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The Robert Devereux Collection of Post-War British Art at Sotheby's This November
Julian Opie’s (b. 1958) iconic Damon, Singer, executed in 2000, is part of a series produced by the artist for the cover of a compilation of the British band Blur enitled Blur: The Best Of. Estimate: £25,000-35,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Following the announcement earlier this year of the two-day sale of The Robert Devereux Collection of Post-War British Art at Sotheby’s in London on November 3 (Sale 1) and 4 (Sales 2 and 3) , 2010, Sotheby’s presents further details of this one-off and very exciting addition to the Company’s autumn sales schedule. The single-owner sale will showcase the exceptional talent of British artists over the last 60 years, from the 1950s through to the present day. A dynamic and wide-ranging group of works by artists such as Antony Gormley, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Patrick Heron, Julian Opie, Sean Scully, Peter Lanyon, Leon Kossoff and Alan Davie will be presented for sale, alongside exciting examples by a younger generation of artists too, some of whom will be making their auction debut. With estimates ranging from £100 to £350,000, the sale will be accessible to all and proceeds will go towards the founding of The African Arts Trust, a charitable organisation that Robert Devereux is in the process of establishing to support the arts in Africa. The 329 lots are expected to bring a total in the region of £4 million.

Robert Devereux, a former partner in Richard Branson’s world famous Virgin Empire and the current Chairman of Frieze, has been an art aficionado since he was a young man. A collector in the truest sense, he has quietly assembled an eclectic and dynamic collection that covers the array of artistic movements in Britain since the 1950s. When asked for the reason behind his focus on British art he responds: “Because it's the country I live in, it’s the culture I know. I’m particularly interested in the artists that are in my community, and that will never change.”

Over the last ten years, however, Robert has spent an increasing amount of time in Africa and has become increasingly engaged with its art and its artists. Given the challenges and struggles that he sees so many of them face he has now decided to establish The African Arts Trust, a charity that will support local grass roots arts organisations as well as working directly with artists to try and give them opportunities to establish their careers. He is selling his art collection to help launch the charity.

Robert Devereux states: “Art has always been an obsession of mine. I started buying art in my teens and have always bought what I loved and always been led by what emotionally and visually stimulates me. Over the last few decades I have, more by default than design, created a collection which I love but which has grown rapidly in size, particularly in the last few years. I have, therefore, been grappling with how best to move forward. Last year I decided to establish a charity devoted to supporting the arts of Africa, a continent where I now spend a great deal of time and which has huge potential but very few resources to support its burgeoning talent. Art, Africa and philanthropy have now all come together for me and I plan to use the proceeds from the sale of my collection to launch The African Arts Trust.”

He continues: “Through the African Arts Trust I’d really like to support local charities like the Kuona Trust in Nairobi as well as to help with funding for whatever artists feel they need: from studio space to materials, access to materials, bursaries, travel grants and exchange programmes.” He further hopes that the sale will enable as many people as possible to share in the experience of the wonderful works that he has had the pleasure of enjoying for so many years.

Talking about Robert Devereux and his collection, Oliver Barker, Senior Director and Senior International Specialist, Sotheby’s Contemporary Art department, comments: “Sotheby’s is thrilled to be working with Robert Devereux on this very special single-owner sale. Robert is a collector of huge focus, passion and knowledge and his remarkable collection presents an exciting walk through the creativity of British art over the last 60 years. Young artists ready for their auction debut will be offered alongside established names and the range of artists, movements and price levels will make this sale very exciting and accessible to both established and new collectors in the field.”

The sale will feature superb examples by many of the ground-breaking British artists active in the years immediately after the Second World War as well as the creations of a new generation of artists who are working in Britain today.

Sean Scully’s (b. 1945) Wall of Light Orange Green from 2005 leads the sale in terms of value, with its estimate of £250,000-350,000. The genesis of Scully’s on-going Wall of Light series was a trip to Mexico that he undertook in 1983 in which he visited the ancient architectural ruins of the remote Yucatan region and was instantly captivated by the diverse and dynamic effects of light refracting off the area’s crumbling walls. Although the original source of inspiration for the Wall of Light series was Mexico each work in the series does capture a different personal experience dependent upon a time and a place. Wall of Light Orange Green dates from 2005 and its luminous tones of green and red and vibrant energy hint at the warm glow of a summer sunset. The painting is held together by a grid-like matrix of what Scully calls ‘bricks’. Commenting on his Wall of Light series, Scully states: “I see something and have a feeling of something – it might be the light, or the heat, they are very specific in that sense – and I unload the painting.”

A major abstract work by Patrick Heron (1920-1999), entitled Big Grey – with Disc: June-Sept 1959, captures an idea that occupied the artist for an entire decade. Although Heron had experimented with pure abstraction as early as 1952 he maintained a figurative base to his painting until at least the early part of 1956, after which he began to develop a language of strokes of pure colour, which moved away from a definite subject. This move to “stripe” paintings and the exploration of colour was perhaps in response to his new home in Cornwall. Having found a method by which the balance of colour could be used to create depth and recession within a canvas, Heron later began to rebuild the range of colours used within each painting. This re-complication of the image can be seen in Big Grey – with Disc June-Sept 1959, which dates from one of Heron’s strongest periods and is estimated at £120,000-180,000.

