Zanele Muholi holding the forte at Aspire Art auction sale in Johannesburg this Wednesday

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

Last week on Thursday November 24, 2022  those who were invited to a cocktail function hosted by Aspire Art in Parkwood, Johannesburg were enthralled by the art works that form Aspire’s 20th Century and Contemporary Art auction sale. Those who graced the occasion included collectors interested in viewing works at close range, and possibly deciding which works will tempt their pockets come auction day, Wednesday, November 30, 2022.

And really good works are up for grabs, whether you are looking for a William Kentridge or Irma Stern, or you are simply interested in exploring the works of young artists that are active in contemporary art in South Africa and on the African continent. Either way you would not be looking in the wrong place. As I moved around the two exhibition spaces at Aspire Art, occupying the reception area and the first floor, I found myself attracted to some really good works. Whether you are looking for a Kentridge, Stern, Blessing Ngobeni, Kudzanai Chiurai or a Dianne Victor, there is a lot to choose from in this auction.

I could not help but found myself attracted to a bronze sculptural piece by Zanele Muholi taking centre stage in the first floor part of the exhibition. It is a self-portrait, and it looks like Muholi, known for her activist art practice, is now exploring another new area of her art practice. I was not sure though when was this created. For example is this piece recently created or does it form part of the pieces she created a long time ago?  I was not sure, but at the end it does not matter, as If anything, this sculptural work demonstrates the artist’s courage in exploring new territories in her art practice as well as her agility stylistically. Muholi is internationally respected for her photographs of lesbians in South Africa, highlighting their position of vulnerability in a society that sometimes targets minorities and unleash violence. Muholi is also critically acclaimed for her series of self-portraits titled Somnyama Ngomnyama

After all it is when artists, especially the ones that have found a niche in the market, a comfort space, explore, that there is potential to expand on their art practice. Sometimes they get it right, but at other times, they get it wrong. At the end, it does not matter really as they are exploring new possibilities, such as the potential for growth in their practice.

Crucially for Muholi, at the moment she is one of the most sought -after artists globally as she continues to be honoured and she is always on the move.

For example, on 2 November 2022, Muholi was an honouree at the International Centre For Photography’s (ICP) 11th Annual Spotlights Benefit in New York. Founded in 2012, the ICP Spotlights has spent ten years celebrating the immense talent of women image-makers influencing the world of photography and visual culture and how they create space for gender diversity in photography

Says Aspire about Muholi’s works at this auction: “

“”We are pleased to include two large-scale photographs, both from the Somnyama Ngonyama series and a magnificent bronze sculpture, Muholi II, the first edition of this new body of work to be offered on auction. Aphelile X, Durban and Thuthuka I, San Francisco are two striking and captivating portraits from Zanele Muholi’s ongoing Somnyama Ngonyama series in which the artist, as a visual activist, uses their own body to address critical politics of race, representation, gendered identities and human rights in relation to the Black body – through photography. In these powerful, highly stylised black-and-white self-portraits, Muholi (playfully) employs the conventions of classical painting, fashion photography and the familiar tropes of ethnographic imagery to rearticulate discourses of contemporary identity politics. Here, found and ‘everyday’ objects are dramatically transformed into social symbolic props, merging the political with the personal and aesthetics with history. Muholi does not only comment on specific events or issues in South Africa’s present and past, but also current urgent global concerns. 20th Century & Contemporary Art live auction is on Wednesday, November 30, 2022 at 6pm,  32 Bolton Road, Parkwood, Johannesburg.

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