Christie’s Unveils Stellar Selection For London’s The Art of The Surreal Auction

The Art of The Surreal

Christie’s stellar selection of 36 lots in the much anticipated annual London evening sale of The Art of The Surreal on 4 February 2015. The auction comprises works from many important collections, led by Joan Miró’s masterful L’oiseau au plumage déployé vole vers l’arbre argenté, 1953, from a Distinguished European Collection (estimate: £7-9 million, illustrated above left). Tailored to meet the market’s ever growing appetite for surrealist works, further highlights include notable examples by Magritte, Chagall, Picabia, Arp, Ernst, Tanguy and Dominguez. Christie’s overall evening of Impressionist, Modern and Surrealist Art on 4 February has a total pre-sale estimate of £92.8 million to £133.8 million (please see separate Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale release).

Olivier Camu, Deputy Chairman, Impressionist and Modern Art, Christie’s: “This February Christie’s is offering the strongest and most valuable grouping of Surrealist art to be offered at auction, worldwide, to date. At the core of the group are two anonymous private collections which are each the result of over 50 years of passionate collecting by their respective owners. We are proud to present the most important and impressive group of works by Magritte and Miró to come to the market. Many works are at auction for the very first time and are thus totally fresh to the market and should appeal to today’s broad group of discerning international collectors, who increasingly recognise and appreciate the influence that the Surrealists had on subsequent artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.”

This auction comprises a total of six works by Joan Miró, providing the market with what is arguably the best group of works by Miró to be offered in a single sale. The top lot of the group is Joan Miró’s masterful L’oiseau au plumage déployé vole vers l’arbre argenté, 1953, which is a remarkable example of his artistic developments in the early 1950s (estimate: £7-9 million, illustrated above centre). Covering a large canvas, the painting combines a wealth of effects, pairing precise, graphic details with expressive effusions of paint.

Works from A Distinguished European Collection, the same collection from which Francis Bacon’s major portrait Seated Figure (Red Cardinal), which was recently sold in New York on 12 November for $45 million/ £28 million. The full collection of 31 twentieth century works of art is expected to realise a combined final total in excess of £64 million ($100 million), for the press release on this collection please click here.

A total of 9 works by René Magritte are presented in the sale, 8 of which are from the Distinguished European Collection which comprises 4 oils on canvas and 4 gouaches on paper. This season’s offering by the artist spans Magritte’s oeuvre and includes much of his most iconic imagery, together constituting the most extraordinary and extensive group of works by Magritte to come to the market since the landmark Harry Torczyner sale in 1998, which took place at Christie’s New York and established new market price levels for the artist. Leading the group is Les compagnons de la peur, a triumphantly eerie work from 1942 which centres on the subject of transformation, challenging the realms of possibility and turning the traditions of landscape and portraiture painting on their head, to present – perched atop a mountain – four owls transforming from bird to plant world, or vice-versa

(estimate: £2.7-3.5 million, illustrated left). Magritte’s highly poetic gouache Le thérapeute, 1962, subverts the nature of pictures and the concept of the portrait with the captivating absence at the heart of the composition: the torso of the subject is a void through which the blue sky and clouds of a summer’s day entices the viewer beyond the twinkling night sky (estimate: £600,000-900,000, illustrated page 1 and right).

A beautifully composed painting that dates to a period of great happiness and stability for Marc Chagall, Jeune fille au cheval, 1927-1929, is offered at auction for the first time, having been acquired by A Private European Family almost 60 years ago (estimate: £2.2-2.8 million, illustrated right). A mirage of surreal and magical lyricism and blissful romance which encompasses Chagall’s favoured themes of love, memory, music and fantasy, Jeune fille au cheval exemplifies the artist’s unique and deeply personal artistic vision. Executed in iridescent, delicate

Chagall’s colours and soft brushstrokes, it depicts a woman adorned in flowers sitting atop a horse emerging from a misty blue haze, while an airborne violinist plays across from her, with a rural street scene from Chagall’s beloved hometown, Vitebsk, beyond. Chagall’s works from this period have a soothing, gentle atmosphere. Filled with flowers, lovers or fiddlers, they all exude a poetic harmony. In Jeune fille au cheval the components of the composition are unified through the delicate light, rich colours, and tender, romantic mood. The rich blue, dreamlike haze from which the image emerges could have developed from Chagall’s fascination with the French landscape, particularly the Côte d’Azur, which the artist had visited for the first time in 1926, three years before Jeune fille au cheval was painted. The gentle glow of light lends the painting a pictorial cohesion and compositional unity while evoking the fantastical, imaginary context.

The sale also presents surrealist works by a total of 15 artists, including an exquisite painting by Yves Tanguy from 1935, Composition surréaliste, depicting strange rock-like forms or personages stretching out across the painting like a strip of calligraphy (estimate: £450,000-550,000, illustrated left); and Madamme, 1937, by Oscar Domínguez, which dates from the artist’s partisan years within Surrealism, when he contributed extensively to the movement and produced some of his most significant works (estimate: £400,000-600,000, illustrated right). The other artists featured are: Salvador Dalí, Paul Delvaux, Alberto Giacometti, André Masson, Matta, Odilon Redon and Antoni Tàpies.    


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