Still life with magnolias, apples and bowl (1944/9), Irma Stern

Johannesburg - Aspire Art Auctions leads its Winter 18 auction at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Illovo, Sandton, with a rare and exceptional still life by Irma Stern, Still life with magnolias, apples and bowl (1944/9). This work has never before been seen and is brand new to the market.

Dr Marion Arnold of Loughborough University in the UK, an authority on Stern and author of the seminal book Irma Stern: A Feast for the Eye, states: “Stern produced still life paintings throughout her career, invariably depicting natural and cultural forms. Flowering plants and fruits, often from her garden at The
Firs in Rosebank, feature prominently as do artefacts she collected, which are all very evident in this magnificent work." 

The artefacts depicted are Chinese vessels from the artist’s own collection. The martaban in which the flowers sit is offset in the foreground by a glazed celadon bowl. The vibrancy and sensuality of the magnolias themselves are what dominate the image, however.

“Irma Stern is, of course, one of South Africa’s premier artists at auction in the country,” says Aspire senior art specialist and director Mary-Jane Darroll. “She is also one of the only South African artists, along with William Kentridge, Marlene Dumas, J.H. Pierneef and Gerard Sekoto, to boast an international auction reputation; and features in the Artprice Global 500 ranking of collectable artists. The fact that this work has not previously been seen at auction is very exciting for us.”

Alongside this rare Stern, another important still life by the artist will appear at the sale; Still life with Chrysanthemums in the artist’s handmade ceramic jug (1950), another painting never before offered at auction. 

Still life with Chrysanthemums in the artist’s handmade ceramic jug (1950), Irma Stern

This is a rare opportunity to glimpse two significant works, held in private family collections and previously unseen on the open market. The two resplendent still lives, in the artist’s characteristic impasto technique, show off her renowned mastery of colour, with palettes of complimentary hues setting off the forms and spaces surrounding the objects she depicts.

Work by another eminently collectable twentieth century South African artist Alexis Preller also appears in this high-quality collection of works coming to auction. Celestial Twins (1955), originally sold from the important Estate Late JF van Reenen collection, is a principal study for the artist’s large commission All Africa. While The Wounded Soldier (1944) is a significant and empathetic response by a sensitive artist to the horrors of his wartime experiences.

Other major modern South African artists include a lovely Gerard Sekoto painting titled Bustling street scene (1961), which has all the charm and sophistication definitive of this brilliant chronicler of quotidian township life.

Bustling street scene (1961), Gerard Sekoto

Other important works on this auction include two impressive incised wood panels by prominent Amadlozi Group artist Cecil Skotnes. African figures, recalls another work of the same title from 1965, which has fetched the highest price ever for a Skotnes at auction in South Africa, in 2010, and features a similar kind of style and palette. 

Another major piece, The Legend of the Judean War (1984), reflects the changes in Skotnes’ approach later in his career. It is, by comparison, a much tougher and more robustly carved work, with a consciously changed colour palette.

A number of interesting works by Skotnes’ fellow Amadlozi alumnus Edoardo Villa also feature. Most prominent among these is Sculpture VIII (1970), a dynamically tapered work that recalls the great Songe spiritual masks of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Contemporary work on the sale is led by a rare and very early series of uncatalogued prints by William Kentridge, The Muizenberg series (1977). 

“We’re very excited to have this group of works on the sale,” says Aspire senior art specialist and director Emma Bedford. “Their rarity is matched by their significance in that one of the characters in the print series would inspire the later appearance of Soho Eckstein, the chief protagonist of the groundbreaking Films for Projection.”

Other contemporary work includes an early, large-scale abstract by Zander Blom, a meticulously observed, massive hyper-realist painting by Deborah Poynton, as well as evocative pieces by Sandile Zulu and Kay Hassan, among others.

Concludes Aspire MD and senior art specialist Ruarc Peffers: “It’s already evident that, despite our relative youth as a business, serious collectors are entrusting us with works of significance in the full range of segments – modern, historic and contemporary. Once more for this sale we have put together
a beautifully observed variety of significant works to appeal to buyers across the spectrum.”

* Aspire’s Winter sale takes place at 6pm on 17 June 2018, at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, 26 Melville Road, Illovo, Sandton, offers a range of top-quality fine art. Included on the sale is a rare Irma Stern painting, never before seen at auction.

For gratis and obligation-free valuations, and to consign works of art to upcoming auctions, please contact:

Jacqui Carney | [email protected] | +27 71 675 2991
Mary-Jane Darroll | [email protected] | +27 82 567 1925
Ruarc Peffers | [email protected] | +27 84 444 8004

Cape Town:
Emma Bedford | [email protected] | +27 83 391 7235
Marelize van Zyl | [email protected] | +27 83 283 7427

About Aspire Art Auctions

Aspire Art Auctions is a South African-based, specialist auctioneering company formed to respond to the requirements of the country’s rapidly growing art industry. Specialising in historical, modern and contemporary art, the company is headed by a grouping of partners with formidable collective knowledge and expertise – together representing the longest combined secondary art market presence in South Africa.

With combined art industry experience of more than eighty years, Art Specialists Emma Bedford, Jacqui Carney, Mary-Jane Darroll, Ruarc Peffers and Marelize van Zyl produce curated auctions of top-quality international, African and South African art.

Aspire is also the only South African auction house to offer an Artist’s Resale Rights (ARR) royalty scheme to living South African artists whose works sell on its auctions. In the absence of national legislation, Aspire voluntarily bears the entire cost of this initiative in order to demonstrate its commitment to the sustainability of the South African art industry. This makes Aspire Art Auctions unique in the local auction world. 

But its key differentiator is its knowledgeable team of specialists, whose exclusive focus on fine art ensures that works of art are presented in comprehensive historical and cultural contexts and on the best possible display platforms.

Ph: +27 11 243 5243.