Christie’s Announces a New Concept Auction With Masterpieces of Design and Photography

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Christie’s Frieze Week season will launch on 3 October 2017, including, for the first time, an evening auction that showcases two complementary collecting categories: Masterpieces of Design and Photography. The auction will showcase masterworks of the 20th and 21st centuries and tell the story of the extraordinary expansion of creativity in both design and photography from 1865 to the present day. Featuring major names including Diane Arbus, Gilbert & George, Andreas Gursky, Allen Jones, Finn Juhl, Robert Mapplethorpe, Carlo Mollino, Marc Newson, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Gio Ponti, Jean Prouvé, Gerrit Rietveld and Thomas Struth, the auction will provide an opportunity for both established and younger collectors. On view at Christie’s, King Street from 26 September to 3 October.

Francis Outred, Chairman & Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art EMERI: “I am delighted to present Masterpieces of Design and Photography: a new concept sale for Frieze Week 2017. Coinciding with our Post-War and Contemporary Art auctions, it is the sheer breadth and depth of materials on display in these 39 objects which underlines the extraordinary expansion of creativity from 1875 to the present day. The way that these ‘artists’ have responded to technological evolution by inventing new ways and approaches to deal with their vision of the world is truly breathtaking. Across 15 photographic works there are no less than six different process, but comparing the Platinum print in Robert Mapplethorpe’s masterpiece Self Portrait from 1988 with that of Baron Adolph de Meyer’s from 1906 creates two very different experiences. The touch and ‘texture’ of photography is what I hope that this auction and exhibition encourages. Colour in the hands of Thomas Struth is very different to that of Andreas Gursky for example. These aspects are all heightened by the context of the surfaces, forms and textures of Design which surround them. Virtually each of the 24 pieces uses a unique set of materials from hand-blown glass to cutlery and porcelain, from steel mesh to stainless steel and painted steel and riveted aluminium. These pioneers of Design have tackled the human relationship with the world, making functional yet beautiful works, none more so than Marc Newson’s Lockheed Lounge. By placing these works within the context of twentieth- and twenty-first-century painting and sculpture – as celebrated in our Evening and Day Auctions, as well as our themed sales Thinking Italian and Up Close – we will bring new stories and artistic relationships to light. With prices ranging from £20,000 to £1,500,000, we are looking to encourage both established and younger collectors to come together and experience the special excitement and drama of an evening auction at Christie’s King Street.

Highlights of the sale include Allen Jones’ Table, Chair and Hatstand (Hatstand estimate: £600,000 – £800,000; Chair estimate: £600,000 – £800,000 and Table estimate: £600,000 – £800,000), which are icons of British Pop Art and were created at the height of Jones’ career. Executed in 1969, the works were acquired that year by the pioneering collector, filmmaker and photographer Gunter Sachs, and remained in his possession for the next 43 years. Doubling as purposefully provocative pieces of household furniture, three exaggerated feminine figures are contorted into subservient postures. Illuminating the sexual undercurrents that ran through commercial advertising in the 1960s. Laced with seduction and critique in equal measure, they capture the Zeitgeist of this revolutionary period.

The pared back colour of Gilbert & George’s Red Morning (Hell) (1977, estimate: £800,000 – £1,200,000), from the landmark ‘Red Morning’ series of seventeen mural-sized works, with examples in various museums including Tate Modern. Red Morning (Hell) stands apart from others through its complete absence of red colour, resulting in a composition of austere monochrome impact. Red Morning (Hell) captures a pivotal moment in Gilbert & George’s career – the year was 1977, the Silver Jubilee of the Queen, but it was also a year rife with political and social unrest in Britain. The series’ title is a reference to the socialist movement which grew in the UK from 1976-77 and refers more broadly to tensions that coursed through many aspects of English culture at the time, from economic difficulties and police strikes to the anti-establishment punk movement, conveying deep social unrest.

One of the leading design pieces in the auction, Gerrit Thomas Rietveld’s 1919 ‘Elling’ sideboard (estimate: £60,000 – £90,000) is one of the most articulate examples of furniture as art and mirrored the evolution of minimalism and conceptualism in painting and sculpture such as that of Gilbert & George. The cabinet reveals the interior as exterior, the components identified, exploded and now held static in time, space and volume.

