11 Masterworks of Israeli & International Art

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The 20 December sale of Israeli & International art features a curated selection of diverse masterworks from Israel’s most important artists, along with works from today’s most sought-after contemporary artists. Click ahead for a closer look at the stories behind 11 of the sale’s most intriguing highlights. 

Israeli & International Art
20 December | New York

11 Masterworks of Israeli & International Art

  • Mordecai Ardon, Sinai 1967, 1967. Estimate $500,000–700,000.
    Sinai 1967 , like its earlier version, Steppes of the Negev, 1953, in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, illustrates themes from the book of Exodus. Mordechai Ardon's masterpiece, also referred to as Sinai Golden Calf and Serpent, juxtaposes symbols of the story of the Israelites departure from Egypt, as they wandered the Sinai desert to the Holy Land - the golden calf, the cult idol erected by Aaron when Moses was away on Mount Sinai receiving the commandments and the bronze serpent, constructed by Moses to protect the people from attack by poisonous snakes.



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

  • Reuven Rubin, Bouquet on my Window, 1955. Estimate $150,000–250,000.
    Reuven Rubin was attracted to blossoming spring flowers from his earliest years in Eretz Yisrael. Dating from the 1950s this superb example is an exuberant expression of his love of the land. In contrast to the bleak and cold Rumanian landscape of his youth, in Israel plants and flowers grew abundantly, and he delighted in having his home filled with large bouquets.



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

  • Chana Orloff, Nu-Adolescent, 1928. Estimate $60,000–80,000.
    In the 1920s Orloff worked on a series of sculptures of stylized male torsos which remain among her most celebrated works. Le Jeune américain, a plaster of 1926 shocked the public with its audacious nudity. The present work, Nu-Adolescent , is closer in feel to Athlète/Baigneuse of 1927 in its flowing lines and robust vigor.  In this work, Orloff achieves “une beauté plastique extraordinaire” (Felix Marcilhac, Chana Orloff, 1991, p. 100).



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

  • Mordecai Ardon, Judean Hills, 1967. Estimate $250,000–350,000.
    Ardon’s landscapes from the 1960s verge on the abstract; his work is an exploration of light, color, texture and temperature. With palette knives and a special brush, Ardon created a dynamic surface where colors glow with an internal light. (Ruth Apter-Gabriel, Mordecai Ardon: Landscapes of Infinity, 2003) Judean Hills , in the same private collection since the year it was painted, revisits the subject of one of Ardon’s first paintings after moving to Israel, In the Hills of Judea, c. 1935, with the mature style and brighter color palette of the 1960s. Ardon was deeply moved by the landscapes of his new homeland. “Ardon recollects that he experienced a mystical attachment to the ancient soil. His canvas is not so much the portrait of a place as it is a revelation of the mysterious union he felt with the earth.” (Michele Vishny, Mordecai Ardon, p. 28)



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

  • Avigdor Arikha, Nude on a Sheet, 1988. Estimate $70,000–90,000.
    In Nude on a Sheet , Avigdor Arikha's innovative composition paired with his careful handling of the many subtle shades that build up white sheet and flesh infuse this quiet subject with a tense psychological energy. In Duncan Thomas's monogram on the artist he compares the work to a painting by Lucien Freud, Standing by the Rags, from the same year. "Freud engages in an unremitting onslaught, where the layers of paint aim at the same plasticity as flesh itself; Arikha attempts, with an economy of means, to hold the evanescent luminosity of the model's flesh as something that is almost distinct from the substance that lies beneath the surface, although at the same time contributing to its realization. Few contemporary painters are equipped, either technically or psychologically, to paint from the model in either way." (Thomas, p. 182)



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

  • Moshe Mokady, Workers at the Port. Estimate $80,000–120,000.
    Workers at the Port , a recently rediscovered work from the 1920s epitomizes the bright colors, bold compositions and movement of Moshe Mokady’s Eretz-Israel paintings from the early 1920s. This important period of Mokady’s work was well received in his 1926 exhibitions in Cairo and Alexandria, before he continued his work and education in Paris. Few works from this period survive, though there are a few notable scenes of Haifa circa 1925 in important collections. In Irith Hadar’s monogram on the artist from 1999, she sustains that most of Mokady’s early works, pre-1926, were lost or destroyed over the years, and that like many artists in Israel at the time, Mokady painted over his early paintings with new works, either for financial or stylistic concerns or both. (Irith Hadar, Moshe Mokady: The Life and the Creation, p. 18)



