In October 2019, selected artworks from the UniCredit Group were offered as part of Frieze Week at Christie’s in London. They included standout pieces by Gerhard Richter, Yves Klein, Ernst Wilhelm Nay, Andreas Gursky, Enrico Castellani, Sam Francis and Nam June Paik, among others. More than 100 works were then offered in Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Sales in Amsterdam in late November.
In February 2020, a further selection from the UniCredit Group was offered in the Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale, the Impressionist and Modern Works on Paper auction, and the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Christie’s in London. Additional works will be offered at Christie’s in the coming months. UniCredit will look to replace the masterpieces sold with works of young and emerging artists.
Highlights from the UniCredit Group offered at Christie’s
Offered in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 12 February, Andy Warhol’s Flowers (1964) stems from one of his most iconic series of works. Painted in the same year as his legendary exhibition of ‘Flower ’paintings at Leo Castelli’s New York gallery — then the centre of the post-war art world, the work represents what curator John Coplans describes as ‘a distillation of much of the strength of Warhol's art — the flash of beauty that suddenly becomes tragic under the viewer's gaze’.
The Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale selection was led by Segelschiff I (above), a 1922 painting by Walter Dexel (1890-1973). This superb example of Dexel’s distinct Constructivist idiom dates from a key period when the artist, who was Art Director at the Art Union in Jena, Germany, came into close contact with a network of artists and intellectuals including Jean (Hans) Arp, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Kurt Schwitters and El Lissitzky; artists associated with the Bauhaus movement, such as Paul Klee, László Moholy-Nagy and Walter Gropius; along with De Stijl artists, including Théo van Doesburg, with whom Dexel developed a close friendship.
A work by a member of Dexel’s circle — Kurt Schwitters’ Ohne Titel (Gute Laune), circa 1945, above — dates from the period when the artist was living in London, and attempting to integrate himself with the avant-garde of the city.
The piece combines delicately painted geometric shapes, organic abstract forms and collage elements. In December 1944, the English art historian Herbert Read had announced Schwitters (1887-1948) as ‘the supreme master of the collage’ after the artist’s solo exhibition at the Modern Art Gallery.
The Works on Paper sale was led by Mz 221. Dramatik, above, also by Schwitters. ‘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.
This early ‘Merz’ collage was executed in 1921, a time of hyper-inflation, revolution and counter-revolution in Germany following the end of the First World War. In an era when paper currency had lost its value, Schwitters could be found picking up scraps from the streets of Hanover and incorporating them into constellations that expressed this new formal language.
October’s selection from the UniCredit Group was led by Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild, dating to 1984, a pivotal year in the artist’s career. The work, which was offered in the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 4 October, sold for £7,016,250.
Other notable highlights included Yves Klein’s Sculpture-éponge bleue sans titre, (SE 244), one of the artist’s pioneering sponge sculptures from 1959, which realised £1,571,250; and Richter’s Wiese (Meadow) (1983), an exquisite example of his celebrated photo-realist German landscapes from the 1980s, which sold for £3,371,250.
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Proceeds from the sales will primarily be used to support the further roll-out of the Group’s Social Impact Banking initiatives. The remaining balance will be dedicated to other relevant projects, including the support of emerging artists.
Social Impact Banking is part of UniCredit’s commitment to building a fairer and more inclusive society, and seeks to identify, finance and promote people and companies that can have a positive social impact.
As well as continuing to provide credit to projects and organisations not usually served by the traditional banking sector, UniCredit employees educate micro-entrepreneurs, social enterprises and vulnerable or disadvantaged groups, building valuable networks within our communities.