• Press release
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  • Paris
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  • For immediate release
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  • 5 October 2017

RELEASE - 20th Century at Christie's Paris - 19-21 October 2017

-Paris Avant-Garde (19th October)
-Modern Art (20th October)
-The Jean-François and Marie-Aline Prat Collection (20th &21st October)

Paris – Christie’s France will celebrate the second edition of its dedicated 20th century sale season during the week of FIAC, the international contemporary art fair that animates the city, from October 19th to October 21st. During this exceptional week, Christie’s will offer over 300 lots by leading international artists with a global estimate of €65-90 million. Last year, Christie’s realised €42M selling 84% by lot and 91% by value. During this busy week, six artists records were established including for the French artist Daniel Buren.

François de Ricqlès, President of Christie’s France: “During this week in October, Paris is the center of the art world. Our three sales organised during this international event will span the 20th century and will include rare works with prestigious provenances carefully selected by our specialists. The auctions will offer masterworks from the early 20th century, alongside many different collecting categories including Books, Photographs, Design, Modern Art and Contemporary Art. The departments have worked closely together to build this strong sale season which is sure to attract connoisseurs from around the world”.


During FIAC, Christie’s Paris will organise the second edition of its Paris Avant-Garde auction which saw strong results last year realising €20,5M with 33 lots. This curated evening sale reinforces Christie’s strategy of pioneering innovative and successful auctions evolving the arena of 20th Century collecting.

Throughout the 20th Century, Paris occupied a capital role for the Avant-Garde movement, attracting artists from around the globe to contribute in the development of new artistic ideas. Within this context grew many of the fundamental artistic movements of the 20th Century, from Fauvism, Cubism and Surrealism through to the beginnings of Lyrical Abstraction and New Realism. Our sale will present carefully-selected works from the leading names of these movements, many of which will appear on the market for the first time.

The sale’s cover lot is a monumental sculpture by Alberto Giacometti (2, 76 m). This Grande Femme II is one of only 3 casts (from a total of 10) remaining in private hands. The sculpture was conceived by Giacometti in 1961 when he was asked to realise a project for the Chase Manhattan Bank’s public plaza in New York. After more than a year of work, the artist renounced the project due to difficulties in realising the scale required. Nevertheless, Grande Femme II was chosen by the artist to be exhibited subsequently in several prestigious locations such as the Venice Biennale in 1962 and the Fondation Maeght in 1964.

Pierre Martin-Vivier, Director 20th century art: Grande Femme II is a true masterpiece first realised by Alberto Giacometti in 1961. This sculpture remains an icon of the 20th century occidental sculpture along with the Thinker by Auguste Rodin or La muse endormie by Constantin Brancusi recently sold at Christie’s New York for $57,3M. The sale of this monumental sculpture promises to be one of the most important art market events of 2017”.

Amongst the other works offered in the Avant-Garde sale, collectors will discover a unique sculpture by Max Ernst. Titled Un microbe vu à travers un tempérament, the present sculpture, estimated €600,000-800,000 is the original and unique assemblage that Ernst created in 1964. The central element of the composition is the wooden apparatus used to harness a horse or ox to a cart, the slightly bent shafts reaching upward to a height of over 2 meters. An iron wheel bearing is mounted to the upper end of the central plank, and a pair of chains, joined together by a ring, hangs between the towering wagon-shafts. The forms combine to create the image of a stela-like creature, grand and austere, which transfixes the viewer with its round eyes and gaping mouth. The wagon-shafts read either as gigantic horns or excessively long extremities that the creature throws into the air, as if caught unaware. The title that Ernst gave to the sculpture - Microbe vu à travers un tempérament - has a powerful resonance in the history of modern art. The poet Tristan Tzara, one of the founders of Dada, memorably referred to the movement as a "virgin microbe", likening its impact on the public to that of an infection, virulent and self-promoting (quoted in R. Motherwell, ed., The Dada Painters and Poets: An Anthology, Massachusetts, 1981, p. 251). The title of the sculpture is also inspired by Emile Zola : Une œuvre d'art est un coin de la création vu à travers un tempérament. In the present sculpture, the paradoxically massive scale underscores the importance of the microbe in Ernst's artistic taxonomy.

The silhouette of a man with a raised arm is realised on a concrete wall in Berlin. This human imprint, like a signature, has become the symbol of a new approach to architecture. Le Corbusier had long been fascinated by the impact of space on human psychology. Echoing an interest which stretched back to Antiquity, the architect sought out the proportions and measurements which would determine harmonious form. Yet in contrast to the monumental constructions of ancient times, he proposed a new architecture whose rationalism was founded on a human scale. In the early 1940s, Le Corbusier’s research coalesced into a coherent entity, which he later named Modulor. An instrument which was both poetic and mathematical, it was based on a single universal reference: the human body, albeit one whose size was arbitrarily fixed at 2.26 metres in height, including its raised arm. It was in 1947 that his research reached a climax, and that he invited Constantin Andréou to sculpt the figures of his Modulor men which would later be embedded in the still-fresh concrete walls of his Cité Radieuse. Andréou’s work pleased Le Corbusier, to the point that in 1957 the latter again commissioned the Greek sculptor to execute additional Modulors for his residential block in Berlin. As in all of his work, Le Corbusier supervised every aspect of production of these Modulors. As records show, it was Le Corbusier who carefully chose the finest quality timber, and who oversaw production down even to accepting or adjusting Andréou’s slightest initiatives. The figure presented here, estimated €200,000-€300,000, was affixed to the east and west facades of the stairwell in the Berlin residential block. Notably, it was incorporated into a Modulor matrix, thus providing the full measure of Le Corbusier’s revolutionary system.

