A Showcase of Sekotos: South Africa's leading black artist takes Bonhams South African Sale by storm

Works by exiled father of black painting top £347,000

The South African Sale
2 Oct 2013
London, New Bond Street

One of the strongest showings of South Africa's leading black artist, Gerard Sekoto (1913-1993), will take place at the Bonhams South African Art Sale on October 2nd in London's New Bond Street. A grand total of nine of the artist's paintings, all signed 'G SEKOTO', will be on offer.

Sekoto's rarest and most sought after works are those that he painted in South Africa. He moved to Johannesburg in 1938, and was tormented by the racist scenes that he witnessed on the city's streets. By his late twenties, however, he'd developed a way to creatively channel this torment into his art.

The distress of contemporary black and working-class life under the conditions of apartheid was Sekoto's major preoccupation during his South African period. His artworks provided a window through which Johannesburg's secluded white suburban society could see how other people lived. Lots 22, 'In the Kitchen', and 23, 'Wash day', are prime examples. Sekoto fuses warm golden tones with gentle shades of blue and delicately balances light and shade to eloquently draw attention to these people and the ordinary activities that make up their daily lives. Both paintings are estimated to sell for values between £15,000 and £20,000.

Lots 38, 'Two men sitting on a pavement', and 39, 'Waiting', show Sekoto's more sombre style. The artist blurs the faces of his sitters by applying oil paints in sweeping strokes; at the same time, he creates a dramatic chiaroscuro effect with dark reds and yellows to bring the characters and the unhappy conditions in which they suffer to life. Lot 38 is estimated at a value of £40,000-60,000, Lot 39 at a value of £60,000-100,000.

After the ascendancy of the National Party in South Africa in 1948, and the rise in racial segregation, Sekoto left the country he loved. He set off on a pilgrimage to Paris, hoping that the liberal Parisian lifestyle would foster artistic freedom.

Sekoto experienced a culture shock in his new surroundings, and the paintings that he produced during his early-exile period suggest his loneliness and suffering. Lot 54, 'Girl with guitar', estimated at a value of £40,000-60,000, is an interesting early example. Its sense of isolation and cold palette of blues and greys are worlds apart from the artist's vibrant depictions of society in South Africa.

Hannah O'Leary, Head of South African Art at Bonhams, comments: "Gerard Sekoto is a pioneer of modern South African Art. He attained near mythic status as the exiled father of black painting in South Africa, and no wonder—no other artist has ever documented the life and struggles of his people so vividly, and with such profound sincerity".

For further information and images call Chloe Ashby on 0207 468 5870, or email chloe.ashby@bonhams.com or press@bonhams.com.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com

  1. Giles Peppiatt
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
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