Whether because of rarity, provenance or personal connections, works never previously offered at auction have a mystique all of their own. Specialist Victoria Gramm selects seven stand-out works from our Post-War & Contemporary Art sale, 11-12 April
Why collect fresh-to-market works? Aside from the excitement of owning something that’s rarely been seen before, says specialist Victoria Gramm, ‘it’s amazing to acquire art that has a story’. The provenance of fresh-to-market works is often easier to trace, and it’s not unusual to uncover personal connections between a work’s creator and its original owner. Often, it’s also a rare chance to acquire a piece by an artist whose work is so coveted it rarely makes it to market.
Here, Gramm discusses a selection of auction firsts featured in our 11 April Post-War & Contemporary Art auction in Amsterdam.
‘This work came in a huge crate and was so exciting to unpack,’ says Gramm of Imi Knoebel’s 2003 work Revolver I, one of the finest examples of the artist’s rich grids of colour. Never previously offered at auction, the work is the first in a series of three, with Revolver III currently on display in the collection of Germany’s Ritter Museum — a testament to the series’ exceptional quality. ‘The whole thing really sings — it’s just a wall of colour,’ says Gramm. ‘It’s really beautiful.’
‘Jorinde Voigt is known for her drawing, so to have a sculptural work in our sale is really exciting,’ says Gramm. Inspired by a walk through Berlin’s Botanic Garden, this work is composed of a group of 25 aluminium rods, painted according to an ‘algorithm’ that corresponds to the colours, proportions, and types of plants the artist encountered. ‘It’s a fascinating interpretation of personal experience and visual phenomena; it’s a very fresh idea.’
‘Although paintings by Jonas Burgert have become super-hot on the market, he doesn’t make that many sculptures — and this is the first to be offered at auction. Like Burgert’s paintings, this work takes inspiration from classical depictions of figures, but throws them off balance: the hands are huge, and the colour of the work is purposefully pushed away from what is typically considered pleasing into new, toxic territory. Currently exhibiting at MAMbo in Bologna, Bugert is an artist to watch.’
This 1993 work by Sol Lewitt is offered at auction for the first time after being acquired directly from the artist by his close friend, the designer and collector Martin Visser. Remarkably, it came straight from a museum to Christie’s, having been loaned to the Kröller-Müller Museum between 1995 and 2017. A second work by Lewitt, also featured in our sale, was gifted to Visser by the artist. ‘They wrote to each other, and Visser was interested in supporting artists even when nobody knew anything about them,’ says Gramm. ‘It’s amazing to have something with that personal connection.’
‘When the Tate had an exhibition exploring what conceptual art is, this was the artwork that introduced the show. Composed of two inscrutable panes of grey, the work is typical of Art & Language’s practice, which questions what we understand an art object to be. What defines a painting, as opposed to a sculpture? How minimal can that difference be? It’s incredibly rare to see one of their works on the market; this really is a chance to acquire a piece of art history.’
‘Although not strictly fresh to market, as this work was offered three decades ago, this is still an amazing find, which has never previously been exhibited,’ expains Gramm of Morris Louis’s 1950 painting Cyclops. In fact, the team behind the artist’s catalogue raisonée didn’t hold a colour image of the painting until Christie’s stepped in. ‘This was made at a pivotal moment in Louis’ career, when he first started to explore the abstraction he later became known for,’ adds the specialist. ‘It’s an incredible insight into Louis’ practice; here, he’s experimenting with techniques similar to those later adopted by Jackson Pollock.’
‘This has to be the first time we’ve offered a work made from turf!’ says Gramm. Executed in 1990, Richard Long’s Small Turf Circle evokes some of the celebrated British land artist’s best-known works — natural sculptures or interventions in the landscape, which he exhibits or documents through photography.
‘The work has prompted some interesting conversation, because of course its material means it won’t last for ever. For Long, however, that idea of temporality and change is the artwork; indeed, the artist insists that you can remove and replace the turf, and the sculpture will remain unchanged.’