Artist Portia Zvavahera, who is based in Harare, Zimbabwe, and is known for her paintings of floating figures, has joined David Zwirner. The mega-dealer will represent the artist in collaboration with Stevenson, which has locations in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Amsterdam. Zvavahera’s work was featured in her first European solo show at David Zwirner’s London outpost in September. David Zwirner will present its second solo exhibition of her work in New York in the fall of 2021.
Often derived from dreams, Zvavahera’s works have drawn attention for their exploration of spiritual realms. Critics have pointed to a variety of influences in her work, from European Expressionists like Munch and Klimt to traditional African imagery that was later modernized by postwar Zimbabwe painters.
“The fact that Portia Zvavahera lives and works in Harare, Zimbabwe, puts her outside the traditional centers of gravity of the art world, and that has given only a small group of collectors and curators a chance to see the work in person,” David Zwirner told ARTnews in an interview. “As her work is being experienced by more, demand has steadily risen and her unique voice is becoming recognized by a larger group.”
Over the past year, prices for Zvavahera’s work have risen dramatically. Her first exhibition at David Zwirner sold out, with prices ranging from $80,000 to $100,000. Last year, her work also appeared in a marquee U.S. auction for the first time. Her large-scale painting Rising From the Unknown (2019) attracted bids from global collectors in Taiwan and the Netherlands, and sold for a record-setting £163,800 ($212,400)—four times its estimate—during a Phillips contemporary art evening sale in New York this past October.
In 2018, Zvavahera’s work appeared at the Berlin Biennale and in “Five Bhobh – Painting At the End of an Era,” an acclaimed survey of Zimbabwean figurative painting at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art in Cape Town. Five years prior, she was featured in the Zimbabwean Pavilion exhibition at the Venice Biennale, and in 2010, she was the subject of a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare. Her work has also been shown at Stevenson and Marc Foxx Gallery in Los Angeles.
“I’m always especially interested in finding voices that are not easily categorized,” Zwirner said, adding that Zvavahera’s paintings show “that heritage does not reveal itself readily through her imagery. Her primary concerns—spirituality, belief, and transcendence—are difficult to talk about and don’t fit handily into our current discourse.”