Kurt Schwitters - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 14, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Ernst Schwitters, Lysaker (1948 - 1967)
    Åke Broman, Nyköping (acquired in 1967)
    Sotheby's, London, December 4, 1991, lot 150
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    São Paulo, Museum of Modern Art, VI Biennale: Kurt Schwitters, 1961, no. 54
    Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden; Basel, Galerie Handschin; Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, Schrift und Bild, L'art et l'écriture, 1963, no. 363
    Stockholm, Konstsalongen Samlaren, Kurt Schwitters i svensk ägo, October 28 – November 13, 1967, no. 28

  • Literature

    Karin Orchard and Isabel Schulz, eds., Kurt Schwitters: Catalogue raisonné, 1923-1936, Vol. II, Hanover, 2003, no. 1673, p. 323 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    A wonderful example of Kurt Schwitters’ Merzzeichnungen (Merz Drawings), Mz 30,3, 1930 is a colorful construction that perfectly typifies the German artist’s signature collage works, commenced in 1919 and sustained until the end of his life in 1948. Self-described as an artist who “nails [his] pictures together”, Schwitters was of unquestionable influence on artists such as Alberto Burri, Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, and Sigmar Polke, who similarly experimented with ideas of construction while examining the essence of drawing and painting.

    The present work’s title, Mz, is an abbreviation of the aforementioned expression, and an invention of Schwitters to designate the idea of construction. It draws from the artist’s earliest collage in 1919, which saw the expression “Kommerz und Privatbank” (Commerce and Private Bank) arbitrarily contracted as “Merz”. The present work, created eleven years later, exemplifies a time at which Schwitters commanded his “final Constructivist upsurge”. The collage’s most legible component reads “Anstieg zum Neroberg” (Climb to Neroberg), ostensibly sourced from a journal article regarding the Neroberg mountain in Hesse, Germany, and is surrounded with geometrically superimposed layers of warm-coloured paper. “Collages of that date are sober, dignified, highly geometric compositions” notes John Elderfield, “At the same time, however, the number of bold figure-ground contrasts is reduced, to achieve greater force, and the surrounding materials are kept closer to each other tonally” (John Elderfield, Kurt Schwitters, London 1985, p. 190).

    Discussing the significance of his Merz paintings versus drawings, Schwitters positioned the latter not as preparatory or peripheral works, but as key pieces that embodied his Merz production. In this perspective, the artist wrote: “Please treat the small Merzdrawings just like paintings” (Kurt Schwitters, “Merzzeichnungen und i-Zeichnungen”, Merz, no. 20, 1927, p.102), conferring equal importance to both mediums.

    A work of great historical significance, Mz 30,3 was exhibited in revered institutions such as the São Paulo Museum of Art in 1961, on the occasion the VI Biennale dedicated to the artist, the Stedeljik Museum in Amsterdam in 1963, and Stockholm’s Konstsalongen Samlaren for Kurt Schwitters i svensk ägo in 1967. The present work represents an important emblem of Schwitters’ artistic output, which was not only groundbreaking in its period, but furthermore deeply informative of contemporary production and the artist’s pioneering vision.


Mz 30,3

signed, titled and dated “K. Schwitters 1930 Mz 30,3” on the artist’s mount
paper collage on paper
artwork 6 1/8 x 4 7/8 in. (15.4 x 12.4 cm.)
artist's mount 12 3/4 x 8 3/4 in. (32.4 x 22.2 cm.)

Executed in 1930, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Ernst Schwitters.

$120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for $100,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 14 November 2018