Phillips to sell works by Max Ernst from the collection of Peter Schamoni

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Phillips to sell works by Max Ernst from the collection of Peter Schamoni
Max Ernst, Ohne Titel (les hommes ne le sauront jamais), circa 1921. Estimate: $600,000-800,000. Image courtesy of Phillips.

LONDON.- Phillips announced ‘Maximiliana: Max Ernst from the Collection of Peter Schamoni’. Through his close friendship with Max Ernst, renowned film director and screenwriter Peter Schamoni assembled an exceptional collection that serves as a lasting memento of one of the most significant artists of the 20th century. Over 80 works of art will be offered, starting with the 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day and Evening sales in London on 14 and 15 October, followed by New York in November. The sale of the collection will culminate in December with a dedicated online-only sale of works on paper, editions, photographs and ephemera.

Cheyenne Westphal, Global Chairwoman, Phillips, said, “The relationship between Peter Schamoni and Max Ernst, an artist who welcomed him into his home, studio and life for close to two decades, is at the heart of this esteemed collection. Having been on loan to the Max Ernst Museum in Brühl, the pedigree and art-historical significance of the works here is exceptional, but it is the deeply personal dimension of the collection which truly sets it apart. We are incredibly honoured and excited to present this to a global audience across our sales this season.”

Tobias Sirtl, 20th Century & Contemporary Art Specialist, Germany, said, “It is such a rare and magnificent opportunity to offer a collection which truly spans the entire oeuvre of an artist, from the early years to the late period. It represents a great depth of collecting, with works of the highest quality and carrying exceptional provenance.”

A Tale of Two Artists

Peter Schamoni was born in Berlin in 1934 as the son of the filmmaker Victor Schamoni and the actress and screenwriter Maria Vormann. Schamoni first met Ernst in the 1960s, a young filmmaker travelling to the French Touraine to start work on his first documentary about the artist that had so captivated him. This marked the start of a long friendship and various artistic collaborations. Schamoni’s films explored and excavated Ernst’s unique visual language, drawing on key themes and motifs that preoccupied the artist throughout his career, and which are well represented across the present collection.

Highlights from the 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, London

Spanning the early 1920s to the 1970s, the collection highlights Ernst’s relentlessly experimental approach to material and technique, bringing together paintings, drawings, sculpture, collage, prints, and his innovative frottages.

A leading highlight of the sale, Pyramid Lake is a record of both Ernst’s time in Sedona, Arizona, and of the filmmaker’s later retracing of his footsteps. After the war, Ernst settled in Sedona with Surrealist artist Dorothea Tanning in 1946, the same year that Pyramid Lake was completed. The home they built together was visited by avant-garde luminaries Lee Miller, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, among others. Schamoni’s 1991 feature-length documentary Max Ernst: Mein Vagabundieren – Meine Unruhe records this period, incorporating photographic images of the bare timber bones of their house erected against the surreal emptiness of the landscape. Hovering between dream and reality, the highly textured surface of Pyramid Lake is the result of Ernst’s experimentation with materials and process, a breath-taking example of his celebrated frottage works and decalcomania techniques.

Matin et soir resided in Ernst’s personal collection for four decades, until it was acquired by Schamoni. From his early Dada days, Ernst had demonstrated an interest in scientific and technical instruments. Executed in 1930, Matin et soir pushes this into new territory with the playful inclusion of a pyrometric watch, a conical tool used to ensure consistency in a kiln’s temperature. The pyrometric watch stands as a visual metaphor for the passage of morning into night referenced in the work’s title. A key theme running through Ernst’s oeuvre and fundamental to Surrealism, Matin et soir uses a characteristic quickwittedness to explore ideas around mutability and metamorphosis, condensed in the figure of his Bird-Familiar, Loplop. The present work has been widely exhibited and was included in the major 1979 Max Ernst retrospective in Munich.

Ernst had a long-standing fascination for the categorisations of natural history, and scientific motifs are threaded through the collection. Alongside a sustained interest in the instruments and tools of scientific inquiry that unities the works presented here, we also find more specific references to the practices of cartography in Euklid, 1950 (estimate: £200,000-300,000), and in Homme (Spezialpreis für die Kurzfilmtage in Oberhausen), 1960 (estimate: £65,000-85,000).

Highlights from the 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, New York

The title for this collection is taken from a 1966 film collaboration between Peter Schamoni and Max Ernst, Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausübung der Astronomie (Maximiliana and the illegal practice of astronomy). The subject of their film was German amateur astronomer and engraver Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht Tempel (1821-1889), whose discoveries were not properly recorded because his practice as an amateur was deemed to be ‘illegal’. Suffering persecution and humiliation, Tempel nevertheless discovered an asteroid which he named ‘Maximiliana’, a symbol around which Ernst and Schamoni would orient their deep friendship and many collaborations together.

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