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49
Simon Hantaï
M.D.4 (MARIALE)
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2,000,0003,000,000
LOT SOLD. 3,252,500 USD
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49
Simon Hantaï
M.D.4 (MARIALE)
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
2,000,0003,000,000
LOT SOLD. 3,252,500 USD
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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York

Simon Hantaï
1922-2008
M.D.4 (MARIALE)
signed, titled and dated 1962; signed and titled on the reverse
oil on canvas
92 3/4 by 81 1/2 in. 235.5 by 207 cm.
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The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris, where it is registered under archive number CF2.2.B.

Provenance

Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris
Claude Aguttes, Paris, June 25, 2008, Lot 161
Galerie Larock-Granoff, Paris
Guttklein Fine Art, Paris
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Exhibited

Paris, Galerie Kléber, Simon Hantaï, Peintures Mariales, May - June 1962
Münster, Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Simon Hantaï: Werke von 1960 bis 1995, May - August 1999, p. 33, illustrated in color (in installation)
Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Simon Hantaï, May - September 2013, p. 117, no. 69, illustrated in color 
New York, Mnuchin Gallery, Simon Hantaï, Pliage: The First Decade, April - June 2015, p. 36, illustrated in color (detail) and p. 37, pl. 3, illustrated in color
Paris, Guttklein Fine Art, Simon Hantaï: Oeuvres Majeures 1958-1981, February - April 2016

Literature

Francoise Chauvin, `Claude Aguttes, entre Neuilly et Lyon,' Connaissance des Arts, January 2009, p. 111, illustrated in color
Kálman Makláry, Simon Hantaï, Volume II, 1960-2001, Budapest, 2013, p. 106, illustrated in color
Paul Rodgers, The Modern Aesthetic, New York, 2017, p. 132, fig. 61, illustrated in color and p. 143, fig. 67, illustrated in color (detail)

Catalogue Note

Set ablaze by golden hues and burning embers, M.D.4 (Mariale) from 1962 is the glorious final painting in Simon Hantaï’s famed series of twenty-seven Mariales paintings. As the last Mariale Hantaï ever created, M.D.4 (Mariale) is considered to be the triumphant climax of the series, having been presented in major monographic retrospectives in Münster in 1999 and in Paris at the Centre Pompidou in 2013. The present work epitomizes the crowning achievement of Hantaï's pliage (meaning ‘fold’) invention, a technique that involved creasing and wrinkling large swaths of the canvas into sculptural forms analogous to converging tectonic plates. Hantaï would paint the visible exterior of the crumpled fabric, then unfold and flatten out the canvas to reveal the resulting composition erupting into unpredictable sequences of color and fragmented distortions of space that recall the radical, sumptuous passages of Picasso's Cubist masterpieces. Influenced by Jackson Pollock’s work, which he saw for the first time in 1955, Hantaï began his Mariales series in 1960 by placing the canvas on the ground and working on a monumental scale. Yet unlike Pollock, Hantaï wanted to experiment with canvas as a medium onto itself, focusing on its physical nature and potential to be manipulated before paint was ever applied. Unlike any other example, the present work displays the vestiges of Hantaï’s pliage process through an exceptionally rich palette of smoked grey washes, splatters of charcoal-dripped paint, and sensational copper-orange ridges that rise and wrinkle over the surface of the canvas. In the arresting visual terrain of M.D.4 (Mariale), crevices of soot and ash yield to climactic passages of glowing embers, where Hantaï has stained the infinite creases of the canvas with shades of bourbon and russet-orange. Carving and rippling across the surface of the canvas like geological rifts, these folds and furrows yield a spectacular sensation of depth, rendering the present work one of the most ardent illustrations of Hantaï’s pliage.

