ZURICH - On 3rd December, Sotheby’s Zurich will celebrate Swiss Art in all its richness and diversity. The carefully curated sale comprises 105 artworks from the 19th century to the present day. In addition to leading figures of traditional Swiss painting, such as Félix Vallotton, Giovanni Giacometti and Ferdinand Hodler, the sale will feature works from the second half of the 20th century and contemporary pieces covering all media, from painting to sculpture through watercolour and drawing. Jean Tinguely and Meret Oppenheim - whose oeuvres are currently the object of two exhibitions in Switzerland - are represented by artworks reflecting the unity of their production. Sculpture will take centre-stage with a selection of works by Max Bill, Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely, as well as by internationally recognised artists who will make their first appearance at an international auction.
Commenting the forthcoming sale, Urs Lanter, Head of Sotheby’s Swiss Art Department declared: “More than ever, collectors are seeking rare works of high quality, and coming from important collections. The lots from the December sale have been selected with great care, with this demand in mind. The section dedicated to classical painting is led by works by great representatives of Swiss Art. Each of them occupies an important place in the artist's oeuvre and more largely, in the history of Swiss creation”.
Stéphanie Schleining Deschanel, Director of Sotheby’s Geneva Swiss Art Department added: “The catalogue of our December sale extends to include artists recognised both in Switzerland and internationally - yet who have never appeared at any international auctions. This autumn’s selection comprises a coherent group of important classical works signed by Félix Vallotton, Augusto & Giovanni Giacometti and Cuno Amiet. The previous successful sale of works by these artists have contributed to Sotheby’s reputation in the field of Swiss Art”.
The section dedicated to traditional painting is highlighted by important works by eminent figures of Swiss artistic creation of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Félix Vallotton (1865-1925) is represented by two stunning “composed” landscapes, a technique developed by the artist to render the impression of a place rather than its reality. Lisière de forêt (Edge of the Wood) is part of a series of five depictions of the woods in the area of Honfleur executed by Vallotton in the beginning of September 1920 (lot 58, est. CHF 500.000-800.000/ ˆ413.000-665.000). This oil on canvas - dominated by a strong contrast of light and dark - is perhaps the composition from the series that best reflects the malaise of the artist at the time.
The tonality of this canvas heavily contrasts with the brightness of the colours in Souvenir de Romanel (Souvenir from Romanel), an oil on cartoon painted in 1900 which captures the happiness and joy of a holiday Vallotton spent with his wife Gabrielle and her children at the Castel La Naze near Lausanne (lot 72, est. CHF 200.000-250.000/ ˆ166.000-207.000).
The Giacometti family is also represented with two major works by Augusto and his cousin Giovanni. On his return from Paris and Germany, Giovanni Giacometti (1868-1933) - the master of Swiss impressionism – found the inspiration to develop his art in the light and colours of the Engadine region and Maloja. Giacometti and his family spent their summers there from 1909. The depiction of the village of Capolago became even more prominent at the end of the artist’s career, as shown in Winterlanschaft bei Capolago (Winter Landscape near Capolago) painted in 1930 (lot 17, est. CHF 400.000-600.000/ ˆ331.000-496.000).
The sale will offer a second landscape by Giovanni Giacometti: Maloja. Painted in 1925 – a year when the painter produced very few works - this oil on canvas features a cloudy view of Maloja. The vision of light and clouds reflecting on water at the entrance of the village was an inextinguished source of inspiration for the artist, as he confided in a letter to his sons Alberto and Diego in 1932 (lot 67, est. CHF 300.000-500.000/ ˆ248.000-413.000).
Augusto Giacometti (1877-1947) pursues his passion for the study of colours in Orangenwagen (Carriage with oranges). Painted in 1917, at the acme of his artistic career, this oil on canvas belongs to the great “tachist” works realised by the artist between 1912 and 1917 and marking his way to abstraction (lot 40, est. CHF 400.000-600.000/ ˆ331.000-496.000).
Cuno Amiet, « the man who makes the world’s wonders blossom » is present in the sale with a magnificent work featuring his wife, Anna surrounded by flowers. Dating from 1926, Frau mit Blumen – Anna Amiet mit Blumen (Lady with flowers - Anna Amiet with flowers) was exhibited alongside 37 other works by the painter at the Swiss Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 1934. This underlines the importance of this work in Amiet’s oeuvre, characterised by the joy of the colours and the theme of a plentiful nature (lot 44, est. CHF 120.000-160.000/ ˆ99.500-133.000).
The « école romande » which gathers artists from the French speaking part of Switzerland completes this section with works by Marius Borgeaud, Maurice Barraud and Emile Bressler.
