Art

Nazi Allegory Painted by Max Beckmann Fetches Record $46 Million

  • Price tops German Expressionist’s prior mark set in 2001
  • Christie’s auction in London totals about $190 million

A painting by Max Beckmann sold for 36 million pounds ($45.8 million) at Christie’s in London on Tuesday, setting a record for the German Expressionist.

Titled “Holle der Vogel” (Birds’ Hell), the canvas is an allegory of Nazi Germany, according to the auction house. Beckmann began the work in the summer of 1937, after he fled the country for Amsterdam. That July, the Degenerate Art exhibition opened in Munich, with several of Beckmann’s pieces; many others had been confiscated from German museums by the government. The work shows orange birds slashing humans with knives.

Hölle der Vögel by Max Beckmann

Source: Christie’s

Estimated at more than 30 million pounds, the painting attracted three bidders and was purchased by art dealer Larry Gagosian, who was in the salesroom. The price, which includes fees, doubled the previous auction record of $22.6 million for the artist, set in 2001.

The work led Christie’s Impressionist and modern art evening sale that tallied about $190 million. Sotheby’s last week sold about $161 million in a similar auction, during which Wassily Kandinsky’s record was broken twice, as one of his paintings soared to $41.6 million.

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