The strength of demand for the very best Impressionist and Modern Art has been demonstrated at Christies
in 2014 with the record breaking London Evening Sale in February, which set the highest total for any art auction held in London and the stellar New York Evening Sale in May, which achieved the highest total for the category in New York since May 2010. Both auctions attracted deep, international bidding and high sell through rates of 86% by lot and 96% by value, and 89% by lot and 96% by value, respectively. Christies London Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on 24 June will continue to meet current market tastes with a rich offering of 60 avant-garde and modern works by the towering greats of the 20th century, many of which are being offered at auction for the first time.
A group of four masterworks by Alberto Giacometti from an important private collection presents the market with one of the most significant collections of works by the artist to come to the market in many decades. The star lot is Giacomettis iconic sculpture La Main, conceived and cast in 1947, which was in the New York exhibition that launched Giacomettis Post-war international career (estimate: £10-15 million). The wealth of highlights from other private collections also include Composition A, with Double Line and Yellow, 1935, by Piet Mondrian which is among the property being offered from the Rudolf and Leonore Blum Collection (estimate: £5-8 million); Lartiste et le modèle nu, 1921, by Henri Matisse (estimate: £7-10 million); and arguably the most important work by Kurt Schwitters ever to come to the market, Ja Was? Bild (Yes-What?-Picture), 1920, which is one of only three early large reliefs from this first revolutionary Merzbilder series to remain in private hands (estimate: £4-6 million). It is offered from the Viktor and Marianne Langen Collection; this follows the sale of works from the collection at Christies New York in May which was 100% sold and realised $79,829,000. With estimates ranging from £200,000 up to £15 million, the pre-sale estimate for the Evening Sale is £96,350,000 to £141,450,000. Select highlights from the sale will go on view for the first time between 13 and 17 June during Christies free five-day public exhibition Open House 2014 which will showcase timeless international masterpieces of the summer auction season.
Jay Vincze, International Director and Head of The Impressionist and Modern Art Department, Christies London: We are thrilled to have brought together such an exciting, varied and rare group of 60 works, which perfectly encapsulates todays informed, intelligent and eclectic collecting tastes. Many of these works are appearing at auction for the first time in generations and have formed part of some of the most celebrated collections of 20th century art. Following the huge success of both our record breaking February sale in London and our May sale in New York, we are looking forward to welcoming global collectors to London and to furnishing them with numerous opportunities to acquire museum quality works at auction. This important sale leads a week of Impressionist and Modern Art and 20th century Modern British and Irish Art sales at Christies London, including the highly anticipated Picasso Ceramics auction and our first online-only auction of modern sculpture Small is Beautiful.
Alberto Giacometti 4 Masterworks from an Important Private Collection
The importance of La Main, by Alberto Giacometti was highlighted by the artist himself who sent it to the United States at the end of 1947 to be shown at Pierre Matisses gallery the following January in the groundbreaking exhibition that launched Giacomettis Post-war international career (estimate: £10-15 million). Offered with highly evocative provenance, this cast - the first in a series of just five - was soon acquired from Pierre Matisse by Edward James, the celebrated English collector and patron of the Surrealists. James went on to give it to Ruth Ford, an American model and actress, possibly as a gift on the occasion of her marriage in 1952 to the Hollywood actor Zachary Scott. The bronze remained in Ruth Fords apartment in the Dakota building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where it would have been seen by, among others, William Faulkner, Orson Welles, Tennessee Williams and Andy Warhol, until it was sold to the present owner at auction in 1985.
The aesthetic power of this sculpture resonates on many levels. The hand is our prime intermediary between the mind and the world, it allows thought to act upon and transform the world. The outstretched hand expresses the human need to grasp, to reach out towards the world and to aspire within it; the hand enables us to realise our potential in accomplishing all things, a particularly potent symbol for a sculptor. In the face of another, the hand may embrace in love or ward off in fear, extend itself in joy or lamentation. No part of the human body, except for the head itself, is a more powerful expression of the totality of human endeavour. As fragile as it may appear, Giacomettis La Main carries the emotional and symbolic weight of all these gestures. Giacometti created three sculptures during 1947 that represent parts of the human body La Main, Le Nez and Tête sur tige as he set out to work on the first of his famously thin, elongated signature sculptures.
This work is offered alongside three other masterworks by Giacometti from the same Important Private Collection, including Femme de Venise II, which was conceived in 1956 and cast in the artists lifetime (estimate: £8-12 million). Displaying an extraordinary and rare golden patination, the present cast belongs to the renowned series of sculptures known as the Femmes de Venise, comprising nine individual but closely related figures cast in bronze, which played a significant role in establishing Giacomettis fame and reputation as the most important sculptor of the Post-war era. They were created in response to a landmark invitation from the French government to exhibit in the main gallery of the state pavillion at the 1956 Venice Biennale; Giacometti also agreed to a major retrospective at the Kunsthalle Bern that would run concurrently. Keen to show only his very latest sculptures, Giacometti decided to create a series of standing nude women, and set to work in early 1956, initiating a rush of sustained and feverish activity that lasted until the end of May. Using a single armature, Giacometti worked and reworked the figures almost daily; his brother Diego making plaster casts, which required only a few hours pause in Albertos work, whenever he had achieved a result that interested him at that moment.
The other two stellar works from the collection both depict Giacomettis wife Annette. Portrait de femme (Annette) dates from 1954, one of the artists highpoints of his portraiture; it shows his wife seated within one of the most complex visual armatures of his career (estimate: £3.5-5.5 million). Annette IV, conceived in 1962 and cast in the artists lifetime, is one in a series of ten portrait busts that Giacometti created of his wife between 1962 and 1965 (estimate: £1.5-2 million). This work demonstrates the artists assertion that sculpture should capture an essential quality of the sitter through an extreme measure of style rather than exact physiognomic representation.