Masters of Contemporary Art

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Launch Slideshow

The artists that contributed to the success of the Contemporary Art sale at Sotheby's Paris in June – the evening session of which resulted in a record figure for a contemporary art sale in France – will again be in the spotlight on 9 and 10 December at the Galerie Charpentier. In addition to two paintings by Pierre Soulages and Zao Wou-Ki, both from the same European private collection, click through to see some of the most intriguing lots from our upcoming auction.

Art Contemporain
9-10 December | Paris

Masters of Contemporary Art

  • Jean Dubuffet, Midi sonne grelot, 1961. Estimate: €2,500,000–3,500,000.
    Midi sonne grelot , painted in June 1961, is part of Dubuffet’s Paris Circus works, immediately identifiable by its colours, spontaneity and lively atmosphere. The series is today’s most sought-after one–the Pompidou, MoMA, National Gallery of Art in Washington, Beyeler, Louis Vuitton and Gandur Foundations, among others, feature some rare examples of Paris Circus paintings in their collections.

  • Jean Dubuffet, Jardin de Fouille Roucoule, 1955-56. Estimate: €800,000–1,200,000.
    At the beginning of 1955, Jean Dubuffet moved to the heart of the Massif Provencal and began experimenting with matter and relief effects in landscapes. There, he initiated a revolutionary technique reminiscent of Matisse’s cutouts in his series of Tableaux d’assemblages and Routes et Chaussées (Roads and Pavements). Amongst this rare series, which only includes twelve works, Jardin de Fouille Roucoule stands out because of its exceptional size and date. Painted in November 1955, it is not only the first but also one of the largest gardens made by the artist.

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Dodge Coupe), 1986. Estimate: €1,000,000–1,500,000.
    Cars fascinated Basquiat. In many of his most powerful works, there is a juxtaposition of painterly naïveté and aggressive subject matter charging the composition. Untitled (Dodge Coupe) linearly presents a skeletal composition of three American manufactured vehicles and acts as a portrait of one of the major manifestations of the 20th-century American Dream.

  • Francis Bacon, Untitled (Head of a Woman - Lisa Sainsbury), circa 1955-57. Estimate: €600,000–800,000.
    Francis Bacon’s Untitled (Head of a Woman – Lisa Sainsbury) is a point of reference for the genre of mid-1950s portraiture, which demonstrates an early exploration of the single head portrait that was to become, as John Russell notes, "the scene of some of Bacon's most ferocious investigations." (John Russell, Francis Bacon, London 1993, p. 99).

  • César, Compression “Zim”
 Compressed Car, 1960-61. Estimate: €600,000–800,000.
    This “ball of brightly coloured, sumptuous, dense, monumental, accusatory metal”, as Pierre Restany described it, a “deliberate attack against metallic sculpture perpetrated by one of the masters of its kind” triggered such a scandal when it was first exhibited that César became famous across the entire world. Realized in 1960-61, Compression Zim is one of the five last historic car compressions made in the early 1960s that are still in private hands–the others belonging to some of the most prestigious museum collections worldwide such as MoMA and the Pompidou.

  • Jean-Paul Riopelle, La Forêt, 1953. Estimate: €900,000–1,200,000.
    In La Forêt , Riopelle used successive knife strokes combined with a kind of dripping similar to Jackson Pollock’s technique. A new space is created in an explosion of colours, testifying to all the complexity of Riopelle’s art. In the historic painting realized in 1953, the artist is playing with different levels and depths as well as the juxtaposition of muted and shiny textures, creating varying light effects which carry the spectator’s gaze through the dense and kaleidoscopic surface.

  • Zao Wou-Ki, 7.8.65, 1965. Estimate: €1,400,000–2,000,000.
    After having left China on the eve of Mao Tse-Tung’s victory, it took Zao Wou-Ki over ten years to succeed in reconciling two antagonistic traditions, those of Oriental art and Western Painting. 7.8.1965 is the perfect example of this culmination.

  • Nicolas de Staël, Nature Morte, 1955. 
Estimate: €800,000–1,200,000.
    From a technical standpoint, Nature morte demonstrates an exceptional control of spatiality. And yet, in this canvas painted in 1955, Nicolas de Staël’s genius takes on another dimension: an abstraction that spreads into empty spaces, through haloed forms and vague lines. Between the opaque and the transparent, the glaze and hazy aureoles, Nature morte imposes and confirms an exceptional, vacillating harmony.

  • Pierre Soulages, Peinture 46 X 38 Cm, 14 mai 1961, 1961. Estimate: €400,000–600,000.
    Peinture 46 x 38 cm, 14 mai 1961 is a magisterial painting dating from one of the most significant periods of Pierre Soulages’ artistic career, a period when his dynamic lyrical abstraction was gaining increasing critical acclaim. Testament to the quintessence of Soulages’ work, the canvas perfectly encapsulates the duality of texture and colour that the artist so adamantly explored throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Only around fifteen works depict this unique red, making them each of fundamental importance.

  • Zao Wou-Ki, 16.9.69, 1969. Estimate: €1,000,000–1,500,000.
    At the end of the 1960s, Zao Wou-Ki had broken away from all naturalist shackles, allowing himself be submerged by emotions that he would not try to hide behind the slightest figurative line. “I wanted to paint what cannot be seen, the breath of life, wind, movement, the life of forms, the blossoming of colours and their fusion,” he explained. Henceforth, Zao Wou-Ki had only one idea in mind: “to paint painting.”

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