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Sotheby's to present Abstraction-Figuration: A private collection including works by Gerhard Richter
A Sotheby's employee poses with "Gudrun (633)" by Gerhard Richter from 1987 at Sotheby's in London. The piece is estimated to sell between 3.5 million - 4.8 million pounds. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett.
NEW YORK, N.Y.- This fall Sotheby’s will present Abstraction-Figuration: A Private Collection, a remarkable offering of paintings that thrive in the fertile space between abstraction and figuration. The collection is led by one of the most important groups of works by Gerhard Richter ever to appear at auction, which will be among the highlights of the Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 9 November 2011. That sale will also include works from the collection by Francis Bacon, Sigmar Polke, and Lee Krasner. The Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Auction on 2 November will feature a group of eight paintings by Max Ernst including The Endless Night from 1940, an acute meditation on Europe in the early years of World War II (est. $2.8/4 million).* Overall the collection is estimated to bring $40/56 million with works to be offered in five different sales.

“In more than two decades in the art world I have only encountered a small number of collections that rise to the level of Abstraction-Figuration,” commented Tobias Meyer, Worldwide Head of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s. “The paintings in this group have been assembled with a singular, brilliantly executed, vision and are of a caliber that rarely appears on the market.”

Gerhard Richter is celebrated as a premier theorist in the debate over the misconception of a separation between the genres of abstraction and figuration. The group of eight works from the collection spanning from 1984 to 1997 encompass the full breadth of the complexity and skill of his triumphant abstractions. The epic cycle of paintings envelops the viewer with broad chromatic expanses and, while non-representational, the paintings create a shimmering fluidity that evokes at times landscapes and waterscapes, while simultaneously challenging the traditional belief that art can capture an illusion of reality. Conceived through an extensive, time-consuming and labor intensive process, Richter’s introduction of “chance” into his creative process produces a calculated and magnificent chaos of color and structure.

The Richter paintings in the collection are led by Abstraktes Bild (849-3) from 1997 (est. $9/12 million). The other works are: Abstraktes Bild (769-2) from 1992 (est. $5.5/7.5 million), Gudrun (633) from 1987 (est. $5.5/7.5 million), Abstraktes Bild (679-1) from 1988 (est. $1.8/2.5 million), Abstraktes Bild (720-3) from 1990 (est. $1.8/2.5 million), Möhre (558-2) from 1984 (est. $2.5/3.5 million), Rain (676-2) from 1988 (est. $700/900,000), and an Untitled work on paper from 1985 (est. $200/300,000).

The collection also features two works by Francis Bacon. Interior of a Room is the defining work of the Irish-born artist’s pre-war career. The pictorial and thematic layering coupled with the artistic and ideological complexity demonstrates the unrestrained ambition of the young Bacon. Like the rest of the collection Interior of a Room achieves the almost inconceivable balancing act between abstraction and figuration. Corner of the Studio is one of the earliest surviving Bacon works, and solidifies his connection with Pablo Picasso (est. $150/200,000) that is also one of the strongest features of Interior of a Room.

In Forest, Lee Krasner used a collage of medium to mix fragments of previous oil paintings with shreds of paper to emulate abundant vegetation and an abstract tangle of trees (est. $800,000/1 million). The work was included in a 1955 solo exhibition that was critically acclaimed as showing a bolder, more confident style than her previous paintings. An Untitled 1999 work-on-paper by Sigmar Polke is also included in the Contemporary Art Evening sale (est.$250/350,000).

Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale
The November auction will include a remarkable group of eight works by Max Ernst that span the Dada and Surrealist artist’s prolific career. The Endless Night from 1940 is an acute meditation on Europe in the early years of World War II, painted during his creative peak post-separation from André Breton and the Surrealists (est. $2.8/4 million); Convolvulus! Convolvulus! from 1941 is a brilliant example from a small group of decalcomania masterworks that Ernst created after fleeing Europe for the United States (est. $1.5/2 million); and Les princes dorment mal from 1957 was painted after the artist’s return to France, a prime example of his works done with the grattage technique that he invented (est. $1.2/1.8 million).

20th Century Chinese Art
The collection also includes two works by Zao Wou-Ki that will feature in the 20th Century Chinese Art sale in Hong Kong next spring. The paintings come from the 1990s, a period when the artist was gaining increasing recognition in the international art world. The 1991 work, 10.1.91 depicts a Chinese poetic landscape that expresses the powerful vastness of nature (HK$8/14,000,000, US$1,026,000/1,796,000, above). In 28.12.99, Zao inherits and personalizes the aesthetics of the Chinese painting masters Huang Gongwang and Ni Zan from the Yuan Dynasty to depict depth and perspective (est. HK$ 6/8,000,000, US$ 770,000/1,026,000).

Other Sales
A Queen Anne Scarlet And Gold Japanned Bureau Cabinet, Circa 1710 will be offered in the sale of Important Furniture at Sotheby's London on December 6, 2011 (est. £100/150,000).

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