Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF FRANZ MEYER AND PIA MEYER FEDERSPIEL

Locke (Tress)

Locke (Tress)
signed, inscribed and dated '15. VI 90 für Pia und Franz, G. Baselitz' (on the reverse)
maple wood and tempera
33 1/8 x 16 ½ x 5in. (84 x 42 x 12.5cm.)
Executed in 1990
Franz Meyer and Pia Meyer Federspiel (acquired directly from the artist).
Thence by descent to the present owner.
K. Kraus (ed.), Georg Baselitz: Skulpturen/ Sculptures, Berlin 2009, no. 34 (illustrated, p. 143).
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Katharine Arnold
Katharine Arnold

Lot Essay

‘ … the heads and figures, so insistently present, seem at the same time far away. One is moved by the simultaneity of strangeness and familiarity as if a lost, suppressed part of one’s identity could be re-found in those figures’
–Franz Meyer

With its raw handling of material and paint, Georg Baselitz’s Locke (Tress) (1990) is a totemic example of his sculptural portraits. As denoted by its inscription, it is dedicated to Baselitz’s friend and long-time supporter, Franz Meyer – the art historian and former director of both the Kunsthalle Bern and the Kunstmuseum Basel – and Meyer’s wife, Pia. The work is hewn roughly from a single block of wood, using only a chainsaw and basic hand-tools, with a chipped and gouged surface that stands as a testimony to the process of its creation. As with his monumental Women of Dresden sculptures, completed during the same year, Baselitz has whittled away the surface until the form of a human face has revealed itself – a lock of hair, a single ear and hollowed eyes, nose and mouth are aggressively bitten out of the wood in a deliberately unrefined manner. In line with the artist’s provocative practice, the work may be seen to reject certain purist sculptural doctrines: its slab-like structure is primarily intended to be seen frontally and it is coated haphazardly with pink paint. This highly-saturated hue has been applied part-way through the carving process, with conspicuous marks cut into the sculpture afterward, leaving notches of raw wood to outline the features. Just as Baselitz’s upside-down paintings had demanded that the viewer reappraise them as painted objects, rather than figurative motifs, so here the rough chiselling speaks of the artistic mark and its maker.

‘By working in wood,’ Baselitz has stated, ‘I want to avoid all manual dexterity, all artistic elegance, everything to do with construction. I don’t want to construct anything’ (G. Baselitz, quoted in D. Waldman, Georg Baselitz, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1995, p. 100). The vitality and rawness of his sculptural practice can primarily be traced to the influence of African art. Baselitz has himself amassed a famous collection of African carvings and rag dolls that has been exhibited in museums on several occasions. As suggested by the nature of his own carving, the artist’s collecting tastes favour coarseness and inventiveness over the refined and highly-polished. Baselitz has often pointed to the long legacy of African cultures in Western art history: ‘You can see the source of the influences on contemporary art in ethnological museums in Paris and Berlin. For Kirchner and Rottluff, it was Cameroon, for Picasso, Gabon. Formal elements and signals are adopted as they are – signals that come with the label ‘primitive’. But in terms of quality, these sculptures have the sophistication of European pieces, and have become emblems here. Important sculptors to me are Marini and Giacometti, but also Picasso and Matisse. I am an admirer of theirs. But I can’t use them as a new beginning’ (G. Baselitz, quoted in D. Gretenkort (ed.), Georg Baselitz: Collected Writings and Interviews, London 2010, p. 196). Simultaneously archaic and contemporary in its appearance, Locke demonstrates the elemental, expressionistic energy with which Baselitz confronted his forebears, absorbing their various influences into a style that is fresh, immediate and deeply personal.



Christie’s is delighted to present two works from the estate of Franz Meyer (1919-2007), a visionary curator, collector and art historian who was instrumental in postwar Switzerland’s embrace of both the American and European Avant-gardes.
Meyer grew up in an art-loving home. His father Dr. Franz Meyer Sr. was a lawyer, art collector and long-time president of the Zurich Art Society. The collection of his grandfather Fritz Meyer- Fierz included works by van Gogh, Cézanne, and Gauguin, as well as 19th century Dutch paintings. Meyer studied law in Zurich, receiving his doctorate in 1947. He then began studying art history under Hans Robert Hahnloser at the University of Bern, writing a thesis on the glass windows of the Cathedral of Chartres at the University of Zurich; he completed his studies with stays in Rome and, in 1951, in Paris. It was here that he met Ida Chagall, the daughter of the painter Marc Chagall, whom he married in 1952.

During his time in Paris, Meyer also encountered the work of Sam Francis. Astounded by the paintings’ quality, he encouraged his father to visit Paris and acquire some of Francis’s works. White, Green Earth (1951) – from a series regarded as one of the most important in Francis’s career – was among the paintings that became part of Meyer Sr’s prestigious collection. Sam Francis became a friend to both father and son, and the younger Franz was instrumental in mounting Francis’s major retrospectives at Kunsthalle Bern in 1960 and Kunsthalle Basel in 1968.

In 1955, Meyer became the successor to Arnold Rüdlinger as director of Kunsthalle Bern (1955-61). He made his mark the following year, curating the first ever major retrospective of Alberto Giacometti; he would later become a board member of the Giacometti Foundation in Zurich. Meyer’s longstanding interest in figurative work would also lead him to the paintings and sculptures of Georg Baselitz, himself an admirer of Giacometti. As is witnessed by the totemic sculpture Locke (1990), dedicated to Meyer and his second wife, Pia, in 1990, Baselitz too became a close personal friend.

Meyer is perhaps best remembered for his tenure as director of Kunstmuseum Basel (1962-80). Here, he was a pioneering tastemaker, acquiring not only seminal works by Malevich, Degas and Picasso, but also masterpieces of American Abstract Expressionism at a time when many European museums were ignoring developments across the Atlantic. The magnificent holdings of artists including Francis, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Clyfford Still, Franz Kline and Mark Tobey purchased by Meyer remain the backbone of the Kunstmuseum’s collection today.

Meyer was a perceptive and innovative curator. When he opened the legendary Giacometti Room at the Kunstmuseum in 1968, he placed the Swiss artist’s sculptures in thoughtful dialogue with the neighbouring American Room, cleverly illuminating the correspondences between Newman’s sculpture Here II (1966) and Giacometti’s attenuated Grande Figure (1947) – a much-admired arrangement that remained in place for almost three decades. This dialogue could be seen as emblematic for Meyer’s own transatlantic outlook, which was sensitive, radical and well ahead of its time.

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