Aspire goes global with online arts auction

David Goldblatt’s Carvings for sale on William Nicol Drive, Bryanston, 3 July 1999

Foremost South African auction house, Aspire Art Auctions spearheaded the success of its latest online auction last month with significant prices achieved for photographic works by David Goldblatt, which led strong sales of the contemporary artworks and books on offer.

Aspire, which is holding another sale on October 28, is finding increased traction for online buying, and for new entrants to the art collection market, who are focused on contemporary art.

The dynamic young fine art auction house has also captured the market for art books, with another top-quality consignment of them selling exceptionally well on the current sale.

The sale was preceded by the kind of oversubscribed bespoke live art event for which Aspire is becoming justly renowned.

Féted artist Sam Nhlengethwa presided over an art, jazz and whisky pairing evening in Johannesburg at which a film was shown on the artist’s work (some of which was also on sale at the auction), and was wrapped up with some of Sam’s beloved jazz, paired with a single malt whisky tasting, conducted by local expert Simon Knutton.

Guests were treated to a preview of some of the work on sale on the auction at Aspire’s gallery-quality Johannesburg offices. When the sale commenced, bidding was brisk, and focused on well-chosen contemporary work in different mediums, along with massive interest in the art book collections on offer.

On the contemporary art front, the sale was led by an exceptionally rare hand-printed photograph by the iconic and recently-deceased South African fine art photographer Goldblatt.

His print titled Carvings for sale on William Nicol Drive, Bryanston, 3 July 1999 sold for R82 075 (about $5,800), almost five times its high estimate.

Dedicated to all Bass Players by Sam Nhlengethwa

Nhlengethwa’s work also performed well, with his archival print Dedicated to all Bass Players, in keeping with the jazz theme, fetching over its high estimate at R28 140.

One of the sale’s contemporary cover lots, by Lisa Brice, Chasing that high XVI, went for R22 278, almost three times its high estimate, as did another, typically observant landscape photograph by Goldblatt, Three men rest at the side of the track between Bute asbestos mine and Heuningvlei in Northern Cape, which sold for the same price at the same estimate.

A notable success on the sale was a drawing by renowned South African artist Judith Mason, who would have turned 80 this year, and who is fondly remembered. The piece, titled Third Eye also took in R22 278, more than double its high estimate.

Once again, the performance of art books on the sale was eye-opening. Special presentation editions of a monograph on Norman Catherine, edited by Friedmann and Jamal and offered in the artist’s original wooden case, and a leather bound special edition of Goldblatt’s seminal collection from the early 1980s, In Boksburg, both sold for R23 450.

Many other art book editions and rarities sold for well over their high estimates as art book dealers and general art book collectors realize that Aspire is the place to be for selling their precious volumes.

Ruarc Peffers, Aspire MD, comments, “Our online auction platform and app are gradually establishing themselves as the preferred sales channel for contemporary art and art books in the country.

“Our specialist Jacqui Carney, who was instrumental in introducing online auction to South Africa, was also involved in the pioneering launch of our app. The whole platform is gaining traction in the South African market, and we’re following the growth curve of online buying in Europe and the US.

“Our clients can rest assured that our platform is world-class, and that our bespoke app provides all the convenience necessary for bidding and buying of art and art books online.”