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Contemporary Art

César — From the Scrapyard to the Gallery

A work by one of the most important figures in 20th Century sculpture will be offered in the Contemporary Art Day Auction in London on 8 March. 

Executed in 1978, César’s Compression d’Automobile is constructed from variously hued and mechanically compressed vehicles that form an imposing totemic structure. This striking example of the sculptor’s warped and contorted metallic compositions is a celebration of his lifelong investigation in the artistic potential of everyday objects.

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CÉSAR, COMPRESSION D'AUTOMOBILE, 1978. ESTIMATE: £300,000—500,000.

During an excursion to a scrap yard outside of Paris in 1960, César witnessed for the first time in his life a hydraulic compressor majestically flattening and crushing monumentally proportioned objects.

Later that year, he unveiled to the world the result of his investigations in scrap-merchant warehouses: grandiose works created with his newly discovered compression technique, instantaneously receiving nation-wide attention for his unprecedented creativity and audacity.

For the creation of the work, the artist and the work’s current owner went scavenging for abandoned automobiles in Parisian scrapyards together, as documented in these archival photographs.

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CÉSAR EXAMINING COMPRESSED SCRAP METAL, 1978. 

Amongst the automobiles strategically selected by the pair on one such trip in 1978, was none other than the current owner's personal vehicle, now forever imbued in the DNA of a veritable chef-d’oeuvre.

A pioneering member of the Nouveau Réalisme movement, French sculptor César Baldaccini stunned his contemporaries with his avant-garde works through their impressive scale and seemingly inflexible artistic materials. His critically-acclaimed and world-renowned Compressions pushed the boundaries of art history and questioned traditional definitions of sculpture.

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CÉSAR VISITING THE SCRAPYARD ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF PARIS, 1978. 

Distorted, twisted and deformed, Compression d'Automobile offers viewers a psychedelic landscape of colours, an organic melange of chipped paint and rusted metal which unite and harmonise to form patterned creases over a richly textured surface.

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THE CAR BEING LIFTED IN TO POSITION, 1978. 

César’s vibrantly coloured metallic panels often remind viewers of smooth and glossy advertising boards, coated in spray-paint and tailored to perfection, yet indisputably defy mass-production and the seldom-questioned concept of throw-away culture.

 

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