Picasso Friend $170 Million Collection in Christie’s Sale

Art from the collection of the Geneva-based dealer Jan Krugier, who sold works for the family of Picasso, is estimated to raise at least $170 million when it is auctioned in New York in November.

More than 150 lots will be sold in evening and day events at Christie’s International on Nov. 4 and 5, the London-based auction house said today in an e-mailed statement. Impressionist and modern works by artists such as Picasso, Giacometti and Kandinsky dominate the sale, which also features contemporary pieces, Old Masters, Latin American and African art.

Krugier, who died in 2008, was for four decades one of the world’s foremost dealers in high-value 20th-century art. He ran galleries in Geneva and New York, and was a regular exhibitor at prestige events such as Art Basel in Switzerland, and Tefaf Maastricht, in the Netherlands. The Manhattan space closed in 2010 and the dealership no longer participates in art fairs.

“Jan was a great dealer,” the London-based gallerist Richard Nagy, who bought works from Krugier, said in an interview. “Because of his connection with the Picasso family, no one could compete with him in terms of the volume and breadth of works in different media he was able to sell.”

A survivor of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, Polish-born Krugier held the first commercial exhibition of Picasso’s works after the artist’s death in 1973. He subsequently sourced numerous pieces from Marina Picasso, the artist’s granddaughter, who used the proceeds to found an orphanage in Thu Duc, Vietnam, in 1990.

Chicago Sculpture

Christie’s auction will feature 30 works by Picasso. The most valuable of these is the sheet metal maquette for the 65-foot (19 meters) sculpture “Tete,” which stands outside the Civic Center building in Chicago.

Made in 1962-1964, this smaller model is estimated at $25 million to $35 million, the most valuable work in the auction. The 1971 painting “Buste d’homme ecrivant (Personnage) (Autoportrait),” is priced at $6 million to $8 million.

An African mask that was owned by Picasso and that influenced the depiction of faces in several of his paintings, including “Guernica,” is also included in the collection. It is valued at $500,000 to $800,000.

After World War II, Krugier lived in Paris, where he tried to become an artist. Alberto Giacometti persuaded him that art dealing would be a more suitable career and he opened his first gallery in Geneva in 1962, nurturing friendships with artists.

Giacometti, Kandinsky

The 3-foot-high bronze “Femme de Venise I,” is among the eight works by Giacometti included in the sale. From a series of nine sculptures made for the 1956 Venice Biennale, it is priced at $9 million to $12 million.

Kandinsky’s 1911 Fauvist-period landscape “Herbstlandschaft” is valued at $20 million to $25 million.

Christie’s sold a similar Kandinsky landscape, “Studie zu Improvisation 3” -- dating from 1909 -- for 13.5 million pounds ($21.2 million) in London in June. The work had been entered by the Nahmad family of dealers and had carried a third-party guarantee.

Impressionist and modern art was for decades the highest-selling category of art at auction. Market-fresh works are in short supply. More fashionable -- and plentiful -- contemporary pieces have become the auction houses’ biggest money-spinner.

Owners of big-ticket Impressionist and modern works can negotiate attractive terms from Sotheby’s and Christie’s, each of which holds at least four evening sales in the category every year.

No Guarantee

High-value sellers aren’t charged commission, and can be lured with either guaranteed prices or a portion of the fees charged to buyers, reducing profits for the auction houses, dealers said.

The Krugier collection hasn’t been guaranteed, said Christie’s.

“He made good choices as a collector and made some interesting non-commercial purchases,” said Nagy.

Underlining the eclecticism of Krugier’s collecting taste, the 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting “Crisis X” is estimated at $3 million to $4 million, while Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s early 19th-century drawing “Portrait de la Comtesse d’Haussonville” is valued at $1.5 million to $2.5 million. Ingres’s painting of this subject is in the Frick Collection in New York.

Highlights are on show in the company’s St. James’s headquarters in London through Sept. 19.

Muse highlights include Catherine Hickley on books, Frederik Balfour on Hong Kong art, Jason Harper on cars and Rich Jaroslovsky on technology.

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