This year’s big summer auction features an abundance of big names—from Egon Schiele to Alfons Walde and Rudolf Wacker in Impressionist & Modern Art, and from Friedensreich Hundertwasser to Arnulf Rainer and Gerhard Richter in the Contemporary Art category. Ceramics, on the other hand, are the focus of the Art Nouveau & Design auction—and alongside pieces by Michael Powolny and Kurt Ohnsorg, there will also be a remarkable selection of works in metal by Josef Hoffmann, from the Hagenauer workshop, and from the hand of art deco master Bruno Zach.
Exciting ponderation between strongly expressive lines and powerful painting is a defining characteristic of early modernism in art, and this fact is reflected convincingly in this auction’s range of offerings. Egon Schiele’s drawing of a girl in a twisted, crouching pose offers above all a fascinating interplay of pithy, sharply defined, nervous lines that expresses the contradiction between form and abstraction, between motion and stasis. Barely a decade later, in 1926, Rudolf Wacker painted his mother in Bregenz. And here, as well, one sees a wonderfully formative outline that is powerful in the hands and the face, though this portrait at the same time has a secretive stillness to it that alludes to the depths of human emotion and existence. Gustav Klimt used his drawn lines to capture eroticism and feminine beauty as could no other—as he did in the three drawings to go up for bidding in this auction; the joy of life itself and natural beauty, on the other hand, are exuded by the powerful colours of Alfons Walde’s paintings. In his use of abstracted forms and perspectival tension, Walde was uniquely successful at achieving the symbiosis of an impressive natural world with age-old rural culture. Among such works, the brightly wintery painting Houses in the Mountains is one of those rare masterpieces from his oeuvre to be offered on the open market. “All is light” can likewise serve to express the essence of a rare “collection” of four square-format pictures that Carl Moll painted in the early 1930s in Gastein and Beaulieu. And Albin Egger-Lienz, Wilhelm Thöny, and Werner Berg continue the list of prominent names connected with equally prominent works.
In the 1970s, Friedensreich Hundertwasser acquired a large group of properties in the Kaurinui Valley in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, where he began experimenting with an ecologically conscious marriage of nature and modern life. 1982 saw him paint 831 Tender Dinghi, a fascinatingly and intensely colourful portrait of the “rainy day dinghy” that he often used “to travel through the mangrove canal or home from the ship [Regentag (Rainy Day)] or from Opua”. This picture, with its motif embedded in luminous, differently coloured strips, doubtless numbers among Hundertwasser’s most poetic works, being an expression of his very own unmistakable nature-centred lyricism. Though frequently reproduced in publications, it has spent decades in a private collection and is only now coming to market for the first time.
Another special rarity that will go up for bidding in this auction is an early work by Arnulf Rainer. Bridge was Rainer’s name for this 1951 painting that consummated the radical turn away from surreal realities in favour of abstraction and automisation that he had initiated in Paris. In clear, simultaneous analogy to works by Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell, Rainer’s Bridge documents his experiments between painted and unpainted surfaces as well as the correct placement of gestural forms within a space.
In the late 1960s, Gerhard Richter called the purpose and future of painting into question. As a way of escaping this predicament—and, soon, as a form of cathartic new beginning—he created monochromatic paintings using grey paint. His 1973 painting Grey poses a challenge to the collector, for it is only after a prolonged period of observation and giving oneself over to the paint’s texture and statement that this work’s true magnetism sets in. Works from important creative periods of artists including Max Weiler, Hermann Nitsch, Markus Prachensky, Ernst Fuchs, and Rudolf Hausner round out the present offerings.
Two large collections that include popular and attractive works from the period of early modernism by Michael Powolny and by Kurt Ohnsorg, the Austrian pioneer of post-1945 modern ceramics, present the impressive development that took place within one of the most important branches of the arts and crafts and additionally offer collectors the opportunity to acquire works by these important artists that are seldom available on the market. Bidders will also wax enthusiastic about the objects by Karl and Franz Hagenauer, the art deco bronzes by Bruno Zach, and—last but not least—the wonderful, completely preserved toiletries set by Josef Hoffmann.
123rd Art Auction
19 June: Impressionist & Modern Art – Art Nouveau & Design
20 June: Contemporary Art
Pre-sale exhibition: 13–20 June 2018
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