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CoBrA 60 years, CoBrA Now ! at Christie's in Amsterdam
Asger Jorn (1914 – 1973), Le Sorcier II, 1957. Oil on canvas, 104 x 71 cm. Estimate: €250.000-350.000. Photo: Courtesy of Chrsitie's.

AMSTERDAM.- Appel, Brands, Constant – it’s the ABC of famous CoBrA-masters from the past. But sixty years after artists from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam founded the CoBrA-movement, their work is red hot at international auctions. As well as blue, yellow and green for that matter: the CoBrA-painters put no limit to the colors they threw on their canvas. Quite often, the throwing should be taken literally: Karel Appel’s explosions in the classic Jan Vrijman movie earned him the epitheton ‘the beast of painting’. The beasts’ comment would also run famous: ‘I’m just messing around’. Wit or wisdom? Explore for yourself at Christie’s Amsterdam 60 years anniversary auction CoBrA Now!

CoBrA 1948-2008
Traditionally, CoBrA is dated between 1948 and 1951. In the first year, the movement which’ primary colours and forms disposed of all academism and intellectualism gained recognition with an exhibition in the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum. In the last year, the CoBrA-magazine was discontinued and the group officially disbanded.

Naturally, after 1948 the movement’s members did not quit art. Just,or not even, in their thirties they knew what everyone knows at that age: ‘The best years are yet to come.’ 21st century art from Corneille is available and for his 80th birthday in 2008 Pierre Alechinsky – who joined the movement March 1949 – enjoyed a retrospective exhibition in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels. Admirable efforts from aging artists or Contemporary CoBrA?

Classic CoBrA
CoBrA-art from 1948-1951 is sought after globally and has become increasingly rare at auction. Christie’s succeeded in consigning Appels’ stunning Femme-Soleil-Ville (1950) for a slightly conservative estimate of €300,000-500,000. The €120.000-160.000 for Corneille’s Personnage dans une ville avec aeroplane (1951) is also modest compared to market standards. A rare chance for collectors, who have to face both rising price-levels and growing museum-interest.

2nd period CoBrA
These developments lead collectors to enlarge their scope to the work that CoBrA-artists produced in the 50’s-60’s. In his New York period Appel became fascinated by Jazz, conceiving large expressionist canvases with bold colors applied in a pulsing beat, such as the 90 x 170 cm. Paysage originating from an American private collection. Asger Jorn’s wild Le Sorcier II (1957) embodies the same raw and vivid energy. By now, however, these second period CoBrA-works also broke to the international market: Christie’s catalogue lists the Appel for €120,000-160,000 and the Jorn is thought to fetch €250,000-350,000.

3rd period CoBrA
As a result, CoBrA connaisseurs started to explore the 70’s and the 80’s, discovering in this ‘third period’ yet again original and astonishing artworks. By Appel and Jorn, and by Brands, Rooskens (Birds in Spring, 1972, estimate €15,000-20,000), Constant, (Cornfield, 1976, estimate €18,000-22,000) and Alechinsky. CoBrA has also crossed the borders of the Benelux, as is exemplified by Danish painter Carl Henning Pedersen, the Japan-American sculptor Shinkichi Tajiri and Brit artist Stephen Gilbert. In 60 years, CoBrA developed from a well-defined movement in the past to a lively school, to which new developments and followers were added over various decennia and continents.

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