Top South African auction house to hold October sale

Aspire Art Auctions’ Ravelle Pillay talking about William Kentrdige’s drawing from the film Stereoscope’

Leading South African auction house, Aspire Art Auctions’ next sale on October 28 includes an important work by top contemporary artist William Kentridge – famous son of a famous father, Sidney Kentridge who defended Nelson Mandela in the infamous Treason Trial, thus saving his life.

This moody drawing from the film, Stereoscope – Double Page, Soho in Two Rooms was produced in 1999. The charcoal and pastel work on paper, signed, 120 x 160 cm is estimated to sell for £230,000 (R4.5m) to £300,000 (R6m).

“This work by William Kentridge stems from his early Drawings for Projection for which the artist is most celebrated and which was the driving force behind his initial rise to international fame and prominence,” says Ruarc Peffers, Director of Aspire Art Auctions in South Africa.

This drawing from Stereoscope is one of the largest of 65 drawings that Kentridge used to make the 8 minute and 22 second animated film that was first shown, together with a selection of drawings, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in April 1999.

The corpulent business-suited figure in the drawing, Soho Eckstein, is William Kentridge’s much discussed alter ego, a figure of greed linked to affluent South Africans’ exploitation of the sub-continent.

Stereoscope, like Kentridge’s other Drawings for Projection, was made in stop-frame animation (that the artist called “stone-age film-making”) in which a drawing would be filmed for a few frames, altered by tiny additions and/or erasures, filmed again until a sense of movement was achieved and replaced by another drawing in which the process was repeated. The technique is characterized by both rough, seemingly provisional marks and vestiges of erased marks that contribute to the resonance of each drawing.

In the year in which he made this film, Kentridge said of his method: “I believe that in the indeterminacy of drawing, the contingent way that images arrive in the work, lies some kind of model of how we live our lives. The activity of drawing is a way of trying to understand who we are and how we operate in the world. It is in the strangeness of the activity itself that can be detected judgement, ethics and morality.”

Historian and academic, Matthew Kentridge (William’s brother) has written, in the early Drawings for Projection, that Soho was “the embodiment of wealth and greed, arch-capitalist in his privileged world, fat to bursting on the proceeds of exploitation”.

This world is represented in the chaos of communication systems, manic numbers, and various forms of interpersonal abuse that invade Soho’s room on the left.

From around the time of the film The History of the Main Complaint of 1996, however, Soho began to express remorse for his role in an unjust system and attempted to withdraw from this world: this space is represented on the right of the drawing.

Stereoscope was made during the time of the proceedings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that dealt mainly with political crimes under Apartheid but paved the way for big business to acknowledge complicity and guilt.