W e are delighted to present our largest Modern & Contemporary African Art sale to date, consisting 120 works by 66 artists from every corner of the continent and covering 100 years of African art history. It is a sale of newly discovered gems by the giants of African art – from El Anatsui’s shimmering sculpture and Irma Stern’s portraits of South African women to 12 extraordinary fresh-to-the-market works by Ben Enwonwu and two paintings by rising star Amoako Boafo.
Sotheby’s is delighted to offer this exquisite collection of works by Irma Stern; each one a testament to the artist’s unique vision and unrivalled artistic skill. Together these pieces trace Stern’s journey from a controversial young artist in Cape Town to the critically acclaimed and internationally recognised artist that Stern always believed she was destined to be.
A Life Well Travelled
Irma Stern | A Life Well Travelled
Recognised as one of South Africa’s most important artists, Stern remains at the epicentre of modern South African art history and is celebrated for the resounding effect that her life and art had both in South Africa and abroad. A truly international creative force, Stern never felt restricted by the physical or cultural boundaries of South Africa, travelling extensively throughout Europe and Africa in search of new inspiration and subjects to paint.
Ben Enwonwu was a pioneer of African modernism. The son of a reputable sculptor, from whom the artist learned his early carving skills, he received a scholarship to study in the UK in 1944, where he attended Goldsmiths College and the Slade. By 1949 he was declared ‘Africa’s greatest artist’ by Ebony Magazine and profiled by Time Magazine in 1950. He was awarded an MBE in 1955 by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to the arts and the following year became the first African artist to receive a royal commission.
Spanning close to 60 years, Enwonwu’s artistic career followed one of the most important periods of Modern Nigerian history; the journey from a British colony to a newly independent African nation. By his passing in 1994 Ben Enwonwu was, and would continue to be, considered one of the most revered African artists of the 20th century.
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- South Africa
These artists all had a deep love of jazz, from Wosene Kosrof's homage to Billie Holiday, to Gerard Sekoto, who played in a jazz band in Paris to make ends meet.
These artists have all chosen to present their own selves in these artworks, from Iba N'Diaye's nod to Rembrandt to Zanele Muholi, who shines a spotlight on herself as representative of LGBTQ South Africans.
These artists are all still under the age of 40 and have already made a splash in the international art world.