LONDON - Sotheby’s will hold the sale of The Gunter Sachs Collection. In London on Tuesday, May 22nd and Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012*, Sotheby’s will present for sale close to 300 artworks and objects from the collection of the late Gunter Sachs. Spanning numerous collecting categories, from Surrealism and Nouveau Realism, to Pop Art, Art Deco, Furniture and Graffiti, the sale is composed of lots ranging in estimate from £50 up to £3 million** and is expected to realise in excess of £20 million.
The two-day sale is set to be among the most remarkable and prestigious single-owner collections to appear at auction, and will stand as a lasting testament to the extraordinary life and visionary art collection of Gunter Sachs. In his capacity as a collector, he was deeply passionate and a true pioneer, accumulating a world-renowned avant-garde assemblage of art and furniture over the course of 50 years. He selected each piece with an unwavering eye for exceptional beauty, material and form. In 1967, he was described by the renowned French art critic Pierre Restany as “a true art lover… one of those last few people of taste, on the verge of becoming extinct.”
At the core of Gunter Sachs’ collection is an exceptional group of Pop Art masterpieces by Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann and Roy Lichtenstein that Gunter Sachs acquired in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Much of it was purchased directly from the artists or commissioned by Gunter Sachs for his St Moritz apartment that he designed as a Pop Art interior in which the artworks became an integral part of the architectural space.
Gunter Sachs first met Andy Warhol in St Tropez in the early 1960s. The two men became lifelong friends, united in their shared passion for art and film-making. In 1972 Gunter Sachs presented Warhol’s first large exhibition in Europe at his recently opened Hamburg gallery. Not a single picture sold on the opening night so Gunter Sachs secretly purchased half of the works in the exhibition to save the embarrassment of admitting this to his friend Andy. Years later, Gunter Sachs jokingly thanked the people of Hamburg for their then still-dormant interest in Pop Art, enabling him to make one of the smartest collecting decisions of his life.
Within The Gunter Sachs Collection,iconic works by Andy Warhol headline the Pop Art section, among which is an outstanding 48-inch Flowers painting –one of only six works that the artist produced in this format. Epitomising the bold vocabulary and vivid colouration of Warhol’s ground-breaking Pop language, it has remained in the Sachs collection ever since it was purchased in 1979. This acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas, which measures 121.9 by 121.9cm, was executed in 1964-65 and is estimated at £3-4 million.
Also estimated at £3-4 million is a stunning 1974 portrait by Andy Warhol of Brigitte Bardot-Gunter Sachs’ second wife who he famously courted by hovering in a helicopter over her villa on the French Riviera and dropping hundreds of red roses into her garden. Based on a 1959 photograph of Bardot taken by Richard Avedon, this work was commissioned by Gunter Sachs to hang as a “pendant” to his own portraits that he had commissioned in 1972. Created according to Gunter Sachs’ specifications in the same “oversized” 122 by 122cm. format, the full-lipped beauty of the screen-siren was transformed by Warhol into a timeless image of feminine beauty -the rightful successor to his 1960s portraits of Marilyn and Liz.
Richard Avedon’s 1959 source photograph of Brigitte Bardotis also included in the sale. Bardot had shot to international stardom only a few years earlier and the French film star’s characteristic features –her sensual pout and seductive gaze –are perfectly captured in Avedon’s iconic photograph. The dramatically reduced facial fea tures and the focus on her legendary mane –double exposed to create a sense of sudden movement –provided the perfect basis for Andy Warhol’s famous silkscreen portraits of Brigitte Bardot, transporting Avedon’s already famous photograph into the canon of contemporary art. The 50 by 60 cm. silver print photograph, numbered 6 of an edition of 35, carries an estimate of £40,000–60,000.
Other important works by Andy Warhol include his remarkable interpretation of The Kiss, from 1963, which measures 76 by 101cm. (est. £700,000-900,000). This was a landmark work for Warhol, combining his dual fascinations of death and celebrity in the form of Dracula, a character who also intrigued Gunter Sachs’ playful imagination, inspiring the Dracula Club that he founded in St Moritz. There is also one of Andy Warhol’s last self-portraits, Pink Fright Wig from the artist’s arresting final series, dated 1986 (est. £2-3 million).
A further highlight of the Pop Art section of sale is the complete set (chair, table & hat-stand) of Allen Jones’ mannequin furniture (1969) from Gunter Sachs’ bedroom in St Moritz. These exceptionally rare icons of 1960s Pop Art inspired much of Gunter Sachs’ photographic imagery and imagination. Each individual piece of furniture in the set is estimated at £30,000-40,000.
