Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Pantomime Reimann: Die Rache der Tänzerin (1912, estimate: £6,000,000-9,000,000) and Alexander Calder’s Untitled (circa 1944, estimate: £3,500,000-5,500,000) will be highlights of Christie’s 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale, part of a series of sales taking place on 30 June, which are anchored around the culturally dynamic cities of London and Paris.
Following the successful relay format at Christie’s in October, ‘London to Paris’ will present iconic works by artists who defined the diverse and influential movements that shaped the 20th century, situating them alongside those working throughout the last 20 years who have continued to radicalise artistic practice in the 21st century.
Kirchner’s Pantomime Reimann: Die Rache der Tänzerin is being offered at auction for the first time and has remained in the same collection since the 1980s. The narrative in the painting seems to be based on a pantomime by Hans Reimann, a young writer from Leipzig, who would become best known for his satirical writings following the end of the First World War. Untitled (circa 1944) is a superb early mobile by Calder, conjured from found fragments of glass, pottery shards, and Plexiglas.
Keith Gill and Tessa Lord, Co-Heads of Sale, 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale, Christie’s: “Following the success of our London to Paris season in October 2020, Christie’s is thrilled to unite our collectors once more in a dynamic series of sales that will celebrate the pioneering spirit of artists in both the 20th and 21st centuries. Kirchner and Calder exemplify the bold zeitgeist as artists who carved very different paths in representation and figuration. Joined by our international colleagues, the London to Paris series will present exceptional works to our global audience in person and via live stream.”
Filled with glowing colours, Pantomime Reimann: Die Rache der Tänzerin of 1912 is a testament to the growing complexity and sophistication of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s compositions following his move to Berlin, as he began to explore new questions of identity, sexuality, and the psychological dynamics between characters in his work.
While the artist had long been fascinated by dancers, cabaret artists, and circus performers, these subjects gained new prominence in Kirchner’s work following his move to the capital in the autumn of 1911 – here, they came to represent the heady experience of life in the city, their forms a reflection of the innumerable amusements and vices that were available to the artist. Aided by his constant sketching, Kirchner would record his personal impressions of the many performances he attended, committing the whirl of movement, vivid costumes, and interactions of the different characters to memory, in order to study them at length upon his return to the studio.
The addition of dynamic lines of hatched brushwork along the edges of the dancer’s contours in Pantomime Reimann: Die Rache der Tänzerin, meanwhile, hints at the important shifts that would soon take hold in Kirchner’s painterly style. Here, they subtly enhance the three-dimensional quality of the woman’s form, granting her a greater sense of monumentality and presence within the scene.
By using translucent materials, Alexander Calder’s Untitled (circa 1944) heightens the mobile’s interaction with light as well as movement. Its elements sparkle and glow with jewel-like colour, shifting as they dance through space and through changing light. Calder’s works do not consist of single objects but are animated by the dialogues, links, and forces that operate among multiple bodies moving through the world. In this sense, as Jean-Paul Sartre said, they are true ‘mid-way between matter and life.
Calder’s delicate use of found objects testifies to his resourcefulness and ingenuity. He would shatter bottles against the wall of his barn studio in Roxbury, Connecticut, or collect sea-glass from nearby beaches. Transforming these found fragments, which appear to have originated in crockery, bottles, and glasses, into a dynamic constellation of floating, interactive forms, Calder furthers the legacy of his 1920s years in Paris, where the Surrealists sought magic in the materials of everyday life.
Unlike the objets trouvés of Duchamp or Man Ray, however, Calder’s objects were chosen more for their structure and colour rather than their evocative qualities. Untitled was included in the major 1998 retrospective ‘Alexander Calder: 1898-1976’, which traveled from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.