A true masterpiece of Surrealism, Facile is a vibrant testimony of an artistic symbiosis between Paul Eluard, Man Ray and Paul Bonet, all three of them inspired by Maria Benz, better known as Nusch, Paul Eluard’s wife. Edited in 1935, the present edition of Facile, estimated at €500,000-700,000, is a combination of Eluard’s poems which also includes a post card from Nusch to Eluard, an autograph letter by May Ray as well as the wedding announcement of Eluard and Maria Benz. The binding realised in 1943 by Paul Bonet, comprises Nusch’s leather gloves on both the front and back cover with the names of Eluard and Nusch repeatedly written in golden capital letters. The choice of motifs and imagery symbolises in a touching and subtle way, the love between the couple: an “Hymne à l’amour” of a poet to his muse embodied in an exquisite surrealist work.

Deeply innovative, the work of Sergio Camargo: Sans titre (Relief No. 353), estimated at €450,000-650,000, is built on the close relationship the artist introduced between the volumes he created and the changing perception the viewer can have when looking at the piece. Indeed, depending on the perspective angle, a diagonal line appears, crossing the composition with a clean and sharp division. The line seems to be the only way out of the labyrinth covering the entire surface. Following Lucio Fontana’s research that echoes with both the Spatialism movement and the Zero Group, Camargo creates an animated work that escapes from the traditional picture plane of a canvas. His compositions are an invitation to explore pictorial space differently, by letting the eye discovers the changing reality of forms.


The Impressionist and Modern Art department will present a sale dedicated to Modern Art, with more than 90 works offered including an important group of five works by James Ensor from a private Belgian collection. Amongst these, Christie’s will offer Nature morte au Magot-Chinoiseries, étoffes (estimated at €700,000-1,000,000), an important still-life oil-on-canvas by Ensor painted circa 1891. With this work, Ensor is at the zenith of his art and brings the viewer to the depths of a subtle and marvelous world filled with objects and masks that surrounded him in his home town of Ostend. In Nature morte au Magot-Chinoiseries, étoffes, a series of objects and fabrics seems to create a slightly confused scene with items nonchalantly stacked or even sometimes piled up, unveiling their different facets to viewers. Vases, pots and dolls mixed with colored fabrics are placed next to a velvet handbag and dominated in the middle by a standing china figurine holding in both hands a Chinese vase decorated with a phoenix.

Two masks - Ensor’s very favorite objects - rising from a pile of yellow cloth, make the scene even more enigmatic. The piece highlights the ability of Ensor to create art through light and color, with a very subtle colour palette the objects almost come to life.

Thibault Stockmann, Specialist in charge of the Modern Art sale: “We are proud to present our Modern Art sale, in the context of a very exciting sale week at Christie’s Paris. Led by the Ensor and a forceful Tête d’homme painted in 1964 by Pablo Picasso, the sale will present a large variety of artists and estimates which we expect to appeal the international crowd gathered in Paris at this very special time of the art market calendar.”


Christie’s will host the sale of the collection of Jean-François (who died in 2011) and Marie-Aline Prat on Friday 20 and Saturday 21 October 2017, during the week-long Paris international contemporary art fair, FIAC. Comprising more than 200 works, this exceptional collection is a testimony to their shared passion for modern, post-war and contemporary art., which lasted for half a century. The collection includes works by some of the most important international figures of the 20th century, such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sigmar Polke, Lucio Fontana and Robert Ryman, and highlights the Prats’ taste for French artists; Jean Dubuffet, Yves Klein, Simon Hantaï and Martin Barré. Estimated in the region of €29,000,000 to 40,000,000, this auction will be divided into two sessions (evening and day sales) with a preview exhibition from 14 to 21 October at the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild (11, rue Berryer 75008, Paris).

Edouard Boccon-Gibod, Managing Director of Christie’s France: “Christie’s is endeavoring to think of this sale less as a tribute than as the photograph of one adventure that leads to another, like an invitation to continue to write the history of these works that Jean-François and Marie-Aline Prat loved, as a way of passing on and sharing this lifelong passion again and again.”

Paul Nyzam, Head of Sale: “French collections of this quality can be counted on the figures of one hand. Intelligence, sensitivity and independence were the main principles in the creation of this superb collection. Presented in the splendid setting of the reception rooms of the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild, the exhibition will offer international collectors the chance to observe the links the couple created between French artists and their European and American peers. On show, for example, is Basquiat conversing with Dubuffet, Klein with Stella, Ryman with Lavier, Fontana with Hantaï and even Barré with Halley. These original and fertile associations make this auction one of the highlights of the 2017 art market year”.


Paris Avant-Garde :

Thursday 19th October at 7 pm

Viewings: From Friday 14th October to Thursday 20th from 10 am to 6 pm: From Friday 14th October to Thursday 20th from 10 am to 6 pm

Modern Art:

Friday 20th October at 3pm

Viewings: From Friday 14th October to Thursday 20th from 10 am to 6 pm: From Friday 14th October to Thursday 20th from 10 am to 6 pm

The Marie-Aline and Jean-François Prat collection :

Friday 20th October at 7pm and Saturday 21th October at 2:30pm


From 14 to 21 October at the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild, 11 Rue Berryer, 75008 Paris


9, avenue Matignon, 75008 Paris

About Christie’s

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Christie’s auctions span more than 80 art and luxury categories, at price points ranging from $200 to over $100 million. In recent years, Christie’s has achieved the world record price for an artwork at auction (Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, 2017), for a 20th century artwork (Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, 2022) and for a work by a living artist (Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, 2019). Christie's is also recognised as a reference for prestigious single owner collections, having auctioned 8 of the 10 most important collections in history.

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