Sotheby’s to Offer High Quality Contemporary Art in Paris

Sotheby’s Paris has announced it will stage a 126-lot, two-session sale of Contemporary Art on May 27/28 (total estimate €5.6-7.8 million).

The Evening Sale on May 27 will be the only one of its kind in Paris this season, and include major works by Nicolas de Staël, Joan Mitchell, Yves Klein and François-Xavier Lalanne. The Day Sale on May 28 runs to 100 lots, with works by Arman, François Morellet, Jean Fautrier, Zao Wou Ki, Christo, Gerhard Richter and rising contemporary artists like Vik Muniz, Ivan Navarro, Philippe Ramette and Keith Tyson.

The Evening Sale begins with works from the Paul & Tomma Wember Collection. Paul Wember was Curator of the Haus Lange Museum in Krefeld, Germany, and advised the industrialist Walther Lauffs and his wife Helga when they were forming their own collection of contemporary art, auctioned by Sotheby’s in New York and London in May/June 2008.

Yves Klein has a special place at Krefeld: Paul Wember invited him to stage a retrospective of his work in 1961, and wrote a catalogue raisonné of Klein’s work. Among works by Yves Klein to be offered from the Wember Collection are two 1961 sponge sculptures (est. €20,000-30,000 each) and his M 31 – Cosmogonie, produced using pure pink pigment (est. €60,000-80,000).

Another highlight of the evening sale is an important work by Nicolas de Staël: Bouteilles, painted shortly before his death in 1954, at a time when he was producing a succession of quasi-abstract still-lifes, often in brilliant colours (est. €1-1.5m).

The sale continues with Barge Péniche (1975), a major painting by Joan Mitchell that blends “all the blues in the world,” evoking the artist’s childhood memories of Chicago – “for me, blue is the lake” (est. €600,000-800,000). This is a work of comparable quality to Mitchell’s La Ligne de la Rupture (1970-71), sold for €3.8m at Sotheby’s France in May 2008 – the second highest price ever achieved for the artist at auction.

Just two editions were made of François-Xavier Lalanne’s La Sauterelle, the monumental, grasshopper-shaped bar-sculpture he designed in 1970. The other – a gift from President Pompidou to Queen Elizabeth II during a State visit to France – is now in the Queen’s Scottish residence, Balmoral. This whimsical creation is typical of the sculpture-cum-furniture from Lalanne’s Bestiaire series that began with his Rhinocrétaire in 1964 (est. €250,000-350,000).

Yves Klein’s Ant Su 5 (1960), from his Suaires Anthropométriques series, is another work sure to arouse keen interest. This “anthropometry” on cloth (not paper), one of the few versions still in private hands, was produced using paint-splattered female bodies as “living brushes” to make body imprints on canvas, silk or gauze (est. €350,000-450,000).

Manolo Millares’ Cuadro 193 from 1962 is a splendid example of his works on sackcloth – which seem just as modern today as when they were conceived (est. €150,000-200,000).

In Venus Marine – Laetitia Casta (2000), Pierre & Gilles perfectly capture the charm and freshness of the French model in a poetic photographic composition made the year she was chosen to embody Marianne, the allegorical symbol of the French Republic (est. €80,000- 100,000).

The Day Sale on May 28 includes a rare mescalinien drawing by Henri Michaux (1958-59), produced under the influence of mescaline – which Michaux first experimented with in 1954, aged 55, in search of scientific and creative revelations (est. €35,000-45,000); Arman’s composition L’Enfance d’un Chef (1960), involving a box of Nestlé milk tubes – a splendid example of his “accumulations” of objects, with their sense of profusion underlining the perishable nature of consumer products (est. €30,000-40,000); and Jean Fautrier’s moving painting La Dodue (1955), from the personal collection of his friend and admirer Jean Paulhan (est. €70,000-90,000).

The session also includes works from the emerging contemporary scene, including a portrait of Marilyn Monroe, Reversal Black Marilyn (Pictures of Diamond Dust), by Vik Muniz (est. €20,000-30,000); Keith Tyson’s Studio Wall Drawing: January 2005 – All From One (Ziggurat), in mixed media on paper (est. €20,000-30,000); and two extravagantly Surrealistic photographs by Philippe Ramette, immortalizing himself in a black suit – Socles à Réflexion (Utilisation) from 1989-2002 (est. €8,000-12,000), and Socle Rationnel (Hommage à la Mafia) from 2002 (est. €6,000-8,000).