People might be surprised to learn what an optimist I am. When I first heard about Aspire Art Auctions I might have grimaced thinking about the corny name (it is like calling a fashion brand Luxury) but the idea of another auction house and one that was supposed to be focussed on contemporary art flipped my skirt. This was going to be the game changer the SA art world had been waiting for; as the auction trade has thus far concentrated on historic and modern art. This has had a huge impact on the current art market; there have been few steady or reliable markers of value around the contemporary. This has impeded investment and may account for some inflated prices - there is a lot of thumbsucking going on.
When the catalogue for Aspire's first auction landed on my doorstep, I was a little disappointed to wade through Sterns, Prellers, Battisses and Pierneefs before I encountered Ed Young hanging starkers from a nail, well, his likeness in the My Gallerist Made me Do It. I'm all about The Now. People may not be flogging art they just bought. I get it. The value isn't quite there yet. It's a chicken-egg situation. It may only build slowly and I am sure the team worked their tushes off to land some hot Kentridges and a Ruga (that's Athi-Patra) or two. There are no surprising contemporary lots, except maybe the neon tube work by Dan Halter, which is not very Halterish at all.
Herewith my pick of the contemporary works on auction that I would snap up with your money - if you gave it to me (clickherefordonations).
This Young work was a bit hit at the Joburg Art Fair 2012. Every teenage girl that entered the fair left with a pic on her phone. Every art critic too. It's a goody this one; little Young appears so vulnerable in his socks with his limp dick and hanging for life off a nail. It is very Jesus-christ-cum-art-power-relations-ego stuff. Young does well at art fairs and auctions, so I expect this work might do well.
I love this Willem Boshoff sculpture representing a book that can be reconfigured into other sorts of things. How could a writer not love this work? Who would sell it? Crazy.
I want this work for two reasons; 1) it is typical of Michael MacGarry's fetish works and 2) it is a prop from the District 9 film. Combined you have a wry temporal play on South Africa's culture of violence. So topical it keeps my tea warm.
Penny Siopis won the ACT Lifetime Award last week. Her speech was a little unexpected; she spoke about how her children influenced her practice. She also mentioned her parents bakery where she twigged onto her painting/cake decoration allegory. At the Strauss & Co auction in Cape Town last month Siopis's work fetched over 1-million and the work wasn't as striking as this, in my opinion. Think this will do well. I like that the painting is dedicated to the presentation of something edible rather than the edible - it is not about cake decoration, but the stand and pomp that Siopis draws our attention. In other words it is the rituals of display that inform our consumption, not the thing itself. A bit like the whole art auction malarkey right?
I'm a self-confessed Ruga fan. If you wanted to own a work of his a tapestry is probably going to be it. They are a little on the pricey side - the labour darling... ! He is now very international - performing at Performa in New York, minus balloons. The Future White Woman of Azania saga from which this work is part of, could be over. His work involves thinking up avatars that he then kills off, as he transforms as a person and artist I guess. Below is a photographic series where he adopted another guise, which he invented during a trip/residency to Switzerland.
Kentridge remains the mainstay of contemporary art at auction (and everywhere else). This has led people to believe that owning a Kentridge is a no-brainer investment. It's for people who probably no little about contemporary SA art, so opt for the safe choice. There are Kentridges, and Kentridges. In my opinion his films should be worth more than his drawings as they embody the fullest of his expression. But video art makes a lousy status art object. For now at least. These drawings relating to the Felix in Exile film made in 1994 relate to his most important work in my opinion.