Women on the Rise: Celebrating Female Artists

Women on the Rise: Celebrating Female Artists

Aspire Art Celebrates Women Making Strides on the Secondary Market

06/06/2024     General News, Live Auctions

In the vibrant and ever-evolving art world, women artists have long been the hidden gems, their brilliance often overshadowed. However, recent years have witnessed a seismic shift, with female artists making significant strides in the auction and secondary markets. Aspire Art’s 20th Century and Contemporary Art sale in Johannesburg on the 19 June mirrors the market’s burgeoning recognition of women in the art world, with a special focus on South African artists who are redefining the landscape.


Globally, the narrative is changing. In the United States, female artists created 37,539 out of the 339,969 objects acquired by museums between 2008 and 2020. Additionally, the market share for solo shows by women artists soared from 5% in 2000 to a staggering 34% in 2021, according to Art Basel & UBS Reports. This surge isn't limited to established names, as emerging female artists are drawing increasing interest from collectors, further diversifying and enriching the art market.


Zooming into South Africa, the art scene is witnessing a renaissance of female talent. Works by African women artists have soared in auction rankings, propelled by the vibrant and dynamic growth of the African art scene. South African women artists, in particular, have seen their contributions celebrated with exuberant acclaim, and their market value rise, affirming their sustained and profound influence in the art world.


Aspire Art stands at the forefront of this transformation. With unwavering dedication, the auction house is committed to shining a spotlight on women artists, fervently advocating for their recognition and ensuring their rightful place in art history. The upcoming auction is a testament to this commitment, showcasing some of the greatest women artists South Africa has ever produced, and celebrating their unparalleled creativity and artistic brilliance.


Irma Stern and Lisa Brice, two of the top-selling South African women artists, exemplify the diversity and dynamism of female artistic expression. Stern's record-breaking sales are no fluke; her art is a vibrant fusion of European modernism and African themes. Lisa Brice, on the other hand, challenges traditional representations of women with her bold, introspective figures. Both artists were ahead of their time, paving the way for future generations.


Trailblazers of South African Art:


Known as the ‘Bird Lady’, Gladys Mgudlandlu was one of the first black women to exhibit professionally in South Africa, bringing vibrant landscapes and avian life to her canvases.

Lot 5 | Gladys Mgudlandlu, Drought


Penny Siopis tackles themes of history, trauma, and memory, using a variety of experimental mediums to question societal narratives.

Lot 44 | Penny Siopis, Ash (2011)


Esther Mahlangu upholds Ndebele tradition, with bold geometric patterns having graced global stages, from BMW art cars to international galleries.

Lot 15 | Esther Mahlangu, Dwelling (2017) 


Irma Stern's vibrant and expressive paintings drew inspiration from African culture, landscapes, and people. Her work, characterised by bold colours and dynamic compositions, has made significant contributions to modern art in South Africa and beyond.

Lot 45 | Irma Stern, Dahlias and Fruit (1960)


Bettie Cilliers-Barnard is a pioneer of abstract art in South Africa, her work reflecting a deep engagement with spiritual and metaphysical concepts.

Lot 24 | Bettie Cilliers-Barnard, Abstract I (1970) 


Zanele Muholi’s work powerfully explores and celebrates the complexities of identity, particularly within the LGBTQIA+ community, through evocative and intimate photography.

Lot 48 | Zanele Muholi, Sine II, Melbourne, Australia (2020)


Georgina Gratrix’s work is characterized by her exaggerated, caricature-like portraits that cleverly critique social norms and the cult of celebrity. Her vibrant and textured paintings blend humor and satire, making poignant statements about identity and contemporary culture.

Lot 2 | Georgina Gratrix, Poodle II (2011)


Turiya Magadlela’s innovative use of pantyhose and textiles in her art speaks to themes of race, gender, and socioeconomic issues.

Lot 12 | Turiya Magadlela, Jesus walking in white (2017)


Lisa Brice’s work explores themes of gender, identity, and the female experience, using painting and mixed media to challenge traditional representations of women.

Lot 42 | Lisa Brice, Chasing that High IX (2007)


Eleanor Esmonde White’s intimate portraits are ‘of women, by woman’, portraying the female form through a lens of authenticity and empowerment, consciously rejecting the male gaze, and capturing the womanly essence of her subjects.

Lot 25 | Eleanor Esmonde-White, Nude at the Window


Bronwyn Katz's work often revolves around collective history and memory, connecting spaces and objects. A recurring feature in her installations and sculptures is a worn mattress, symbolizing the personal and communal stories embedded in everyday materials.

Lot 36 | Bronwyn Katz, Rooi Spoor III


Master printmaker Diane Victor uses various mediums to explore themes of trauma and memory, challenging societal narratives through her evocative, often unsettling pieces. 

Lot 37 | Diane Victor, Little Conversations; Home of the Brave; We're All Going Down, triptych


Ruby Swinney's artworks are characterized by their ethereal and dreamlike quality, highlighting the transient beauty of life. Her delicate use of color and light creates immersive experiences that transport viewers into otherworldly realms, evoking a sense of wonder and introspection.

Lot 38 | Ruby Swinney, Before the crossing 


Lyndi Sales' artworks are known for their intricate and meticulous craftsmanship, often utilizing a variety of materials to explore themes of perception, memory, and the fragility of life. Her installations and sculptures invite viewers to engage deeply with existential questions, creating visually complex and intellectually stimulating experiences.

Lot 39 | Lyndi Sales, Untitled



Tamary Kudita's powerful and intimate portraits challenge historical narratives and stereotypes, offering a fresh perspective on African identity and its portrayal in the modern world.

Lot 49 | Tamary Kudita, Hair Tales (from the Birds of Paradise series)


The ascent of women in the art world is a narrative of resilience and triumph. Aspire Art is proud to be part of this journey, championing the voices of women artists who break barriers and redefine the art of their time. The works on this auction represent a rich history, showcasing works that span multiple eras, not only in the realm of art history but also reflecting broader societal changes. These pioneering women artists have made a remarkable impact during their respective periods, carving out spaces for future generations of female artists. Their legacy is evident in the way works from over half a century ago resonate with and complement the bold expressions of today’s contemporary art. This intergenerational dialogue highlights the enduring influence and relevance of their contributions to art and culture.


The upcoming auction is not just a celebration of art; it's a homage to the indomitable spirit of South African women artists who continue to inspire.





20th Century & Contemporary Art

19 June 2024 at 7pm



7 – 19 June 2024
Monday – Friday: 8:30 am – 4:30pm
Saturday: 10 am – 2 pm


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