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Christie's to offer Claude Berri's collection of Modern and Contemporary art
Jannis Kounellis, Untitled, 1960. Photo: © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.

PARIS.- Christie’s presents the outstanding collection of Modern and Contemporary art, thoughtfully accumulated over decades by Claude Berri (1934-2009), the Oscar-winning director and a tremendously successful producer. An important selection of works will be offered in a dedicated auction on October 22nd during FIAC. This main auction will be followed by three other sales organized later this year in order to demonstrate the multiple facets of this eclectic collection: Photographs sale, taking place during Paris Photo in November, and two sessions of Online-only Contemporary Art sales in October and December.

As Claude Berri once declared: “Art changes lives. It changed mine, to the point of taking precedence over cinema. Today, I have the feeling I’m better for paintings than for movies.”

Edouard Boccon-Gibod, Managing Director of Christie’s France: “Christie’s France is very proud to have been entrusted with the sale of this fabulous collection of nearly 400 works of art. This auction will also be the occasion for international collectors, present in Paris during FIAC, to pay a tribute to Claude Berri, one of France’s most beloved French film directors and producers“.

Claude Berri’s great success first as an actor and later as an Oscar-winning film director and producer was due to a tireless dedication to the cinema, and he pursued collecting with the same passionate determination and energy. He developed interest in art and collecting in the 1970’s when he first bought a gouache by Magritte. He then discovered the work of Tamara de Lempicka before falling in love with the work of Robert Ryman. Berri was one of the world’s most important collectors of Ryman paintings, one of which, Venue, was sold for $9,349,000 last May at Christie’s New York during the Post-War & Contemporary art sale. Claude Berri was assembling his collection across many years, and his interest evolved from his initial obsession with Post-War abstraction – Jean Dubuffet, Yves Klein, Jannis Kounellis, Dan Flavin, Henri Michaux, Daniel Buren towards more contemporary artists such as John Baldessari, Paul McCarthy, Berlinde de Bruyckere, Joana Vasconcelos, Pascale Marthine Tayou and Gilles Barbier (all of them presented in the sale). Featuring signature works by some of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century, this auction will be led by a rare Untitled Monogold (MG 44) by Yves Klein. Dating from 1961, this work initially comes from the collection of the prominent French art critic Pierre Restany and his wife Jeannine. Another iconic work from the collection is Untitled, 1960 by Jannis Kounellis. This 3-meter-large work belongs to L’alfabeto di Kounellis series, other examples of which are now in the collections of MoMA in New York, Tate Modern in London and in the François Pinault collection. This monumental canvas was executed during the early years of the artist’s career in Rome, when he was only 24 years old. Other major artists such as Bruce Nauman, Juan Muñoz, Eduardo Chillida, Tatiana Trouvé and Sean Scully will feature in the auction.

Claude Berri had also a passion for Jean Dubuffet. Christie’s will offer at auction several works from his collection such a work on paper titled Paysage, executed in August 1960. Speaking of Dubuffet, Claude Berri used to say: “I remember the time when I was absolutely crazy about Jean Dubuffet, I had about twenty drawings, ink and collages on paper. One night, I woke up to organize an exhibition at my place. I moved the works, hanged them on the walls, put them against chairs and other furniture. My son Thomas, who was not sleeping, came into the living room while I was agitated in my imaginary gallery, looked at me perplexed and asked: “Come on, Dad, what are you doing?” “I’m organising a Dubuffet exhibition at home just for me”.

Laetitia Bauduin, Head of Contemporary Art, Paris: “It is a real honor to hold such an important auction at Christie’s in Paris. Claude Berri had an exquisite taste for modern and contemporary art and this sale reflects his skill for selecting the artworks by talented artists, who are now renowned and established on the market, such as Bruce Nauman, awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2009 and Berlinde de Bruyckere, who was in her turn chosen to represent Belgium in 2013”.