Born to a Catholic family in Hungary in 1922, Simon Hantaï studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, then fled Hungary for France at the age of twenty-seven to evade conscription as an emissary for Soviet socialist realist art. Settling in the eclectic artist community of Paris, the artist gained popular attention and critical acclaim for his early surrealist-leaning abstract paintings, in which he used scraps of metal to scrape away layers of paint and build highly textured gestural compositions. These paintings ultimately led to the dramatic reveal in 1960 of Hantaï’s Mariales series, the iconic multidimensional canvases for which the artist is best known. Consisting of only twenty-seven paintings divided into four groups (m.a., m.b., m.c., and m.d.), the Mariales paintings are exceedingly rare. Revered for a thrilling textural quality reminiscent of topographical impressions, the m.d. group, with just four paintings, is the final and arguably most important suite in the whole series. The present work is the ultimate accomplishment of the entire series, as Hantaï pursued different pictorial techniques after completing m.d.4, believing it was impossible to surpass what he had achieved in the culmination of the Mariales paintings. As Hantaï’s style continued to evolve in the ensuing decades, he became progressively dismayed by the superficiality of the art world. Just after representing France at the Venice Biennal in 1982, Hantaï withdrew from the art world through a veil of silence, intending to protest the endemic commercialization of his practice. While this fifteen-year period of reclusivity temporarily mystified the magnitude of Hantaï’s career, the Pompidou’s retrospective in 2013—in which M.D.4 (Mariale) reigned—was a substantial incendiary for reconstituting the grandeur of his legacy.

Unquestionably the most salient and celebrated cycle of works in Hantaï’s oeuvre, the Mariales paintings first introduced Hantaï’s pliage invention to the world. Upon viewing the Mariales works, Hantaï’s friend and fellow artist Daniel Buren described the series as “the most extraordinary paintings, resulting from a new way of painting that he had recently invented and developed, the pliage method...paving the way, in my view, for a tone that seemed incandescent with the creative fire that had kindled it.” (Daniel Buren, "Getting to Know Simon,” in Exh. Cat., Paris, Centre Pompidou, Simon Hantaï, 2013, p. 255) Considering Hantaï’s method to be the most radical expression in painting since Jackson Pollock, Buren described Hantaï’s painting style as “blindly” covering the entire surface of the canvas—a concept that bears specific personal significance to the artist. When Hantaï was eight years old, he went temporarily blind as a result of diphtheria, and consequently remarked how the experience of losing his sight played a pivotal role in his pliage technique, which denies the faculty of sight and the authority of aesthetic control. For Hantaï pliage was a technical solution to his increasing wariness and dissatisfaction for the privilege and authority ascribed to the artist’s hand. Manipulating the canvas, therefore, surrendered the final outcome of the painting to contingency and unconscious intention. By shifting away from the idea of canvas as a passive receiver of paint, Hantaï’s pliage technique represents an unprecedented activation of canvas as the principal catalyst for the final creation. The French filmmaker Jean-Michel Meurice, who compiled a documentary in 1977 on Hantaï’s work, wrote: “The tale of pliage is a tale of blindness and clairvoyance. And that was his true secret. Not seeing. Not knowing. Not calculating. A quiet, serene rule of behavior reduced to its simplest expression. Gestures that were not ritualized but simplified. Closing one’s eyes, forgetting everything, seeing nothing.” (Jean-Michel Meurice, “The Golden Years,” in Exh. Cat. Paris, Centre Pompidou, Simon Hantaï, 2013, p. 258)  

Also referred to as the Manteaux de la Vierge (The Cloak of the Virgin) series, Hantaï’s Mariales paintings evoke a significant liturgical allusion to the Catholic tradition in which he was raised.  Inspired by religious icons in the stained glass windows of the Chartres Cathedral, Hantaï chose the word Mariale, meaning Marian, to symbolize the Virgin of Mercy who opens her cloak to shelter all possible specimens of humanity—most importantly, the sinful and lowly. Speckled, irregular, and stained, Hantaï’s Mariales paintings metaphorically allude to the immaculate Virgin who harbors and protects the ‘maculate,’ such as the torn and vandalized character of Hantaï’s canvas. Further drawing upon religious imagery, the particular treatment of light and dark links Hantaï’s Mariales to the optical effect of stained glass, where uniquely-shaped prisms of color are brilliantly activated by light that shines through the glass. It is this precise luminosity which distinguishes M.D.4 (Mariale) as an exquisite finale of the series, possessing an unforeseen condition of conflagration and earthly decomposition. Emphasizing the poignancy of the present work, Dominique Fourcade wrote: “In this context, tearing itself away from the series and carrying everything away with it, there is nothing more alive and solemn, not a Sienna red, reddish, orange, more transparent and grave, more tragic or active cut-out than the most serial Mariale m.d.4.” (Dominique Fourcade, “The Mariales, pliage—adventure one,” in Exh. Cat., Paris, Centre Pompidou, Simon Hantaï, 2013, p. 97) Illuminated by a valiant, burning energy, M.D.4 (Mariale) consummates Hantaï’s most esteemed body of work and endures as a shimmering apotheosis of Hantaï’s creative genius.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York