Modern & Contemporary African Art | and CCA Lagos Benefit Auction

Modern & Contemporary African Art | and CCA Lagos Benefit Auction

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 116. Portrait Bleu.

Gerard Sekoto

Portrait Bleu

Lot Closed

March 22, 04:51 PM GMT


35,000 - 45,000 GBP

Lot Details


Gerard Sekoto

South African


Portrait Bleu (Boy)

signed G.Sekoto (lower right)

oil on canvas

65.5 by 54cm., 25¾ by 21¼in.

framed: 87 by 75.5cm., 34¼ by 29¾in.

Jean Falliès (1918-2008), acquired directly from the artist, Paris, circa 1969

Thence by direct descent

Oger-Blanchet, Paris, Collections modernes: The Collection of Jean Falliès, 24 May 2017, lot 108

Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

"Your large painting of an African head hanging on the wall opposite me. A young woman's. The most precious of my art collection .... Yes, this African maid you painted. Tonight, as so often, she seems to take on a different life .... And tonight the sounds I hear from my stereo help paint the mood. You must remember, of course, the blue that is dominant in your painting, varied by patches of white, toned down by dim artificial light in my living room… Big eyes, big lips, firm, youthful jaws, a handkerchief casually but elegantly worn, a stylised straight neck, a collarbone pulling with a horizontal tension ... Your African maid still does not flinch. Never will. And she continues to stare obliquely out of the wall, now part of the scene, now aloof from it." (Es'kia Mphahlele, Afrika My Music, 1984, pp. 60-1)

In 1947 Sekoto left South Africa in exile for Paris and never returned, the rest of his life running tragically in parallel to the apartheid regime. Sekoto was frequently short of money, and would often settle his outstanding bills with paintings. Jean Falliès was a Parisian dental surgeon who treated many artists, including Sekoto, and the present lot was one such work received in lieu of payment. In fact, while struggling to establish himself as an artist in the early Paris years, Sekoto made ends meet as a jazz musician instead, making him the first of many South African jazz exiles that followed, including Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba. Sekoto’s Blue Head series, which dominates his output in the 1960s, is thought to originate in a small 1960 ballpoint sketch inscribed ‘Inspiration - Mariam Makeba’. The rising international star Makeba had been profiled by Time Magazine on 1 February that year, and was in New York City recording her first solo album when the Sharpeville Massacre took place on 21 March and she learned her South African passport had been cancelled; thus began a period of political activism and exile that lasted until the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990.