Legendary South African painter Esther Mahlangu to be honoured at art auction

By CityLife Arts Writer

Strauss & Co’s next exhibition  has a special focus on Dr Esther Mahlangu, in the Contemporary Session of its forthcoming live virtual auction, commencing this Monday, 11-12 October 2021. The marquee sale includes important contemporary artworks by auction record breakers Banele Khoza, Mohau Modisekeng, Kemang Wa Lehulere, Sam Nhlengethwa, Deborah Bell and Robert Hodgins, as well as sculptures by Dylan Lewis and William Kentridge.

The group of five works (lot 202 to 206) may not be able to show Mahlangu’s full artistic range but collectively they reveal the unique diversity in medium Mahlangu uses to express her style of abstraction.

Dr Esther Mahlangu was born in 1935 in Middleburg, South Africa, and still resides in Weltevrede, Mpumalanga. In 1989, Mahlangu was invited to participate in a pivotal contemporary art exhibition Magiciens de la Terre held at Le Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris) which was hailed at the time as a global survey aiming to highlight the modern similarities in art making between artists practicing in Western modes and non-Western artists. Mahlangu was invited to paint a replica of her house in South Africa for the exhibition in situ, depicted in the top left corner of Souvenir de Paris (estimate R70 – 100 thousand).

Using traditional materials to add a unique texture, Mahlangu embellishes this work with symbols of her personal experience at the time. The work not only reveals to us how important the exhibition is to Mahlangu but in addition, highlights the Parisian architectural monuments that inspired her at the time of her stay. Most interesting to note is how the artist depicts the Arc de Triomphe, and the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris in a stylized manner that emphasises the geometric patterns that Mahlangu repeats to this day in her artistic motif.

Another exciting example is the Mparo (estimate R40- 60 thousand). A beaded blanket that Mahlangu made specifically to worn after her wedding. Although not a typical western mode of production, the technical complexity of making in beadwork is extraordinary and its inclusion on the sale reveals how as a contemporary artist Mahlangu chooses to work in a variety of mediums and materials that speak to her heritage. The Mparo, along with Untitled, 2014 (R100 – 150 thousand), one of the largest Mahlangu’s to ever come to auction, and Souvenir de Paris were all exhibited in exhibitions at the UCT Irma Stern Museum in 2003 and again in 2015 in celebration of the artist’s 80th birthday. Each lot on the sale is accompanied by a copy of the exhibition catalogue.

The exceptional examples of Mahlangu’s work are presented to collectors in a standalone session devoted to contemporary art, scheduled for Monday, 11 October at 6pm. Highlights from this exciting session include a Turiya Magadlela assemblage painting (estimate R150 000 – 200 000), a wire-and-bead sculpture by Igshaan Adams (estimate R150 000 – 200 000), and Willem Strydom’s Urban Landscape (estimate R300- 500 thousand).

To view the Contemporary session and others, don’t miss the public preview now on from 4-9 October at Brickfield Canvas, Brickfield Road, Woodstock in Cape Town. Education and hospitality are central to the Strauss & Co experience. As the post-vaccine world returns to a more settled rhythm, we are delighted to offer a rich programme of in-person and virtual webinars, lectures and walkabouts in the lead up to our 11-12 October live virtual auction. Led by Strauss & Co’s specialists, these events aim to provide collectors and the art-interested public with detailed insights into the October sale catalogue.

To view auction: www.straussart.co.za

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