Images of powerful women dominate £3.5M South African Sale at Bonhams in London

Images of powerful women dominate £3.5M South African Sale at Bonhams in London

Images of powerful women dominate £3.5M South African Sale at Bonhams in London

Images of powerful women dominate £3.5M South African Sale at Bonhams in London

Images of powerful women dominated the Bonhams sale of South African Art in London yesterday (21st March 2012) which made a total of £3.5m (R43m).

Works featuring women by the country's leading artists, Irma Stern, William Kentridge and Gerard Sekoto were among the strongest performers in the sale.

Giles Peppiatt, Director of South African Art at Bonhams, comments: "This sale once again confirms the pre-eminence of Irma Stern in South African art and the continuing interest of the international art market in South African art. It was just a couple of years ago that prices of the kind achieved in this sale would not have seemed credible."

Pink Sari
A stunning image from one of Irma Stern's trips to Zanzibar which inspired some of her best work, titled Pink Sari, signed and dated 1947, and with its original Zanzibar frame, sold at Bonhams today for £959,650. Never before seen on the open market, the painting was acquired directly from the artist circa 1961 and then passed by direct descent to the current owner. It was the top lot in Bonhams sale of South African Art which has consistently broken records for South African art over the past five years.

Irma Stern's trips to Zanzibar in 1939 and 1945 were life-changing events that would continue to exert influence on her artistic output for years to come. The island's people and colours had etched themselves in her mind and gave her a profound sense of satisfaction in having found precisely what she had been searching out across Africa for several decades previously. To her friends she described the trip as a revelation, the island as a bustling idyll teeming with colour. The pink sari is a stunning example of the beauty Stern encountered on the island. In the women of the Zanzibar in particular, she had found her greatest inspiration.

Zulu Girl
Zulu Girl, painted in 1935 at the height of Stern's creative powers sold for £457,250. This image is an iconic one of African womanhood from one of South Africa's leading tribal groups.

Portrait of the Artist's Mother
This picture by Gerard Sekoto, South Africa's leading black artist, sold for £79,250. For anyone going into exile there are many costs, loss of contact with one's culture, one's language, one's family and the places of one's youth and childhood. Among these, the loss of direct contact with one's parents, and in particular with one's mother, is perhaps the most difficult.

It is not surprising therefore to find that Gerard Sekoto's image of his mother painted before his going into exile shows a mix of sadness, kindness and love. His mother is a powerful figure, but sits humbly on a low box in her home. The painting is no less powerful for its humility.

Work of William Kentridge made on the cusp of political change in South Africa

The work Anti-Waste by William Kentridge, (born 1955), an artist best known for his prints, drawings and animated films, sold for £253,250.

The oil and charcoal work dates to about 1990, as William Kentridge started work on "Mine", the third film in his series 9 Drawings for Projection (1989-2003). South Africa was on the cusp of political change, in the tentative years between the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, the unbanning of political organisations and the free elections of 1994, and Kentridge was gaining renown as one of the country's most important and innovative polymath artists. Kentridge is the third-generation South African of Lithuanian Jewish heritage, the son of the distinguished anti-apartheid lawyer Sydney Kentridge.


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

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