Auction Highlight: Gerard Sekoto

Aspire Art highlights rare Sekoto at auction

07/09/2023     General News, Live Auctions


Lot 46 | Street Corner | Estimate: ZAR 800 000 - 1 200 000


Sekoto moved to District Six in Cape Town in 1942 and this scene from the area is one of his earliest urban subjects. From 1938 to 1942 the artist had lived in Sophiatown, Johannesburg. During this time he made substantial advances in his technique, starting to paint in poster paints and then oils. By the time he moved to District Six the artist had grown greatly in confidence. His command of light and colour had increased and his composition had grown more complex and nuanced. Sekoto’s skill is clearly evident in the depth of luminosity of colour in the range of blues and gentle ochres in Street Corner, while the composition relies on carefully constructed repetition creating a sense of balance and rhythm – devices also evident in other works from the period such as Basking (c.1942) in the collection of the Iziko South African National Gallery, Street Bonhomie, District Six (c. 1944) in the Johannesburg Art Gallery collection and Yellow Houses, District Six which sold at Bonhams in London in 2011 for GBP 602 400.


LEFT | Basking (c.1942), in the collection of the Iziko South African National Gallery

CENTRE | Street Bonhomie, District Six (c. 1944), in the Johannesburg Art Gallery collection

RIGHT | Yellow Houses, District Six, sold at Bonhams in London in 2011 for GBP 602 400.


Sekoto left District Six in 1945 for Eastwood in Pretoria. In 1947 he travelled to Paris. The artist never returned to South Africa and works from this early period are highly sought after, they seldom come to market and rarely do they have such impeccable provenance as Street Corner. As affirmed in the notes on the reverse of the painting, the work was acquired directly from the framing company of Max Wolpe senior, father of the incomparable connoisseur and beloved art dealer, Joe Wolpe.


Estimated at R800 000 to R1 200 000 Street Corner, depicts a meeting at night on a street corner between friends or perhaps, a gathering of comrades. The 1940s were characterised by changes that had a profound effect on the political landscape in South Africa and District Six was at the heart of political foment. Cissie Gool, a local resident and an anti-apartheid political and civil rights leader, became the president of the Non-European United Front (NEUF) in 1940. One can imagine the influence of such political activism on the young Sekoto and how he may have been inspired to capture something of it for posterity.


Street Corner reveals evidence of his early mastery of the medium of oil paint in the atmospheric effects employed to convey the mood of the occasion. With painterly skill and an intuitive understanding of human relations, Sekoto captures this small group huddled together to exchange views.


It may also have been the sheer intimacy of a group of adults gathering together while a mother rocks her child to sleep that caught the artist’s eye. An intuitive understanding of human relations and a sincere empathy with his fellow human beings, allowed Sekoto to explore the nature of the scene which might equally have been an occasion to discuss the issues of the day. Either way, this gathering of people to share views on the day’s developments or help soothe a child to sleep, is one of profound humanity, for which Sekoto is rightfully celebrated.


The painting will be on view from 4-13 September at Aspire Art’s showroom in Cape Town at 37A Somerset Road.




20th Century & Contemporary Art

13 September 2023 at 6pm



4 – 13 September 2023
Monday to Friday: 8:30 – 16:30
Saturday 10:00 – 14:00


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