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Christie's celebrates the legacy of dealer Jan Krugier with dedicated sales in New York
Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Herbstlandschaft, signed and dated `KANDINSKY 1911.' (lower right), oil on canvas, 28 1/8 x 39 1/8 in. (71.6 x 99.3 cm.). Painted on 31 January 1911. Estimate: $20,000,000-25,000,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2013.

NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s announced A Dialogue Through Art: Works from The Jan Krugier Collection, a two-part auction, composed of works from the dealer’s renowned collection. Jan Krugier was an art market luminary, representing many major artists, and later becoming the world’s foremost Pablo Picasso dealer. Representative of Krugier’s diverse expertise, the sale spans the fields of Impressionist & Modern, Post-War & Contemporary, Old Masters, American, Latin American, and African Art. The sales consist of more than 150 lots estimated to achieve $170 million in total, and an evening sale will take place on Monday 4 November at 7:00pm in New York, followed by a day sale at 11:00am on Tuesday 5 November. The auctions at Christie’s not only celebrate Jan Krugier’s many contributions to the art world, but also the inspiring journey that led him there.

François Curiel, President of Christie’s Asia and close friend of Jan Krugier, states, “Certain figures leave a deep imprint on the world, not only on those closest to them but also far beyond. Jan Krugier was certainly such a person: a charismatic and visionary man, who was confronted with the greatest hardships but was able to transform them into something beautiful, through an exceptional career in the art world.”

JAN KRUGIER | 1928-2008
Jan Krugier was born in 1928 in Radom, a small city in central Poland. His mother died when Jan was just five, leaving him under the care of his father, a Jewish businessman with a modest collection of French Impressionists. Leafing through black and white reproductions from his father’s library, Jan Krugier learned the tenets of art through the great masterworks of world culture. When Krugier was in his teenage years, World War II broke out and he was eventually transported to a labor camp from which he managed to escape, only to be recaptured after taking part in the Polish resistance. At Auschwitz-Birkenau, Krugier experienced the atrocities of war firsthand. Upon his freedom, it was the remembrance of beauty, of a joy that was visible and tangible, that drove Krugier toward art, an expression he saw as man’s finest achievement.

As a fledgling artist in the late 1940s, Krugier moved to Paris, where he rented the Expressionist painter Chaïm Soutine’s former studio, though another artist, Alberto Giacometti, later famously persuaded Krugier to consider a career as a dealer instead. In 1962, he established his first gallery in Geneva representing several well-known modernists and he was the first gallery owner to stage an exhibition of Picasso’s work following the artist’s death in 1973. Krugier did not limit himself to one artistic field, however, and chose to handle a range of material. Nineteenth and twentieth century paintings hung alongside Old Masters and African sculpture, breaking the confines of the traditional gallery show. It was his bold aesthetic that secured Krugier’s place as one of the most innovative and important gallerists of the 20th century. Through his broad perspective, he did much to break the barriers between past and present, classic and modern, sharing his enthusiasm for both with the same intensity and feeling.

Jan Krugier’s personal collection reflected this eclectic style. At the time Krugier began collecting with his wife, Marie Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, many works on paper were both underrated and undervalued, allowing them to build one of the most important groupings of drawings in the world. As he grew his collection over the years, the masterpieces he would acquire rivaled some of the world’s most prominent museums. His collection toured to enthusiastic crowds in Berlin, Venice, Madrid, Paris, Vienna, and Munich in a series of exhibitions entitled ‘The Timeless Eye.’ Krugier dedicated these landmark shows to his family and those who had perished in the Holocaust, as well as to the men and women like himself who had survived, to anyone “forever locked in the prison of their memory.”

“For decades, Jan Krugier was a towering figure in the art world, founding a gallery synonymous with the very best in fine art across multiple collecting categories,” noted Conor Jordan, Deputy Chairman, Impressionist & Modern Art. “He was also a fabulous collector in his own right, and the works we are presenting in this November’s dedicated Evening and Day Sale of his collection rank among the most intriguing and exciting we have seen at auction in many years. Throughout his collection, one can see the common thread of his collecting genius, which combined a sense of intellectual inquiry with the simple joy of sensory beauty.”

Among the modernist highlights of the evening sale is Wassily Kandinsky’s Herbstlandschaft of 1911 (estimate: $20,000,000-25,000,000). Herbstlandschaft is a masterpiece from Kandinsky’s prodigious period of creative exploration from 1908-1911, demonstrating the artist’s expressive abilities as a colorist, which forged a distinctively Russian brand of Fauvism. This period of new art for the artist was inspired by intuition and drawn from the imagination, no longer governed by external reality. Kandinsky resolved that this art must be “pure,” and to be pure it must be eventually purged of all traces of materialism. To achieve a genuinely spiritual state this art must furthermore be absolutely abstract. The mountain in Herbstlandschaft is a metaphor for that peak which the artist as prophet must ascend, climbing high above materialistic cities of the lowland plain, to that elevated height of self-knowledge and understanding of the world that would ultimately empower him to create a purely spiritual art. For Kandinsky, the shape of the triangle, signified by the mountain, represents the evolution of the spiritual dimension in contemporary life.

