Meleko Mokgosi - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Thursday, October 14, 2021 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Working between 2013 and 2020, Botswanan artist Meleko Mokgosi undertook an ambitious project that explored the consequences of democracy for the lived experience of subjects in diverse American and southern African contexts. Titled Democratic Intuition, the body of work is comprised of eight chapters that each addresses a different democratic issue including the gendered division of labour, political liberation movements, and women’s access to education. Mokgosi’s approach to these issues was informed by the writings of the influential critical theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak who interrogates racialized and gendered representation within democratic structures.


    The present work belongs to a chapter of Democratic Intuition titled Lerato, meaning ‘love’ in Setswana (a Bantu language widely spoken in southern Africa). Lerato is comprised of several large-scale paintings made in 2016 that explore the role of allegory in depicting colonial relations between Western Europe and Africa. Understanding allegory as ‘a narrative whose outward appearance is contrived to suggest a hidden meaning’, Mokgosi intervenes in art historical imagery to assert the reciprocal impact of colonialism on both Western and African countries.i He seeks to dispel the myth that the activities of imperialism were confined to Africa, stating in the subtitle of the chapter introduced when the work was exhibited in Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, ‘[t]he history of Africa is already part of “your” history’.ii


    William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Alma Parens (‘The Motherland’), 1883.
    William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Alma Parens (‘The Motherland’), 1883.

    In Democratic Intuition, Lerato: Agape II, Mokgosi reimagines the 1883 painting by the French Neoclassicist William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Alma Parens (‘The Motherland’). In the nineteenth-century painting, a white female figure with bared breasts feeds a group of children who have gathered around her. Bouguereau’s title indicates that the woman is an allegory for the motherland, a term used to describe the native country of an individual that is understood to play a formative role in their development. In Agape II, the central figure of Bouguereau’s painting is replaced with a black woman whose breasts remained covered. She stares out from the canvas, defying the maternal role of her counterpart as she ignores the supplications of the winged children. Taken within Mokgosi’s frame of the allegory, the image might be interpreted as the refusal of African countries to continue nourishing the economy of the West with the resources stolen from them in the process of colonialization. Chapters from Mokgosi’s epic project have been widely exhibited, with the present work shown by Jack Shainman Gallery in their exhibition spaces in New York City and Kinderhook, NY.


    Collector’s Digest


    •    Born in Francistown, Botswana in 1981, Meleko Mokgosi has gained a reputation for his large-scale figurative works that unite historic painting with cinematic tropes to interrogate notions of colonialism, democracy, and liberation across African history.


    •    Following his training at Williams College and the University of California, Mokgosi undertook the Artist in Residence Program at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York in 2012. His work has subsequently been widely exhibited across the United States and Africa and is held in important public collections including the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, The Pérez Art Museum Miami, and the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris.


    •    Mokgosi is an Associate Professor at the Yale School of Art.


    •    Bread, Butter, and Power (2018), an epically proportioned painting belonging to the Democratic Intuition project, sold to an American collector at Art Basel Unlimited in September 2021 for $750,000.


    •    Meleko Mokgosi was recently taken on by Gagosian. In 2020, a selection of works from Democratic Intuition was exhibited in their London gallery (29 September-12 December).


    •    In 2019, Mekgosi’s work was shown in two highly-acclaimed exhibitions running concurrently in Jack Shainman Gallery’s two New York City locations; The social revolution of our time cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the poetry of the future and Pan-African Pulp (both 1 November-21 December 2019). 

    i ‘Meleko Mokgosi: Democratic Intuition: Comrades II’, Contemporary &, online
    ii Meleko Mokgosi: Democratic Intuition, exh. cat., The School, Jack Shainman Gallery, Kinderhook, NY, 2020, n.p

    • Provenance

      Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2016

    • Exhibited

      New York, Jack Shainman Gallery, Lerato & Comrades II, 8 September - 22 October 2016
      Williamstown, Williams College Museum of Art, Lex & Love. Meleko Mokgosi, 17 March - 17 September 2017
      New York, Jack Shainman Gallery, The School, Meleko Mokgosi: Democratic Intuition, 26 October 2019 - 28 March 2020, p. 173 (illustrated, p. 105)


Democratic Intuition, Lerato: Agape II

oil on canvas
215.9 x 142.3 cm (85 x 56 in.)
Painted in 2016.

Full Cataloguing

£50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for £94,500

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Director, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art

+44 20 7318 4065
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 14 October 2021