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    Sale 12070

    Impressionist & Modern Art Works on Paper

    13 May 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 1036

    Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948)

    Mz 94. Grünfleck

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948)
    Mz 94. Grünfleck
    signed, dated and titled 'Kurt Schwitters 20 Mz 94 grünfleck' (on the artist's mount)
    printed paper and fabric collage laid down on card
    Image size: 6 ¾ x 5 3/8 in. (17.1 x 13.7 cm.)
    Mount size: 9 3/8 x 7 ½ in. (24 x 19.1 cm.)
    Executed in 1920


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    “I felt myself freed and had to shout my jubilation out to the world. Out of parsimony I took whatever I found to do this, because we were now a poor country. One can even shout out through refuse, and this is what I did, nailing and gluing it together. I called it ‘Merz,’ it was a prayer about the victorious end of the war, victorious as once again peace had won in the end; everything had broken down in any case and new things had to be made out of fragments: and this is Merz. I painted, nailed, glued, composed poems, and experienced the world in Berlin” (Kurt Schwitters, 1930, quoted in W. Schmalenbach, Kurt Schwitters, New York, 1967, p. 96).
    “Merz,” a made-up word which takes its name from a fragment of the words “Kommerz und Privatbank,” was an artistic revolution in which art and life were to be merged through the “business” of assembling fragments and detritus of modern life into new glorified forms and expressions of the triumph of the human spirit. As Schwitters’ friend and neighbor in Hanover, Kate Steinitz, recalled, during this period Schwitters was frequently to be seen on the streets of Hanover, “a crazy, original genius-character, carelessly dressed, absorbed in his own thoughts, picking up all sorts of curious stuff in the streets... always getting down from his bike to pick up some colourful piece of paper that somebody had thrown away” (K.T. Steinitz, Kurt Schwitters, A Portrait from Life, Berkeley, 1968, p. 68). From these fragments, Schwitters constructed poetic and miraculous constellations that expressed a new formal language and seemed to hint at a hidden order among the apparent chaos of the times.
    Executed in 1920, Mz. 94 Grünfleck is an early Merz collage made at a time of hyper-inflation, revolution and counter-revolution in Germany following the end of the First World War. In this era of complete moral, political and financial bankruptcy, when paper currency had lost its value and only food, work or lodging remained commodities of real value (other than gold or foreign currency), Schwitters, alone in Hanover, established his own one-man avant-garde and “cure” for the current age which he declared to be the “Merz” revolution. The individual elements in the present collage refer to trade in luxury goods and commodities. Schwitters also uses the completed artwork as a vehicle to comment on the nature of art as commercial object, cleverly arranging collage scraps to spell out word fragments “geld bezahlt,” “für” and “anlage,” which together signify “pay money / for / artistic talent.” Mz. 94 Grünfleck was included in a major traveling and selling exhibition of the artist’s Merz works in 1927—“the prices listed in the accompanying catalogue ranged from 50 to 300 Marks, with the exception of the 1920 collage Mz. 94 Grünfleck, which was listed at 600 Marks. An unusually high price tag on a work of art often means that the work is not for sale because it has particular significance for the artist. While this seems to be true in the case of Mz. 94, the inflated price was probably also intended to signal to the viewer something about the nature of the content of the work: i.e., issues of inflation and art as investment” (op. cit., 1990, pp. 128-129).

    Provenance

    Eduard Neuenschwander, Zurich (circa 1929 and until at least 1967).
    Galerie Europe, Paris.
    Pedro Vallenilla Echeverría, Caracas (acquired from the above, by 1971).
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.


    Literature

    W. Verkauf, ed., Dada, Monograph of a Movement, Zurich, 1957, p. 124 (illustrated).
    W. Schmalenbach, Kurt Schwitters, New York, 1973, p. 362 (illustrated, pl. 33).
    A. Nill, "Rethinking Kurt Schwitters, Part Two, An Interpretation of 'Grünfleck,'" Arts Magazine, vol. 55, no. 5, January 1981, pp. 119-125 (illustrated, p. 118, fig. 1).
    S. Hunter and J. Jacobus, Modern Art, Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, New York, 1985, p. 175 (illustrated in color).
    H. Bergius, "Kurt Schwitters, Aspects of Merz and Dada," German Art in the 20th Century, Painting and Sculpture, 1905-1985, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1985, p. 447 (illustrated, p. 448, fig. 8).
    A. Nill, Decoding Merz, An Interpretative Study of Kurt Schwitters' Early Work, 1918-1922, Ph.D. Diss., The University of Texas at Austin, 1990, pp. XV and 128-155, no. 32 (illustrated).
    K. Orchard and I. Schulz, Kurt Schwitters, Catalogue raisonné, Bonn, 2000, vol. 1, p. 299, no. 663 (illustrated).


    Exhibited

    Leipzig, Städtisches Museum, Kunst-Ausstellung Herbst-Messe, August-September 1921, p. 20, no. 187.
    Hamburg, Graphisches Kabinett Georg Maulhardt, Kurt Schwitters, December 1922.
    Prague, Kunstverein für Böhmen, Sonderausstellung Kurt Schwitters, December 1926-January 1927, p. 4, no. 24.
    Wiesbaden, Nassauischer Kunstverein im Neuen Museum; Bochum, Städtische Gemäldegalerie; Wuppertal, Ruhmeshalle, Grosse Merzausstellung, March-August 1927, no. 124.
    Kunsthaus Zürich, Abstrakte und Surrealistische Malerei und Plastik, October-November 1929, p. 17, no. 123.
    Paris, Galerie Berggruen et Cie., Kurt Schwitters, Collages, April-May 1954 (illustrated).
    Kunstgewerbemuseum Zürich, Der Sturm, Dokumente, Graphik, Bilder, Plastiken, Otto Nebel, Bilder, Farbige Blätter, Mosaiken, Zeichnungen, 1955, p. 24 (titled Collage).
    Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Kurt Schwitters, February-March 1956, p. 38, no. 83.
    Kunsthalle Bern, Hans Arp, Kurt Schwitters, April-May 1956, no. 124.
    Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Kurt Schwitters, June 1956, no. 73.
    Alpbach, Europäisches Forum; Linz, Neue Galerie der Stadt Linz, Wolfgang-Gurlitt-Museum and Graz, Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Dada, Surreal, Popart, Opart, Funktional, Moral, Neuer Real, Ismus, August-November 1965 (illustrated).
    Kunsthaus Zürich and Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, DADA Ausstellung, zum 50 jährigen Jubiläum, October 1966-January 1967, p. 90 no. 254.
    Caracas, Museo de Bellas Artes, Obras cubistas y "collages" II, Colección Pedro Vallenilla Echeverría, 1970, no. 25 (illustrated in color; titled Für).
    New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1971 (on loan).
    Austin, University of Texas, 1977 (on loan).
    Caracas, Museo de Bellas Artes, Cubismo y tendencias afines en la colección del Museo de Bellas Artes, donación Pedro Vallenilla Echeverría y otras adquisiciones, July 1986.
    Fundació Caixa Girona, El cubisme i tendències afins, May-July 2007 (illustrated in color; titled Für).