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Finest Avant-Garde collection in a generation to be offered at Sotheby's New York
Giacomo Balla, Automobile in corsa. Painted in 1913. Estimate $12/18 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in New York on 6 November 2013 will open with a private collection of seminal works created between 1910 and 1930. Futur! Masterworks of the Avant-Garde features museum-quality examples by artists including Giacomo Balla, Joan Miró, Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris. Together, these works tell a compelling story of the European avant-garde, from Cubism and Futurism, through Dada, Surrealism and Abstraction. The fourteen pictures, estimated to sell for $67.2/95.1 million, represent perhaps the finest group of Modernist masterpieces to appear at auction since Sotheby’s landmark sale of the Malbin Collection in 1990. Sotheby’s will debut the collection in its London galleries from 12 – 17 October, before returning to New York for exhibition in its York Avenue galleries beginning 1 November. Highlights will also be shown in Hong Kong and Moscow this autumn.

Simon Shaw, Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art department in New York, said: “This is a treasure-trove of Modernism. Collections rarely explore a theme with such power and unity. Each work adds a distinct chapter, showing artists’ engagement with a radically transforming universe – mass communication, the automobile and airplane, technology, photography and cinema. Just as today’s world was born in those years, many more recent movements such as Pop Art, Minimalism, Conceptual Art and Abstraction also have their roots in the artists represented here.”

Mr. Shaw continued: “The collection is characterized by truly superlative quality. Several pieces – including Balla’s Automobile in corsa and Volucelle II by Picabia – number among the finest examples ever likely to come to the market. These extraordinary selections reflect the vision of Alain Tarica, who helped form the collection during the late 1960s and early 70s, and is celebrated for creating the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, and several others. M. Tarica explained how these remarkable works were brought together: “In the same way that the Italian Renaissance was an exceptionally rich period of radical cultural renewal, breaking with long-held traditions, the first half of the 20th Century in Europe also marked a major revitalization in the arts. This couple wanted to build a collection centered on the avantgarde of the first half of the 20th Century, when the artists were working, as they were during the Renaissance, as genuine innovators.”


Giacomo Balla, Automobile in corsa. Mixed-media on paper laid down on board. Painted in 1913. Estimate $12/18 million

A thundering vortex of white, gray and black, Balla’s dynamic Automobile in corsa exemplifies Futurist painting at its most thrilling. “Universal dynamism must be rendered in painting as a dynamic sensation,” was one of the principles of the Futurist Manifesto, and the present picture offers us the sensation of a speeding car as it appears to dematerialize while accelerating through space.

Futurist painting burst into the consciousness of the international art world with the opening of the exhibition Les Peintres futuristes italiens at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris in February 1912, and the following month with a group exhibition at Herwarth Walden’s Galerie der Sturm in Berlin. Automobile in corsa, which dates from the movement’s crescendo in 1913-14, is one of the greatest examples of their aesthetic principles. It belongs to a groundbreaking group of works that Balla executed in 1913-14 on the theme of cars in movement, exploring the Futurist themes of dynamism, speed and light. This series took Futurism to the brink of Abstraction. Supremely rare, Automobile in corsa is one of the most spectacular of the series.

Joan Miró, Bonheur d’aimer ma brune. Oil on canvas. Painted in 1925. Estimate $9/12 million
Executed in 1925, Bonheur d’aimer ma brune dates from the key period in Miró’s oeuvre. It belongs to a series Miró began creating in 1925 known as “poempaintings” in which poetic allusions, graphic signs, and painterly expression were interlaced on canvas. Having abandoned the fantastical figurative manner of his formative years, he was inspired by to Surrealism to develop a new visual idiom that first appeared in these works. The juxtaposition of painted text and oneiric imagery was a
revolutionary gesture for the artist.

In 1924, a year before Bonheur d’aimer ma brune was painted, the Surrealist movement was launched with the publication of André Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto. Breton’s credo of was rooted “in the future resolution of the two states seemingly so contradictory, which are dream and reality, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality” (Manifestos of Surrealism, Ann Arbor, 1972). Though he would not entirely espouse the Surrealist doctrine, Miró was encouraged by this ideology to replace visual representation with a direct articulation of his subconscious.

Francis Picabia, Volucelle II. Ripolin on canvas. Painted in 1922. Estimate $6/8 million
Volucelle II is one of a series of optical works including Optophone I and Conversation II which stem from Picabia’s growing interest in optical games and geometric abstraction. Disenchanted with persistent feuding among the Parisian Dada group, Picabia publicly renounced the movement, focusing instead on a new style of work. Between 1922 and 1923, he began to investigate the vibrational qualities of paintings by employing optical games as an addition to his aesthetic research. He found that the palpable energy in his resulting works provided an argument for the intrinsic life of paintings. Volucelle II is an important and enigmatic unraveling geometric abstraction which was unveiled at the Salon des Indépendants in 1923. The vibrations are vertical, alternating bands of black and white, created by a dynamic tension produced by opposing vertical forces.

Juan Gris, Tabac, journal et bouteille de vin rosé. Papier collé, oil and charcoal on canvas. Painted in June 1914. Estimate $7/10 million
Tabac, journal et bouteille de vin rosé epitomizes the Synthetic Cubist idiom Gris developed with Picasso and Braque in the years leading up to World War I. Gris constructs this composition with portions of tobacco packages, daily newspaper and faux bois patterning set off by painterly gestures of shading and trompe l’oeil effects. The work imparts the spontaneity of a tabletop bristling with the elements of Bohemian life in Paris after the turn of the last century.

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