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Contemporary Art Evening

by Sotheby's


83 lots with images

November 14, 2006

1334 York Avenue

at 72nd Street

New York, NY, 10021 USA

Phone: 00 1 212 606 7000

Fax: 0141 204 2502

Email: info@sothebys.com

JOSEF ALBERS

Lot 1: JOSEF ALBERS

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Description: PROPERTY FROM THE VANTHOURNOUT COLLECTION1888-1976HOMAGE TO THE SQUARE: STUCCO SETTING48 x 48 in. 121.9 x 121.9 cm.signed with the artist's monogram and dated 59; signed, titled and dated 1959 on the reverseoil on masoniteThis work will be included in the Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings by Josef Albers currently being prepared by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and is registered under #1959.1.15.PROVENANCESidney Janis Gallery, New YorkMr. and Mrs. James H. Clark, DallasWaddington Galleries, Ltd., LondonAcquired by the present owner from the above circa 1999EXHIBITEDNew York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Josef Albers, November -- December 1959, cat. no. 26Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum, Continuity and Change: 45 American Abstract Painters and Sculptors, April -- May 1962, cat. no. 7Austin, University Art Museum, The University of Texas Exhibition Program, Color Forum, February - April 1972, n.p., illustrated in colorBrussels, Xavier Hufkens Gallery, Josef Albers, September -- October 1999NOTE``The shape of the square itself has a godlike rightness to it. It is a perfect form: of equal sides and equal angles. ....It has had a value through the centuries and will be valid in the future''Nicholas Fox Weber, Josef Albers, Milan, 1988, p. 11

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NIKI DE SAINT PHALLE

Lot 2: NIKI DE SAINT PHALLE

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Description: PROPERTY FROM THE VANTHOURNOUT COLLECTION1930-2002ANA LENA EN GRÈCEheight: 106 in. 270 cm.painted polyesterExecuted in 1965-1967, this work is unique.PROVENANCEAcquired directly from the artist circa 1969EXHIBITEDAmsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Les Nanas au Pouvoir, August -- October 1967, cat. no. 4Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Kunstverein, Niki de Saint Phalle: Werke 1962-1968, March -- April 1968Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Images, Models and Maquettes of Niki de Saint-Phalle, July - September 1976Aalborg, Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum, Niki de Saint-Phalle sculpteur, September -- October 1976, cat. no. 14, p. 6, illustratedKnokke-le-Zoute, Casino Knokke, Niki de Saint-Phalle, June -- September 1985LITERATURECarla Schulz-Hoffman, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Munich, 1987, p. 94, illustratedExh. Cat., Bonn, Kunst und Ausstellungshalle, Niki de Saint-Phalle, 1992, cat. no. 6, p. 85, illustratedNOTE"NIki de Saint Phalle is a priestess that can handle the contradictions of life in the form of death, who knows how to dominate despair and fear by making them emotionally acceptable, and gentle, even joyful and pleasurable, who knows how to attract the eye to make us discover poetry, fairy tales and children's stories while adding magic inspiration, constantly opposing and comparing it to the realities and brutality of society." Pontus Hulten, Niki de Saint Phalle, Exh. Cat. Bonn, Kunst and Ausstellungshalle, 1992, p. 13)

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JEAN DUBUFFET

Lot 3: JEAN DUBUFFET

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Description: PROPERTY FROM THE VANTHOURNOUT COLLECTION1901-1985CARNET DE VOYAGE59 x 75 in. 150 x 194.5 cm.signed with the artist's initials and dated 75; signed, titled and dated déc 1975 on the reverseacrylic on paper collage mounted on canvasPROVENANCEGalerie Beyeler, BaselAcquired by the present owner from the above circa 1980LITERATUREMax Loreau, ed., Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet: Théâtres de mèmoire, fascicule XXXII, Paris, 1982, cat. no. 8, p. 18, illustratedNOTEJean Dubuffet's Carnet de Voyage, executed in late 1975 is a momentous collage from the series Les Théâtres de mémoire. Throughout this series, Dubuffet explored how memory functions as opposed to visual observation. To achieve this effect, Dubuffet used the technique of assemblage (the systematic method throughout this series) to visually convey the disjointed elements of memory.Earlier that year while working on his series Lieux abrégés, Dubuffet noticed that the sheets of paper figures he was creating were scattered around his studio. Inspired by the random arrangement of these figures, he started to work with each one as a separate piece and then melded them into carefully integrated compositions. Despite this conscious process, Dubuffet's collages achieve a high level of spontaneity.Just as pieces of memory are rearranged and reconnected in the brain, Dubuffet's work encourages the viewer to draw connections and process the seemingly unrelated figures and shapes on the canvas. A "carnet de voyage" - a travel journal or diary- is a place where anecdotes and documentations of travel are collected, but they are not necessarily connected into a narrative. In similar fashion, there is no central focus in Carnet de Voyage, and we are forced to continuously re-create the stories and connections in Dubuffet's work. Our eyes scavenge the surface, retrieving and attempting to absorb the mélange of images, as works such as Carnet de Voyage test the multi-facted process of memory and seeing.

