“Space, not the artist, must model the forms. They must be part-sculpture, part-architecture. Geometric form must turn into organic form, and it’s the inward pressure of space that does that. Space makes form – not the other way round.”
—S. POLIAKOFF,quoted in Serge Poliakoff, Retrospective 1938-1963, exh. cat, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1963, p. 15
Christie’s is proud to present three works by Serge Poliakoff, Antoni Tàpies and Günther Uecker from one of Switzerland’s most important art collections. All three works, offered across our October Day and Evening Auctions, are from a collection with very close ties to the legendary Erker-Galerie in St. Gallen. The Erker-Galerie was founded in 1958 in St. Gallen by Franz Larese and Jürg Janett, and soon established itself as one of the most innovative galleries in Europe. For many decades the gallery not only showed the avant-garde of its times, with exhibitions of works by artists such as Max Bill, Chillida, Dix, Dorazio, Motherwell, Piene, Poliakoff, Tàpies and Uecker among many others, but also established itself as a meeting point for novelists, writers and intellectuals. Most of the works from the collection were purchased directly from the artists as a result of the deep friendship that was established over the years between the artists, the gallery and the collector.
Arrestingly graceful and expressive, Bleu gris et rouge (1964) demonstrates the supreme mastery of form and colour that characterises Serge Poliakoff’s mature work. Rich complementary shades of red, blue, green and grey blend across the surface of the canvas in resonant chromatic harmony, articulated through gently interlocking geometric fields. Informed by his musical background, the work’s lilting irregularities derive from Poliakoff’s desire to create an artistic language in which all components – colours, forms and proportions – exist in a state of perfect equilibrium. Poliakoff’s late works, often referred to as ‘silent paintings’, saw the artist shift from grey and brown tonalities to luxuriously contrasting hues, instilling his compositions with a powerful reverberant energy.
Inspired by the colour theories of his abstract forbears, including Wassily Kandinsky and Sonia and Robert Delaunay, Poliakoff firmly believed that ‘If you let it, your colour will take charge of you … Similarly with your forms: the spontaneous form for an artist to use is always an organic one, but you’ve got to be in control of it. A child will use all the colours in the box at once, instinctively, and if you don’t want to make that same mistake you’ve got to on studying hard and for a long time. There is no such a thing as a system of pictorial construction, but there are certain universal laws that you can find out for yourself if you study the big masters long enough. It’s the law, not the “system”, that counts’ (S. Poliakoff, quoted in Serge Poliakoff, Retrospective 1938-1963, exh. cat, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1963, p. 13). Similar examples of Poliakoff’s practice are held in the permanent collections of Tate Modern in London, Museum of Modern Art in New York and Musée National d’Art Modern in Paris.