Christie’s, London, is pleased to announce Miró – Seven Decades of His Art, an outstanding collection of 85 works showcasing seven decades of Joan Miró’s (1893–1983) rich and dynamic career, which will be offered in February 2014. This is one of the most extensive and impressive offerings of works by the artist ever to come to auction. An important figure in 20th century art, Miró was highly influential for a huge number of artists, from Picasso to Pollock. Most often associated with Surrealism, Miró’s work has an appeal that transcends traditional categories, with today’s market seeing collectors of both Impressionist & Modern Art and Post-War & Contemporary Art compete for his paintings, works on paper and sculptures. The property was formerly in a private corporate collection and is now being sold by decision of the Portuguese Republic.
Highlighting Miró’s incredible ability to innovate, the works feature a wide range of materials and techniques as well as his key themes and subjects, from poetry and dreams to music and stars, women and birds. He was an artist who allowed himself to be influenced by a range of things, from music, poetry and then hallucinations induced by hunger during his early years in Paris, to patterns made by chance, to the materials themselves. The two top lots are Femmes et oiseaux (Women and Birds), 1968 (estimate: £4-7 million, illustrated above, second row, far left) and Painting, 1953, a monumental oil on canvas measuring 22 1⁄2 x 196 7⁄8 in. (57 x 500 cm.) (estimate: £2.5-3.5 million, illustrated across the top of the page). With estimates ranging from £10,000 to £7 million, this collection provides collectors at every level with a remarkable opportunity to not only add key works to established collections but for new collectors and enthusiasts to buy their very first work from Miró’s rich oeuvre. The works will be offered across three sales: The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale, 4 February; Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale and Impressionist and Modern Art Works on Paper Sale, 5 February; the complete collection is expected to realise in excess of £30 million.
The star lot, Femmes et oiseaux, an oil on canvas painted on 3 January 1968, illustrates one of the most enduring and characteristic themes in Joan Miró’s oeuvre: women and birds. Executed with broad brushstrokes and fluid lines as well as small and subtle finger marks, this large work offers a poetic and important example of the freedom of execution and audacity with which the artist approached painting in the late 1960s. In 1966, Miró had travelled to Japan, where Tokyo and Kyoto museums had organised a retrospective of his work. The trip enabled Miró to visit the country’s museums and experience the local culture, as well as rekindling his interest in and admiration for calligraphy. In the years which followed, his lines became more ample, his signs more potent. In its verticality – which recalls the presence of a Japanese scroll – and in the intricate smoothness of its lines, Femmes et oiseaux evokes the artist’s fascination for the oriental art of calligraphy. Miró himself acknowledged the connection in 1968: ‘These long paintings, for example, evoke Japanese writing. That is because I feel deeply in harmony with the Japanese soul.’
The birds and women who inhabit Femmes et oiseaux were motifs that recurred, often in conjunction with each other, throughout Miró’s work, first appearing decades earlier and subsequently becoming important touchstones for the artist. In the present work, birds and women have dissolved into round, embryonic forms, colliding and echoing each other at the centre of the picture. They evoke a fluid world of shifting entities, totemic presences and hybrid creatures of which Miró’s unconscious, poetic gesture held the cues. Inspired by calligraphy, yet governed by Miró’s most recondite spiritual instincts, Femmes et oiseaux offers an intriguing and distinguished example of Miró’s ability to widen and deepen his creative universe, plunging into the infallible vast ocean of his imagination. On the occasion of Miró’s seventy-fifth birthday in 1968 – the year Femmes et oiseaux was painted – a major retrospective was organised, shown first at Saint-Paul-de-Vence at the Fondation Maeght, then in Barcelona at the Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu and finally in Munich at the Haus der Kunst. The show featured a wide selection of works from Miró’s career, but it also showcased his latest production, emphasising the creative stride that still animated his art. Femmes et oiseaux was exhibited on that occasion, both in Saint-Paul-de-Vence and Barcelona, where the show marked a memorable date: it was the first time in fifty years that Spain had dedicated an important exhibition to Miró.
Christie’s Mayfair – January 20 to 26 & Christie’s London, 8 King Street, St James’- January 30 to February 4 2014
The Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale, 5 February 2014