In 2003 Wim Botha visited St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City where he photographed and measured the dimensions of Michelangelo’s marble sculpture, The Pietà (1498-99). His intention was to realise a sculpture inspired by this iconic devotional sculpture. A year later Botha produced his Mieliepap Pietà (2004), a perfectly scaled replica of Michelangelo’s work, albeit modelled from maize meal. The work premiered on an exhibition in the Cathedral of St John the Divine, a neo-gothic church in New York. Botha’s output includes many interpretive renderings of classical sculpture, all consummately achieved and marked by the use of disrupting materials. Commune: Suspension of Disbelief (2001) is a life-size Christ figure in crucifix form modelled from carved bibles, while Prism 10 (Dead Laocoön), from 2014, reinterprets the classical Grecian marble, Laocoön and His Sons, in bronze. This lot continues Botha’s dialogue with Michelangelo. It was originally exhibited in an installation of oil-on-canvas and ink-on-paper sketches depicting The Pietà, alongside a new bronze. An accomplished draughtsman, Botha’s interest in verisimilitude and decomposition are finely evidenced in this lot, which retains vestigial traces of its classical western source.
Stevenson, Johannesburg, Wim Botha: Pietà, 18 August to 25 September 2015.
Michael P Steinberg. (2015) Wim Botha: Pietà, Stevenson. Illustrated in colour on page 153.