The work of Frank Auerbach (b. 1931) continues to be highly sought after at auction and his Head of Paula Eyles is estimated at £70,000-100,000. Portraiture has always been a key theme in Auerbach’s career although his repertoire of sitters is small, being drawn from a circle of close friends and family. Paula Eyles - a friend of Auerbach’s who has sat for him on many occasions - is one of the small group of sitters whose image can be tracked throughout the artist’s career. The portrait of her presented for sale dates from 1971 and it is characterised by the use of a thick jagged black outline to define the head and features, and its stark linear, almost caricature qualities.

The sale also includes the work of the influential 20th century American painter Alice Neel (1900-1984), an artist who won the admiration of Frank Auerbach. Commenting on her Auerbach states: “Alice Neel does not need my encomium. Her work declares an appetite for experience, has a patent and shaming honesty, is indifferent to rules and hierarchies. She has courage, not least in her choice of sitters; it seems that, the more stressful the sitting, the better the painting. As I get older I feel, increasingly and dauntingly, that artists have to be heroes. Alice Neel is one of mine.” (Frank Auerbach quoted in Alice Neel Painted Truths exhibition catalogue, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston)

Although not British, New York-born Neel has recently gained much public recognition in the UK with a major retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery in London (July 8-September 17, 2010). Neel spent more than half a century painting expressionistic portraits of extraordinary emotional depth and this classic example by her – of Susan Rossen, the former Executive Director of Publications at the Art Institute of Chicago – is estimated at £100,000-150,000. While ostensibly a realist, Neel rejected academic exactitude and photographic likeness, never resting on a straightforward reportage of the sitter’s appearance. She instead transformed her figures through expressive brushwork and almost Mannerist distortion or caricature, to achieve a vivid depiction of her sitter’s inner psychology. Susan Rossen was introduced to the artist in 1975 by Stewart Mott, another of Neel’s subjects. Rossen vividly recalls the first meeting as Neel “fell in love with my outfit – I was wearing a burgundy hat and matching coat and she immediately asked if she could paint me. By the time we arranged the sitting in 1976, sadly my coat had been stolen but I still had that hat and she was very excited about that hat!” (Susan Rossen, 2010).

Head of Chaim by Leon Kossoff (b. 1926) dates from 1993 and this richly expressive work, in an earthy coloured palette, perfectly encapsulates his brother Chaim, a subject to whom he returned on a number of occasions between 1983 and the late 1990s. The only rival in output during this period was his landscapes of Christ Church in Spitalfields. While his portrayals of Chaim constitute some of his most striking and powerful portraits, paintings of his brother have rarely appeared at auction, and the present work is arguably the finest ever to be offered. The portrait, which was shown in the British Pavilion at the 1995 Venice Biennale and then at The Tate a year later, comes to the market with an estimate of £70,000-100,000.

Kossoff discovered life drawing - by chance - while a young man in East London and this fortuitous happening fuelled his increasing interest in working from the human figure. He began producing single figure portraits from the 1950s onwards and while his chosen models are neither grand nor recognisable beyond his own personal reference, his family and close friends’ perhaps ordinary expressions become remarkable through his ability to push beyond conventional representation.

Poured Lines: Primer is a striking example of Ian Davenport’s (b. 1966) distinctive technique of pouring paint directly onto a chosen surface. Since his work earned him a Turner prize nomination in 1991, Davenport has refined his characteristic technique and developed a brighter, more vibrant palette, clearly evident in Poured Lines: Primer, which dates from 2006; this brighter palette is also seen in his large scale commission on Southwark Street Western Bridge near Tate Modern in London. The source of inspiration for his colour combinations is as wide-ranging as his experiments with technique; past sources of inspiration have included an old painting and the opening sequence of The Simpsons. Poured Lines: Primer has an estimate of £12,000-18,000.

Julian Opie’s (b. 1958) iconic Damon, Singer, executed in 2000, is part of a series produced by the artist for the cover of a compilation of the British band Blur enitled Blur: The Best Of. Executed in 2000, Damon exists in three versions, of which the version presented for sale is the largest. The work featured in the Remix: Contemporary Art and Pop exhibition at Tate Liverpool in the summer of 2002 and it comes to the market with an estimate of £25,000-35,000.

It is particularly apt that Damon, Singer is being sold to aid The African Arts Trust, for following Damon Albarn’s time as the front man of Blur he has been well know for his active support and promotion of West African music. In fact he released Mali Music in 2002, a collaboration with Mali musicians (including Ko Kan Ko sata, Afel Bocoum and Toumani Diabaté & Friends), and this followed a trip he made to the African country on behalf of Oxfam’s On the Line Project.

Among the artists making their auction debut will be the 2008 Turner prize nominee, Goshka Macuga, (1967), whose sandblasted mirror, Drawing No. 4 ‘Path of Movement of a Point’ After K. Malevich (1922) has an estimate of £4,000-6,000. Born in Warsaw, Macuga lives and works in London and she is well known for her distinctive process of incorporating narratives, concepts and materials from the art historical past into her own present day compositions and installations. She engages the viewer in an intriguing dialogue between the aesthetics and politics of today and those from the time of her source material. Macuga was the first artist to receive the Bloomberg Commission at the Whitechapel Gallery in 2009 and most recently was included in Charles Saatchi’s Newspeak: British Art Now at the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (October 2009 – January 2010) and at the Saatchi Gallery, London (June – September 2010).

Sotheby's | The Robert Devereux Collection | Antony Gormley | Lucian Freud |

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