As a member of the Dutch De Stijl collective, founded in 1917, Rietveld embraced the group’s conceptual abstraction that adopted a streamlined, reductive personality that was now guided by bold use of line, plane, and colour. The ambient, deconstructed imagery of the painters Theo van Doesburg, Bart van der Leck, and Piet Mondrian, amongst others, found synergy with Rietveld’s experimental abstractions of furniture.
Stretching over five metres in width and two in height, Andreas Gursky’s May Day IV (2000, estimate: £500,000 – £700,000) offers a vast, panoramic spectacle of humanity. Viewed from a staggering aerial vantage point, a sea of semi-clad revellers pulses to an unheard beat. Executed in 2000, it is the second from an edition of six photographs, examples of which are housed in the Kunstmuseum NRW, Düsseldorf, the Kistefos Museet, Oslo and the Castello di Rivoli, Turin. The work was included in the artist’s 2001 touring exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York – Gursky’s first American retrospective – where it featured on the front cover of the catalogue.

Capturing a split-second of frenzied activity in intoxicating detail, it is a consummate example of Gursky’s ability to distil the chaos of contemporary human experience into a single, crystalline image. Merging and manipulating multiple different shots, his works play with radically intensified colour, overlapping perspectives and dramatically enlarged scale. Andreas Gursky’s Rheine II (1999) holds the record for a single photographic print, selling for $4,338,500 at Christie’s New York in 2011. Gursky leads a field of major photographers of the German school including Thomas Demand, Thomas Struth and Wolfgang Tillmans, also featured in the auction.

At the other end of the 20th century, Marc Newson’s pioneering A Lockheed Lounge (designed 1985-1988, this piece executed before 1993, estimate: £1,000,000– £1,500,000) inaugurated a new aesthetic language for the twenty-first century, and confirmed Newson’s status as a universal creator whose sensitivity, diversity and sense of innovation remains unparalleled. A Lockheed Lounge holds the highest price achieved for a contemporary design by a living maker, selling for £2,434,500 in 2015. This chaise longue was designed to investigate mobility and movement and was was inspired by a classical furniture form – a daybed – however, through the use of a biomorphic form and the rich texture of the riveted aluminium surface, it was updated to now become the leading icon of contemporary design. In 1993 the Lockheed was brought to a wider audience when featured as the centrepiece in Madonna’s video for her single, ‘Rain’. Two years later Vitra Design Museum included the Lockheed in their exhibition of ‘100 Masterpieces’, and in 2000 the chaise was the focus of the Carnegie Art Museum’s aluminium retrospective, occupying both front and back covers of the exhibition catalogue. The innovative status of this landmark design was now assured, and swiftly the few remaining examples that had not already been secured by museums became the focus of pioneering collectors, many drawn from the fields of contemporary art, transcending the traditional boundaries that were perceived to exist within the fields of the fine and the decorative arts.

Another stand-out work, Robert Mapplethorpe’s Self Portrait (photographed and printed in 1988, £300,000 – £500,000) is an edition of three platinum prints, with two of them in the permanent collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the J. Paul Getty Museum / Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles. An icon of twentieth century portraiture, Robert Mapplethorpe’s Self Portrait signifies one of the very last self-representations he would make before his life – and profound contribution to the history of art – was tragically cut short in 1989 at the tender age of 42. Seen clad in a black turtle-neck that intentionally blends with the background and disembodies his brilliant, sharp mind from the decaying, ailing body it underlines the artist’s understanding of his impending death. Clutched in his right hand is a walking cane, an open confession of physical frailty, adorned with a shiny metal skull, turning the entire composition into a vanitas and aligning Mapplethorpe with other greats who foretold their own death.

Carlo Mollino’s dining suite (1954-55, estimate: £300,000 – £500,000) is another highlight, and this is the first complete suite featuring a rectangular dining table with six chairs to be offered at auction in nearly two decades. The present suite is consciously rugged – its construction designed to withstand regular use and stylistically informed by Mollino’s studies into Alpine, vernacular furniture and architecture.

Mollino is today celebrated as one of the most strikingly original creators of mid-century Italian architecture and design. He was a passionate skier and as such was naturally attracted to design in the context of winter sports. This suite was designed for just such a commission, the Casa del Sole ten-story apartment complex, in the Italian Alpine resort of Cervinia in Italy.

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