A RECENT PAINTING by Portia Zvavahera sold for nearly three times the high estimate at Phillips London. “Rising From the Unknown” (2019) reached £163,800 (US $212,383), a new artist record. The work was offered in Phillips 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale on Oct. 20.

Evening sales are generally reserved for premiere works by renowned figures and, with increasing frequency, sought after up-and-coming artists. Zvavahera, who currently has a solo show at David Zwirner in London, has been gaining momentum and broader recognition over the past decade.

In 2010, Zvavahera had a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare and, in 2013, she was one of five artists selected to represent Zimbabwe at the 55th Venice Biennale. In 2017, the artist had a solo exhibition at Marc Foxx Gallery in Los Angeles, (which closed in 2018).

Zvavahera was born in Juru, Zimbabwe, and currently lives and works in Harare. Her work often stems from dreams. “Rising From the Unknown” depicts a central figure encircled by radiating lines. The painting was featured in “Portia Zvavahera: Talitha Cumi” at Stevenson Gallery in Johannesburg. The 2019 solo show presented a new body of work “concerned with a longing for spiritual transcendence, freedom from the ongoing cycle of human suffering.”

“Rising From the Unknown” (2019) by Portia Zvavahera is part of a body of work “concerned with a longing for spiritual transcendence, freedom from the ongoing cycle of human suffering.”

Lot 3: PORTIA ZVAVAHERA (born 1985), “Arising from the Unknown,” 2019 (oil-based printing ink and oil bar on canvas, 198.8 x 148.9 cm / 78 1/4 x 58 5/8 inches). | Estimate £40,000-£60,000 ‡. SOLD FOR £163,800 (US $212,383) fees included


At David Zwirner, “Portia Zvavahera: Ndakavata pasi ndikamutswa nekuti anonditsigira” is on view through Oct. 31. Translated from Shona, the title means “I took my rest in sleep and then I awoke for He sustained me.” Presenting five large-scale paintings made in isolation during the pandemic quarantine, the exhibition is Zvavahera’s first solo show in Europe.

Zvavahera is new to the secondary sales market. “Rising From the Unknown” is only the second work by the artist to hit the auction block. The first was offered in July when “Pakatangira Rudo (Where Love Began)” (2014) sold in a virtual live auction at Strauss & Co., in Johannesburg for 352,780 rand (about US $21,481).

There were 40 lots in the Phillips auction. “Untitled (Pestus)” (1982) by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for £2,200,500 (nearly $2.9 million), achieving the third-highest price in the sale. A second lot by Basquiat was also included, along with works by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Henry Taylor, Hurvin Anderson, and Titus Kaphar.

This fall, Kaphar and Yiadom-Boakye have major exhibitions. Featuring about 80 works dating from 2003 to the present, “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly in League with the Night,” the largest survey of the British artist to date, opens Nov. 18 at Tate Britain.

Kaphar joined Gagosian in April. “From a Tropical Space,” his first exhibition with the gallery, is currently on view in New York, through Dec. 19. Kaphar’s “Alternate Endings” (2016) was offered at Phillips. The painting is executed using the same highly saturated palette as the newer works on view at Gagosian. “Alternate Endings” attracted lively bidding. Carrying an estimate of £60,000-£80,000, the painting brought more than five times the expected high range, selling for £466,200 (US $604,475). CT


TOP IMAGE: Installation view of PORTIA ZVAVAHERA, “Rising From the Unknown,” 2019, “Portia Zvavahera: Talitha Cumi,” Stevenson Gallery, Johannesburg, 2019. | Courtesy the artist and Stevenson Gallery


FIND MORE about Portia Zvavahera’s current exhibition at David Zwirner London

FIND MORE about Portia Zvavahera, her work, and how she coped at the height of quarantine in an artnet News studio visit


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Lot 4: TITUS KAPHAR, “Alternate Endings,” 2016 (oil on canvas mounted on panel, 199 x 121.9 cm (78 3/8 x 47 7/8 inches). | Estimate £60,000-£80,000. Sold for £466,200 (US $604,475) fees included


Lot 6: OTIS KWAME KYE QUAICOE, “Black Stripes on White,” June 2019 (oil on canvas, 122 x 91.5 cm / 48 x 36 inches). | Estimate £20,000-£30,000. Sold for £94,500 (US $122,529) fees included


Lot 29: LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, “Luminary,” 2011 (oil on canvas, 180.5 x 150 cm (71 1/8 x 59 inches). | Estimate £250,000-£450,000. Sold for £315,000 (US $408,429) fees included


“Dudziro: Interrogating the Visions of Religious Beliefs” was published to document Zimbabwe’s national exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2013. The group show included five artists, Portia Zvavahera among them. “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly In League With The Night” accompanies the artist’s survey at Tate Britain. Also consider, “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Under-Song for a Cipher” and “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye,” her first monograph. “Basquiat – 40th Anniversary Edition” was published in September by Taschen. “Titus Kaphar: Language of the Forgotten” was self-published by the artist last year. “Fired Up! Ready to Go! Finding Beauty, Demanding Equity: An African American Life in Art. The Collections of Peggy Cooper Cafritz” explores the life and art collections of philanthropist Peggy Cooper Cafritz. The volume includes commentary from several artists the collector supported including Titus Kaphar. When he first started thinking about the kinds of programs and opportunities realized at NXTHVN, Kaphar reached out to Cafritz. In the book he says, “When I first started thinking about the project, it began with a call to Peggy. She has made me very aware of my responsibility to others, especially younger artists. My work in New Haven has absolutely been influenced by her work. She leads by example.”


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