LONDON - Sotheby’s London announced the Single Owner sale of the Branco Weiss Collection to be offered as a stand-alone auction preceding the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on Wednesday 19th June 2013. A collector who turned science and business into an art form, Branco Weiss was a renowned entrepreneur who established several international high-tech companies that were among the pioneers of the computer industry. Assembled over the course of 25 years (from 1975 – 2000) Weiss’s art collection exquisitely exemplifies how the pursuit of scientific innovation offers a striking parallel to the passion felt by collectors of art, with a group of works that were drawn together with a keen appreciation for the abstract, the intriguing and the inquisitive. Many of the works from this collection embody the finest achievements of abstract art by its greatest proponents, including Wassily Kandinsky, Joan Miró and Alexander Calder. The Collection represents the different strands of Modernism practiced by artists right across Europe in the early 20th century, whilst also reflecting Branco Weiss’s own heritage with the inclusion of Eastern European masters such as František Kupka and Naum Gabo (Weiss was born in Zagreb, Croatia, and moved to Switzerland aged thirteen).
The Collection is estimated to fetch a combined total in the region of £12 million, with thirty works to be offered in the Evening Sale, and further works to feature in the Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale, Contemporary Art Day Sale, as well as the Swiss Art Sale in Zurich - featuring works by Max Bill - in addition to Sotheby’s Russian Art Sale and 20th Century British Art Sale in London and Contemporary Art Sale in Paris. Proceeds from the auction will benefit Society in Science – The Branco Weiss Fellowship at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH).
Helena Newman, Chairman of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department Europe, said, “Following the enthusiastic response from our clients to the estate property that recently sold so well in our Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in New York, we are extremely pleased to be able to present in our London sale a group of works as enticing as the Branco Weiss Collection that now come to the market for the first time in decades. This collection comprises an extraordinarily cohesive group of works that are unified by taste and have been assembled with a superb eye for bold colour, form and above all quality. The range of works, largely by key Abstract artists, harmoniously bridges both figurative and abstract art. When viewed individually, the works offer an appealing opportunity to collectors to acquire extremely fine examples by the artists represented.”
Professor Heidi Wunderli-Allenspach of Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule) Zurich, comments: “Branco Weiss’s generous support and involvement in ETH during his lifetime reflects the deep appreciation he felt for his time as a student at the institution and his desire, in turn, to give back. Further to the significant support he gave during his lifetime, proceeds from Sotheby’s sale of his remarkable collection of art will benefit Society in Science. This unique organization enables the testing of new research fields and further cultivation of young, highly talented researchers from across the globe, a programme which opens up new dimensions for the promotion of a new generation of researchers.”
Highlights of the Collection
René Magritte’s La Bonne Aventure from 1937 (est. £1-1.5 million) is an early and iconic painting by Magritte which combines several recurrent preoccupations of Magritte’s art, such as the juxtaposition of human flesh with everyday objects and landscapes. The fragmentation of the human body and depiction of isolated body parts is not only an important theme in the works of René Magritte, but also one that expresses the essence of Surrealism in general.
A highlight of the group of five works by Wassily Kandinsky to be offered (one oil painting and four works on paper) is Ineinander (Intermingling) (est. £600,000-800,000), an exceptional example of Wassily Kandinsky’s triumphant use of watercolour to capture his most intimate and revelatory artistic theories. Painted in 1928, whilst a professor at the Bauhaus school in Dessau, this striking arrangement of geometric forms represents the ground-breaking advances Kandinsky had made in developing abstraction throughout the early part of the 20th Century.
Sculptural highlights within The Branco Weiss collection include an important group of four works by Alexander Calder. Among these, Untitled (Tuning Forks) from 1939 (est. £1.2-1.8 million) is a rare, early mobile which elegantly displays the artist’s inventive synthesis of playful, chromatic balance with organic, harmonious form. Similarly Black Rocker, Yellow Moon from 1949 (£300,000-400,000) is an exceptional example from a breakthrough period in Calder’s work. Formerly in the collection of Nelson A. Rockefeller, Black Rocker, Yellow Moon has not been seen in public since 1969 when it was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, as one of the highlights of Rockefeller’s esteemed collection.
The subject of horse and rider is intrinsic to Marino Marini’s art, and Piccolo Cavaliere (est. £800,000-£1.2 million) possesses the powerful intensity which characterises the finest of these works. Marini’s devotion to equestrian sculpture underwent many permutations throughout his career from the simplistic, rounded forms of his early works which drew inspiration from Etruscan cultural artefacts to the highly stylised late works.
Painted in 1919, Études sur fond rouge (est. £700,000- £1million) is a seminal image from the key period in the career of Czech Cubist artist František Kupka. A pioneer of abstraction and cubism in his own right, the paintings he produced during the 1910s expressed a profound interest in cosmology and music theory. Kupka used a uniquely saturated palette and extraordinarily dynamic compositions which placed his art at the forefront of the avant-garde alongside the Italian Futurists Umberto Boccioni and Gino Severini, whose work celebrated movement in a similar manner.
For Joan Miró, women, birds, stars, the moon, the sun, night and dusk formed a poetic language. By the time he painted Personnages et oiseaux dans la nuit in 1965 (est. £300,000-400,000) Miró had developed a distinctive iconography, and the work exemplifies the expressive power of his imagery, bordering on representation and abstraction.
The collection also features a group of wonderfully characteristic works by artists working in Britain during the 20th Century, including Naum Gabo and Barbara Hepworth. A highlight of this group is Ben Nicholson’s St. Ives Harbour (Summer) of 1951 (est. £350,000 – 450,000), a quintessential work from an important period in his oeuvre which stemmed from the vibrant artistic community that he and his one-time wife, Barbara Hepworth, established in the fishing village of St. Ives in Cornwall.
Dr Branco Weiss, a collector with an exceptional eye (1929-2010)
In addition to his success as an entrepreneur, Branco Weiss was also recognized for his effort as a patron and philanthropist, particularly for his involvement with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). It was at ETH that he achieved his degree in chemical engineering, and where he frequently lectured in later life on Technological Strategies and Management of New Companies; the Auditorium Maximum soon became his second home. In 2002 Weiss founded “Society in Science” – The Branco Weiss Fellowship at ETH, a fellowship for researchers around the globe enabling PhD graduates from around the globe to work on a research topic of their choice for up to five years, with a focus on research projects at the interface between science and society.
He donated substantial amounts to the organisation, and later bequeathed another very remarkable sum to ensure its continuance.
With a philanthropic approach based on accountability, in 1990 Branco Weiss founded the Branco Weiss Institute in Israel with Israel's Ministry of Education. The institute was founded with the goal of making schools in Israel more effective and adapting them to meet the needs of today's students. In contrast to his involvement with ETH, in Israel the focus of his Institute is on young people who are at-risk of dropping out of school, and thanks to individualised learning programs and the tremendous efforts of the teachers, his schools have achieved impressive results.
Branco Weiss held four honorary doctorates, from the University of Tel Aviv (1993), the EPFL Lausanne (1994), the ETH Zürich (1998) and the University of Basel (2005). He has been awarded the Staudinger Medal of the Department of Materials of the ETH Zürich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology). He was an honorary member of the Swiss Association of Engineers and Architects (SIA) and a longstanding member, board member, and honorary member of the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences (SATW). He has also served several advisory committees of the Commission for Technology and Innovation (KTI) of the Federal Office for Professional Training and Technology and a number of federal commissions (DEZA, Science and Education).