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Auction record smashed for Spanish artist Gris

Juan Gris's Cubist still life "Nature Morte a la Nappe a Carreaux" ("The Checked Tablecloth") sold for €42 million ($56.8 million) at a London sale Tuesday, smashing the auction record for the Spanish artist.

Auction record smashed for Spanish artist Gris
The 1915 Gris painting attracted considerable bidding interest and was eventually sold for double the pre-auction estimate. Photo: LEON NEAL / AFP

The 1915 work portrays a pile of objects — including a bunch of grapes and a newspaper — on a checked tablecloth.

It smashed pre-sale estimates of £12-18 million, fetching almost double the previous record for a Gris work at auction.

That was achieved in 2010 when his 1913 painting of a violin and a guitar sold for $28.6 million in New York.

The Christie's sale of Impressionist, modern and Surrealist art signals the start of two weeks of auctioneering in the British capital, setting the art market's tone for the coming year.

Other important items sold included Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti's bronze work of three men, which fetched £9 million, and Cubist master Pablo Picasso's 1955 portrait of lover Jacqueline Roque, which went under the hammer for £16.9 million pounds.

The auction was truncated after Christie's announced earlier in the day that it had cancelled the sale of 85 paintings by Spanish master Joan Miro, valued at more than €36 million, over a legal dispute in Portugal.

The paintings became Portuguese state property following the nationalisation of the BPN bank in 2008 and their sale met with fierce opposition from art lovers in Portugal.

But the cash-strapped Portuguese government has argued that the sale of the paintings would bring a much-needed injection of funds.

Earlier on Tuesday, a Portuguese court rejected a request from the opposition Socialist party for the sale to be halted.

However, hours before the first of the paintings were due to go under the hammer, Christie's said it would not go ahead with the sale because of the "legal uncertainties" surrounding the works.

"The sale of the collection of 85 works by Joan Miro has been cancelled as a result of a dispute before the Portuguese court, to which Christie's is not a party," the auction house said.

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ART

Paul Gauguin’s ‘Mata Mua’ returns to Spain

One of French painter Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings, "Mata Mua", will return to a Madrid museum on Monday following an agreement between the Spanish government and its owner, who took it out of the country.

mata mua madrid
Toward the end of his life, Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, where he completed some of his most famous artwork Painting: Paul Gaugin

The artwork had been on display for two decades at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but in 2020 when the institution closed because of the pandemic, the painting’s owner Carmen Thyssen moved it to Andorra where she currently lives.

Her decision to take “Mata Mua” to the microstate sandwiched between Spain and France raised fears she would remove other works from her collection which are on display at the museum.

“It is expected that the painting will arrive today,” a spokeswoman for the museum told AFP.

mata-mua_gauguin-madrid

In 1989, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza bought Mata Mua at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. Painting: Paul Gauguin

The artwork will go back on display to the public “a few days after” Thyssen signs a new agreement with the Spanish state for the lease of her collection, she added. The deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday.

Painted in 1892 in vivid, flat colours, “Mata Mua” depicts two women, one playing the flute and the other listening, set against a lush Tahitian landscape.

It is one of the stars of Thyssen’s collection of several hundred paintings which are on show at the museum, including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.

Her collection had initially been displayed at the Madrid museum as part of a free loan agreement signed in February 2002 that was subsequently extended.

But in August 2021 Spain’s culture ministry announced it had reached an agreement with Thyssen to rent the collection from her for 15 years for €97.5 million ($111.5 million), with “preferential acquisition rights on all or part” of the works. The collection includes a Degas, a Hopper and a Monet.

Aside from housing her collection of works, the museum displays the collection of her late husband, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss heir to a powerful industrial lineage who died in Spain in 2002.

The Spanish state bought his collection in 1993 from $350 million, according to the museum.

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