It is a strange coincidence that the collection of the great Catalan artist, Antoni Tàpies, is being broken up and sold off at auction, at a time when his beloved region appears, once again, to be seeking to break away from Spain.
Although much of Tàpies’ work revolved around universal themes and Zen philosophy, he was a passionate believer in self-determination for Catalan. In his work The Catalan Spirt, 1971, the Catalan national flag is defaced with graffiti, etched aggressively into the paint the words “culture”, “democracy”, and “freedom” can be made out. In front the rough red lines that complete the Catalan flag appear like the clawed marks of a dying man.
Born in Barcelona in 1923, the young Tàpies experienced the brutality of the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 up close. During Franco’s attacks and bombings on Barcelona, he and his family remained in the city, an experience that was to have a profound influence on his beliefs and permeate his oeuvre.
Now the collection of the great artist who died in 2012 is being put up for auction at Christie’s London. Included are works by Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso and Mark Rothko. The passionate collector not only collected the work of contemporaries and his heroes, but includes striking African idols as well as artefacts from antiquity. According to Christie’s Antoni Tàpies’ collection was built on his quest to “comprehend life’s unfathomable mysteries”, and offers a unique insight into the powerful bond that existed between the artist and the paintings and sculptures he encountered over the course of his life.
The only unifying thread running through the idiosyncratic collection is the taste and excellent eye of the artist. He collected the works for his family home that he had built in the 1960s by the Catalan architect José Antonio Coderch. The stunning, and elegantly immersive setting, where the artist lived and worked, brought these artworks to life. Each room was uniquely curated, so that each object was chosen to provide an enigmatic energy, or have a complementary effect with other elements in the room.
The collection, according to Olivier Camu, the Deputy Chairman, Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s, “speaks to his Catalan heritage, to his roots in the Surrealist movement, to his place as a leading figure within the Post-War art world. It is fascinating to be reminded through this small selection how sharp, sophisticated, informed and sensitive his eye was.”
Masterworks from the Collection of Antoni Tàpies will be on view at Christie’s London from the 29th of September.