Lot 79
  • 79

GAVIN JANTJES | A South African Colouring Book

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
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  • Gavin Jantjes
  • A South African Colouring Book
  • 20 of an edition of 20 + 3APsilkscreen prints on paper
  • each: 60 by 45cm., 23¾ by 17¾in.
  • Executed in 1974-75


London, ICA, Gavin Jantjes, 1976; Geneva, Ecumenical Centre World Council of Churches, 1976; Lund, University of Lund, 1976; Høvikodden, Henie Onstad Art Centre, 1976 (another example)
Gronningen, Provinciehuis, Gavin Jantjes, 1977 (another example)
Kassel, Documenta 6: 100 days, Joseph Beuys Free International University, 1977 (another example)
Stockholm, Kulturhuset, Gavin Jantjes, 1978; Gothenburg, Gothenburg Museum, 1978 (another example)
Berlin, Kunstnerhaus Bethanien, Gavin Jantjes, 1979 (another example)
London, Edward Totah Gallery, Gavin Jantjes, 1980 (another example)
Paris, Fondation Nationale des Arts Graphiques et Plastiques, Art contre/against Apartheid, 1983; Lund, Sweden, Konsthall Lund, 1983; Porin, Finland, Porin Taidemuseo, 1983; Lahti, Finland, Lahden Taidemuseo, 1983; Tampere, Finland, Tampere Modern Art Museum, 1983; Copenhagen, Udstillingsbyningen, 1984; Aalborg, Denmark, Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum, 1984;  Paris, Roissy Charles de Gaulle, 1984; Amsterdam, NieuweKerk, 1985; Madrid, Círculo de Bellas Artes, 1985; Saint Brieuc, Centre Culturel de Saint Brieuc, 1985; Marseille, Maison de l'Etranger, 1985; Bremen, He Ubersee Museum, 10 February-23 March 1986; Dijon, S.N.E.S., 4-28 April 1986; Thessaloniki, Foire Internationale de Salonique, May 1986; Athens, Kostis Palamas, June 1986; Pointe-à-Pitre, 8 November-2 December 1986; Martinique, Fort de France, 20 December 1986-12 January 1987; Le Havre, Musée des Beaux-Arts André Malraux, 5 June-15 July 1987; New York City, New York, United Nations Headquarters, 1987; Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Lehigh University, 1 September-11 October 1987; Japan, 1988-1990 (another example)
London, Hayward Gallery, Shocks to the System, 12 March-24 April 1991; Sunderland, Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, 30 April-1 June 1991; Birmingham, Ikon Gallery, 10 August-22 September 1991; Eastbourne, Towner Art Gallery, 11 January-23 February 1992; Plymouth, City Museum & Art Gallery, 29 February-31 May 1992; Ayr, Maclaurin Art Gallery, 13 June-28 July 1992 (another example)
Cape Town, Houses of Parliament, Inauguration of First Democratic government, 1994 (another example)
Johannesburg, Warren Siebrits Contemporary Art, States of Emergence, 1994, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (another example), 
Munich, Museum Vila Stuck, The Short Century: independence and liberation movements in Africa 1945-1994, 15 February-22 April 2001, illustrated in colour in the catalogue p. 110-113; Berlin, Martin Gropius-Bau, 18 May-22 July 2001; Chicago, Illinois, Museum of Modern Art, 8 September-30 December 2001; New York City, New York, PS1 Contemporary Art Centre MOMA, 10 February-5 May 2002 (another example)
Cape Town, South African National Gallery, Beyond the Material: Conceptual Art from Iziko S A National Gallery's Permanent Collection, 2002 (another example)
Washington DC, Washington, Smithsonian Museum of African Art, Inscribing Meaning: Writing and Graphic Systems in African Art, 2007 (another example)
Barcelona, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Apartheid The South African Mirror, 26 September 2007-13 January 2008, illustrated in colour in the catalogue p. 135; Valencia, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Bancaja, April-June 2008 (another example)
Cape Town, South African National Gallery, Strengths and Convictions: the life and times of South African Nobel Peace Prize laureates Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, FW DeKlerk and Nelson Mandela, 2009, illustrated in colour in the catalogue p. 151-153; Oslo, The Nobel Peace Center, 2009 (another example)
Barcelona, Museu Picasso, Economia: Picasso, 2012 (another example)
New York City, New York, Centre for Photography, Rise and fall of apartheid: photography and the bureaucracy of everyday life, 2013, illustrated in colour in the catalogue p. 308-315; Munich, Haus der Kunst, 2013 (another example)
Rio de Janeiro, Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, artevida, 2014 (another example)
London, The British Museum, South Africa: the art of a nation, 2016, illustrated in colour in the catalogue p. 192-193 (another example)
Eindhoven, Van Abbemuseum, The 1980's: Todays Beginning, 2016 (another example)
Stockholm, Bonniers Konsthall, Images of War, 2017 (another example)
Nottingham, Nottingham Contemporary UK, The Place is Here, 2017; London, South London Gallery, 2017 (another example)
Brussels, Gallery Bozar Centre for Fine Arts, Resist, 2018 (another example)
London, Camberwell School of Art, A History of Drawing, 2018 (another example)


