Auction Highlight: Siopis

Auction Highlight: Siopis

Untitled, 1998, an Early Drawing by Penny Siopis

01/08/2022     General News, Live Auctions

Aspire Art’s upcoming live auction 20th Century & Contemporary Art will take place in Cape Town on Wednesday, 14 September 2022. This much-anticipated sale will feature a select collection of works by some of South Africa’s most influential modern masters and renowned contemporary artists from Southern Africa practicing in the international art arena today.

One of the many highlights is an early, never-before-seen, drawing from 1998 by Penny Siopis. Created in the same year the artist presented her critically acclaimed solo exhibition Charmed Lives at Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, this sensitively rendered drawing stylistically references previous works from her ‘History Period’ such as Exempli Gratia (1989), and thematically prefigures some of her later works like Julia’s Friend (2007), and Spirit Matter (2016).


LEFT | Exempli Gratia, 1989.
MIDDLE | Julia’s Friend, 2007. Image Courtesy: Goodman Gallery
RIGHT | Spirit Matter, 2016.


Penny Siopis’ work is marked by her interest in the physicality of her chosen medium, the accumulation of found objects, material memory, and the politics of the body. As an artist, and since the start of her career, she has also continually engaged with the shifting social and political situations in South Africa.

In this intimate drawing, the artist presents a nude female figure in frontal view, submerged in a vague and indistinct dark background. Her demeanour coy as her arms protectively fold across her chest, her face turned to the side while she strokes her hand through her long loose hair. There is a sense of intimacy and personal closeness of experiences in the narratives of Siopis’ work, and with this drawing in particular, the viewer relates to the fragility of the subject. Siopis has had a longstanding interest in the poetics of vulnerability, and here a dialogue between history, associations of femininity, ‘the self’, private and public is at play.


Earlier works by Siopis, especially from the 1990s, rarely come to auction. Estimated at R250 000 – 350 000, the drawing is sure to attract the interest of serious collectors.
The year after this drawing was made, Penny Siopis exhibited in La Memoire 99 at the Villa Medici in Rome alongside Christian Boltanski, Mary Kelly and Rem Koolhaas.
More recently, Siopis showed in Plural Possibilities and the Female Body at the Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington (2021); Witness: Afro Perspectives from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection at El Espacio 23 in Miami (2020); Global(e) Resistance at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2020); Blinde Winkel / Blind Corner at Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in Germany (2020); Indian Ocean Current: Six Artistic Narratives at the McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, (2020) and I Am ... Contemporary Women Artists of Africa at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington DC, (2019). 
In 2014/5, Penny Siopis’ major retrospective exhibition, Time and Again was presented at the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town and later at the Wits Museum of Art in Johannesburg.

For more information on the work, or to arrange a private viewing in Johannesburg, contact Aspire Managing Director and Senior Art Specialist Ruarc Peffers: +27 10 109 7989 |