Artworks by Julio González, Le Corbusier, André Masson, Fernand Léger, Roberto Matta and Francis Picabia will also be offered in this auction. The whole section of Modern art will mainly present works on paper, including a rare watercolor and graphite on paper by Francis Picabia. Realised in 1913, in the same year that Picabia went to New York with Marcel Duchamp for The Armory show, a milestone exhibition showcasing the best of European Avant-Garde Art in the United States, he executed this radically modern work inspired by the famous French-Polish dancer Stacia Napierkowska. Prefiguring his mechanical portraits from 1915-16, this fascinating and rare work, which was first in the personal collection of Tristan Tzara before being acquired by Claude Berri, is estimated between €200,000 and 300,000. Modern art connoisseurs will also have the opportunity to acquire works by Roberto Matta, Fernand Léger and Julio González.

Tudor Davies, Director of the Impressionist and Modern art department: “We are very proud to present an extremely rare work on paper by one of the founders of the Dada movement. This work represents an important period in Picabia’s career and we are confident that it will be very much appreciated by the collectors present in Paris during FIAC”.

The Claude Berri Collection sale will be accompanied by two sessions of online-only sales presenting a wide range of over 200 artworks by celebrated contemporary artists. It will feature works by Richard Prince, Lawrence Weiner, Sol LeWitt, Jim Shaw, Jean Dubuffet and Roberto Matta, among many others. Among the highlights of this section are Sean Scully’s watercolour from 1998 (estimate: €20,000-30,000) and a sculpture by Xavier Veilhan, Mobile, 2006 (estimate: €40,000-60,000), the artist’s homage to the inventiveness and joie de vivre of Calder’s mobiles.

Ekaterina Klimochkina, Junior Specialist in charge of the Online sale: “The Online sale will reflect Claude Berri’s taste for discovering cutting-edge contemporary art scene and supporting young talents, to which he dedicated the last decade of his life. We are delighted to present works by the artists that are on everyone’s lips today: Sean Scully, Hans Op de Beeck, Pascale Marthine Tayou and Tatiana Trouvé. In an effort to engage with a broad set of contemporary art collectors worldwide, we offer these works at very competitive estimates, ranging from €300-€500 to €50,000-70,000.”

In addition to modern and contemporary art, Claude Berri had a passion for photography for which Christie’s will offer a dedicated auction in parallel of the celebrated Paris Photo fair, on Saturday 12 November. It will comprise 77 works estimated at approximately €1,5M, mainly focusing on 1930 and contemporary photography.

Elodie Morel, Head of Paris Photography department, adds: “The works that Claude Berri has cautiously chosen constitute a coherent and selective collection. His interest in the beginning of photography to contemporary creations make this auction a great journey throughout photography’s history. We are very proud to feature this auction, and hope that collectors will be as enthusiast as we are”.

The French director begun building his collection by acquiring works by Eugène Atget and André Brassaï (illustrated left) of which the collection includes prints from his famous graffiti series. From the 1930’s, Berri was very fond of Hans Bellmer, of whom the sale will feature a rare 1938 large format titled La Poupée (estimated at €80,000-120,000); and two photographs by Paul Strand from the 1950’s (estimated at €20,000-30,000).

The contemporary section will feature large formats by Luc Delahaye that were originally exhibited at the Maison Rouge in 2005. It will also include an important photograph by Jeff Wall in a lightbox (estimated at €300,000-500,000), large prints by Hiroshi Sugimoto (Bay of Sagami estimated at €80,000-120,000) that Claude Berri had included in an exhibition at his Renn Espace in 1995-1996 and 1999, next to works by Bernd and Hilla Becher such as Typologies, Blast Furnaces, Heads, 1969-1996 (estimated at €100,000 – 150,000) and Raoul Ubac (estimated at €25,000-35,000). Most of the photos of the collection were exhibited in 2003 at the Archevêché and Cloître Saint-Trophisme during the Arles International Photography Festival.

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