Lots 28, 32 33, 34 and 50
Lots 160, 183, 221
A pioneering Italian collector, Alessandro Grassi possessed a curatorial eye that was as far reaching in scope as it was discerning. His passion and broad-minded appreciation for developments in contemporary art precipitated a collection that has boasted landmark pieces from an impressive roll-call of major artistic movements from the later Twentieth Century. Spanning Spatialism, Arte Povera, Pop art and Transavantguardia through to post-war stalwarts such as Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat; Italian progenitors like Lucio Fontana, Alighiero Boetti and Agostino Bonalumi; and iconic pieces by contemporary artists such as George Condo, Gilbert and George and Damien Hirst, Alessandro Grassi collected with an unrestrained acuity and fervour. Passionately amassed over the course of three decades, a selection of this extraordinary compendium of contemporary art, which incorporates exceptional pieces from the past sixty years, will be offered for public sale for the very first time across the Contemporary Art Evening, Italian and Day Auctions.
Governed by his quick eye and nonpareil taste, the collection was conceived in 1979 when Alessandro Grassi bought a vibrant, cuttingedge work by Sandro Chia, exemplifying a predilection for the fresh and new – a trait that came to govern much of his collecting practice. Indeed, most of the works that comprise the collection were bought upon their first public unveiling. Eschewing the decorative and the historiographic, Grassi famously only chose works for his collection that resonated with him on a profoundly personal level. Capturing the facets of major artistic developments of the time, the works in this collection attest to the perspicacious visual sensitivity of a truly intuitive collector.
Italian art formed the nucleus of Alessandro Grassi’s collection. Punctuated by masterpieces such as Alighiero Boetti’s billboard-like work Tavole Pitagoriche and an exemplary, dazzling musing on the artist’s celebrated Mappa theme, the collection reflects the avant-gardism of the artistic development in Italy during the 1960s, 70s and ‘80s. In particular, Grassi focused on Transavanguardia, a term coined by the eminent scholar Achille Bonito Oliva, who knew Grassi’s collection intimately. An Italian version of Neo-Expressionism, Transavanguardia swept through Italy and Western Europe in the late 1970s and 80s. Rejecting the prevailing trends for dry Minimalism and Conceptualism, this movement re-injected emotion back into the faculties of painting, drawing and sculpture. Including outstanding works by some of the greatest adherents of Transavanguardia, such as Sandro Chia and a scintillating early work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, the collection reflects the joyous energy and vitality redolent of these extraordinary works.
In the 1990s Alessandro Grassi’s collecting took on an altogether more global character, turning as he did to international artists. Names including Damien Hirst and the master of American Pop Art, Andy Warhol, filtered into his repertoire with their quasi mechanical procedures of artistic production. Although diversified, Grassi’s collection maintained its defining and exacting vision: the two Warhol portraits depicting the Italian artist Sandro Chia enact a fascinating visual dialogue that ties his collection up into a legible whole.
Forming close relationships to individual artists and predominantly acquiring works through inaugural gallery exhibitions, Alessandro Grassi created a collection which is not only rich and insightful, but is also deeply personal. His vigorous passion and impeccable taste is highlighted in every work that he acquired; an exquisite interplay of simplicity and complexity, this exceptional corpus forms a complete and fascinating portrait of an iconic Italian collector.
Header: Alessandro Grassi with his collection