Sotheby's London to offer private Swedish collection of Modern & Contemporary art

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Sotheby's London to offer private Swedish collection of Modern & Contemporary art
Tom Wesselmann, Great American Nude No. 5, 1961. Oil and mixed media collage on board. Estimate: £500,000-700,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s announced that it will offer for sale an extraordinary group of Modern and Contemporary artworks from a Private Swedish Collection. Built by a private Swedish individual from the 1960s onwards, the assemblage comprises pre-eminent names from the 20th-century art firmament, including Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Henri Laurens, Tom Wesselmann, Alexander Calder, Josef Albers and Natalia Goncharova, among others. The 37 lots will be presented within a series of London sales in February, March and June 2013: Surrealist Art Evening, Impressionist & Modern Art Day, Contemporary Art Evening & Day, Old Master, Modern & Contemporary Prints, and Important Russian Art. Combined, the collection is estimated to bring in excess of £4.5 million ($7.2 million / €5.5 million / SEK 47 million).

Commenting on the sale of this collection, Peder Isacson, Senior Director, Head of Sotheby’s Scandinavia, said: “This collection truly epitomises the place and decades in which it was created. It is a cultivated response to the sheer variety and thrilling diversity of not only European, but also American Modernism, that was embraced by the city of Stockholm during the middle of the last century. Sweden was particularly receptive to Modernism during the post-war period and the 1960s became known as the ‘legendary’ decade in Stockholm cultural life. This is an historic collection that has remained intact. A monument to the era, its appearance on the market is a thrilling development in the exhilarating journey begun by a true collector.”

Alex Branczik, Senior Director and Head of Evening Sale, Contemporary Art, Sotheby’s, continued: “It is very exciting for Sotheby’s to handle such a cohesive and remarkable collection which has not been seen on the market in forty years. Defined by its connoisseurship and taste, the collection also boasts a visionary bent that distinguishes it as one of the most notable group of artworks assembled in Sweden in the last century.”

Surrealist Art Evening Sale, 5 February 2013
Max Ernst’s bronze Jeune homme au coeur battant was executed in the summer of 1944 during the artist’s stay at Long Island. Sculpture was of minor concern to Ernst until 1934, when Alberto Giacometti exposed him to a Modern style that drew heavily from non-European sources such as African and Native American art. The present figural sculpture is reduced to a series of volumes and curves, with two smooth concavities replacing anatomical elements. Imbued with volume and presence through Ernst’s ingenious craftsmanship – which involved a complex use of props and tools, even kitchen utensils – Jeune homme au coeur battant is closely related to ceremonial spoons made by the Dan people of West Africa. The work comes to the market for the first time in forty years and is estimated at £400,000-600,000.

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale, 6 February 2013
A work on paper by Marc Chagall, a gouche entitled La Famille and executed in 1954, comes to auction with an estimate of £220,000- 280,000. The gouache blends many of Chagall’s iconic motifs. An angel hovers above a new family in what can be interpreted as an act of blessing and guidance, the farmyard animal evokes the artist’s happy childhood in Belarus, and the blossoming of flowers in the centre of the picture adds an element of lushness to the midnight calm. The vibrant blue – one of the most beloved and recognizable artistic elements of Chagall’s oeuvre – is essential to the sense of intense love that pervades the composition. Euphoric, gentle and intoxicating in equal measure, the present work encapsulates the artist’s mastery of atmosphere.

Pablo Picasso’s Femme débout, a work on paper executed in pen and ink, wash and crayon on January 2nd 1964, carries an estimate of £200,000-300,000.

Acquired by the present owner in 1969, a group of bronze sculptures by Henri Laurens, each from a numbered edition of six, includes La Mère, conceived in 1935 (est. £120,000-180,000), Femme à l’éventail, conceived in 1919 (est. £180,000-250,000) and La Banderole, conceived in 1931 (est. £80,000-100,000).

Torse by Alberto Giacometti was conceived by the artist in 1925. In this year, Giacometti carved out of a block of plaster, a sculpture entitled Torse (in the collection of the Zurich Kunsthaus). From the plaster, at a later date, an edition in bronze was cast. As a result of Giacometti meeting the American industrialist G. David Thompson, the artist authorised the present, unique version of the sculpture to be made in stainless steel by his Pittsburg patron (est. £150,000-200,000).

Two examples of bronze furniture by Diego Giacometti, both acquired from the artist by the present owner in 1985, the year the pieces were conceived and cast, comprise Guéridon arbre de vie, modèle au hibou, each estimated at £90,000-120,000. The Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale will also include Vaudeville by Albert Gleizes, painted in New York in 1917 and estimated at £180,000-250,000.

Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 12 February 2013
Highlighting a group of works in the Contemporary Art Evening Auction from a Private Swedish Collection is Tom Wesselmann’s oil and mixed media collage on board, Great American Nude No. 5. The work, one of the earliest examples from his famous eponymous series of the same name, was created in 1961 and dates from the burgeoning moment of this iconic corpus. The crucial importance Wesselmann attached to his Great American Nudes is indicated by the frequency with which he returned to the subject during the first, formative decade of his artistic career. Great American Nude No. 5 is only the fifth version from this body of work; between 1961 and 1973 the artist created 100 versions on the theme of candy-pink, nubile blondes in various uninhibited poses within wholly Americanised domestic surroundings. Pictured against the Star Spangled Banner with its accompanying window onto ideal surburban America, Wesselmann’s blonde bombshell is a bold vision that unreservedly defines the language of Pop Art. Its importance was recognised early on with a showing at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1962. The artist’s affection for the picture is indicated by the particular care he took with its presentation, inscribing the words ‘gold frame’ on the reverse of the canvas alongside his address. The early versions from this series owe much to Henri Matisse’s ground-breaking reinvigoration of the female nude at the beginning of the 20th century. Wesselmann venerated the artistic traditions of previous centuries; here, he wittily updates the institution of the classical odalisque – celebrated by masters of the past, such as Titian and Ingres – for the economically booming consumer era. Estimated at £500,000-700,000, Great American Nude No. 5 is being offered on the market for the first time in 40 years.

An exquisite selection of works by Alexander Calder was acquired for the Swedish collection during the 1960s and 1970s, reflecting a growing European awareness of the international importance of the American artist. The Moderna Museet opened in 1958; fittingly, the first donation to the museum was a Calder. The Red Base, a painted metal and wire standing mobile, signed and dated 1969, is estimated at £500,000-700,000. It is a stunning example of Calder’s later works, a brilliantly conceived and executed celebration of the artist’s love of vibrant colour and graceful form. Calder was immensely popular in Sweden during the 1960s and 1970s, and the present work has been resident in the same Swedish collection since 1973 and as such not offered on the market in 40 years. Delicately posed on a trio of points, The Red Base seems primed to take flight with its ‘wings’ of wire quivering at either side of its apex. At the tips of the wire wings, white petals dance, whilst a yellow and black disk hovering at either side of the metal body suggests the anticipation of a solar eclipse. The overall dynamic effect – with the wire elements endlessly in motion – provides a dramatic contrast to the solidity of the base itself. In its conception and execution, Calder revels in the kinetic properties which characterize such an exuberant and graceful work. Further works by Calder, similarly unseen on the market in 40 years, include Red Skeleton, a painted metal stabile, estimated at £150,000-200,000, Red, Yellow and White and Untitled, each estimated at £150,000-200,000 and dated 1945, 1950 and 1954 respectively.

Study for Homage to the Square: “Nowhere” by Josef Albers, signed and dated 1964, comes to the market with an estimate of £180,000-250,000. Purchased by the present owner from a Sotheby’s sale of contemporary art in London in 1973, the work’s series of squares in different colours ‘move forth and back, in and out, and grow up and down and near and far, as well as enlarged and diminished’, according to the artist.

Contemporary Art Day Sale, 13 February 2013
Works by César, Germaine Richier, Richard Lindner and Nancy Graves comprise a group in the Contemporary Art Day Sale. The two bronzes by Richier – L’Araignée (Moyenne) and La Sauterelle, Petite, estimated at £10,000-15,000 and 18,000-25,000 respectively – were acquired by the present owner circa 1979.

Old Master, Modern & Contemporary Prints, 19 March 2013
The spring Prints sale will feature two works by Picasso from the collection, Femme au fauteuil No. 1 (est. £40,000-60,000) and Buste de femme à la chaise (est. £6,000-8,000). Femme au fauteuil No. 1 depicts Françoise Gilot dressed in the coat Picasso had brought back for her from Poland. The lithograph was produced in 1948 and over a two-month period, extending into January 1949, Picasso made eleven different versions. The present example demonstrates his mastery of the lithographic technique, from the soft tones and subtle shading of the sitter’s face to the rich, dense areas which represent Françoise’s hair and coat.

Important Russian Art, 3 June 2013
Having settled permanently in Paris in 1919, Natalia Goncharova painted Femme cubiste circa 1920. Goncharova was receptive to the most avant-garde artistic trends, gleaned from her wide circle of associates. The present work stands out from the artist’s oeuvre for the two-dimensional, non-representational forms and earthier palette which demonstrate a move from Matisse and the Fauves towards the art of Amédée Ozenfant and the Purists. In Paris, Goncharova studied non-Western, ‘primitive’ art and was a staunch advocate of Neo-Primitivism. The tight geometric forms of the figure in Femme cubiste betray that study. Despite her appropriation of innovative ideas, she maintained a strong sense of individuality in her work. Estimated at £600,000-800,000, this painting showcases her mature handling of colour composition and rhythm of line in the hard-edged forms.

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