Important South African and International Art

Live Auction, 7 November 2016

Evening Sale

Sold for

ZAR 886 704
Lot 222
  • Alexis Preller; Tower of Babel II


Lot Estimate
ZAR 500 000 - 700 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 886 704

About this Item

South African 1911-1975
Tower of Babel II

signed and dated ‘75

oil and sand on canvas
50,5 by 40,5cm excluding frame

Notes

Tower of Babel II is one of the last paintings to be produced for Alexis Preller's1975 exhibition at Goodman Gallery. There is a second version of this work, very similar, which is reproduced in Esmé Berman and Karel Nel's two volume publication Alexis Preller: Africa, the Sun and Shadows and Alexis Preller: Collected Images (2009).1 Unlike the example illustrated in the book, Preller omits the floating dark form on the left of the 'tower' in the present lot. The spiralling, shell-like form in both these works alludes to the archaic symbol of the Tower of Babel, the metaphor of human aspiration and ability to go beyond boundaries, and of the pursuing chaos.

In Tower of Babel II the architectonic shell structure floats in a recessive aquamarine field typical of Preller's hues. This magnificent colour is played off against the radiant white of the shell, and the red sub-structure with its iconic spikes hovering above a dark horizon or coastline.

This late work is a highly stylised version of the tower and differs substantially to Preller's earlier interpretation of this theme in the very large oil on gesso, titled The Tower, in the Pretoria Art Museum collection.2 In this work he creates a shimmering, layered structure with prismatic colour that dissipates into the turquoise and aquamarine background.3

1 Esmé Berman and Karel Nel. (2009) Alexis Preller: Collected Images, Johannesburg: Shelf Publishing. Page 240.

2 Esmé Berman and Karel Nel. (2009) Alexis Preller: Africa, the Sun and Shadows, Johannesburg: Shelf Publishing. Page 320.

3 Esmé Berman and Karel Nel. (2009) Alexis Preller: Collected Images, Johannesburg: Shelf Publishing. Page 241.

Provenance

The Collection of the Late Mrs Liselotte Hardebeck.

Purchased by the late owners from Goodman Gallery, 1975.

Literature

Esmé Berman and Karel Nel. (2009) Alexis Preller: Africa, the Sun and Shadows and Alexis Preller: Collected Images, Johannesburg: Shelf Publishing. A similar example is illustrated in colour on page 240.

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