Important South African and International Art

Live Auction, 7 November 2016

Evening Sale

Sold for

Lot 265
  • Jane Alexander; something's going down, 1993-94
  • Jane Alexander; something's going down, 1993-94

Lot Estimate
ZAR 1 200 000 - 1 600 000
Selling Price

About this Item

South African 1959-
something's going down, 1993-94

signed, dated and inscribed with the title on the underside

synthetic clay, oil paint, wood, aluminium, leather and prints
height: 135cm; depth: 131cm


Perhaps the best description of Jane Alexander's landmark work appears in Ivor Powell's monograph on the internationally-recognised artist. something's going down, he began, 'has four figures, the tallest around 35 centimeters in height. The four – respectively a woman with her arm raised, a child activist disguised in a balaclava, a man, probably an albino, wearing a hat and dragging behind him an unspecific survival bundle, and another male figure dressed in a nauseous green discard coat – are moving in something like a procession along a ramp painted in military camouflage. Their attention is focused on something that is happening, so to speak, at stage right, and responding to it they lean slightly forward, like sunflowers towards a poisoned sun.

Behind all this and conditioning it all is the twice repeated image of an Ayran-type angel girl, her hands clasped as if in racially pure prayer; her hands clasped as if in racially pure prayer; the galvanizing vision of the innocence and purity that is threatened by the dangerous Other. Images like this in history have usually masked the most corrupt and inhuman of ideologies: and indeed it is with this sinister double message that Jane Alexander uses the image in this context. For on the back of the same billboard, the source of the agitation is explained. There, a message is appended, gleaned from the police roadblock. It reads as follows, and the same message is repeated in Xhosa:


*Search for stolen property

*search for unlicensed firearms and annunition

*Identify suspects and arrest them

This is necessary to maintain law and order and to protect (sic) you from troublemakers.

You have no reason to fear us.

Thank you for your co-operation.

Something’s going down. Literally it is the disturbance down the road: figuratively it is something that takes place in the camouflage environment and it has to do with control, the fragility of the human in the face of the machinations of the inhumans.'1

1 Ivor Powell. (1995) Jane Alexander, Sculpture and Photomontage, Standard Bank National Arts Festival. Page 28.


The Louis and Charlotte Schachat Collection.


Standard Bank Young Artist Award, July 1995 - April 1996, Exhibition Venues :

Monument Gallery, Grahamstown; King George VI Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth; Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg; Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein; Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg; Durban Art Gallery, Durban; South African National Gallery, Cape Town


Ivor Powell. (1995) Jane Alexander, Sculpture and Photomontage, Standard Bank National Arts Festival. Illustrated in colour on page 29.

Simon Njami and Akiko Miki. (2002) Jane Alexander, Ostfildern-Ruit:Hatje Cantz Verlag. Illustrated in colour on pages 51 and 115.

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