In recent art world news, a never before auctioned work, Contraste de forms (1913), by French artist Fernand Léger is to lead Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art evening auction in New York this fall. The vibrant abstract painting is estimated to sell for $65 million, which would be a new record for the artist if sold. The work has been in the family of art collector Hans Arnhold since the 1950s and has never been auctioned. The previous record for a Léger work was set with the sale of La femme en bleu (study) (1912-13) for $39.2 million in New York in 2008.
The work is considered among the greatest Léger works still in private hands with its bold intensity. According to Conor Jordan, deputy chairman of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s,
[e]xecuted just months before the First World War, Contraste de forms, with its groundbreaking abstract conception and its thrillingly preserved physical state, is without question a major work of Modern Art.”
The Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation consigned the groundbreaking work with the proceeds to go toward supporting the non-profit’s philanthropic mission. Anna-Maria Arnhold Kellen was the daughter of Hans Arnhold.
As for the work’s provenance, the painting was initially acquired by prominent Parisian dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler after its completion. Hans Arnhold purchased it from Galerie Rosengart in Lucerne, Switzerland in 1956. The work was passed on to Arnhold’s daughter and her husband, who was a New York banker, and remained in the family until the death of Anna-Maria Kellen in April 2017 at the age of 98.
Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art evening auction is set for November 13, 2017 at the auction house’s New York City headquarters.