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EDUARDO CHILLIDA

Lot 4: EDUARDO CHILLIDA

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Description: PROPERTY FROM THE VANTHOURNOUT COLLECTION1924-2002SIN TÍTULO17 ¼ x 26 x 16 ½ in. 43.8 x 66 x 41.9 cm.stamp signedsteelExecuted in 1998, this unique work is registered in the archives of Museo Chillida-Leku, under number 1998-003.PROVENANCEGalerie Lelong, Zurich Acquired by the present owner from the above in June 1998NOTE"A piece of iron is in itself an idea, a powerful and inflexible object" Chillida wrote. By bending and forcing it to his will, each work becomes a struggle of the artist's mind over the inanimate matter. The evidence of this struggle remains inherent in Untitled (1998), the energy and force visible in the contorted iron, bent to the sculptor's will, so that "nothing can separate the space from the force that circumscribes it." (Cited in Giovanni Carandente, Eduardo Chillida, exh. cat. Venice Biennale XLIV, Milan, 1990, p. 21) Chillida's sculpture is not only about the iron it is cast from, but about the negative spaces enclosed by the curling arms and curved shapes.This sensitivity for the nuances of constructed space dates back to his early studies at the Architectural Faculty of the Colegio Mayor Jiménez de Cisneros in Madrid, and a sense of massive and balanced proportions -- if not actual scale -- permeates even the smallest works. Untitled (1998) in particular uses the visual language of his large scale public sculptures, and has the same beckoning and curving fingers of iron that are so characteristic of his monumental Peine del Vento (Wind Combs) of 1977, installed on the cliffs of San Sebastiano, in many ways the artist's personal tribute to his home town. Looking out over the Bay of Biscay, the massive beams of iron seem to be reaching for the horizon, and despite their density and size, hum as the wind passes through them (hence their name).Typically for Chillida, in Untitled (1998) there is a dynamic tension between the weighty immobility of the iron, and the implied movement of the curling beams that rise from it -- "like fringes disarranged by a mysterious breeze" (Ibid, p. 17). This piece plays on a balanced dynamic of opening and enclosing, introspection and extroversion - an embrace as intimate yet structurally elemental as a Henry Moore Family Group. At one end of the work the lower body opens out in a funnel shape, while the arms seem to hold back this aperture, and are crossed defensively. Tantalizingly, their cupping hooks almost touch -- but not quite, like the fingers of the Adam and God in Michelangelo's Creation of Adam. The energy of capturing the instant before touching rather than the great moment itself multiplies the kinetic tension, as we almost will the implied but unfulfilled contact to complete itself. As Chillida wrote, "There is an occult communication between everything near." (Cited in Exh. Cat., Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute of Art, Chillida, 1979, p. 21) No relationship is a given: every element in Untitled is differentiated and in contrast with its relative counterpart, creating a visual conversation across the piece. One side is higher than the other, but the cupping arms terminate in perfect parallel. At the closed end of the composition, the metal C-shapes, apparently a pair, are actually very different: one closes half way, while the other closes almost to a ¾ circle. Untitled (1998) gathers in itself the concerns and nuanced visual vocabulary of a lifetime in art, the product of an artist at the height of his creative powers. Success and recognition came early to Chillida, with an exhibition at the prestigious Salon de Mai in 1949 after only one year of working as a sculptor, and never left him. But despite his success in France, in 1951 Chillida returned to his native Basque country to learn blacksmithing, where thanks to the rich iron mines at the feet of the Pyrenees, iron working has a tradition dating back to 3,000 BC. According to the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, "Eduardo Chillida wanted to know muscular space without fat and heaviness. The world of iron is all muscles. Iron is the straight, the certain, the essential force." (Bachelard, "Le Cosmos du fer", Derrière le Miroir, nos. 90-91, October -November 1956, n.p.) Chillida found his true vocation with working in iron, which garnered him his well-deserved status as one of the greatest sculptors of the Twentieth Century, and saw his works placed among those of Giacometti, Moore, Caro and David Smith in the greatest museums of the world.

