1920-1922 The Black and the Red
2015 SOLD for $ 38M including premium
Malevich developed a new grammar reduced to three basic filled shapes, simple enough to escape a semiotic interpretation : rectangle, oval and cross. The perfect rectangle and oval are the square and the circle.
The black square on white is the seminal flagship and the masterpiece of Suprematism. Centered on a canvas where it fills most of the available surface, the square becomes a flying artefact independently from its supporting fabric and generates a mesmerizing feeling. Faced with such a spatial illusion, we are tempted to reduce the famous white square on white from 1918 down to no more than an additional experiment.
In the early phase, other works by Malevich still make concessions to competing movements. His cohorts of stripes more or less parallel in various colors seek to express the movement as in the Futurism in an assembly which appears hand made as in the Synthetic Cubism or in the Constructivism.
On November 5 in New York, Sotheby's sells Mystic Suprematism, oil on canvas 100 x 59 cm painted between 1920 and 1922, lot 8 estimated $ 35M.
A black cross is flying in front of a deep red oval. The pole of the cross and the oval are coaxial. The pole is a quadrangle that slightly tapers downward, bringing an effect of forward tilting. The additional small black line that runs across the lower part of the pole is used for balancing, allowing the viewer to decide if that indefinable abstract object is or not about to fall.
Suprematism is already announcing the major trends of abstract art of the second half of its century, which will use the expressive role of the colors. It is unfortunate that Malevich did not experience the importance of large size. To go further than Suprematism, wait for Rothko.
1920 The Two Pictures of Olga
2017 SOLD for $ 30.5M including premium
Around 1916 he attempts a new approach by simplifying the geometric shapes and by reducing the number of elements. The readability remains difficult except perhaps in the still life. To convince his audience Picasso indeed needs to convince himself.
He realizes two portraits of Olga in the same format, based on the same photograph. One of them is realistic in the style of Ingres, the other is Cubist. The artist wants to demonstrate that the impression offered to the viewer by a work of art does not depend on the style.
Zervos considers that both paintings were started simultaneously in 1917. The Ingresque portrait is finished early. The Cubist portrait is continually reworked until 1920. The result is as luminous as a stained glass window with its solid colors enclosed in outlines of white stripes bordered by a black line. The woman maintains an identical attitude on both images.
The use of the Cubist portrait like a piece of laboratory for the development of a new style is at no doubt. Picasso kept this work throughout his life, certainly not in memory of Olga but as a demonstrator of the evolution of his art in that difficult period of his career.
The Cubist portrait, oil on canvas 130 x 89 cm, is estimated $ 20M by Christie's in New York on May 15, lot 7 A offered along with seven other major artworks for the benefit of the Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute. Please watch the video in which Christie's introduces the whole set.
<1920 Yves Saint-Laurent in an Armchair ... made by Eileen Gray
2009 SOLD 21.9 M€ including premium
It is a seat only 61 cm high. The sitting height is normal, but the back is small. It is large (91 cm), making it a comfortable chair. The press release from Christie's describes it as a Dragon armchair, certainly for the sculptures of its armrests. For this seat dating from about 1920-1922, prepare 2.5 million €.
In the work of Eileen Gray, other seats have generated one of the most remarkable results of auctions in recent years. On June 1, 2005 in Paris, Camard sold a set of six armchairs à la Sirène, for a total of nearly 9 million € charges included. Sold separately, these six lots were eventually divided between two buyers. They had belonged to Damia, the music hall singer woman with whom Eileen had a love affair. From a very different model from the chair of the Saint-Laurent collection, their sculpture of the women fish was enhanced by an open back.
Eileen Gray was renowned for the luxurious finish of her lacquered furniture.
The sale will be held at the Grand Palais in Paris from 23 to 25 February. It is jointly organized by Christie's and Pierre Bergé et Associés.
POST SALE COMMENT
This seat had it all. We imagine it perfectly in the middle of the living room of Yves Saint-Laurent, a famous person. It may equally be regarded as a work of art or as a piece of furniture.
Christie's has presented it as one of the top lots in the sale, from the first press release last September. The estimate probably took into account the results obtained at Drouot on the armchairs à la Sirène, remembered in my article above. Cautiously, the estimate had been made a little lower (2 M €) in the catalog than in the first releases.
As I have already written, the current crisis of confidence affects the sellers, not the buyers.
The chair of Yves Saint-Laurent by Eileen Gray was sold € 21.9 million including premium.
The low resolution image below is shared by Wikimedia for fair use :
1920 Merz or the Anti-Dada
2014 SOLD 14 M£ including premium
Technically, Schwitters is very close to the Dada movement in which he had friends. In that defeated Germany promised to decadence, he built his art with torn newspapers and other trash. However, he opted for a positive message that is the opposite of the Dada destruction. Unsurprisingly, Schwitters was later persecuted by the Nazis chasing the decadent art.
