Live Virtual Auction, 11 - 12 October 2021

Sold for

ZAR 682 800
Lot 200
  • Norman Catherine; Who Zoo
  • Norman Catherine; Who Zoo
  • Norman Catherine; Who Zoo
  • Norman Catherine; Who Zoo
  • Norman Catherine; Who Zoo


Lot Estimate
ZAR 600 000 - 800 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium and VAT
ZAR 682 800

About this Item

South African 1949-
Who Zoo
signed and dated 2006
carved and painted wood
125 by 181 by 10cm

Notes

Sculpture is integral to Norman Catherine’s febrile brand of popexpressionism. In 1973/74 he produced a series of surreal and anthropomorphic sculptures that pre-empted his subsequent interest in visualising psychological anxieties through hybrid human–animal forms. Catherine’s method as an artist is evolutionary. His work typically progresses through series, fragments of earlier ideas often invoked and reworked in new pieces. This is true of the diminutive painted-wood sculptures he began showing in the mid-1990s, of which this includes more recent examples. The figures translated into three-dimensional form were birthed in his paintings of the late 1980s and early 1990s. They also owed a debt to his ensemble of pop-coloured characters – businessmen, policemen, skeletons, jollers – crafted from flat metal and sometimes presented in stylised tableaus and cabinets.

Slicker in form and finish than this earlier sculptural work, Catherine’s wood figures gestured to the West African tradition of painted colon figures representing either European or African subjects in occupational attire. These popular tourist objects, which had recently become available in post-apartheid South Africa when this work was created, trace their lineage to divination figures produced by the Baule peoples of Côte d’Ivoire. The talismanic quality of Baule figures is key to an appreciation of Catherine’s cabinet figures. ‘Through these figurines, I try to capture as many of the characteristics and pathologies of human nature that I have come across and to expose the taboos behind different cultural superstitions.’1

Musician David Bowie, who visited South Africa in 1995, was immediately taken by Catherine’s vivid sculptures. At his advice dealer Bernard Jacobson staged a South Africa exhibition in London from which Bowie acquired Catherine’s cabinet sculpture Fanagalo Store (1995). It was sold in 2016 at a London auction for £81 250. The present lot is bookend to the series started a decade earlier and contains, in miniature, many figures that Catherine has since monumentally cast in bronze, including Piscivorous and Know Thyself (both 2013).

  1. Hazel Friedman (2000) Norman Catherine, Johannesburg: Goodman Gallery, page 123.

Other lots that might interest you
Deborah Bell; Horse and Rider IV
Deborah Bell
Horse and Rider IV
ZAR 120 000 - 160 000
Willem Boshoff; Seven Pillars of Justice
Willem Boshoff
Seven Pillars of Justice
ZAR 40 000 - 60 000
Julius Mfethe; isiXhosa Homestead with Family
Julius Mfethe
isiXhosa Homestead with Family
ZAR 70 000 - 100 000
Herman van Nazareth; In Beweging
Herman van Nazareth
In Beweging
ZAR 80 000 - 120 000
Speelman Mahlangu; Two Figures
Speelman Mahlangu
Two Figures
ZAR 40 000 - 60 000
Lucas Sithole; Tornado's Daughter (LS8716)
Lucas Sithole
Tornado's Daughter (LS8716)
ZAR 80 000 - 120 000