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FRANCIS BACON

Lot 5: FRANCIS BACON

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Description: PROPERTY FROM THE VANTHOURNOUT COLLECTION1909-1992VERSION NO. 2 OF LYING FIGURE WITH HYPODERMIC SYRINGE78 x 58 in. 197 x 147 cm.titled and dated 1968 on the reverse; signed and dated 1968 on the stretcheroil on canvasPROVENANCEMarlborough Fine Art, Ltd., LondonAcquired by the present owner from the above in 1970EXHIBITEDNew York, Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Inc., Francis Bacon: Recent Paintings, November - December 1968, cat. no. 15, p. 22 and pp. 50-51, illustratedLondon, Hayward Gallery, Francis Bacon, The Human Body, February -- April 1998, cat. no. 15, illustrated in colorLITERATUREExh. Cat., Paris, Musée national d'Art moderne, Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou, Francis Bacon, 1996, p. 57, illustratedDavid Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, p. 110, fig. no. 88, illustratedNOTEVersion No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe was painted at No. 7 Reese Mews, Bacon's home and studio for the last thirty years of his life, during what is considered to be his most fertile and canonical years of 1968 to1971. Photographs of his working space show a small room (13 x 26 feet) with the walls covered in paint (he used them as a palette for mixing colors, and jokingly referred to these as his only abstract paintings). The floor is hidden under a flood of papers, boxes, books and photographs, while every raised surface is crammed with paint pots and old brushes. After Bacon's death, when the Dublin City Gallery catalogued and recorded the contents for removal (to be reconstituted in Ireland), they listed 570 books, 1,300 leaves torn from magazines or catalogues and 1,500 photographs. Like a magpie's nest, Bacon had gathered round himself the images and sources that he assimilated and worked into his paintings (including the present work), picking and choosing from this horde of visual trophies. As a whole, his studio could be a metaphor for the constant visual bombardment of modern life. But the works that emerged are anything but cluttered: they bristle with an intensity that is both focused and stark.The most fertile of these sources was his collection of photographs. In an interview with David Sylvester, Bacon commented that "99 percent of the time I find that photographs are very much more interesting than either abstract or figurative painting. I've always been haunted by them." (David Sylvester, Interviews with Francis Bacon, London and New York, 1975) Sometimes the images were taken from magazines, medical journals or the chronophotography of Eadweard Muybridge, but often these were images of close friends and drinking companions, expressly commissioned. Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe is partly based on a photograph of Henrietta Moraes, a key member of Bacon's coterie and a fellow regular at Soho's Colony Club, where the owner Muriel Belcher gave Bacon free drinks and a £10 allowance since he brought in so much business. Moraes was the erstwhile wife of the Indian poet Dom Moraes, and claimed to have attended the Colony Club simply so that Bacon would paint her, which ultimately he did at least a dozen times. Moraes was also painted by Lucien Freud in the course of a year-long affair during the fifties. But unlike Freud, who spent hours analyzing and scrutinizing his models in his studio with forensic precision, Bacon preferred to paint in absentia, relying predominantly on the combination of photographic material and memory to inform his image production. Furthermore, he saw what he did as injurious, a violent paroxysm on the human figure that he did not want to practice before his subject. Painting in absentia freed the artist from the imperatives of empirical observation and allowed him to liberally reinvent the image in the sequestered isolation of his studio. Typically, Bacon did not limit himself to just one source and it is hard not to place Henry Fuseli's Nightmare among the antecedents of Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe. The thrown back arm, so eloquent of physical abandon, is a clear visual link between the paintings, as is the long flowing hair. The riotous body is not so much deformed as manifesting on its surface an inner turmoil, as she writhes in the grips of a very modern nightmare: a drug trip. Bacon claimed that the syringe had a purely visual purpose with no sinister connotations, as he also claimed about the Nazi armband in Crucifixion (1965), but in both these cases the allusive power of the objects is so loaded that it is disingenuous to deny their impact. Besides, the hypodermic syringe was to prove eerily prophetic, in that Henrietta Moraes became a heroin addict about a decade after the painting of this work. The swirling brushstrokes and rearranged features, as well as showing the influence of de Kooning, give a sense of captured movement over time, of film frames overlaid or a flipbook assembled into a single instant, like a writhing ghost within the flesh. Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe is one of Bacon's few forays into that great proving ground of Western art: the reclining female nude. It brilliantly illustrates his almost sculptural approach to painting, his ability to mould the fleshy paint like clay, to be shaped and arranged on the armature of the human skeleton. The result, almost discomfortingly intimate and poignant, is a brilliant reminder of the vulnerability of the human condition.Several other features of Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe are typical Bacon leitmotifs. The thin and schematic axonometric lines that enclose the reclining nude -- as they do the subjects of many other works -- frame the composition, enclosing her in an artificial and constructed environment. The nude becomes a specimen in a vivarium, an object enclosed and framed by its surroundings. Much of Bacon's art is about indication, about framing; about noticing and capturing something essential. In many of the later works red and white arrows appear, pointing at some particularly meaningful area of the composition, just as here the hypodermic needle was inserted into the composition of this painting specifically to achieve -- Christological connotations apart -- what Bacon described as "a nailing of the flesh onto the bed". Like a butterfly in a display case, the extended arm is fixed in place and indicated by the needle. "It's less stupid than putting a nail through the arm" he explained.(Quoted in David Sylvester, The Human Body, Exh. Cat. London, Hayward Gallery, 1998, p. 31.)The screen that curves around behind her, like sideways Venetian blinds, is derived from a Cinerama screen, which, according to the blurb on a fragment of a magazine advertisement found in Bacon's studio, "looks like an unbroken flat surface to the audience but it's actually made up of hundreds of overlapping vertical strips". These strips, in various forms, appear as curtains in numerous works, enclosing and framing the subject as if on a stage set, or else as visual interference with the image itself, distorting further the subject's features, as though caught in the disintegrating rush of a blast furnace (for example the Munchian Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953 ). In the foreground, the lines that bisect the canvas at a curve create the shape of an eye, while the female nude lies on an iris-shaped bed at the center. "I want to make the interior so much there that the form will speak more eloquently", Bacon explained (Cited in John Russell, Francis Bacon, London, 1971, p. 75.). This carefully constructed spatial arrangement, and sensitivity for creating striking settings, betrays his short lived but successful first career as an interior designer.Overall, Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe embodies and exemplifies every reason why Bacon was Britain's greatest post-war painter. The psychological and physical forces conveyed by his unique handling of paint and by his expressionistic treatment of the human figure place him clearly in what his first dealer, Helen Lessore, has called The Great Tradition. David Sylvester, the doyen of Bacon scholars, personally requested that Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe be included in the last Bacon show he curated, Francis Bacon: the Human Body. The show brought together a small and highly select collection of only twenty-three works, the highlights of a whole career. For David Sylvester, it crowned nearly fifty years of writing, analyzing and proselytizing Bacon's achievements. Also included was the earlier Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe of 1963, which has a less complex composition and lacks the detailed and characteristic Baconian setting. The central figure is also not as vigorously rendered as in Version No. 2, and David Sylvester described the difference. In "Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe, 1968, Bacon performed the same operation in a much more abstracted form, so that he came closer to de Kooning there than in any other of his works."(David Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, p.108) Sylvester is placing Version No. 2 at the peak of a defining tendency within Bacon's style: his abstract expressionist inspired gesture, the abstract handling of flesh and the human form as well as the energy apparent in his vigorous brushwork. It is not difficult to understand the importance that Sylvester ascribed to this work, especially in the context of a show dedicated to the human figure. The reclining nude figure of Henrietta Moraes treads a knife's edge between contorted enervation and decomposition, barely containing both states at once. The animated brushstrokes are all that separate her flayed limbs from the crucified side of beef in Painting 1946, or the dissected fish of Chaim Soutine. Bacon manages to combine the pathos of an ecce homo with the harsh reality of a memento mori: ecstasy and overdose, pleasure and pain, sleep and death: they are nothing but opposite sides of the same coin, a gamble taken with each shot, each fix. Life can only be truly defined by its opposite, death, just as light is defined by dark; and Henrietta's body walks the penumbra between the two. Bacon has achieved in this painting a level of pure mastery and a visual poetry that is both shocking and beautiful, brutally honest and yet profoundly empathic, making Version No.2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe a masterpiece with few equals in the whole of his long and stellar career.

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