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

  • Yaacov Agam, Tout, 1973-75. Estimate $50,000–80,000.
    Tout , from 1973-75, included in Yaacov Agam’s solo show, Agam: Beyond the Visible, at the Guggenheim in 1980, is a classic example from one of the leading pioneers of kinetic art, where the viewer’s position in relation to the work affects the very colors and composition of the work itself. 



    “Agam encloses the viewer in a universe of forms and pure colors only in order to allow him to measure his infinite freedom of choice within his own perceptions... Agam compels the viewer to become his interpreter, and so makes him pass from the world of contemplation to the world of creation." (Alain Jouffroy in Homage to Yaacov Agam, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1980, p. 70) 



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

  • Bruno Schulz, Untitled. Estimate $30,000–40,000.
    Born to a wealthy family in Drohobycz, Poland, Bruno Schulz studied architecture at the Lvov Polytechnic. Both a writer and an artist, in the 1920s he began working on the illustrations for The Booke of Idolatry, depicting a world of desire and temptation. His work remained largely overlooked until he gained recognition following the publication in 1933 of his novel Cinnamon Shops, titled in English The House of Crocodiles. This was followed three years later by the novel Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass. During WWII he and the other Jews of Drohobycz were forced into a ghetto and almost the entire community was eventually exterminated at the Belzec concentration camp. While initially protected by a German officer who admired his work, Schulz was shot in the street by another German officer in 1942. In the 1970’s his work was rediscovered through a series of exhibitions in France and in Belgium. Schulz is now considered one of the giants of 20th Century Polish literature and art. This untitled drawing is a variant of Joseph on his way to the Sanatorium, an illustration in Schulz's novel Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass, which was first published in 1937.  



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

  • Fatma Shanan, Self-Portrait and a Carpet 2, 2017. Estimate $15,000–20,000.
    "Concealed within the weave of a carpet are secrets, processes, and events. It is a signifier of local identity, which represents connections between nature, geography, and culture. For Fatma Shanan, who was born and raised in the Druze village of Julis, a carpet is before all else a home" (Carmit Blumensohn, Fatma Shanan Dery, A Single Continuum, p. 98). In Shanan's powerful, monumental self-portrait, titled Self-Portrait and a Carpet 2 , the artist weaves her own image into her primary motif, the Oriental carpet. The self-portrait throughout the history of art has served as a reflection of identity and in Shanan's work, the artist's identity is inextricably intertwined with the carpet's thematic identity: hospitality, ritual, tradition, domesticity, multi-culturalism, ornament, craft, community, gender. Shanan's research into traditional arabesque carpet decoration has informed her transition from painting impressionistic representations of carpets, to illustrating a more specific historical iconography. These figures surround the figure of the artist, rooting her in a mythological history that adds a layer of story-telling to the piece. 



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

  • Lea Nikel, Composition, 1960-61. Estimate $10,000–15,000.
    Composition is one of 4 early works by Lea Nikel in the Israeli & International Art sale which once belonged to the Baroness Alix de Rothschild Collection, Paris.



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

  • Adi Nes, Untitled, from the Soldiers Series, 1999. Estimate $6,000–8,000.
    Adi Nes’ Untitled, from the Soldiers Series , is one of the many exceptional international pieces in The Collection of Jerome and Ellen Stern. The Collection of Jerome and Ellen Stern reflects a lifetime of passionate and thoughtful art collecting. The Sterns searched the globe for contemporary sculpture, photography, paintings and drawings from emerging artists. Their support for young artists also extended to supporting international museums and institutions. As patrons of the Israel Museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s African Art Council, the Sterns shared their devotion to cultivating the arts with a global audience. As supporters of the Studio Museum of Harlem and as Trustees of the New Museum, the Sterns introduced young artists from around the world to their native New York.



     



    Israeli & International Art
    20 December | New York

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