Surrealism and Nouveau Realism:
Gunter Sachs began collecting in 1959, shortly after moving to Paris. There he became close friends with artists such as Jean Fautrier, César, Yves Klein, Arman, Salvador Dalí and Georges Mathieu. The friendships Gunter Sachs developed with these ground-breaking artists laid the foundations for his collection. They also established the lasting principles on which he collected art for the next five decades-supporting artists who were his friends, frequently buying work from them directly and supporting their growth through private commissions and public exhibitions.
The early development of Gunter Sachs’ collection coincided with this decisive turning-point in post-war art history at which Nouveau Realism’s trail-blazers reclaimed reality as the sphere for artistic discourse. Led by Yves Klein’s 1961 Les Feu de l’enfer (est. £500,000-700,000) Arman’s 1962 Violon coupé en longeur (est. £60,000-80,000) and Fautrier’s 1961 Cube de Glace (est. £120,000-£180,000), The Gunter Sachs Collection presents an eye-witness account of that ground-breaking transformation in visual expression that occurred in Paris in 1960, supplanting a style of abstract art that manifested a flight inwards with the direct language of objective expression.
The Surrealist section in the auction will feature works by Max Ernst, René Magritte, Victor Brauner, Dalí and Yves Tanguy.
Other important works include Lucio Fontana’s shimmering Concetto Spaziale, which was executed in 1961 and measures 69 by 73cm. Purchased by Gunter Sachs from Galerie Tarica in 1964, the stone-encrusted surface of the thickly-painted gold canvas presents one of the most dramatic expressions of Lucio Fontana’s painterly investigations into the unknown 4th dimension. The work, is estimated at £700,000-900,000.
Photographs by Gunter Sachs:
Included in The Collection is a group of Gunter Sachs’ own photographs, many of which were inspired by the artworks he owned and which have never before been offered for sale until now. Revealing the same discerning eye for composition, colour, texture and movement that inspired Gunter Sachs’ choices as a collector, highlights include works featuring Claudia Schiffer as well as works inspired by Yves Klein and Yves Tanguy.
Decorative Art and 20th Century Design
The auction will also feature so me landmark pieces of 20th century design and a remarkable group of highly important furniture and decorations acquired by Sachs. This includes exquisite work by world class artisan furniture-makers, such as Louis Marjorelle, Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Edgar Brandt and Diego Giacometti. These extraordinary objects were thoughtfully acquired to compliment and often have explicit or subtle relationships with other works in the Collection.
A treasure from this section of the sale is an exquisite secrétaire desk from 1928 by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, who is now regarded as the most prestigious cabinet-maker and designer of the Art Deco period, supplying an exclusive and discerning clientele. This elegant lady's desk reflects Ruhlmann's interpretation of French Art Deco; sumptuous materials which include beautifully figured exotic woods finely inlaid with ivory and combined with elegant proportions in a functional work encapsulates an era of high glamour. An identical example was owned by Andy Warhol which would have delighted Sachs and may well explain his acquisition of this extraordinary piece. The desk, has an estimate of £300,000-400,000.
Another wonderful and yet very personal object is a white plaster bust of Brigitte Bardot as Marianne (1969/70) by Alain Gourdon (Aslan). Prior to 1969 all official depictions of 'Marianne', the allegorical symbol of France representing Liberty and Reason, were modelled on anonymous women. After this date, famous Frenchwomen of great beauty were adopted, with Bardot being the first such sitter. Marianne is always depicted wearing a ‘Phrygian cap’, a French Revolutionary icon symbolising Freedom. It is easy to see why the iconic Bardot would have been selected. The bust, is estimated at £3,000–5,000.
There is a superb group of furniture by Diego Giacometti which includes a highly sculptural armchair entitled “Fauteuil Tête de Lionnes”. Much like his brother Alberto, Diego Giacometti’s work is of international standing and is keenly sought after by collectors of Impressionist and Modern art and 20th Century Design alike. This work of art is estimated at £30,000–£50,000.
*In addition to the full pre-sale exhibition for the auction at Sotheby’s in London (18th-22nd May, 2012), highlights from the sale will also go on view at Sotheby’s in Paris (3rd-5th April), Zurich (18th-19th April), Munich (24th April) and New York (5th-9th May).
Estimates do not include buyers’ premium