Lot 10
  • 10

Francis Picabia

2,500,000 - 3,500,000 USD
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  • Francis Picabia
  • Bal nègre
  • Signed Francis Picabia (lower center) and dated 1947 (lower right); titled (top center)
  • Oil on panel
  • 60 5/8 by 43 5/8 in.
  • 154 by 110.8 cm


Estate of the Artist

Dr. Jean Audouin, Paris (acquired by 1980)

Dominique Kanga, Paris (acquired by 1985 and sold: Sotheby's, London, June 28, 1989, lot 190)

Private Collection, France (acquired at the above sale)

Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above after 2002 and sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 7, 2006, lot 51)

Acquired at the above sale


São Paulo, Museu de Arte Moderna, Do Figurativismo ao Abstracionismo,1949, no. 75

Buenos Aires, Instituto de Arte Moderna, Arte Abstracto en Francia, 1949, no. 60

Brussels, Galerie Apollo, Picabia, 1950, no. 10

Marseille, Musée Cantini, Picabia, 1962, no. 63

New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Cincinnnati Art Museum; Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario & Detroit Institute of Arts, Francis Picabia, 1970-71, no. 101, illustrated in the catalogue

Paris, Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Francis Picabia, 1976, no. 235, illustrated in the catalogue

Paris, Palais des Congrès, Picabia, dandy et héraut de l'art du XX siècle, 1980-81, no. 41, illustrated in the catalogue

Brussels, Musée d'Ixelles, Francis Picabia 1879-1953, 1983, no. 86, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Takanawa, The Museum of Modern Art & Tokyo, The Seibu Museum of Art, Francis Picabia, 1984, no.78, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Madrid, Salas Pablo Ruiz Picasso & Barcelona, Fundació Caixa de Pensions, Francis Picabia 1879-1953, 1985, no. 158, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Nîmes, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Francis Picabia, 1986, no. 124, illustrated in the catalogue

Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Passions Privées, Collections particulières d'art moderne et contemporain en France, 1995-96, no. A25.5, illustrated in the catalogue

Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Francis Picabia singulier idéale, 2002-03, illustrated in color in the catalogue


Art d'Aujourd'hui, no. 5, Paris, December 1949, illustrated

Michel Sanouillet, Picabia, Paris, 1964, mentioned pp. 59-60

Olga Mohler, Francis Picabia, Turin, 1975, illustrated p. 143

William A. Camfield, Francis Picabia, His Art, Life and Times, Princeton, 1979, mentioned p. 271, illustrated n.p.

Maria Luîsa Borràs, Picabia, Paris, 1985, no. 858, illustrated p. 477

Serge Fauchereau, Picabia, Paris, 1996, illustrated on the back cover

Alain Jouffroy, Picabia, Paris & New York, 2002, illustrated


Excellent condition overall. There is one small chip in the support near the edge in the upper right side about five inches to the left of the white element, which has been inpainted (visible in catalogue illustration). In the lower right corner, there has been some frame abrasion. The surface is stable and the pigments are bright.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Bal nègre pulsates with an energy particular to Picabia's post-war oeuvre. Executed just two years after the conclusion of World War II, this work exemplifies the luminary status Picabia would assume for future generations of artists as the concept of abstraction took hold. Building upon the Dadaist vernacular of his earlier years, Picabia created a novel formal language in the late 1940s. Michel Seuphor wrote in an introduction to a 1948 exhibition of Picabia's work at the Galerie des Deux Iles in Paris, "The cycle is complete. Picabia has refound the sap of the Dada epoch, the same disengagement, the same anti-painting painting... In the ascending generations it is he again who shows the road of complete liberty" (quoted in William A. Camfield, op. cit., pp. 270-71).

Picabia derives the subject matter in the current work from his weekly visits to the Bal Nègre in Paris. On Saturday nights from 10 pm until dawn, Picabia would frequent these shows which featured exotic dancers from Martinique. He was joined in these ventures by Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Picabia was clearly inspired by the swirl of movement that these performances embodied and sought to capture this dynamism in a manner that evokes the earlier masterworks of Italian Futurists such as Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini. Picabia breaks away from their reliance upon naturalism, codifying his subject-matter into a series of interlocking shapes and symbols. The result is a comingling of representation and abstraction that characterizes the inception of a coming revolution in European art. Artists such as Hans Hartung and Wols will turn to his example in their groundbreaking works from the 1940s. Bal nègre captures the fervency of this crucial transition with monumentality and assurance.