Krugier was the first gallerist to stage an exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s work following the artist’s death in 1973. The dealer fostered a close relationship with the Picasso family, particularly the artist’s granddaughter Marina, who enlisted Krugier as an advisor in the distribution of her grandfather’s estate. Proceeds from gallery exhibitions and world tours subsequently allowed Marina Picasso to pursue philanthropic ventures such as an orphanage in Vietnam and international educational programs. In the process, Krugier became the world’s foremost Picasso dealer, showcasing diverse and rare materials such as notebooks, sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints, and ceramics. As the leading dealer of Picasso, Krugier amassed an impressive collection of works by the artist for himself, sixteen of which will be offered in November.

Among the star lots of Krugier’s collection, and the lead work of the Picasso group is Tête (Maquette pour la sculpture en plein air du Chicago Civic Center), a sheet metal maquette conceived and created by Picasso during 1962-1964 (estimate: $25,000,000-35,000,000). While reserving the present maquette for himself, Picasso sent another to Chicago as the model to be used in creating the completed freestanding sculpture, which measures 65 feet in height, and occupies today, as it did when it was unveiled 15 August 1967, the plaza in front of the Civic Center building. The monumental sculpture, which was constructed in welded iron, is hailed as Picasso’s final great sculpture, the crowning work of his career in three dimensions.

Painted in 1971, Buste d’homme écrivant (Autoportrait) (estimate: $6,000,000-8,000,000) portrays a likely self-portrait of Picasso with a pen and book in hand, possessing the mirada fuerte, the dark eyes that project a powerful gaze, signifying the artist’s presence. In Picasso’s œuvre, self-portraiture was mainly a theme he explored as a young man; he only rarely revived this practice during and after his high cubist period. There are occasional instances of self-portraiture during his return to the figure in the neo-classical phase, but only sporadic instances thereafter. Picasso in the present homme écrivant may have perhaps taken the opportunity to reminisce, with the visible pleasure of some satisfaction, upon his own second creative life as a poet, in thoughts prompted by his final poem, which he regarded as his magnum opus in this form. The artist has depicted himself as a man noticeably younger than his actual ninety years, certainly with more hair on his head, just as he appeared some three decades earlier in the self-portrait at his easel and in a photograph of 1939. This work was acquired by Krugier from the artist’s granddaughter, Marina Picasso.

Femme de Venise I is among the six works by Alberto Giacometti that will be offered in the evening and day sales (estimate: $9,000,000-12,000,000). Standing over three-feet-tall, the work in bronze belongs to a series of nine individual but closely related figures that are among the artist’s best-known works. The Femmes de Venise are the result of Giacometti’s invitation to participate in both the 1956 Venice Biennale and a major retrospective at Kunsthalle Bern in Switzerland. Giacometti felt that the combination of such prestigious occasions warranted a massive creative endeavor that would serve as a major and most up-to-date statement of his work. As a result of his efforts, these Femme de Venise are generally regarded as having significantly contributed to Giacometti’s establishment as the most preeminent sculptor of his time. As he intended, all nine resulting sculptures reveal Giacometti’s arduous artistic process, in which he tracked the model’s changing and ultimately varied shapes, while still maintaining the overall theme. Femme de Venise I, which was purchased by Jan Krugier at Christie’s, was likely completed early by the artist, if not first, in the sequence.

Joan Miró’s Peinture-L’Oiseau of 1926 (estimate: $8,000,000-12,000,000) is imbued with the hallmark elements of his pioneering series of “dream” pictures, often considered the most radical works in the artist’s œuvre. With nearly one hundred canvases of this kind completed between the summer of 1925 and April 1927, these dream paintings were the artist’s first major extended sequence of work, in which he resolved to intuitively explore the deepest recesses of his creativity and subconscious. Peinture-L’Oiseau employs the pictorial language of the series, with the incorporation of freely invented “signs” that would affect the viewer simultaneously with both their whimsical humor and more deeply profound implications, capable of representing anything Miró chose.

Several Post-War & Contemporary artists from Krugier’s collection will be included in the sale, including Basquiat, Rauschenberg, Francis and Guston. Leading the group is Crisis X, executed by Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1982, the year the artist cemented his reputation as a rising star of the New York art scene (estimate: $3,000,000-4,000,000). After growing tired of the pre-prepared canvases previously supplied to him, Basquiat instructed his assistant to construct frames with whatever materials he could find. Crisis X is among these resulting artworks, which instantly won fans, as they reflected the discarded odds and ends of New York’s East Village, laden with a great depth of subject matter and sophistication in style and technique.

