Contemporary Art

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Contemporary  |  6:00pm Sat 15 Feb 2020


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Lot 7

South African 1957-
Small King Protea (Gill)
signed with the artist's initials and dated 2008; signed, dated and inscribed with the title, medium and 'New York City' on a label adhered to the reverse
oil and glue on stitched linen
103.5 by 84.5cm excluding frame

Sold for R 120 000
Including Buyer's Premium and VAT R 136 560

Estimate R 60 000 - 80 000

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The exuberant flowerhead of the protea, a woody shrub named after the ancient Greek sea-god Proteus, has been a fixture of Koorland’s practice since the mid-2000s. Koorland describes SA’s national flower as both “a magnificent plant and a heavily acculturated kitsch icon”.1 Her paintings explore this tension, presenting crudely simplified and monumentalized studies of protea flowers on scruffy linen grounds.

Art historian Tamar Garb has written of these works: “Devoid of setting or situation, the emblematic nature of the icon – its power as a cultural symbol – is asserted. At the same time, the battered and over-worked surface, on which hand-sewn stitches and layer of under-painting remain visible, undermines its propagandistic function … and grounds it in a hard-won world.”2 Koorland’s method of vigorously overworking her surfaces dates back to her studies at the Michaelis School of Fine Art. Tutored by Stanley Pinker, he eased her youthful uncertainty and quest for perfection by counselling her to trust her mark making.3


  1. Vivienne Koorland, Notes on Big King Protea I:
  2. Tamara Garb (2008) ‘A Land of Signs’, in Home Lands – Land Marks: Contemporary Art from South Africa, London: Haunch of Venison. Page 16.
  3. Vivienne Koorland (2017) ‘William Kentridge and Vivienne Koorland in Conversation with Tamar Garb’, in William Kentridge and Vivienne Koorland: Conversations in Letters and Lines, Edinburgh: The Fruitmarket Gallery. Page 138.

Acquired from the artist and thence by descent.
Private Collection, Toronto.

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