August 3, 2021

Three works from the private collection of Josep Lluís Sert, by auction | Culture

Three works from the private collection of Josep Lluís Sert, by auction | Culture


In a 1985 television documentary, Ramona Longás, widow of Josep Lluís Sert (Barcelona 1902-1983), talks extensively about her life with the architect. During the conservation with the journalist in which he leafs through an album of photos full of memories, Monxa, as she was known in her circle of friends and family, has on her chest a huge brooch of almost 16 centimeters, formed by a spiral and A star made with brass and steel wire by Alexander Calder. This small work of art, which Monxa appreciated all his life since the artist gave it to him shortly after creating it in 1939, is on sale and can be purchased (for a starting price of 30,000 euros) at the auction that will be held next October 17 the Christie's hall in Paris.

It's not the only one. The heirs of the most famous of modern Spanish architects, who fought against the prevailing academicism and created buildings as emblematic as the Spanish Pavilion of the International Exhibition of Paris in 1937 where the exhibition was exhibited. Guernica of Picasso for the first time; Casa Bloc and the Joan Miró Foundation, the last two in Barcelona, ​​among many other buildings, have put on sale three works from the private collection of the architect and his wife. The most outstanding is a mobile phone that Calder himself made around 1948 and which starts with an estimated price between 800,000 and 1.2 million euros.

Calder's mobile that he gave away to Sert and that now is auctioned in Paris.
Calder's mobile that he gave away to Sert and that now is auctioned in Paris.

Sert, who after the civil war, was unable to practice his profession less than 400 kilometers from Barcelona, ​​went to live in Paris (where he married Monxa, being one of the godfathers Joan Miró) and then to the United States. There he settled down to live for a while at the home of Alexander Calder of Long Island. He later became dean of the architecture school at Harvard University, succeeding Walter Gropius.

Calder's delicate mobile, entitled, which is put on sale, is a subtle work of 45 centimeters in height and anthropomorphic appearance that comes alive with the slightest air current. The central part is an oval stone (a found object) wrapped in iron and wire that is supported on a metal tripod that extends upwards to a horizontal branch topped on one side by five white, yellow and blue discs. The counterweight is made by a brass spiral.

The pendant that Calder gave to Monxa, Sert's wife.
The pendant that Calder gave to Monxa, Sert's wife.

Calder and Miró were good friends since the American artist arrived in Paris in 1926, maintaining a relationship and correspondence the rest of their lives. A correspondence that is also perceived in his works. There is a lot in this piece that Calder signed with the CA monogram on the yellow disc, of Miró's constellations that seem to gravitate in space. It was Miró who introduced Calder and Sert in 1930, a friendship between them that also continued throughout the years. In 1932 the architect convinced him to expose his work in the Decorators' Hall of Barcelona and in 1937 he invited him to participate in the Spanish Pavilion in Paris in which he participated (he was the only foreign artist) with a mercury source that It symbolized the struggle of the Almadén miners before the rise of the Franco regime. Calder gave several of his works to Sert and his wife, including this phone entitled and the huge brooch that Monxa wore all his life, as can be seen in photos from the 40s that accompany the catalog of the auction.

The third piece that the family of Sert puts on sale is a piece of surrealist André Masson, Souvenir from Long Island, of 1942 (which sells for 55,000 euros) and which was made shortly after his trip from Marseille to New York where he arrived with his family fleeing the European war. It is an assembly, a visual poem, formed from wood, shells, glass and nails that the artist gave to the Serts for their hospitality when they received them in their American home.

The work 'Souvenir de Long Island', by André Masson, from 1942.
The work 'Souvenir de Long Island', by André Masson, from 1942.

The auctioning of these three works is the second in a few months in which the part of the private collection of a great artist is put on sale by his descendants. At the end of February the Antoni Tàpies family brought out seven works from the painter's collection, including Homme, by Alberto Giacometti, which sold for 3.8 million euros, four times its starting price. Untitled (orange and yellow), an impressive work of Mark Rothko of 1969 that was sold from 4.4 million euros, found no buyer.

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