Auction Highlight: Alexis Preller

Aspire Art unveils newly found Adam, by artist Alexis Preller for Auction in June 2023.

26/05/2023     Live Auctions, Insights, Announcements

Lot 22 | Adam | Estimate: ZAR 5 500 000 - 7 500 000


This, never-before-seen, reiteration of Preller’s iconic Adam portraits is a major discovery and a valuable addition to the artist’s documented oeuvre. The painting forms part of Preller’s important series of Adamic-themed works from the late 1960s and early 1970s which comprises several versions and variations of the subject.

The painting first belonged to a well-known medical doctor in Johannesburg, who presumably purchased it directly from the artist after its completion in the early 1970s. The work was later bought from his deceased estate in the mid-1980s by an art collector from Pretoria and it has been in the family’s private collection, out of public view, ever since.

Estimated at R 5.5 million – R 7.5 million for sale at auction, this enchanting Adam in gold (Lot 22) relates to other notable works like Icon Barbare (Adam) which was exhibited in Preller’s acclaimed retrospective exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum in 1972 as well as the large-scale, electrifying Adam which was shown at the São Paulo Biennale in 1973, and sold by Aspire Art in 2018 for just over R 9.1million.


LEFT: Alexis Preller, Adam, 1972. SOLD FOR R9,104,000 in 2018.

RIGHT: Artist Alexis Preller in the 1970s


Delicately rendered in oil and gold leaf, this image of  'the first man' takes on the archaic quality of a god-like being – it exudes a strong and commanding presence. The facial features of the downcast head, which are seemingly similar to that in ancient Babylonian art, are finely delineated, capturing a sense of introspection and contemplation. The empty eyes, different in colour, reference classical sculpture, while the structure of the upper chest alludes directly to the idealised body type of the ancient Greek kouros figures.

Alexis Preller is considered one of the most important and widely recognised modern artists from Africa. Historically significant, this Adam is an incredible and intellectually engaging portrait that reflects the artist's deep exploration of mythology, spirituality, and human form and condition. It stands as a testament to Preller's mastery of technique and his ability to convey profound and complex ideas through his art.


The painting will be on view from 2 – 7 June at Aspire Art’s showroom in Johannesburg before the auction.




20th Century & Contemporary Art

7 June 2023 at 6pm


Viewing: 2 to 7 June 2023
Monday to Friday: 8:30 – 16:30
Saturday 10:00 – 14:00


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