Jean (Hans) Arp - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 14, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Jean Arp, 'Torse Végétal', Lot 31

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 14 October

  • Provenance

    Galerie Denise René, Paris
    Getz Collection, Chicago (acquired from the above in 1961)
    Sotheby’s, New York, November 13, 1997, lot 322
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    London, Tate Gallery, Jean Arp, November 24 - December 23, 1962, no. 38 (another example exhibited)

  • Literature

    Jean Clay, "La singulière ascension de Jean Arp", Réalités, no. 180, January 1961, Paris, p. 67 (marble version illustrated)
    Giuseppe Marchiori, Arp, Milan, 1964, no. 119, p. 139 (another example illustrated, p. 137)
    Eduard Trier, Jean Arp, Sculpture, His Last Ten Years, Stuttgart, 1968, pl. 21, no. 204, p. 111 (marble version illustrated, p. 20)
    Edward Lucie-Smith, Sculpture Since 1945, London, 1987, pl. 5, p. 84 (marble version illustrated, p. 85)
    Arie Hartog, ed., Hans Arp: Skulpturen – Eine Bestandsaufnahme / Sculptures – A Critical Survey, Ostfildern, 2012, no. 204, p. 149 (another example illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “To open my eyes to see, to look, to contemplate the world…ever since my childhood this has been my greatest joy” - Jean Arp

    As an artist who was a key figure in many of the most important avant-garde movements of 20th century—from his instrumental role in the creation of Dada to his work alongside the Surrealists—Arp developed a visual language wholly and originally his own. Though he was in his seventies when he created Torse Végétal in 1959, Arp remained innovative and vital late into his life. The 1950s was a significant decade for Arp, one which saw the artist receive international recognition and acclaim. In 1954, he was awarded the Grand Prize for Sculpture at the Venice Biennale, a commission for the UNESCO building in Paris followed in 1958 and in that same year he was the subject of a major retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

    Sculpture was a part of Arp’s artistic practice as early as the 1910s, when he first created relief structures fashioned in painted overlapping abstract shapes, such as in Woman, 1927, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. In the early 1930s, he began to produce works in the round rather than solely in relief. Throughout his career, Arp employed chance as an active collaborator: using neither models nor preparatory drawings for his sculptures, he removed the constraints of the conscious mind. Beginning with form rather than subject, he only titled works after they were finished. As Arp explained, “each of these bodies has a definite significance, but it is only when I feel there is nothing more to change…it is only then that I give it a name” (Jean Arp, quoted in Herbert Read, Arp, London, 1968, p. 87).

    What came from allowing his unconscious mind free reign was the creation of biomorphic abstraction. In the spirit of his Dadaist heritage the works are a synthesis of the “unlike,” neither wholly human nor plant but rather whole through their duality, which is aptly captured in the title of the present work, Torse Végétal. Arp’s sculptures appear to be in constant metamorphosis, a state of becoming, rather than static and fixed. In Torse Végétal, the smooth curvilinear shapes at the top of the figure read as buds, not as leaves of a fully-grown plant but rather intimations of growth sculpted with an inherent impermanence. This state of flux brings no agitation in Arp’s sculptures; instead, the unblemished surface and undulating line create a sense of serenity. Arp shares his practice of reducing form to its most essential and minimalist presence with another towering figure in the history of modern sculpture, Constantin Brancusi.

    As much as Arp’s sculptures belong to the realm of plants, they are also recognizably human. It was rare for Arp to sculpt an entire body as he preferred to use only the torso. As Eduard Trier noted, “Arp knows only the torso, but not as a fragment of something originally whole. The torso becomes an independent complete form” (Eduard Trier, Jean Arp: Sculpture, 1957-66, London, 1968, p. XI). Eschewing any classical representation, such as in the torso of Aphrodite Anadyomene at the Musée du Louvre, Paris he did not entirely escape tradition as female beauty has long been associated with nature. The soft curves of Torse Végétal are evocative of a woman’s body but without specificity, as there is an intrinsic ambiguity in its abstraction which allows the work to occupy the two worlds of human and plant at the same time.

    Arp’s own story is one of dichotomy: born in Strasbourg, Alsace-Lorraine, he was neither entirely German nor French and he moved fluidly between nationalities, languages, and modes of creation. Though he refused to be defined by a singular epitaph—writer, painter, sculptor—one constant was that Arp set out not to merely copy nature, but to make visible its processes. With his sculptures Arp succeeded in that pursuit; as Henry Geldzahler elucidated, “his genius gave the world a new family of forms that parallels, comments on and competes successfully with nature. All this Arp achieved within the new syntax of twentieth century art. His respect for the natural and his profound understanding of the modernist tradition were never in conflict. His triumph was to affect a new synthesis of the familiar and the invented” (Henry Geldzahler, Jean Arp from the Collections of Mme Marguerite Arp and Arthur and Madeleine Lejwa, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1972, n.p.).

Property of an Esteemed Private Collector


Torse Végétal

stamped with the artist's monogram and number "I/V HA" on the inside and on the inside of the base
52 1/2 x 10 x 6 7/8 in. (133.4 x 25.4 x 17.5 cm.)
Conceived in 1959 and cast in 1960, this work is number 1 from an edition of 5 plus 1 artist’s proof.

We thank the Fondation Arp, Clamart, for their help cataloguing this work.

$1,200,000 - 1,800,000 

Sold for $1,280,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 14 November 2019