30th Nov, 2022 18:00

20th Century & Contemporary Art

 
  Lot 58
 
Lot 58 - Alexis Preller (South Africa 1911-1975)

58

Alexis Preller (South Africa 1911-1975)
Circles of Life

oil and gesso on canvas

Artwork date: 1966
Signature details: signed and dated bottom right

Sold for R1,069,000
Estimated at R1,000,000 - R1,500,000


Condition Report

The overall condition is good.

Very minor surface dirt.

Cracking in areas of impasto paint.

Paint loss along the third right area.

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 and gesso on canvas

Artwork date: 1966
Signature details: signed and dated bottom right

(1)

61 x 70.5 cm; framed size: 88 x 98 x 3 cm

Provenance:

Private collection, Johannesburg.

Notes:

Circles of Life (1966) is a forceful and vital work painted during a short, but important period in the mid-sixties, when Alexis Preller stepped away from his familiar and established aesthetic to create a body of abstract works – which today are instantly recognisable and widely-celebrated as ‘classic’ Preller.

In the period from 1959-1963, Preller had been consumed with work on the mural Discovery (of the Sea Route around Africa). His third and ultimately most important commission, the work measured a monumental 3 x 12.75 metres and was installed at the new Transvaal Administration Building in Pretoria

A mammoth project, the artist had been married to this mural for 4 years and it is not surprising that once relieved of it he wished to venture into new territory. In a radio interview in 1964 with art critic and broadcaster Harold Jeppe and art historian Esmé Berman, Preller described his thinking:

I did realise after the mural that I had reached a psychological moment – that I would virtually have to start all over again ... Now people can quite obviously say that I am deriving from the abstract painters of the day. And I am doing it quite deliberately; because while l was busy with the mural, three, four years had gone by and I realized that the studios right around the world were being concerned with this idea of something that has nothing to do with figuration at all.

With my African race I was concerned with very definite forms and figurations; and it occurred to me, ‘Why should I be painting like this when the whole world has suddenly destroyed all figuration?' And I knew that a very exciting thing had happened – a wonderful thing had happened – that artists as a group had quite successfully destroyed the image![1]

What followed was a period where Preller wholeheartedly embraced the abstract form. The artist’s biographer Karel Nel notes that, “Alexis Preller's pleasure in creating his gestural abstract paintings of the mid-sixties was clearly evident in the spontaneous vitality of those creations. His emotional response to the mystique of the celestial bodies was invested in the kinetic action of his painting arm. Thick paint, laid on in swirling movements, created circular and spiralling forms, which mimicked the motion and the radiance of the stars and, especially, of the sun”.[2]

It is only regrettable that many of Preller’s paintings, especially from this time, have left his home country, South Africa. Scattered across the globe in the collections of emigrant families, Nel explains that Preller’s later works were, in particular, “affected by the exodus during the 1970s; and among those works are many of the missing abstract paintings”.[3]

Sarah Sinisi

[1] Alexis Preller interviewed on radio by Esmé Berman and Harold Jeppe, SABC: broadcast 20 July 1964.

[2] Berman, E & Nel, K. (2009). Alexis Preller: Collected Images. Saxonworld: Shelf Publishing. p. 221.

[3] Ibid.

Collections:

The artist is represented in numerous local and international collections, notably, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town; Norval Foundation, Cape Town; Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg; Javett Art Centre, Pretoria and Ellerman House Collection, Cape Town.

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Auction: 20th Century & Contemporary Art, 30th Nov, 2022

 

The focused sale brings to market 84 highly collectable lots, with the diverse collection showcasing highlights by modern masters including magnificent still-life compositions and a Zanzibari boat scene by Irma Stern, an Alexis Preller abstract and an early JH Pierneef landscape. Also included is a significant collection of celebrated contemporary artists: Mustafa Maluka, David Koloane, Walter Oltmann, Norman Catherine, Willem Boshoff, a rare self-portrait oil by Robert Hodgins as well as a large bronze sculpture by Zanele Muholi, the first of this new body of work to be offered on auction.
 
The sale features a special selection of artworks by William Kentridge. One of the most celebrated and influential living artists today, his major retrospective exhibition is currently on show at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. This is one of the most unique and high-quality Kentridge collections to come to market. Spanning his career and showcasing the many mediums in which he works, the sale features signature charcoal drawings alongside collages, tapestry, prints and sculptures.

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IMPORTANT NOTICE:


 

Logistics

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Small (≤60x90x10 cm): R400

Medium (≤90x120x15 cm): R800

Large (≤120x150x20 cm): R1,200

Over-size: Special quote

 

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For buyers from outside South Africa, we will keep the artworks you have purchased in storage during the year and then ship all the works you have acquired during the year together, so the shipping costs are reduced. At the end of the annual period, we will source various quotes to get you the best price, and ship all your artworks to your desired address at once.

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