Swiss Art, Zurich - 8 December 2015
Zurich – From Ticino to the canton of Schaffhausen and from Grisons to Geneva works by Swiss artists from nearly all cantons will be represented in the upcoming Christie’s SWISS ART auction, taking place on 8th of December at the grosser Vortragssaal, Kunsthaus Zurich for the 32nd time. 2015 marks Max Buri’s 100th death anniversary and it is with great pleasure that the sale will offer one of the painter’s famous works Handorgelspieler, consigned for sale from a Swiss private collection and offered for the first time at auction.
Max Buri and Ferdinand Hodler became friends at the turn of the last century and Hodler’s influence on Buri’s oeuvre has since been very noticeable. Buri’s main interest and focus point was to represent the people which surrounded him. Apart from art, the two friends shared another common interest, music, and at one of Hodler’s visits to Buri’s studio, he noticed a piano accordion which he wanted to possess. The two artists decided to exchange Buri’s musical instrument for a painting by Hodler. Buri picked The Grammont, a landscape painted in 1905, which, not only Hodler, considered as one of his masterpieces. It was sold at Christie’s in 2002 for CHF 4.25 million and is today part of the Christoph Blocher art collection.
All the above is important to understand the importance of Buri’s painting offered for sale, the piano accordion represented in the painting is the one which became the property of Ferdinand Hodler! The painting will be offered with an estimate of CHF 200,000-280,000.
From the canton Graubünden, Christie’s Zürich offers for the first time a painting by the German artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938). Kirchner moved from Berlin to Davos in the summer of 1918 and Stafelalp mit Amselfluh (estimate: CHF 500,000-700,000) was one of the first paintings Kirchner created in his new environment. His hectic and strong colour contrast technique and fan-like depictions of the clouds and alpine meadow are still very much in the style of the artist’s important works created in Germany. The pictorial language of the painting can be compared to the eminently important alpine triptych that was created the same summer and is today part of the Kirchner Museum in Davos, which opened in 1992. Kirchner moved to Davos due to health issues and his doctor was Dr. Lucius Sprengler and when Mr. Sprengler’s daughter Lissy married Karl Luckhard the Stafelalp became their wedding present.
Félix Vallotton (1865-1925) is probably the most important painter of the canton Vaud and was born in its principal town Lausanne, which he left in 1882 to move to Paris to enroll at the Académie Julian. The present work Chemin ensoleillé was painted in 1914, in the outskirts of Paris and can be described as “the silence before the storm”. The painting depicts a quiet street, painted during the summer, in which the flatness and the play of shadows cast in the sunlight is what a viewer expects of an important painting by Vallotton. This is reinforced here by the light-flooded side walls which makes the scene more abstract and lead the eye of the observer to the back of the painting where children are leading the viewer even further towards the background of the street (estimate: CHF 500,000-700,000).
Varlin, in real life Willy Guggenheim, and after whom a street is named in his native town Zurich, is represented with three major paintings in the sale – A view of the Galleries St-François in Lausanne, painted in 1942 (estimate CHF 80,000-120,000), A view of the eye clinic in Zurich, painted two years later (estimate CHF 60,000-80,000) and a two-fronted, bigger than life-size representation of his bed and a view of the bed in the artist’s studio in Bergaglia, painted between the years 1970-75 (estimate CHF 80,000-120,000).
Das Bett/The Bed was created at the pinnacle of his creative life and is one of his most outstanding pieces. What is normally a peripheral object is here the main theme: influenced by the English school of painting, what appears to be a sketchily drawn mattress that dominates the work, is in its composition, a carefully controlled piece of work, and is the result of the artist's painstaking effort at execution. Through the movement of its rapid lines, the work has a tremendous dynamism that reflects the painting's modernity and brings to mind the realistic, expressive tradition demonstrated in the works of Chaim Soutine and Francis Bacon. The reverse side of the painting shows the inside of Varlin’s atelier. Here, too, the bed is the main focus of the work. Amongst other things represented in the painting is a portrait of his longstanding friend, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, who visited Varlin in Bondo many times. The poet also describes some of these scenes, making one aware that the shabby bed had a special symbolic meaning for the artist.
One of the top lots of the contemporary section of the sale is Daniel Spoerri’s (b.1930) I Guirati, a 12 figures sculpture representing the judge, the defendant and 10 members of the jury made in 1985 in a series of 8. All 12 sculptures offered for sale are of the same series “6” and have been privately owned. Originally, Spoerri created this installation of twelve bronze figures for his world famous Giardino di Daniel Spoerri in Tuscany. Beginning with the judge, each figure, mounted on a pedestal, is parallel to the next, in descending order, with the final figure in the picture being on the same height as the defendant. The judge, a well-nourished Michelin man enthroned upon a cylinder, faces the defendant. The ten members of the jury, all with meat-mincing mouths and wearing hats - symbolizing various presidential dignitaries - stand together with the judge, opposite the defendant who, with his simple beret, provides a strong contrast. Taken as a whole, the atmosphere created is oppressive. Through the manner of its composition, the observer readily identifies with the defendant, making the installation automatically interactive (estimate: CHF 90,000-110,000).
Charly was produced in an edition of 20 and is one of Niki de Saint Phalle’s signature pieces made between 1981 and 1982. The art work is not just a chair: it is Charly, a close friend of the artist and when taking a seat, the sitter will be cocooned by Charly and becomes one with Charly and the work of art (estimated: CHF 60,000-80,000) – a sensation to try out! The last lot of the sale is by Saint Phalle’s husband Jean Tinguely entitled Ma Fraiseuse (estimate: CHF 70,000-90,000), created in 1963 and can be best described by the artist’s famous words “When I get my hands on junk, magic happens.”
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