Lot 15
  • 15

SERGE POLIAKOFF | Composition Abstraite

400,000 - 600,000 EUR
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  • Serge Poliakoff
  • Composition Abstraite
  • signed
  • oil on canvas
  • 162 x 130 cm; 63 7/8 x 51 1/4 in.
  • Executed in 1967.


Private Collection, Zurich
Sotheby's, Paris, Art Contemporain, Vente du Soir, 12 December 2007, lot 10
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner


Paris, Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, XXIIIe Salon de Mai, 29 April - 21 May 1967; catalogue, no. 173
Havana, De Paris à la Havane, Salon de Mai, July 1967
Cannes, Galerie Cavalero, Poliakoff, 5 May - 7 June 1968
Caen, Théâtre et maison de la Culture, Serge Poliakoff, 6 January - 4 February 1968
Paris, Galerie XXe Siècle, Serge Poliakoff, 12 December - 15 January 1968
Martigny, Fondation Gianadda, Serge Poliakoff, 31 January - 29 March 1987; catalogue, np., illustrated


Alexis Poliakoff, Serge Poliakoff, Catalogue Raisonné, Volume V 1966-1969, Paris, 2016, p. 218, illustrated in colour


The colours are fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration although the overall tonality is softer in the original work, especially the red colour. As most of the oil on canvas works by Poliakoff dating from the 60's, the artist prepared his canvas with laid down paper before the execution of the work. A horizontal small rub mark is located in the red area in the lower left quadrant, above the signature, and is visible in the catalogue illustration. Under Ultra Violet Light inspection small traces of restoration fluoresce along the edges close to the rims. This work is in very good condition.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

One form should contain several forms, and several forms should point to one form.
Serge Poliakoff
With its expressive, colorful and vibrant palette, its impressive dimensions and its dynamic yet perfectly balanced composition, Composition Abstraite is undoubtedly one of Serge Poliakoff's most accomplished paintings from the 60s, a decade that consecrated the artist as one of the champions of the New School of Paris as well as post-war international abstraction.

Introduced to abstraction at the beginning of the 40s, it took Poliakoff nearly a decade to forge his unique plastic language based, as we well know, on the radiant interweaving of harmonious non-geometrical shapes, structured yet elusive.

Exhibited at the mythical Salon de Mai in spring 1967, as well as one of the artist's emblematic paintings at the great retrospective exhibition the Gianadda Foundation dedicated him in 1987, twenty years later, Composition Abstraite distinguishes itself for the infinite variations under its mat primary layer. In Poliakoff's art, technique and vision go hand in hand.

As he stopped using industrial paint, the painter started grinding his own pigments, experimenting with solvents and mediums to reach the outstanding textural effects that characterize Composition Abstraite. On an abstract background with no reference to local colors, the overlying and underlying color areas open up a dialogue and make up the painting's unique "meditative" quality, as art historian Wieland Schmied phrased in 1963 in his memorable and eloquent critic: "Poliakoff's paintings unfurl inward and not outward", taking distance with "nature because he is Nature itself, without however any connection to the figurative world. Besides the progressive simplification of his topic, the peacefulness of his shapes, a less elaborated style, more simplicity and a reduced palette of color that brought him to the secret world of monochrome, his spirituality grew along with his gravity and religiousness". His works are invitations to self-oblivion and meditation. (Wieland Schmied, preface of the catalogue of the Serge Poliakoff exhibition at the Kestner Gesellschaft, 1963)