25 September 2019
Phillips Announces Modern Highlights from the
November Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art
Works by Miró, Picasso, Giacometti, and Moore to be
Offered for Sale in New York on 14 November,
Following an International Tour to London and Los Angeles
Following an International Tour to London and Los Angeles
NEW YORK – 25 SEPTEMBER 2019 – Phillips’ New York Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art will feature an exceptional selection of modern artworks, which will be exhibited internationally prior to the November auction. Joan Miró’s Paysan catalan inquiet par le passage d’un vol d’oiseau, Pablo Picasso’s Femme assise dans un fauteuil, Alberto Giacometti’s Portrait of G. David Thompson, and Henry Moore’s Family Group will embark on a tour to London and Los Angeles, offering collectors around the globe a rare opportunity to see these extraordinary works alongside other highlights from the sale.
Hugues Joffre, Senior Advisor to the CEO, said, “In the last five years, Phillips has made remarkable investments in growing the auction house’s areas of expertise, perhaps most notably with the expansion into modern art. From Pablo Picasso’s La Dormeuse to Joan Miró’s Femme dans la nuit, we have achieved extraordinary success in this sector of the market, with fervent interest from collectors across the globe. This season, we are delighted to continue on this momentum in offering four exceptional modern works by some of the most important artists of the 20th century in our November Evening Sale.”
Leading the auction is Joan Miró’s Paysan catalan inquiet par le passage d'un vol d'oiseaux, which presents a playful vignette by the artist; a bird presented over three states festoons a Catalan peasant, donning a traditional barretina. As with any masterwork by the artist, the work encompasses much more than simple mimetic illustration of the title. The protagonist’s red Catalan cap is also the bulbous red nose with upturned nostrils of an animal, and perhaps also the O of the artist’s name, hidden in plain sight. In this painting, we see Miró returning to some of the most significant thematic preoccupations explored in his work before the war, but through the lens of his post-war experience. Here, the green color field, a rarity in his oeuvre, signals the hopeful mood pervasive in the 1950s. A rare but important subject for the artist, Miró explored the symbolism of the Catalan peasant in some of his earliest important works from the 1920s, including his Catalan Peasants from 1924 and 1925 in Tate, London and National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. respectively. Unseen for over six decades, the painting was first and last seen in 1953 when shown as a highlight in the artist’s major post-war survey exhibitions at Pierre Matisse Gallery and Galerie Maeght, which served to present his recent work to an international audience. The painting was acquired at the conclusion of the Pierre Matisse show in 1953 and has been held in the same family collection ever since.
Also included in the auction is Alberto Giacometti’s Portrait of G. David Thompson, the artist’s most devout patron. The sitter – a Pittsburgh steel magnate who owned more than a hundred paintings, sculptures, and drawings by the artist – compiled what was quite possibly the largest private collection ever of Giacometti’s work, all acquired between the late 1940s and 1950s. Executed in 1957, the portrait investigates the multifaceted relationship between painter and sitter, viewer and model, and artist and collector, depicting the American businessman in the artist’s distinctive visual language. Thompson’s unorthodox proportions perpetuate an illusion that he is physically distant from the viewer. There exists an untraversable space between Giacometti and Thompson and between observer and subject, which is in turn transferred into the experience of the viewer. Of the four representations of G. David Thompson by Giacometti, this painting is the largest of the three in private hands and was later acquired by Milton Ratner of Chicago, another ardent supporter of the artist’s work. The shrewdest Giacometti collectors’ admiration of Portrait of G. David Thompson was inevitable — not only is it a quintessential, haunting painting by the artist, but its reduced palette and technique of progressively constructing outlines of the subject using short and careful brushstrokes is evocative of the quivering, activated surfaces of his foremost sculptures.
Pablo Picasso’s Femme assise dans un fauteuil, a portrait of Françoise Gilot, is among the most tense and explosive of his meditations on his partners. Painting many images of Gilot over their near decade-long relationship, Picasso’s depictions of her are special masterworks in their own right, uniquely infused with the passion and jealousy that fueled their relationship. This notion is encapsulated in the present work, with the portrait capturing the complexities Picasso faced as a man in his sixties living with a woman in her early twenties. Dated October 24, 1948, Femme assise dans un fauteuil was conceived during a particularly fractious time in Picasso and Gilot’s relationship; she was pregnant with their second child and Picasso had been away from their home in Vallauris for an extended period. In the work, Picasso revisits his earliest iconographic representations of Gilot but reinterprets them in a new light that perhaps betrays the difficulties in their relationship at that time. Gilot was all the more challenging a partner in her refusal to so readily fit his caricatured depictions of her as muse, lover, object—she was an artist in her own right and in her prime. Last shown publicly almost two decades ago, Femme assise dans un fauteuil has remained in the same family collection since circa 1972, one year prior to the artist’s death in 1973.
A strong example from Henry Moore’s Family Group sculptures will also be featured in the Evening Sale. Made between 1946 and 1947, these works represent a pivotal moment in his career, when he abandoned his naturalistic approach from 1944 and 1945 in favor of a more abstracted arrangement of the figural group. In the present Family Group, Moore combined figurative representation with the rounded forms featured in his earlier series of Reclining and Stringed Figures of the 1930s. These works bore a kinship with the prevailing Surrealist movement, placing him squarely in the school of early 20th century modernism. Depicting a mother, father and two children in softly rounded forms angled towards each other, this example was cast at a critical point in Moore’s life both personally and professionally. In 1946, just one year before this work’s creation, Moore’s wife gave birth to their only child, making the subject of family an even more profound statement. In 1948, a year after this work was conceived, Moore would be awarded first prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennale, cementing his international prominence as a leading post-war artist. Originally housed in the collection of Ewan Phillips—renowned art historian, critic and dealer—and later in the collection of British abstract painter Frank Avray Wilson, the present example was cast in an edition of 7, two of which are housed in the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and the Göteborgs Konstmuseum.
Auction: 14 November 2019 | 450 Park Avenue, New York
Auction viewing in New York: 1-14 November
Exhibition in London: 26 September – 2 October
Exhibition in Los Angeles: 18-20 October
Phillips is a leading global platform for buying and selling 20th and 21st century art and design. With dedicated expertise in the areas of 20th Century and Contemporary Art, Design, Photographs, Editions, Watches, and Jewelry, Phillips offers professional services and advice on all aspects of collecting. Auctions and exhibitions are held at salerooms in New York, London, Geneva, and Hong Kong, while clients are further served through representative offices based throughout Europe, the United States and Asia. Phillips also offers an online auction platform accessible anywhere in the world. In addition to providing selling and buying opportunities through auction, Phillips brokers private sales and offers assistance with appraisals, valuations, and other financial services.
Visit www.phillips.com for further information.
*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium; prices achieved include the hammer price plus buyer’s premium.
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