Christie's to offer the collection of Prof Dr Karin von Maur

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Christie's to offer the collection of Prof Dr Karin von Maur
Alighiero Boetti, Inaspettatamente (Inexpectedly), 1974. Estimate: 70,000-90,000 EUR. © Christie's Images Ltd 2021.

AMSTERDAM.- The Curator’s Eye: The Collection of Prof Dr Karin von Maur proposes a selection of 145 works of art from the 20th Century. Works by German artists – from Schlemmer, Peter Roehr and Joseph Beuys to Hannah Höch and Daniel Richter – sit alongside international figures such as Alighiero Boetti, Alexander Calder and Roman Opałka. Rich in breadth and deep in scope, each work bears witness to the eye for detail, quality and significance that drove every aspect of her scholarly activities. The online sale will take place on between 11 and 25 May 2021.

A historian, curator and an important cultural voice of her generation, Karin von Maur (born 1938) played a key role in shaping the German art scene as deputy director of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. She oversaw the archive of the German artist Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943), becoming an internationally-renowned expert on his oeuvre and authoring the artist’s catalogue raisonné in 1979.

During her time at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, von Maur organised exhibitions with works by Max Ernst, Max Beckmann and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner to Pablo Picasso, Yves Tanguy and Juan Gris. Her broader view on 20th century art came well across the 1985 exhibition and accompanying monograph The Sound of Painting: Music in Modern Art, which examined the relationship between artists and composers during the period.

Prof Dr Dirk Boll, President Christie’s EMEA remembered: “When I moved to Stuttgart in 1995, Karin von Maur was the undisputed doyenne of classic Modern Art. She was a true opinion leader, whose informed opinions and judgements were deeply respected by the art world. Over the years, it has been a regular pleasure to meet Karin von Maur and to hear her point of view – usually formulated in two or three sentences. In order to be both concise and precise, one has to know a great deal. An invitation to her house in Stuttgart revealed further facets. Her very broad interests had manifested in a very private collection, which was home to her idol Oskar Schlemmer, but which was more grounded in intellectual context and artistic influence than in the cult of genius. It is a great pleasure to present Karin von Maur’s remarkable collection at auction in Amsterdam this May.”

A selection of highlights from the collection:

Acquired directly from the artist in 1970, and held in the von Maur collection for the half-century, In der Wüste (In the Desert | 1927-1929 | estimate: €40,000-60,000 ) is a photomontage by Hannah Höch (1889-1978). The work depicts a fantastical landscape, formed of monochrome photographic cut-outs collaged over a watercoloured red and green ground. In the foreground are two curious creatures and twin Zeppelin hulls rise into the red sky behind them, like the mountains of an alien planet. Between 1926 and 1929, Höch was living with her female partner Til Brugman in the Netherlands, and her works of this period display a particular exploratory freedom. Höch had become interested in portraying the independent ‘New Woman’ of Germany’s Weimar society, and was working at the time on her series From an Ethnographic Museum, a group of figures that challenged racial and gender stereotypes.

The collection’s important works by Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943) are reflecting Karin von Maur’s close engagement with the artist. As the head of his archive, she authored his catalogue raisonné in 1979, and published widely on his oeuvre. The selection of works offered in this sale bears witness to Schlemmer’s rich exploration of the human form, like the work on paper Stehender (geteilt) (Standing Figure (divided) |1915-16 | estimate €10,000-15,000). Influenced early on by Cubism, he refused to follow his Bauhaus colleagues down the path of pure abstraction, grounding his investigations in the relationship between the figure and space. Schlemmer saw the human figure as a sacred, totemic pillar that had the power to transcend earthly machinations: by reducing it to a series of abstract, near-architectural forms, he sought explore its intrinsic, universal rhythms.

Executed circa 1930, Éclipse de Soleil (Solar Eclipse) is a vivid work on paper by Marianne von Werefkin (1860-1938 | estimate €6,000-8,000). The artist was fascinated by natural phenomena, and their ability to shed light on the transience of human existence. One of very few women associated with the Expressionist movement, Werefkin was working at the heart of Munich’s avant-garde scene at the turn of the twentieth century. Born near Moscow in 1860, she had studied with the great Russian Realist painter Ilya Repin, when she met Jawlensky. The couple moved to Munich in 1896, where Werefkin hosted a salon, where the foundation of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (New Association of Artists in Munich, or NKVM) was discussed in 1909, ultimately paving the way for Der Blaue Reiter.

Inaspettatamente (Unexpectedly|1974|estimate €70,000-90,000) comes from Alighiero Boetti’s acclaimed series of biro works, made of colour from ballpoint pen. In the present work, rhythmic waves of black ink fill the surface, shifting in texture and density; at the upper centre, the title appears in white block capitals, as if anticipating the sudden appearance of a new message from the darkness below. Inaspettatamente’s shimmering expanse of darkness is imbued with the distinctive rhythm of its maker, which results in subtle textural and chromatic undulations across the composition.

Revelling in the results offered by chance, error, and the different hands involved, Boetti embraced the quirks this form of collaboration brought to his vision.

Acquired in 1974, and unseen in public since that time, OPALKA 1965/1-∞ DETAIL 1243401-1246137 stems from the early phases of the singular project that consumed Roman Opałka’s (1931-2011) life and art. In 1965, in his studio in Warsaw, he embarked upon a unique mission: to inscribe, by hand, the numbers from one to infinity: an unparalleled existential thesis on the passage of time. Opałka carefully sequenced his digits across successive works, known as ‘details’, starting in the top left corner and working his way to the bottom right in horizontal rows. From a distance, the results resemble shimmering abstract constellations; only up close does their obsessive rigour become apparent. The present work is an example of the works on paper that accompanied the artist’s paintings. Opałka reversed the tonalities of his paintings, working in dark ink upon a pale background (estimate €40,000-60,000).

Untitled painted by Daniel Richter (b. 1962) in 2005 and illustrated on the first page is a vivid example of the artist’s distinctive figurative language. Four spectral figures stare out of the canvas, their expressions masked and ghoulish. Bright, acidic yellow and red tones pick out their features, as if seen through an infrared lens or night vision goggles. This searing, hyperreal quality is typical of Richter’s practice, which draws upon newspaper photographs, magazines, history books and other printed sources. His works largely evade specific commentary, appearing before the viewer like fragments from an incomplete story. Such is the case with the present work, whose protagonists hover like prisoners within a timeless, placeless void (estimate €12,000-18,000).

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