In the process of collecting art or objects, friendships with like-minded collectors can be accrued along the way. On 4 February 2014, Juan Gris’ Nature morte à la nappe à carreaux (The Checked Tablecloth) sold in London for £34.8 million ($56.7 million), setting a new record for the artist and for any Cubist painting to have sold at auction.
I find this work a stunning example of Gris’ shift to the more lyrical Synthetic Cubist style, but also as testament to the firm friendships that can inform collecting.
Nature morte à la nappe à carreaux had first captured the eye of a Swiss couple in the 1950s, when it became available for sale. They were avid supporters of avant-garde artists, and much of their collection consisted of gifts offered by those artists, as signs of gratitude and friendship. Yet at that time, they lacked the financial means necessary to acquire the Gris and so introduced an acquaintance, the eminent Professor Doctor Wilhelm Löffler, to the artist’s work.
Years later, remembering the heartfelt enthusiasm of the two Swiss art lovers and the passion with which they spoke about Gris’ work, Dr. Löffler bequeathed it to them, as a tribute to their genuine understanding and historical involvement with the avant-garde.