The Visionary Alexander Iolas: 14 Sale Highlights

Launch Slideshow

Alexander Iolas, whose collection features in a sale in London on 25 May, was a visionary art dealer and pioneer in the global art market of his time. Between 1945 and 1976 he hosted numerous shows of artists including Max Ernst, Rene Magritte, Dorothea Tanning, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Takis and Lalanne in Paris, New York, Geneva, Rome, Madrid and Athens. He forged close friendships with many artists including Andy Warhol, for whom he mounted the  first and last gallery exhibitions and is also credited with introducing an American audience to Surrealism. Click ahead to see highlights from the sale.

Alexander Iolas
25 May 2017  | London

The Visionary Alexander Iolas: 14 Sale Highlights

  • Andy Warhol, Alexander the Great.
    Estimate £35,000-50,000.
    By the 1980s Warhol had turned his attention away from the celebrities of 20th century pop culture and towards the motifs of art history. For Warhol this was a revolutionary step towards tradition. Alexander Iolas organised the commission of this print for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s monumental exhibition of Greek art, Searching for Alexander. Iolas and Warhol had met when the artist was just 17 and it was Iolas who hosted Warhol’s first gallery show, as well as his last. The two were lifelong friends and in Adrian Dannat’s words, “Andy worked with many other dealers, but Iolas had a special place.”

  • William Copley, They Laughed when I Sat Down to Play. Estimate £25,000-35,000.
    Painted in 1970, They Laughed when I Sat Down to Play is archetypal of William Copley’s works of this decade. Included in the exhibition Mail Order at the Alexander Iolas Gallery in 1972, this work is part of a series where the artist depicted objects that could be ordered by mail to express a “hidden pornography”.  In subsequent years he would go on to create a series of overtly sexual compositions that were exhibited at a show called X-Rated at the New York Cultural Center.

  • Pavlos (Dionyssopoulos), Socks.
    Estimate £15,000-20,000.
    Pavlos substitutes the brush and paint of the traditional medium of fine art for wall constructions and installations with narrow, machine-cut strips of magazines and posters as their foundation. The results are contemporary still lifes in which the primary technical element is distorted and manipulated into a recognisable form constructed from an almost unrecognisable medium.

  • Niki De Saint-Phalle, Le Poète et Sa Muse.
    Estimate £35,000-45,000.
    Executed in Nikki de Saint Phalle’s iconic bold colours and 70’s designs, Le Poete et sa Muse belongs to a series of works with this title. Created in different sizes and each uniquely hand painted in different and vivid hues, each sculpture represents the artist being inspired by his muse, with ideas and dreams literally growing out of his head.

  • Cup with Two Dragon Heads. Estimate 8,000-12,000.
    This remarkable cup with rearing dragon heads follows in the tradition of Milanese rock crystal carving, which was exemplified by the celebrated Saracchi workshop, active from the second half of the 16th to the first half of the 17th century.

  • Pablo Picasso, Minotaure Caressant une Dormeuse.
    Estimate £25,000-35,000.
    Minotaure caressant une dormeuse is one of the few prints from the Vollard suite formed entirely using the technique of drypoint. The result is a vivid composition of frantically scratched lines depicting a Minotaur leaning over the figure of a sleeping young woman. The woman is believed to be Picasso’s lover, Marie-Thérèse, who appears with the Minotaur throughout the Vollard suite. Here the Minotaur is contemplative and gentle, but in other scenes he is shown as the aggressor, or a representation of drunken excess. It is thought that the relationship between the Minotaur and the young woman, mirrors the turbulent relationship between the artist and his lover, Marie-Thérèse, during the years in which he created this monumental set of 100 prints.

  • Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale.
    Estimate £60,000-80,000.
    Concetto Spaziale perfectly encapsulates Lucio Fontana’s incessant investigation and inquiry into spatiality, the concept of infinity and the fourth dimension. Executed in polished brass, the reflective surface mirrors the viewer and their surroundings while the artist’s trademark tagli invite contemplation and reflection into the void.

  • Victor Brauner, Polarisation.
    Estimate 150,000-200,000.
    Polarisation is a superb example of Brauner’s experimentation with encaustic painting, the overall effect is suggestive of an ancient cave painting in which conventional depth and modelling have been abandoned for bold shapes and alchemical effects.

  • Alexis Akrithakis, Suitcases. Estimate £20,000-30,000.
    This work is a fine example of Akrithakis's works characterised by meandering lines that invite the viewer on an introspective journey to the heart of his paintings. Once again, the artist incorporates a colourful repetition of suitcases, a sort of trademark of his artistic narrative.

  • Novello Finotti, Dining Table. Estimate £6,000-8,000.
    Although largely known as a sculptor, Novello Finotti produced a very small output of furniture designs. With its anthropomorphic base cast as legs and arms, with this table Finotti manages to combine the natural world with the fantastical.

  • Philippe Metayer, Epithalamion. Rare and Important Wedding Plaque. Estimate £2,000-3,000.
    This plaque , meant to be the lid of a gold snuff box, is of the most refined chasing, almost like a painting on gold. It is also extremely rare for it is signed and dated by Philippe Metayer, a French Huguenot who emigrated to Amsterdam in the 18th century and whose very few surviving pieces are unsigned and recognisable merely by their exquisite quality.

  • Claude Lalanne, Pair of Silver Centrepieces.
    Estimate £20,000-30,000.
    A close friend, Claude Lalanne, produced only four examples of this design for Alexander Iolas. The other two examples were sold at Sotheby's, Paris,Design 20e Siècle sale on 21 May 2015 (Lot 145).

  • Max Ernst, Constellation. Estimate £60,000-80,000.
    A work of mesmerising beauty in which the delicate, organic shapes of the yellow flowers are contrasted against the dark cosmos of the background, Constellation is testimony to Ernst’s mastery of the grattage and frottage techniques he first developed in 1925.

  • Salvador Dalí, Les Bras de Dalí (a pair of torches).
    Estimate £15,000-20,000.
    In 1965, Dalí ordered plaster mouldings of his arms and hands; one with a finger provocatively positioned over an element representing the female sex. The moulds were subsequently cast in bronze and assembled according to Dalí's incomparable imagination to form the present torches .


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