• Press release
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  • Worldwide
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  • For immediate release
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  • 7 September 2017

 PRESS RELEASE: Beyond Boundaries - Avant-Garde Masterworks From A European Collection - New York/Geneva/Paris - Nov-Dec 2017 

Wassily Kandinsky Improvisation mit Pferden (Studie für Improvisation 20), 1911 Estimate: $10,000,000-15,000,000

New York/Geneva/Paris – Christie’s is honoured to be entrusted with the sale of masterworks from an important European private collection, Beyond Boundaries: Avant-Garde Masterworks from a European Collection which will be offered throughout the second half of 2017 in New York, Geneva, and Paris. This ground-breaking collection was assembled by a couple with a keen eye for rare exceptional works of art and design.  The collection is expected to achieve in the region of $30,000,000 and comprises around 180 works from five categories: Impressionist and Modern Art, Post-War and Contemporary Art, Magnificent Jewels, African Art and Design. The Modern and Post-War works of art were assembled with the guidance of renowned advisor Alain Tarica, who also advised Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé as well as Hubertus and Renate Wald.  This collection is led by Wassily Kandinsky’s Improvisation mit Pferden (Studie für Improvisation 20), which is estimated at between $10,000,000 - 15,000,000, and was executed in 1911, the year Kandinsky produced the first abstract oil painting in history.

Guillaume Cerutti, CEO of Christie’s: “This collection is without doubt one of the greatest moments of the autumn season; not only because this group of around 180 works, comprising design, modern art, jewellery and some African sculptures is of the highest quality and refinement, but also because this collection has a soul, a unique spirit. It is obvious that every object has been chosen with passion and with an extraordinary liberty by the collectors. The result is a beautiful testimony for dialogue between arts and styles”.

Impressionist and Modern Art - November 2017 in New York

The Impressionist and Modern Art section reflects the connoisseurship of talented collectors who carefully built an extraordinary collection of Modern and Dada masterpieces.

Olivier Camu, Deputy Chairman Impressionist & Modern Art:

“The importance and tight focus of this collection, which has been hidden away for the last 50 years, is astounding. In addition to the 1911 Improvisation with Horses by Kandinsky, the father of abstract art, the group includes extremely rare and important examples by some of the most revered Modern artists including Marcel Duchamp, the father of Conceptual art, as well as Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Suzanne Duchamp, Jean Crotti, Gino Severini and Henri Laurens amongst others. For each of these artists their work in this collection is arguably the last one of such importance in private hands. The Dada core of the collection in particular is a totally unique grouping of museum quality masterpieces and this sale will be the last chance for institutions around the world to acquire such works.”

Kandinsky’s art during the years leading up to the beginning of WWI in August 1914 is the narrative of an all-consuming, accelerating thrust toward and into the realm of abstract painting. Improvisation mit Pferden (Improvisation with Horses), created in 1911, stands on the very verge of the artist’s imminent passage into abstraction. The masterpiece celebrates the dreamlike vision of two lovers, in yellow and blue at the lower left, with horses ascending to the upper right corner of the frame.  Kandinsky’s introduction of a zig-zag black line unifies the composition and adds dynamism, while reinforcing the perception of the foreground and the idea of distance in an otherwise flat space. Improvisation mit Pferden is about entering a domain where the immaterial meets the mysterious, transcending reality by turning the world into a mystic vision of colour, line and form.

Francis Picabia’s Animation, painted in Paris in 1914, is an important example of the revolutionary new aesthetic which the artist had developed during his revelatory trip to New York the previous year. Embodying an astonishingly vital conception of metamorphosis and kinesis, this work steps away from a representation of the material world and instead delves in to the sensations of the artist’s subjective experiences of it. The undulating forms gather together in an overlapping, tumultuous mass of colour and movement, the complexity of their coalescing forms a testament to Picabia’s mastery of the medium of watercolour. Animation was first acquired by the Surrealist poet Paul Éluard, who may have been inspired by the mysteriously subjective qualities of the painting, before subsequently entering the collection of Roland Penrose, a devotee of Surrealism and a close friend of Picasso and Éluard.

Man Ray’s Catherine Barometer is the largest and most elaborate of the artist’s objects and assemblages of the New-York Dada period. This peculiar device is in every way representative of the insouciant Dada spirit of the time. Catherine Barometer was intended to embody Katherine S. Dreier, the formidable grande dame of the early American avant-garde. The barometer is a commentary on Dreier’s mutable temperament. Indeed, if the instrument was shaken, as advised in the oval label below the title, it would act erratically, as May Ray regarded her characteristically impulsive approach to matters.

Trained as a stonemason, Henri Laurens was introduced to Cubist theory and practice in 1911 when he developed an enduring friendship with Braque. Bouteille de Beaune is a sculpture created by the juxtaposition of a wine glass and a bottle of Beaune, which provides the perfect armature for a range of contradictory effects. The transparent glass of wine, painted in blue, contrasts with the cylindrical bottle, creating black shadows and emphasising the fragmentation of the form. Thus, this incredible, jewel-like cubist sculpture poetically translates the two-dimensional style of Cubist painting back into a dynamic three-dimensional object.

Between the Parisian cubists and Italians futurists, Gino Severini stands as a tactful mediator, as the two groups contended for leadership of the modernist avant-garde. Dancers were the key theme in Severini’s work between 1911-1915 and were his favorite example of modern and cosmopolitan life. The Danseuse is his only papier collé on the subject. Here, Severini casts the dancer in essential, abstracted forms, repeated to generate a rhythmical effect.

