Simphiwe Ndzube amongst others.


The exhibition preview is open to the public.

Viewing is from Friday 9 to Wednesday 14 September.

Weekdays from 09h30 to 16h30, Saturdays from 09h30 to 14h00, and Sundays by appointment.

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