NEW YORK, 16 October 2020 – Sotheby’s is pleased to announce that the upcoming Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Auctions in New York on 28 October will feature a selection of works offered on behalf of the Brooklyn Museum. Included in the group are works by Claude Monet, Jean Dubuffet, Edgar Degas, Joan Miró, Henri Matisse, and design by Carlo Mollino.
Sotheby’s will auction additional works on behalf of the Brooklyn Museum across collecting categories throughout the fall, including the Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sales in mid-November and a dedicated sale of Fabergé objects in November. Further details will be available in advance of each auction.
The Brooklyn Museum’s proceeds from Sotheby’s sales will be used to establish a Collection Care Fund to support caring for the institution’s collection. Creating a direct care fund will help offset the vastly growing expenses of collection care and stabilize collection care efforts in times of economic downturn.
Direct Care refers to the activities that enhance the life, usefulness, or quality of the collection, thereby ensuring that it will continue to benefit the public for years to come. It embodies the work of Brooklyn Museum curators, registrars, conservators, and others in preserving, protecting and caring for its collections. A portion of staff salaries who work directly with the collection is included in direct care activities. The Brooklyn Museum’s Direct Care of the Collection Policy can be read in full here.
The process for this Collection Care initiative was a cross-departmental effort, and included input from curators, conservators, registrars as well as executive leadership and the Museum's Board of Trustees, who have voted unanimously for these deaccessions.
Anne Pasternak, Shelby White and Leon Levy Director of the Brooklyn Museum, said: “This effort is designed to support one of the most important functions of any museum – the care for its collection –and comes after several years of focused effort by the Museum to build a plan to strengthen its collections, repatriate objects, advance provenance research, improve storage, and more. While seeing any art work leave our collection can be painful, in no way does the departure of any of these works undermine the core strengths of our collection. All decisions were made with the utmost care and research, guided by industry best practices and laws.”
IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART EVENING SALE
Claude Monet’s Les Îles à Port-Villez (estimate $2.5/3.5 million) comes from a group of six related canvases focusing on a cluster of tidal islands which formed where the Seine and Epte rivers met, immediately south of Monet’s beloved Giverny. The painting showcases Monet’s sheer mastery of brush, paint and canvas, displayed at their most powerful and instantaneous. Evoking a moment of quiet along the banks of this mighty river, this painting captures the essence of Impressionism, some twenty-five years after Monet had first put a name to a nascent, rebellious movement with Impression, Sunrise.
Painted in 1966, Joan Miró’s Couple d’amoureux dans la nuit (estimate $1.2/1.8 million) explores some of the artist’s most enduring motifs: the figure, the moon, and the stars. The painting is a vivacious composition from Miró’s mature years. Marrying a bold application of pure color with his signature black line, reminiscent of Japanese calligraphy, the painting showcases an Eastern influence on his work (Miró was to have his first retrospective in Japan this same year). The present work also responds to the growing influence of Abstract Expressionism while recalling many of the artist’s most salient motifs from the early 1940s.
Henri Matisse’s Carrefour de Malabry (estimate $800,000/1.2 million) and Edgar Degas’ Femme nue assise s'essuyant les cheveux (estimate $1/1.5 million) round out the offerings on behalf of the Museum in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale. The Matisse was painted in 1917 in Malabray, a town close to Matisse’s family home at Issy-Les-Moulineaux, south-west of Paris, and captures the artist's reinvigorated awareness of landscape painting as an expression of his renewed interest in Impressionism and its revolutionary approach to the subject matter at the time. Degas’ Femme nue assise s'essuyant les cheveux is a classic example of the artist’s exploration of the human form in one of his favorite ways—a female figure after her bath—using pastel to elevate the humility of the bather’s situation to a sublime exposition of grace and beauty.
CONTEMPORARY ART EVENING AUCTION
The sale offers two paintings by Jean Dubuffet on behalf of the Museum, each estimated to achieve $2.5/3.5 million. Bursting with vibrancy, Le Messager presents one of the most accomplished personnages from the artist’s esteemed Paris Circus series. Dating from October 1961, the year marked the beginning of a new cycle for Dubuffet when he arrived in Paris from Vence. Having escaped the battered atmosphere of the post-war capital in the mid-1950s, Dubuffet returned to find a city teeming with people, energy and color. Influenced by his new surroundings, the artist quickly abandoned the earthy, melancholic works that had characterized his output to make way for theatricality and joie de vivre. Featuring a sensory overload of joyful colors and shapes, the present work bears witness to Dubuffet’s masterful handling of paint application and structural composition.
Executed in 1963 at the peak of Dubuffet’s artistic powers, Rue Tournique Bourlique exemplifies the painterly skill and imaginative enthusiasm that define his highly esteemed L’Hourloupe cycle. Started in the summer of 1962, the L’Hourloupe cycle was so rich in creativity that it became Dubuffet’s preoccupation for the following twelve years. The early L’Hourloupe paintings featured much of the same subject matter as his Paris Circus street scenes, but represented a shift in Dubuffet’s aesthetic iconography – although placed within the iconographic context of the Paris Circus, Rue Tournique Bourlique and the L’Hourloupe series is a plunge into a fantasy parallel universe within the artist’s extraordinary imagination.
The Contemporary Art Evening Sale will also feature a historic masterpiece by Carlo Mollino – a highly important and unique Dining Table (estimate $2/3 million). This extraordinary work was created by Mollino in 1950 for the Brooklyn Museum’s seminal exhibition, Italy At Work: Her Renaissance in Design Today, which was organized as an international effort to showcase the breadth and ingenuity of contemporary Italian Design in the post-war reconstruction period. The Table stands as a masterwork that is as important historically as it is ambitious artistically, representing one of the most important singular works created by Mollino during his illustrious career. Transcending the definition of a utilitarian form, this Table is a tour-de-force in the technical ingenuity of its molded plywood technique and the synthesis of its organic and anthropomorphic formal qualities. The Table traveled to eleven different museum venues in 1950, and was gifted to the Brooklyn Museum by the Italian government at the end of the exhibition tour. Aside from its original international debut and select exhibition venues in recent years, this great icon has been largely unseen by the public for decades.