His creed is summed up in a few cleverly chosen statements.
Pioneer of installations nearly half a century ahead of his time, he introduces himself to his colleagues as a painter who nails his pictures together.
He promotes his Merz revolution, a word that appeared perhaps by chance in one of his works after he tore a paper of the Kommerz und Privatbank. Merz is in only four letters a remarkable anticapitalist and anti-industrial motto.
On June 24 in London, Christie's sells a 1920 Merzbild in large size, 109 x 80 cm including the artist's frame. Positively titled Ja Was? Bild, it anticipates the paintings-poems by Miro. The reverse side covered by newspaper fragments must be considered as a full part of the Bild.
Ja Was? Bild is estimated £ 4M. I invite you to play the video shared by Christie's.
POST SALE COMMENT
This artwork is altogether extremely rare and historically important. It was sold for £ 14M including premium.
1918-1924 Le Pont Japonais by Monet
2014 SOLD 15.8 M$ including premium
He did not need an addendum to his glory, and this somehow secretive last series was used to satisfy his desire to create. These oils on canvas made up to 1924 cannot be dated with accuracy.
The curved bridge over the water lilies is an idea of the artist, inspired by Japanese prints and realized during the development of the pond. Monet enjoyed to be photographed at this place of his garden and made an interesting series of Impressionist paintings in 1899.
The art of Monet is a continuous learning of artistic creation that spans over half a century. In this last series of the Japanese Bridges, we find the subtle variations of light from a work to another, from flaming to night. There are also the loss of the horizon, as in the Nymphéas, or the sketch of a fading bridge like Waterloo's in London.
However, this series is not a synthesis but a new revolution, once again too ahead of its time to be understood by his contemporaries. The figurative line disappears almost completely in favor of the exploding colors.
The technique also is new. The material is thick, worked by the addition of new layers on still wet surfaces. The result of this sublime magma is an environment in which the viewer can be wrapped.
It is often said that Monet is a precursor of abstract art. This series is the major support of this theory. These last Japanese bridges by Monet anticipate Rothko by three decades with a practice of progressive mixing of colors that is close to what Richter will do much later.
A Japanese Bridge from this series, 90 x 116 cm, is estimated $ 12M, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on May 7. Seen from afar, this work is a nice figurative sketch. Seen at any distance, it is a very good demonstration of the essential role of color in the expressionist art of the twentieth century.
POST SALE COMMENT
The result, $ 15.8M including premium, confirms the importance of this later series by Monet.
1918-1924 Le Pont Japonais by Monet
2019 SOLD for $ 12.8M by Christie's
1920 Flowers and Fruits by Qi Baishi
2022 SOLD for HK$ 79M by Sotheby's
Keen to protect his art, Qi was remaining away from politics, but he also managed to have republican leaders as patrons.
He dedicated in 1920 a set of four 180 cm high panels for Rong Ming, also known as Hu Egong, on the theme of flowers. Soon afterward he dedicated a set of flowers and fruits to a Mr Zhongshan who was to be from 1923 to 1924 as Cao Kun the President of the Republic of China.
That latter set is made of four hanging scrolls in ink and color on paper 284 x 64 cm each. They had possibly constituted a set of eight with a set of four with other plants, currently kept at the Boston Museum of Art. This monumental size may be compared with the 1925 set of twelve landscapes 180 x 47 cm each sold for RMB 925M by Poly in 2017.
The four panels respectively display Peaches, Loquats with plantain lilies, Pomegranates with plumed cockscombs and Grapes, each panel with a critical statement. In the Chinese tradition, these elements symbolize abundance, longevity and family wealth. Qi's unprecedented style is a dense composition in free brushwork and bright colors that nearly fills the whole surface of the paper.
Flowers and fruits was sold for HK $ 79M from a lower estimate of HK $ 18M by Sotheby's on October 8, 2022, lot 9.
1920 Les Femmes à la Toilette by Léger
2008 SOLD for $ 10.1M including premium by Christie's
1920 Composition by Léger
2022 SOLD for £ 6.2M by Christie's
1920 George Bellows in the Crowd
2012 SOLD 7 M$ including premium
On December 1, 1999, Sotheby's sold Polo Crowd, oil on canvas 115 x 161 cm, painted in 1910. Sold $ 27.5 million including premium, this lot then got the record for an American painting at auction. The buyer, Bill Gates, was identified after the sale.
On May 17 in New York, Sotheby's sells a tennis scene painted in 1920. This oil on canvas, 109 x 135 cm, is estimated $ 5M.
On vacation the previous year in Newport RI, the artist had attended a tournament won by Bill Tilden of which he wanted to recreate the atmosphere. The game of tennis is underway, and the crowd is dense around the players. The style is typical of this artist: almost impressionistic in the clothing of the crowd, realistic up to the border of naivety in the anecdotal part of the scene.
