Marlene Dumas: Existential Doubt

An Early Painting that Shows the Artist’s Confidence with Subject and Paint

27/02/2024     General News, Live Auctions

Aspire Art is excited to bring to market an early painting by internationally renowned artist Marlene Dumas.


As one of the most celebrated living artists today, Cape Town-born and Amsterdam-based artist, Marlene Dumas, has produced an extraordinary body of work from her earliest paintings in the 1970s through to her internationally celebrated exhibitions of recent years.


Lot 37 | Existential Doubt  | R 1 200 000 - R 1 800 000


Existential Doubt is a leading lot in the upcoming live auction; 20th Century & Contemporary Art taking place in Cape Town on 6 March 2024.


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The work is a significant painting in Dumas’ early career establishing her as a fearless artist with the courage to explore challenging subject matter and a painter of extraordinary power in her ability to masterfully utilise the medium on canvas – not just to capture physical appearances, but essentially to explore the essence of humanity.


Dumas completed Existential Doubt in 1975, a year before her moving to the Netherlands in 1976 and the work has been in a private collection ever since. The painting is visually dark, with a faced figure emerging from a haze, blurring the line between abstraction and figuration. The title references the philosophy of Kierkegaard and his description of faith as a leap into the dark.


A comparable painting from the same period, Girl in Boxer Shorts (ca.1974) stands as the female version of Existential Doubt, and according to the artist, these paintings are forerunners of several key works which followed in the 1990s such as  Liberation 1945 (1990) and Vandalised Pin-up (1996).


LEFT: Girl in Boxer Shorts (ca.1974)

CENTER: Liberation 1945 (1990)

RIGHT: Vandalised Pin-up (1996)


Estimated at R 1 200 000 – 1 800 000, the painting is set to attract the attention of serious collectors following the recent $9 million sale of Dumas’ painting titled School Boys (1986–87) at Art Basel Miami Beach in December 2023, marking a new price record for the artist.


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Existential Doubt is currently on exhibition at Aspire’s showroom in Cape Town until 6 March 2024. For more information on the painting, or to arrange a private viewing contact:


Sarah Sinisi

Senior Art Specialist

+27 21 418 0765 |






20th Century & Contemporary Art

6 March 2024 at 6pm



29 February - 6 March 2024
Monday to Friday: 8:30 – 16:30 and Saturday: 10:00-14:00


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