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Sotheby’s Sale of Contemporary Art in Paris Sets World Auction Record for Georges Mathieu

PARIS – The first part of Sotheby’s sale of Contemporary Art at the Galerie Charpentier in Paris totaled €20,384,750, with works from French, European and American collections the majority of them fresh to the market including paintings by Francis Bacon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Joan Mitchell and Robert Rauschenberg, as well as four works from the Estate of President Georges Pompidou and Madame Claude Pompidou.

After the sale, Guillaume Cerutti, President-directeur general of Sotheby’s France, said: “The excellent results we achieved this evening confirmed Paris as a major international center for the sale of Contemporary Art which is able to attract major works of art made by the most important artists of the 20th Century as well as collectors from around the world.”

Gregoire Billault, Director of Contemporary Art and Vice President for Sotheby’s France, said: “The success of tonight’s sale is attributable to Sotheby’s strategy of carefully selecting desirable works of art from key periods of an artist’s career, fresh to the market, and in some cases having had only one owner since they came from the artist’s studio, or works coming from major international collections. Following on from the records achieved at Sotheby’s Paris for Pierre Soulages, François Morellet and Martial Raysse, we are delighted to have achieved high prices for other major French artists such as Georges Mathieu and Jean-Paul Riopelle.”

The evening session, conducted by Cyrille Cohen, commenced with four works from the Estate of President Georges Pompidou and Madame Pompidou, which had been acquired directly from the artist. The highest of this group was achieved by Hans Hartung’s T1964-E20, sold for €210,250 ($330,450).

The works fresh to the market attracted the most competitive bidding. There was applause when a version of Francis Bacon’s Pope (c.1957-59) acquired from the artist in 1959 sold for €4,624,250 ($7,267,934) (estimate €2-3m). The Pope, after Velasquez’s Portrait of Innocent X, is a subject Francis Bacon treated many times in his career in a series of complex, tormented portraits. This version, Untitled (Pope), is one of the few works to have survived from Bacon’s Tangiers period of 1956-59 and belongs to his first series of Popes, in which he isolates the sitter on a dark ground, varying from navy blue to black.

Ligne de la Rupture (1970-71), one of Joan Mitchell’s most famous works, brought €3,840,250 ($6,035,721). The title is taken from a poem by Jacques Dupin, whom Mitchell greatly admired. Ligne de la Rupture shows Joan Mitchell’s mastery of painting technique, using projections, drips and palette knife alongside dense patches of colour painted with a brush. The style is both thick and light, gentle yet powerful (estimate €2.2-3.2m).

Parliament (Borealis) by Robert Rauschenberg, painted between 1989 and 1992, surpassed its high estimate, achieving €1,824,250 ($2,867,174) a new high for late paintings by the artist, demonstrating that the market is solid for late works of this pivotal artist of the 20th Century.

Applause followed a lengthy bidding battle for an untitled 1983 canvas by Jean-Michel Basquiat which sold for €1,992,250 (estimate €700,000-900,000) the highest price ever achieved for the artist in France.

An Untitled oil on canvas painted after Jean-Paul Riopelle’s arrival in Paris (1950-51), which had been consigned from a private Scandinavian collection sold for €816,250 (estimate €400,000-600,000). Painted using knives and spatulas, Riopelle applied paint to the canvas with a highly personal technique that reveals the complexity of his art. With its accumulation of small knife strokes combined with drops of paint spread across the canvas, Riopelle’s technique recalls that of Jackson Pollock. The work here is an invitation to a visual dance, with its own individual rhythm.

There was applause when a record was set for the artist Georges Mathieu’s The Abduction of Henri IV by Archbishop Anno of Cologne on Friday 10 January 1958 brought €1,152,250 (estimate €700,000-1m). The price was three times the artist’s previous auction record.