This dynamic and colorful work is a very interesting account of the atmosphere of the early Roaring Twenties.
POST SALE COMMENT
Deserved result for this interesting painting by George Bellows: $ 7M including premium.
The image is shared on Wikiart :
1920-1921 Beaux Arts by Jupeon
2016 SOLD for HK$ 47M including premium
In Paris, Xu is one of the first Asian artists and perhaps even the first Chinese artist to practice oil painting. He temporarily abandons the figurative Chinese themes to bring his personal vision of the ancient European painting. At that time his name is spelled Jupeon.
Xu rightly observed that Western mythology provides an excuse to show the nude in erotic positions. On April 3 in Hong Kong, Sotheby's sells a Sleeping Venus, oil on canvas 62 x 95 cm painted in Paris in 1920-1921 and signed in Chinese, lot 1034 estimated HK $ 40M.
The naked woman is lying on the grass in a lascivious attitude reminiscent of female positions by Courbet. The mythological inspiration for this ideal woman is confirmed by two little satyrs emerging away from a grove.
The mythological scenes painted by Xu in his Parisian period are extremely rare on the art market. A slave and lion of large size 123 x 153 cm painted in 1924 was sold for HK $ 54M including premium by Christie's on 26 November 2006. This work anticipates the highly original specialization of the artist after his return to China, using animals for the expression of fiery sentiments.
The female nudes by Xu are also very rare and eagerly sought. In June 2010 in Beijing, a small auction house sold for the equivalent of US $ 11.2M the standing nude of a young woman thought to be Jiang Biwei who was Xu's wife in the 1920s. In September 2011, an artist recognized convincingly in this portrait a model who posed in the nude in a classroom in the 1980s.
1920 Cameroon Fang Mabea Figure ex Fénéon
2014 SOLD for € 4.35M by Sothebys
An anarchist activist who became an effective art critic, Fénéon was the discoverer of Seurat before entering the illusion of the communist ideal with Signac. Refusing social or artistic pre-established solutions, he was one of the first along with Apollinaire to be interested in African art.
In 1920, Fénéon obtains and publishes the opinions of twenty specialists on the topic of relevance or not to consider the primitive arts, named by him Arts Lointains, on the same level as the European masterpieces in the Louvre. This question had a final answer 80 years later when Jacques Kerchache obtained the creation of a specialized section in that Museum.
In 1920, the African standard bearer in Fénéon's collection is a Fang figure 67 cm high of a nude woman in seated position which will also later join the Kerchache collection. Its characteristics differ from other Fang styles by a careful anatomical realism and an active expression. The mouth is open to speak.
It was sculpted after the tribal migrations of the eighteenth century (we do not know exactly when) in a very tiny Fang subgroup, the Mabea of Cameroon, whose artistic output is extremely rare. Only a dozen of their ancestor figures are known. The Fénéon-Kerchache specimen is the last in private hands.
It was sold for € 4.35M from a lower estimate of € 2.5 M. Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's :
1920 Babe Ruth Road Jersey
2012 SOLD for $ 4.4M by SCP
The sale by SCP Auctions on May 19, online from California, of a wool jersey of the Babe is indeed a considerable event. Two weeks before the auction ends, this lot has already surpassed Lou Gehrig's jersey sold for $ 717K including premium by Heritage on November 5, 2010.
Moreover this jersey dates from an exceptional period in Ruth's career and is in very good condition. It is marked NEW YORK, which makes sense for this sportsman. However, Ruth had made the success of the Boston Red Sox before being transferred in 1920 to the New York Yankees.
The jersey has retained its original identification with the name of Ruth. A photo of the champion made in March 1920 shows him with a jersey identical as the example to be sold, confirming, if not the year, at least the period when the garment was made by Spalding and worn by Ruth.
Here is the link to the press release shared by AuctionReport.
POST SALE COMMENT
The prices of the rarest pieces have no predictable limit. Babe Ruth's jersey was sold $ 3.7 million before fees, 4.4 million including premium.
The memorabilia from Babe Ruth provided two other notable results: $ 590K including premium for a bat and $ 540K including premium for a cap.
This sale was also very successful for baseball cards from the 1950s in mint condition (PSA10): $ 430K including premium for Roberto Clemente, and $ 360K including premium for Hank Aaron.
For post WWII baseball, let us also mention a jersey worn by Mickey Mantle in 1968, sold $ 370K including premium.
BABE RUTH BIRTHDAY: Today on January 6 1895 the greatest player to play the game of Baseball was born. Here is the best piece of Ruthian memorabilia sold by @SCPAuctions for $4,415,658 World record for a piece of sports memorabilia #Baberuth @baseballhall @Yankees @MLB #MLB pic.twitter.com/Z5BL5bA2DF— SCP Auctions (@SCPAuctions) February 6, 2018