A Grand Finale

A Grand Finale

Firm Results achieved at Johannesburg Auction of Modern and Contemporary Art

02/12/2021     General News, Live Auctions


Our final live auction of 2021 took place on Tuesday, 30 November in Johannesburg. Presenting a chic and fresh, curated selection of 77 lots, the boutique-style sale featured outstanding works by South African modern masters and leading contemporary artists.
With 15% of the works selling above high estimate, and a solid 70% within estimate range, the auction delivered robust results – indicative of a selective, yet resilient buyers’ market. Bidders from South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Italy, Spain, Germany, Lithuania, Tanzania and Algeria participated in the auction. It is exciting and encouraging to note that over 50% of the buyers were first-time buyers with Aspire. This indicates an increase in local and international collectors seeking the selection and range of artworks that Aspire brings to auction, as well as our continuing commitment to develop the global market for modern and contemporary art from Africa.




The top lot by value was the exquisite 1936 still-life painting by Irma Stern titled Still life with roses, blue bowl and the artist's brushes in a pot which sold for R3,983,000. Painted at the hight of Stern’s career, this intimate composition gives a view of the artist’s private domestic space and the sanctuary of her studio.

N SITU: Irma Stern, Still life with roses, blue bowl and the artist's brushes in a pot | SOLD FOR ZAR 3,983,000

Two impressive large-scale, limited edition prints by William Kentridge; Triumph of Bacchus (2016) and If You Have No Eye (2014) sold well, achieving R614,520 each.

LEFT | William Kentridge, Triumph of Bacchus | SOLD FOR ZAR 614,520
RIGHT | William Kentridge, If You Have No Eye | SOLD FOR ZAR 614,520


Alfred Thoba’s striking work The Fruits of Life (1990) drew considerable interest, selling over its high estimate for R591,760.
Race Horses by Vladimir Tretchikoff sold for R455,200. Never before seen, this painting beautifully exemplifies Tretchikoff’s unique ‘super-realist’ painting style and his long interest in equine imagery and themes. 

LEFT | Alfred Thoba, Fruits of Life | SOLD FOR ZAR 591,760
RIGHT | Vladimir TretchikofF, Race horses | SOLD FOR ZAR 455,200




The cover lot, Kate Gottgens’ vivid and visually seductive painting, The Abstractor (2018), was a firm favourite and saw local and international collectors competing for the final bid. The work achieved R250,360, well over its high estimate and setting a new auction record for the artist.


Kate Gottgens, The Abstractor | SOLD FOR ZAR 250,360


Blessing Ngobeni’s triptych, Shackled Revolution from 2019 sold for R227,600, while Phillemon Hlungwani’s captivating 2016 charcoal drawing Ntsako Wa Ti Endlela Wena Nwinyi (You Create Your Own Happiness) achieved R204,840.

Blessing Ngobeni, Shackled Revolution, triptych | SOLD FOR ZAR 227,600


In the spotlight was the collection of four rare watercolours by George Pemba, created between 1944 and 1947, which sold individually at a combined total of R460,890. These works were produced during the artist’s travels throughout South Africa and indicate his remarkable skill.


George Pemba
TOP LEFT | Woman wearing a traditional headwrap with pins | SOLD FOR ZAR 159,320
TOP RIGHT | Xhosa woman dancing | SOLD FOR ZAR 96,730
BOTTOM LEFT | Portrait of a bearded man | SOLD FOR ZAR 108,100
BOTTOM RIGHT | Xhosa women | SOLD FOR ZAR 96,730


Other 20th century modern artists also performed well. Edoardo Villa’s grand steel sculpture African Throne (1991) reached R352,780 and Ephraim Ngatane’s lively painting, descriptively titled The Carlton Centre Under Construction sold for R136,560. This painting is a valuable historical visual record by an observing artist documenting the construction of the infamous Carlton Centre, a 50-storey skyscraper, in central Johannesburg.


Zanele Muholi, Tumi Nkopane, KwaThema, Springs, Johannesburg | SOLD FOR ZAR 170,700


A notable highlight was the inclusion of a selection of works from the collection of the well-known Handspring Puppet Company. 26 artworks, presented in 15 lots from the collection went under the hammer. The works have been collected over more than 30 years and map much of the company’s creative, personal and professional journey. From this collection, Zanele Muholi’s photograph Tumi Nkopane, KwaThema, Springs, Johannesburg stood out and sold for R170,700, while the William Kentridge suite of  eight etchings Ubu Tells the Truth achieved R295,880.