Sam Francis painted his spectacular Untitled (SFP 59-35) in 1959, upon his return to New York City from Paris (estimate: $2,500,000-3,500,000). With its bold chromatic shapes and free handling of paint, the work captures the energy and frenetic pace of the artist’s new surroundings, while its bravura drips recall the city’s Action Painters. Exhibited at the seminal ‘Sam Francis: Paintings 1947-1990,’ at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, Untitled (SFP 59-35), seamlessly tempers dense structure and razor-sharp clarity with weightless, luminescent color.

Two works by Philip Guston will also be included in the auctions. Painting on Floor was painted in 1978, toward the end of the artist’s life, acts as a metaphor for the artist’s constant struggle with self-identification and acceptance (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000). The powerful image of a back-facing canvas propped up against a wall reflects Guston’s self-doubt as an artist, despite his considerable critical success, resulting in a projected sense of loneliness and isolation. In this work, the frustrations of the artist are pictorialized, as the days he would spend striving for creativity frequently resulted in personal disappointment. An allegorical self-portrait, Guston has placed himself (in the form of a painting) between the foreground and background of the composition, becoming trapped in the work and effectively conveying his struggle for the human artistic endeavor.

Painted in 1965, just months after winning the Grand Prize for painting at the 1964 Venice Biennale, Robert Rauschenberg’s Turkey is painted almost entirely in blazing red, collaged imagery, which envelops the viewer in its impassioned narrative of postwar America (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000). Complicated, and chock-full of unexpected juxtapositions, Rauschenberg creates a vibrant portrait of the age and captures the majestic silhouette of the industrial skyline as seen from the artist’s Fulton street studio.

Among the highlights of the American artworks in Krugier’s collection is Dune at Truro by Edward Hopper (estimate: $300,000-500,000). First visiting Cape Cod with his wife in 1930, Hopper rented a house in South Truro for three summers before building a home and studio there in 1934. The couple began to spend six months there almost every year and Hopper found an abundance of subject matter in the unassuming homes and buildings that populated the peninsula, as well as the sandy dunes and crystalline light that give it its distinct character. Dune at Truro is a work on paper that was executed in 1930 during his pioneer voyage to the area and captures the light and topography that would captivate Hopper for the remainder of his career.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch Cliff is also among the American works that Krugier acquired (estimate: $400,000-600,000). Painted in 1952, after the artist settled in New Mexico, the work is a wonderful example of the southwestern landscapes with which the artist has become so closely associated. As with her finest works, the strength of Ghost Ranch Cliff lies in its careful balance of realism and abstraction, its intricate layering of objective and subjective meaning, and its wonderful synthesis of form and color.

Jan Krugier also had a strong penchant for Latin American artists; in addition to representing Wifredo Lam, he collected several works by Joaquín Torres-García, two of which will be available in the Evening Sale. Krugier represented the Estate of Joaquin Torres- Garcia on behalf of the artist’s grandchildren, who were inspired by the dealer’s exceptional understanding of art and the workings of the market. Composition, painted in 1929 (estimate: $200,000-300,000), after the Uruguayan artist settled in Paris, demonstrates Torres-García’s gravitation toward a group of artists who were exploring geometric abstraction, specifically Theo van Doesburg. The present work, along with the other constructivist paintings executed during this period, eventually led to Torres-García’s co-founding of the Cercle et Carré with Michel Seuphor. While displaying the artist’s clear fluency in Neo-Plasticism, or De Stijl, the intentional traces of his hand in this particular painting foreshadow Torres-García’s rejection of the movement and break with the Cercle et Carré. The following year, before leaving the Cercle et Carré, the artist executed Objet plastique (Bois constructif), an oil on incised wood panel that will also be offered in Krugier’s collection (estimate: $100,000-150,000). The work was first exhibited at the public debut of the Cercle et Carré in April 1930, but marks the beginnings of the aesthetic that he would embrace upon his return to Montevideo in 1934.

Highlighting the African art of Jan Krugier’s expansive collection is a Baule mask that has come to be known the Krugier-Picasso mask in honor of two of its proud owners, Krugier and Picasso (estimate: $500,000-800,000). Nowhere in the genesis of the Modern Art movement at the beginning of the 20th century is the profound influence of African art more apparent, powerful and consistently resonant than in the work of Picasso. This mask is a transcendent force of sculptural energy, with a vibrancy so apparent as to rival Picasso's most famous muses. Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) clearly and famously defined the mask association, which he then powerfully harnessed as a constant motif in nearly every aspect of his œuvre. Based on the strong plasticity of the mask, its appeal to André Breton, another owner of this work, and later Picasso is evident. Here the image of a bushcow is transformed into an architectonic state – imposingly rectilinear and yet full of expansive movement. The semi-circular mouth with pointed tongue appears in several of Picasso’s paintings, most notably Guernica (1937), where tortured bovines tangle with human figures. The Picasso-Krugier mask thereby represents a major axis upon which much of Picasso’s work revolved – the abstraction of African art itself, the mask and the bull.

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