THE COMPOSITION OF A COLLECTION Sting and Trudie Styler are knowledgeable and passionate collectors of the art and design of their own times. In their former family house in London, filled with the fruits of over twenty years of collecting, they have thoughtfully assembled a tightly curated collection of abstract and figurative works, photography and 20th Century design providing rich and telling juxtaposition to the early 18th- century architecture of Queen Anne’s Gate. Now they feel it is time for a change and this has prompted them to part with elements of their art collection, with works becoming available to a new generation of enthusiasts who will appreciate just how consistently sharp their eyes are. This is a fundamentally serious collection, but as befits its owners, it has playful pieces too, united by depictions of the human form in all its interest and variety. Possibly the star of their show is the abstract by Ben Nicholson - March 55 (amethyst). Painted in 1955, as its title suggests, this is an important work from the very crucial post-war phase in Nicholson’s oeuvre, which established him unequivocally as the leading British abstract painter on the international stage at the time. In this work, with its combination of fluid drawing and muted palette, Nicholson used subtle washes to add ghostly forms and dimensions to his composition. There is an enigmatic drawing by Gustav Klimt – Study of a Young Woman in Stockings - which resonates with the understated beauty of the Nicholson. The highlight of the drawings in the collection, it comes from a series of depictions of the human figure caught in mid-movement that Klimt completed in 1906-1907. The lithograph by Picasso - Le Corsage a Carreaux - made in 1949 presents a different approach to the figural form through her direct gaze and boldness contrasting with the delicate lines and intimacy of Klimt’s drawing. Henri Matisse’s Jazz series on the other hand is not subtle. It is not meant to be. Its presence in this collection is, however, thoroughly understandable because it relates to the transformative and even figurative aspect of music. It is a riot of pure colour and form, echoing and paying tribute to the syncopation of the music that became so popular in the artist’s early life in 1920s Paris, which rang down the boulevards and in and out of the celebrated artists’ cafés of the time, not to mention the nightclubs. As an evocation of music and a memory of flaming youth ‘Jazz’, has scarcely if ever been surpassed. Created by Matisse in 1947, it is today considered one of the greatest and most influential series of prints of the 20th Century – a lasting joy to behold. There are also lithographs and prints by masters of the modern, shrewdly collected over the years by Sting and Trudie Styler, which include works by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Rene Magritte, together with later prints by contemporary artists such as Mimmo Paladino (who also contributed the standing man sculpture in the garden) and Carsten Höller, among others. But this collection isn’t just about Modern Art in the 20th Century; there are well-spotted Post-War and Contemporary works too, representing seminal moments in the careers of Keith Haring and Zeng Chuanxing, for instance and there are quietly elegiac photographs of calla lilies by Robert Mapplethorpe to add cool notes to the overall composition. Looking to the future, Sting and Trudie Styler have also supported young contemporary artists by demonstrating early commitment to their work through commissions. Veronica Smirnoff’s symbolic tempera on gesso panels, which hung on the stairs, and the immersive nature of the works by Emily Allchurch and Giles Alexander in the music room are eloquent testaments to Sting and Trudie Styler’s wholehearted support of contemporary artists. Their collection is complemented by furniture and design by post-war masters, foremost amongst whom is the legendary Yves Klein, whose two tables, one in his signature blue, the other his signature rose tell us much about his relationship with colour. Other significant 20th-century works playing riffs on this visually playful story too, notably from designers Jacques Adnet, George Nakashima and Jean Besnard. It takes sure eyes, knowledge, confidence, and in the end belief in the transformative power of art that speaks, one piece to another, to assemble such a collection, attributes that Sting and Trudie Styler would appear to possess in abundance. Meredith Etherington-Smith Christie’s would like to thank Sara Pearce and Stephen Somerville for their assistance with this collection.
GEORGE JOUVE (1910-1964), CIRCA 1955