LONDON: Zimbabwean Artist Portia Zvavahera Sets New Record at Phillips Evening Auction


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. In July, “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).