South Africa's latest precious export

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The Independent Online

When one of his paintings became the first work by a black artist to hang in the Johannesburg Art Gallery, Gerard Sekoto was refused entry. He had to pretend to be a cleaner to view it.

But he is now acknowledged as a significant figure in South African art and appears, finally, to be on the verge of international recognition. Although his works have been sold only rarely outside his home country, three are to be auctioned in London on 9 May.

A rare self-portrait, right, dating from just before his self-imposed exile to Paris in 1947, is to be sold by Bonhams where it is expected to fetch up to £18,000. A further two pictures are in the same sale. The first, an oil canvas entitled Portrait of a Woman with Downcast Eyes, the second, a watercolour entitled The Blue Beret, shows Mary Dikeledi Sekoto,who was married to Sekoto's brother, Bernard. They are estimated to be worth £10,000 and £8,000 respectively.

Sekoto, who died in 1993, was one of the first black artists to win critical acclaim and was regarded as a pioneer of urban black art and social realism. Born in 1913, he trained as a teacher but soon turned to art. His first solo exhibition was staged in 1939.

In 1989, the Johannesburg Art Gallery honoured him with a retrospective exhibition, and the University of Witwatersrand awarded him an honorary doctorate.