SWISS ART, FROM THE SECOND HALF OF THE 20th CENTURY TO PRESENT DAY
The auction is further distinguished by works signed by illustrious artists from the second half of the 20th century.
2013 will mark the 100th anniversary of Meret Oppenheim (1913-1985) - the leading figure of Swiss surrealism. While the Kunstmuseum in Bern is currently celebrating the artist and several European institutions prepare exhibitions dedicated to her oeuvre, the sale will include Zwei Vögel (Two birds), a magnificent work made in 1963 (lot 99, est. CHF 80.000-120.000/ ˆ66.500-99.500).
Meret Oppenheim inspired many contemporary artists, including Luciano Castelli (b. 1951) who made a brilliant portrait of her in 2000 (lot 102, est. CHF 20.000-30.000/ ˆ16.600-24.800).
A further key artist of the 20th century, at the origins of the modernist movement, Le Corbusier (1887-1965) is represented by Ozon, a pen and watercolour work on paper realised in 1941 (lot 103, est. CHF 30.000-40.000/ ˆ24.800-33.100).
Jean Tinguely’s (1925-1991) untitled work on paper from 1988, Sans titre (lot 101, est. CHF 6.000-7.000 / ˆ5.000-5.800) is full of the energy and humor that characterise the artist’s production.
Testament to Rolf Iseli’s (b. 1934) strong interest in American lyrical abstraction and proximity with artists like Mark Rothko, a watercolour on paper, Komposition in Blau (Composition in blue) evokes the large quasi-monochrome canvases created by the artist in the 1950s and 1960s (lot 96, est. CHF 5.000-7.000/ ˆ4.150-5.800).
Walter Ropélé’s (b. 1934) colourful landscapes have often featured in Sotheby’s Zurich Swiss Art auctions in the past few years, frequently with strong results. The December sale will include Wechselnd bewölkt, Piz Palü bis Piz Bernina (Overcast weather on Piz Palü and Piz Bernina), a large canvas (120 x 140 cm) realised in 2012 and capturing Ropélé’s technical mastery of landscape painting and the power of his colour palette (lot 85, est. CHF 12.000-18.000/ ˆ10.000-14.900).
This autumn, Swiss sculpture will take centre-stage with a group of contemporary works by leading figures in the discipline and internationally recognised artists making their first appearance at an international auction.
Max Bill (1908-1994) was a leader in the Concrete Art movement and excelled in the use of granite – one of the artist’s signature materials, as seen in Zwilling als Viertelskugel (Twin as Quarter Globe). Made in 1969, this work is typical of the artist’s 1960s production - which freed itself from angles and explored round geometrical forms (lot 104, est. CHF 60.000-80.000/ ˆ49.600-66.500).
A testimony of the rich collaboration between Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely, Nana dansante combines the fun and spiritual refinement of Tinguely’s mechanics with the iconic personage of “Nana” created by her partner (lot 100, est. CHF 20.000-30.000/ ˆ16.600-24.800). Dating from 1976, Nana dansante belongs to the series of works jointly created by the two artists in the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, such as the famous Stravinski Fountain build in front of the Centre Pompidou, Paris in 1983.
The sale will also offer Maquette Mobile, a fine example of the iron sculptures made by Robert Müller (b. in 1920) between 1953 and 1956, shortly after his installation in Paris (lot 93, est. CHF 60.000-80.000/ ˆ49.600-66.500). Described by Harald Szeemann as “a unique and increasingly rare demonstration of what is understood as a continuous artistic development” on the occasion of the exhibition dedicated to Müller at the Kunsthalle, Bern in 1965, the artist’s oeuvre has today found its place in important private and institutional collections of 20th century art .
The sale will also feature internationally recognised contemporary artists. Based in Switzerland since 30 years, Maria-Carmen Perlingeiro is currently the object of an exhibition at the Museu de Arte Moderna de Rio de Janeiro . Created in 2008, her Montagne perçée (Pierced Mountain) is composed of gold and alabaster - her favourite material - which she describes as “perfect and ambiguous” and which gives a quasi-immaterial lightness to her sculptures (lot 95, est. CHF 15.000-20.000/ ˆ12.400-16.600).
A representative of lyrical abstraction, André Tommasini (1931-2011) is a powerful presence in this section with Autour du vide I (Around the empty I) - a sculpture in marble realised in 1993, and underlining the perfection of the forms achieved by the artist in his mature works (lot 94, est. CHF 10.000-15.000/ ˆ8.300-12.400).
James Licini (b. 1937) distinguished itself by the harsh beauty of his metallic constructions and his perfect mastery of metals, as seen in an untitled sculpture in iron from 1999, Sans titre (lot 90, est. CHF 6.000-7.000/ ˆ5.000-5.800).