Art with a bite: The CoBrA sale comes to Bonhams network
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Art with a bite: The CoBrA sale comes to Bonhams network
Asger Jorn, "Together but not content", Oil on canvas. 54 x 45 cm. Estimate: € 50,000 - 60,000/ 400,000 – 500,000 DKK. Photo: Bonhams.

COPENHAGEN.- The Danish auction house Bruun Rasmussen, part of the Bonhams network, presents CoBrA: Powerful Voices of Post-War Europe – a sale of works from the c movement, a collection of artists based in Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam. This 122-lot sale will take place at Bruun Rasmussen in Copenhagen on 6 December.

The CoBrA group was created by the Danish artists Asger Jorn and Carl-Henning Pedersen, Dutch artists Karel Appel and Constant Anton Nieuwenhuys as well as Belgians Corneille, Pierre Alechinsky and Christian Dotremont. The group was founded in November 1948 in Paris, at the café of the Hotel Notre Dame. The French artists, Jean-Michel Atlan and Jacques Doucet, soon became members as well. Together, the CoBrA group wanted to go beyond the academic art teachings of the time, and they found the prevailing movements, such as Abstract Art, too rigid and rational. These artists advocated spontaneous and experimental art, and practices inspired by Primitivism. They were particularly interested in children's drawings and the art of those who were considered outsiders. However, this international collaboration was short-lived. The CoBrA group disbanded in November 1951 after three joint exhibitions.

The first exhibition, in 1949 in Amsterdam, made quite an impact on a public baffled by the works. However, rejection quickly gave way to acceptance and then recognition – particularly in Scandinavian countries, and elsewhere in the world.

Jorn, Appel and Alechinsky, major figures of CoBrA, are well-represented in this sale.

“CoBrA was my school”, said Pierre Alechinsky, who at the end of the 1940s, at the age of 22, met Christian Dotremont, with whom he would form the core of the Belgian branch of the movement. His style developed during the 1950s, combining oriental calligraphy with the universe of imaginary creatures of CoBrA, reviving the Flemish tradition for the fantastic. A vividly coloured work by Alechinsky, Dernier arbre ('The Last Tree') 1970, was first exhibited at famous Galerie Birch in Copenhagen. Estimate 600,000-800,000 DKK (€80,000-110,000).

A painting by Asger Jorn Together but not content, 1948 (Estimate 400,000 – 500,000 DKK (€55,000 - 65,000) of brightly coloured beasts is inspired by Scandinavian tales representing monsters with pointed beaks and sharp claws.

The sale will also feature a large format work by Karel Appel Grosse Tier verschlingt kleines Tier” (Big beast devours small beast), 1958 which was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1964. The work has an estimate of DKK 1,500,000-2,000,000 (€200,000-270,000). Appel lived in several countries, notably in France where he settled in 1950. His work was actively supported by critics such as Michel Ragon and Michel Tapié, who saw Appel’s work as the European equivalent of American abstract expressionism.

Niels Raben, Head of Modern and Contemporary Paintings at Bruun Rasmussen, said: “All the great figures of the CoBrA movement will be represented in this sale, and it is a strong symbol of our European network and collaboration. This project is a great opportunity to present these paintings to European collectors.” 

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