Sotheby's to offer one of the most important works to come to auction by František Kupka

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Sotheby's to offer one of the most important works to come to auction by František Kupka
Complexe carries an estimate of £2,200,000-2,800,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.

LONDON.- An exceptional painting by František Kupka from the estate of the late Sir Sean Connery, the original James Bond actor, is set to make its auction debut in London on March 1 as part of Sotheby’s Modern & Contemporary Evening sale. An extremely rare work by the Czech painter, Complexe carries an estimate of £2,200,000-2,800,000 – the highest estimate ever to be placed on a work by the artist at auction. The work was acquired by the late actor and philanthropist in 2016, and proceeds from its sale will partially benefit The Connery Foundation, set up in 2022 to honour Sir Sean’s legacy through strategic grantmaking to institutions and organisations in Scotland and the Bahamas.

Thomas Boyd-Bowman, Head of Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sales, Sotheby’s London, said “One of the key artists credited with developing abstraction, Kupka’s place in the history of modern painting is finally being recognised by today’s top collectors. This groundbreaking early work is a superb example of the artist’s relentless exploration of motion, spirituality and colour through abstraction. To be able to present this extremely rare work at auction alongside seminal paintings by Kandinsky and Delaunay – contemporary pioneers of abstraction – will make for a thrilling juxtaposition.”

Renowned the world over for his acting, Sir Sean Connery was also a passionate art collector, in particular favouring modern works of art by Picasso and Matisse. Kupka – alongside Kazimir Malevich, Wassily Kandinsky, Hilma af Klint and Piet Mondrian – laid the foundations for purely abstract painting in the 20th century. Although the artist himself resisted being directly associated with any singular movement, he worked closely with the Cubists, Futurists and Fauvists, and was a pioneer of Orphism - an offshoot of Cubism that focused on pure abstraction and bright colours, and a term coined by the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire in 1912.

Painted in 1912, Complexe is an amalgamation of swirling colour and radiant nebulous forms that was produced within the artistic firmament of the Parisian avant-garde, when artists were beginning to experiment with new modes of expression. Kupka – a self-proclaimed ‘colour symphonist’ – associated different colours with varying emotions in a manner reminiscent of Kandinsky’s synaesthesia. Complexe was first exhibited at the famous Salon de la Section d'Or in Paris in 1912, alongside Compliment, now in the collection of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, which announced Kupka’s accomplishment of a pure abstraction.

Kupka’s importance in the history of modern painting is becoming increasingly appreciated, in tandem with celebrations of the artist’s oeuvre in major retrospectives around the world, most recently at the Grand Palais in Paris in 2018. Since its inaugural unveiling to the public in 1912, Complexe has appeared in numerous exhibitions across Europe and Asia. Originally gifted to the artist’s close friend, the poet and art critic Nicolas Beauduin, the work features a dedication to its first owner and subsequently passed into the collection of his daughter, before later entering the collection of Sir Sean Connery.

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