Jean Kennedy, New Currents Ancient Rivers, Washington D.C. , 1992, illustrated p. 181
Christine Mullen Kreamer (ed.), Inscribing Meaning: writing and graphic systems in African art, Washington D.C., 2007, illustrated in colour p. 220-222
Sue Williamson, South African Art now, New York, 2009, illustrated in colour p. 40-41
Gavin Jantjes, Maria Pissarra (eds.), Visual Century: South African Art in Context 1907-2007, Johannesburg, 2010
Shannen L. Hill, The Biko's ghost: the iconography of black consciousness, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2015, illustrated in colour p. 15
David Bindman, Suzanne Preston Blier, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The image of the Black in African and Asian art, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2017, illustrated in colour p. 202-203
Carlos Capelan, Gavin Jantjes, The Complexities of Exile - Self-Marginalisation, Exclusion & Inclusion, Art Africa, 30 June 2017, illustrated in colour 
Allison Young, Visualising Apartheid abroad: Gavin Jantjes's Screenprints of the 1970s, Art Journal, Winter 2017, illustrated in colour p. 15


Please note that these works are framed. Upon very close inspection there appear to be very minor surface marks to the reverse of the prints, however these appear to be contemporary to the creation of the work. Please note that the "Black Lunch" image displays a minor indentation to the paper in the top right corner. Overall, the work appears to be in very good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

When I began my studies at the Hamburg Art Academy in West Germany, in 1970, I was amazed to discover that my fellow German students, who were politically active in the anti-Vietnam war protests, knew little about South Africa and apartheid. South Africa’s apartheid government was given free rein to propagate its rule as a benevolent system of control on the influence of Communism. In West German popular consciousness, apartheid South Africa was a friend and business partner. In the German media there was little sympathy for the self-determination of African people and most mainland European broadcasters presented very few facts about what apartheid meant to the majority of South Africans. When curious young Europeans asked about my home, I often recognised the same ignorance about apartheid in their questions, as the white South Africans, who had not made that daring step across the dividing line into a black South African township. The issues of race and identity within national cultures as postulated by W.E.B. Du Bois and Franz Fanon had not yet penetrated the almost impervious rhetoric of the Marxists, Marxist-Leninist and Maoist student groups of the day, not to mention the conservatives.

Against this background I decided to follow Bertold Brecht’s idea of art as an instrument of political struggle and make a work that could be understood as a tool for knowledge about South African apartheid politics. I also wanted to make this work using the new and popular technologies of photographic silkscreen printing invented for mass production. Most importantly it allowed photographic images to be integrated into a work of art. Photography in those days represented the real. It was seen as indisputable fact.

My research for 'A South African Colouring Book' took me to the offices of the African National Congress (ANC) and the International Defence and Aid Fund (IDAF) in London. Their archives provided some visual and textual material. Many photographs came from Ernest Cole’s seminal book 'A House of Bondage' and the German Magazine, 'Stern'. There was also a great amount of material in the UN and UNESCO archives.

I had to organise the abundant research material into chapters and then edit the material down to one composite image. I understand each sheet of the 'Colouring Book' as a heading for a much larger text on apartheid. This also applies to the folder and together these twelve images operate as an archive, perhaps an incomplete one.

The work’s main title has references to art, early learning and politics. I wanted it to conjure an image of early learning and first steps in art, such as painting by numbers, but simultaneously the prints reveal something completely different. The main and sub-titles of the work play with the euphemisms for institutionalised racial discrimination such as 'the colour question' or 'the colour bar'. In cultures where human creativity has a low status, and art is not taught in schools, the ubiquitous colouring book replaces the encouragement that children need to express their ideas. The prints draw attention to the issue of creativity, to alternative ways of making art. The 'Colouring Book' is an extension of European Pop Art ideas of 'multiples' and 'artists’ books' of the 70s. It mirrors the dichotomy of a brutal and inhuman interior, camouflaged by an exterior of innocence.

Inside South Africa few contemporary artists, myself included, dared to address the issues of apartheid through a direct criticism of the status quo. The political consequences were dire. Some did it indirectly, many avoided it completely. In the late 60s and early 70s, discourses around late modernist abstraction could, and very often, did deflect debate away from the issue of an artist’s role in an undemocratic society. It provided an escape from any political expressions.

'A South African Colouring Book' was first exhibited at the Hamburg art academy in 1974. In 1976, at the time of the Soweto uprising, it was on exhibition at the ICA in London and in 1997, upon the request of Joseph Beuys, it was exhibited in the artist’s Free International University space at Documenta 6. In 1978, after exhibiting the work at the World Council of Churches in Geneva, a replica of 'A South African Colouring Book' was produced by the International University Exchange Fund (IUEF) and distributed by the UN Special Commission on Apartheid.

In April 1979 the work was banned under the South African Publication Act.

Copies of 'A South African Colouring Book' are held in various private collections as well as the following institutional collections: Victoria and Albert Museum, London (1974); Hellias Foundation for Human Rights, Palo Alto, California (1982); Arts Council Collection, London (1991); The South African National Gallery, Cape Town (1998); Tate Gallery, London (2002); Sindika Dokolo Foundation, Luanda (2016); and the Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland (2017).

Gavin Jantjes
Oslo 2018