International record for Zdeněk Sýkora

The very successful auctions of Contemporary and Modern Art fetched a total of € 13.55 million with a high hammer rate by value, and with it one of the best results of recent years from Lempertz in these departments. In addition, several international records were reached for modern and contemporary artists.

With the top price of € 1,220,000, Yves Klein’s sponge sculpture led the field. A brilliant result was likewise seen for a painting by Zdeněk Sýkora, with its estimate exceeded to sell for € 1,052,000 – an international record for this artist. Noteworthy results were also had for a canvas by Marlene Dumas, € 650,000, and for a painting by Sean Scully, € 378,000.

Two canvases by William Nelson Copley reached € 262,000 and € 138,000, a painting by Yoshitomo Nara € 225,000, and a small bronze by Fritz Koenig was pushed up to € 137,000. A canvas by Asger Jorn brought in € 125,000, two pictures by Imi Knoebel € 106,000 and € 100,000, and an oil work by Arnulf Rainer € 119,999. A result of € 106,000 was reached by a painting by Tschang-Yeul Kim, whilst a relief by Jan J. Schoonhoven sold for € 112,000.

There was a great interest for a prominent sponge sculpture made by Yves Klein in around 1959. “Sculpture éponge bleue sans titre (SE 328)” is exemplary for the oeuvre of the artist - the versatile, radical artist who broke with modernity with his intensive work, and opened up completely new perspectives for contemporary art. In 1961, Paul Wember, the director of the avant-garde Krefeld Museum's Haus Lange, initiated a large survey show of Yves Klein, which the artist himself conceived as a complete artwork. In this now legendary exhibition, the present work was presented in the Blaue Zone, a room filled solely with monochrome blue pictures and sponge sculptures. Not least seven telephone lines battled for the hammer, which eventually fell to a Swiss bidder for € 1,220,000 (lot 11, € 400/600,000).

Zdeněk Sýkora established an international record for his canvas “Linien Nr. 31” from 1985 with a result of € 1,057,000. This large-format work from the series of line pictures on which the artist worked from 1973 also had seven telephone bidders chasing it, at last selling far above its estimate of € 180/220,000 to a Czech bidder – a result which once again verifies Lempertz’ leading position in the sale of Czech art and works by Sýkora (lot 14).

“The Window”, a 60 x 50 cm canvas from 1992 by Marlene Dumas is an unusual and exceptionally interesting picture for it turns the artist’s conventional habits of representation upside down. In a silent and mysterious manner, “The Window” offers multiple options for the personal interpretation of the viewer. An international bidder eventually conceded € 644,000 (lot 64, € 400/500,000) for the work. “Aruba” by Sean Scully from 1998 sold for € 387,000 to the Austrian trade. During 1997 and 1998, Sean Scully worked on a series of paintings which he named after Caribbean islands. In addition to the present painting “Aruba”, there are, among others, “Bonaire”, “Curacao”, and “Anguilla”. Two so-called insets containing the narrower sequences of stripes disrupt the actual pictorial space visually and physically (lot 35, € 280/320,000).

A characteristic canvas by William Nelson Copley was pushed up by the German trade from € 80/90,000 to sell for € 262,000 (lot 3), and a second canvas paying homage to the American flag jumped from € 30/40,000 to € 138,000 (lot 4). A result of € 225,000 was seen for Yoshitomo Nara’s untitled work of acrylic on window glass. In 1991, the year in which this work was created, the Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara was studying at the Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf under A.R. Penck. The influence of his teacher can be discerned in this early work (lot 57, € 180/220,000). All four pictures by Asger Jorn, tracing the development of his painting over two decades, were sold. “Dichter & Denker”, created in 1962 is a bust portrait dedicated to the art historian Werner Haftmann, and probably depicting him. A German collector took on the canvas for € 125,000 (lot 67, € 100/150,000).

A small format bronze by Fritz Koenig, “Kreuz VI”, rose from € 35/40,000 to € 137,000 (lot 81). A relief by Jan J. Schoonhoven reached € 112,000 (lot 69, € 60/80,000) and two pictures by Imi Knoebel from 1984 and 1995 made € 100,000 and € 106,000 (lot 54, € 80/100,000 and lot 1, € 55/65,000). “Feuer-Mund (Fingerfarbfest)”, a painting by Arnulf Rainer from the year 1981, jumped from € 50/60,000 to € 119,000 (lot 53).


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Edgar Abs Press and public relations Cologne, June 2021