One recurring complaint about art collectors today is that they chase trophies. So we see collections come to market where the buyer has amassed a “one from column A, two from column B” type of collection with little internal coherence or an organizing principle.
Today, Christie’s announced that its Impressionist & Modern sale in London will be led by two strong Surrealist works, a rare Yves Tanguy that was held by the artist’s dealer (and his estate) until the collector bought it and a Magritte from the pivotal year of 1928 in the artist’s production.
That isn’t the interesting part of this story. The collection began somewhat surprisingly with work by Mark Tansey, the Contemporary artist whose engagement with ideas and fondness for visual puzzles and puns shares many traits with Surrealist artists, which will be sold in November at Christie’s (another Tansey was sold earlier to make an exceptional price.)
The collector’s path from Tansey was back in time where more and more varied works could be acquired for surprising prices when compared with Contemporary art. Lured by an interest in the unconscious and eroticism, the collector bought a range of works from a Warhol readymade Brillo box to the artist’s polaroids of celebrities and major figures from the Surrealist movement to Man Ray photographs of the same including a Man Ray image of Edward James that records the pose of Magritte’s record portrait of the patron sold last year.
Filling out the dense collection are selection of erotic Indian miniatures and a range of works on paper by Beckmann, Miró, Schwitters, Max Ernst and Duchamp. There’s even a design component as Christie’s will sell furniture by Marc Newsom, Ron Arad and an example of the famous Dalí/Man Ray collaboration to make a sofa in the form of Mae West’s lips.
Here’s Christie’s on the two top lots of the collection:
Christie’s will offer The Landscape of a Mind: A Private Collector’s Surreal Vision as a highlight of ‘20th Century at Christie’s’. Over a series of sales, including theImpressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on 18 June, and a dedicated sale of Design, Photography, Indian Miniatures, Post-War and Contemporary Art and further Impressionist and Modern Art on 20 June, more than 100 works will be presented. Together, they map the surreal vision of an eclectic collector who cleverly created a dialogue between objects and artworks in the domestic settings they inhabited. The collection is estimated in the region of £15,000,000. A dedicated interior will be created for the collection in the St James’s galleries at King Street from 13 to 20 June 2019 as part of ‘20th Century at Christie’s’, a series of auctions that will take place from 17 to 26 June 2019.
An important group of 13 Surrealist and Dada works will highlight the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on 18 June 2019. Yves Tanguy’s L’Extinction des especes II(1938, estimate: £2,500,000-4,000,000) will be offered at auction for the first time and was passed down through the family of Tanguy’s primary dealer (Pierre Matisse) until 2013, when it was acquired by the present owner from the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation.
Le parc du vautour (1926, estimate: £2,500,000-4,000,000) is an unusually large surrealist landscape, which explores a dream-like scene. Featured in Magritte’s first solo exhibition in 1927, a seminal show which launched his career as a Surrealist, Le parc du vautour will be offered at auction for the first time.
Olivier Camu, Deputy Chairman, Impressionist and Modern Art, Christie’s: “This superb and unique collection exudes a strong erotic surrealism, visible in the paintings, drawings, photographs, collages and iconic design. The formidable Mark Tansey was the first purchase, which then led to an appetite for Dada and Surrealism across many different categories and value levels, without any bias but always with great research, wit and an eye for quality. This most eclectic of collections draws us into the fascinating landscape of the mind of this very passionate collector. We are particularly excited to introduce at auction for the first time ever Magritte’s unusually large ‘Le parc du vautour’ of 1926 as well as Yves Tanguy’s ‘L’extinction des especes, II’ of 1938, the best painting by the artist I have seen at auction since the world record setting ‘Les derniers jours’ sold in these rooms in 2005.’”