Music is depicted as well, in the form of a manuscript notation in the upper right corner. There is a sensation that the frame can barely contain the dynamism of this piece; the result is an explosion -  with the dancer as epicenter with shock waves and shard-like forms - as a supreme manifestation of the vital lifeforce in all things.

Post-War and Contemporary Art - November 2017 - New York and 6 December 2017 - Paris

The collection also comprises ten works of Post-War Art. In this section, connoisseurs will discover pieces by Dan Flavin, such as Diagonal of May 25, executed in 1963 and estimated at $500,000-700,000, and works by Jean Fautrier and Yves Klein, which will be offered in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction in New York, including a beautiful Klein titled Monogold, executed in 1959 and estimated at $1,200,000-1,800,000. Klein’s gold monochromes, along with those excecuted in pink and his iconic International Klein Blue, highlight the focus of the artist to travel from the temporality of our world to a spiritual universe. The Monogold, l’âge d’or blazes with gleaming intensity as its surface captures and reflects light. The delicate nature of the gold leaf piece makes it extremely sensitive, demonstrating at the same time fragility and elusivness. Klein’s gold fascination began in 1949 and can be understood through the alchemical nature of the colour which allowed him to achieve his stated ambition of dematerialisation in his art.

Magnificent Jewels - 13 November 2017 – Geneva

Each of the 110 Art Nouveau (1895-1910) and Art Déco (1915-1935) jewels that will be offered in Geneva on 13 November is a treasure in itself and reflects the passion of a collector, who surprised his wife with beautiful jewels from the beginning of the 20th century. This personal jewellery collection is led by spectacular Art Nouveau pieces signed by René Lalique and Georges Fouquet as well as with Art Déco jewellery. Amongst the highlights, collectors will discover a beautiful Art Nouveau opal and enamel Plum brooch (illustrated above), a Wasp pendant necklace (CHF. 80,000-120,000, illustrated on the last page) and a sapphire and enamel ring by René Lalique (CHF. 25,000-35,000), as well as an Art Nouveau Cedars pendant by Georges Fouquet (CHF. 100,000-150,000, illustrated right) and Art Déco enamel and onyx pendant by the same designer (CHF: 25,000-35,000).

Raymond Templier is also well represented in this sale with an Art Déco diamond brooch (CHF. 45,000-65,000) as well as a beautiful sapphire ring from the same period (CHF. 25,000-35,000).

Design - 20 November 2017 - Paris

The world of Design was another passion for Madame, who acquired pieces signed by the greatest artists of the 20th century such as Ron Arad, Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott and Marc Newson. The Pod of drawers by Newson (1987, estimate: €500,000-700,000, illustrated on first page) remains an iconic model often referenced by contemporary practitioners. This Pod of drawers was designed according to the same principle as Newson’s famous Lockheed: an organic shape in sculpted fiberglass covered in metal. It reinterprets the anthropomorphic chiffonnier of André Groult, created in shagreen in 1925, inheriting its shape but radically departing from it in its resolutely modern material.

Baillie Scott, the famous designer of the British Arts & Crafts movement, is well represented in this sale with an important cabinet which has significant provenance (estimated: €40,000-60,000). The cabinet was commissioned in around 1905 by Hans Bacmeister, a director at the Dresden Opera house.  When Bacmeister was forced to flee Germany for Austria in the mid-30s, he left everything behind but this cabinet which he then gave to his daughter at the end of the 1930s; she kept it for over four decades.

African Art – 22 November 2017 – Paris

The African and Oceanic Art sale in Paris in November will offer two objects including an important Hemba figure from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Estimated at €200,000-400,000, this superb statue was acquired from the renowned French dealer and taste-maker Jacques Kerchache. The construction of the Hemba people’s identity is strongly linked to a territory – the land their ancestors have lived on – and to the powerful belief of a foundational and sacred clan. Thanks to the statues, created to shelter the spirits of the clan’s old founders, the Hemba people maintain a strong and durable bond with them. The figures are a tangible proof of a chief’s legitimate power and highlight a cultural ideal of strength and stability by perpetrating the memory of the personalities they honoured, and bridging the gap between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Notes to the editors:

Sales dates and locations:

Impressionist and Modern Art – 13-14 November 2017– New York

Post-War and Contemporary Art – 15-16 November 2017 – New York

Magnificent Jewels – 13 November 2017 – Geneva

Design – 20 November 2017 – Paris

African and Oceanic Art – 22 November 2017 – Paris

Post-War and Contemporary Art – 6 December 2017 – Paris

Tour dates and locations:

Paris: 7-10 September 2017 (highlights of all sections)

Moscow: 18-20 September 2017 (Kandinsky’s work only)

Shanghai: 21-23 September 2017 (Jewels only)

Hong-Kong : October 2017 (Jewels and Modern Art)

Tokyo: 23-24 October 2017 (Jewels only)

Taipei: 26-27 October 2017 (Jewels only)

London: 30 September – 7 October 2017 (Modern art only)

London: 13-18 October 2017 (Design only)

London: 16-20 October 2017 (Jewels only)

New York: 30 October -2nd November 2017 (Jewels only)

Geneva: 9-13 November 2017 (Jewels only)

About Christie’s

Christie’s, the world's leading art business, had global auction, private and digital sales in the first half of 2018 that totalled £2.97 billion / $4.04 billion. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and international expertise. Christie’s offers around 350 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie's also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with emphasis on Post-War & Contemporary, Impressionist & Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery.

Alongside regular sales online, Christie’s has a global presence in 46 countries, with 10 salerooms around the world including in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Zürich, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

*Please note when quoting estimates above that other fees will apply in addition to the hammer price - see Section D of the Conditions of Sale at the back of the sale catalogue.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and are reported net of applicable fees.