A Surreal Legacy: Selected works of art from The Edward James Foundation to be offered at Christie's
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A Surreal Legacy: Selected works of art from The Edward James Foundation to be offered at Christie's
Pavel Tchelitchew, The Concert (1933, estimate: £250,000-350,000). © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.

LONDON.- Christie’s will present selected works of art from The Edward James Foundation on 15 December 2016 as part of Christie’s Classic Week. Iconic pieces that trace the development of Surrealism and reflect the tastes of the visionary patron of art and collector, Edward James, will be offered alongside a crosscategory selection of objects from West Dean House, collected by generations of successive owners.

The sale will comprise approximately 200 lots and the proceeds will be used to support the Foundation’s long-term plan to enhance Edward James’ educational legacy including a permanent exhibition space and a transformation of how the Foundation’s archives are managed and used. James sold a number of works in the 1970s and early 1980s to benefit the Foundation and this sale continues a long-standing relationship between Christie’s and The Edward James Foundation. With estimates ranging from £600-400,000, the sale provides opportunities for collectors at every level and will be on view from 10-15 December 2016.

Surrealism is the thread that ran through the whole of Edward James’ life and he was a patron and close confidant to some of the most significant artists in the movement including René Magritte and Salvador Dalí. After leaving university he lived in Paris where he soon started collaborating with the avant-garde circle around Paul Éluard, André Breton and most importantly Salvador Dalí, who said of him “Edward is as insanely relentless as myself”. Highlights of the auction include A sofa in the form of Mae West’s lips (1938, estimate: £250,000-400,000), A pair of Champagne standard lamps (1938, estimate: £100,000150,000) and Lobster Telephone (white aphrodisiac) (1938, estimate: £150,000-250,000), all of which were designed by Dalí and Edward James together and were made by Green & Abbott.

Another artist whose career James nurtured was the Russian Neo-Romanticist Pavel Tchelitchew, who created a sketch at West Dean House in 1934 that would instigate a long and conscientious artistic relationship. James acquired an extensive collection of Tchelitchew’s work, a large group of which is included in the sale. The highlight of the group is The Concert (1933, estimate: £250,000-350,000).

In the 18th and first half of the 19th centuries, West Dean had been the home of the Peachey family, whose portraits hang on the walls of the state rooms. Sir James Peachey, later 1st Lord Selsey, commissioned James Wyatt to remodel the house in 1804, who also probably supplied Gothic seat furniture, a selection of which is included in the sale. When Edward James’ father, William James, purchased West Dean in 1891, he also acquired many Peachey heirlooms, to which he added his own acquisitions to create the archetypal Edwardian country house. Highlights amongst the acquisitions of William James to be offered for sale include a pair of Louis XVI ormolumounted blue-ground porcelain 'lacrimal' vases, reputedly from Versailles (circa 1782, estimate £80,000-120,000), An Empire patinated-bronze and green porphyry tazza (circa 1800-08, estimate: £60,000-80,000) brought back from Russia circa 1808 by Alexander, 1st Duke of Hamilton and subsequently purchased at the celebrated sale of Christopher Beckett Denison’s collection at Christie’s in 1885, and Portrait of a boy playing golf by the shore, with vessels at sea by Bartholomeus van der Helst (illustrated above, left).

Orlando Rock, UK Chairman, Christie’s: “Edward James was touched by genius - and the inspirational Surrealist fantasies that he created at Monkton and elsewhere are testimony to his visionary patronage. This eclectic auction embraces the contrasting and pioneering tastes of several generations of this AngloAmerican family and will raise funds to safeguard the future of the educational Foundation at West Dean, through which Edward James sought to secure future generations of artistic creativity.”

Andrew Waters, Director of Sales, Decorative Arts, London and Head of Private Collections: “Edward James is best remembered for his brilliance in inspiring and empowering those around him, but his deserved reputation as a major patron of the Surrealists tells only part of the story. He demonstrated a unique ability to create a sense of magic in whatever he did and one of his most evident talents was his instinct to create environments full of surprise and wonder, witty and provocative. Christie’s very much look forward to offering a selection of works from West Dean in December.”

The Hon Peter Benson, Chairman of the Trustees of The Edward James Foundation: “The forthcoming sale marks the culmination and completion of much work in terms of reviewing the myriad of items acquired over many years, for the most part held unused and undisplayed at West Dean House. It will allow us to ensure that we can retain there the heart of the collection built up by Edward James and his family, passively to feature properly that legacy with all its Surrealist significance, and actively to enhance markedly the education of our students in conservation and the creative arts at West Dean College, the primary charitable objective of the Edward James Foundation.”

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