Jean Dubuffet’s Les Grandes Artères, 1961 ($15-20 million) will highlight Christie’s November 15, 2016 Evening Sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art, announced the auction house. Les Grandes Artères has been held in the same private American collection since 1964 and has not appeared publicly since 1973, when it was featured in "Jean Dubuffet: A Retrospective" exhibited at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Grand Palais, Paris according to Christie's. The world auction record for Jean Dubuffet is currently held by Paris Polka, 1961, which is also from Dubuffet’s Paris Circus series, according to Christie's. The record was achieved at Christie’s New York in May 2015, when it realized $24,805,000.

Les Grandes Artères is part of the "Paris Circus" series, which is considered by many Dubuffet scholars as the pinnacle of the artist’s career, according to Christie's. Artworks from the series are held by international museum and gallery collections including those of the Tate Gallery (London); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York); National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.) and the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris).


"Les Grandes Artères" by Jean Dubuffet. Oil on canvas, painted in July-August 1961. Courtesy Christie's.

"Les Grandes Artères" by Jean Dubuffet. Oil on canvas, painted in July-August 1961. Courtesy Christie's.


The "Paris Circus" paintings in February 1961 signal Dubuffet's vivacious rediscovery of city life, heightened by a return to Paris after a self-imposed six-year exile in the French countryside. The sixties were a particularly intoxicating time with postwar energy sweeping the globe infusing daily occurrences with wonder, seen through fresh eyes. In America, Pop Art was born, investigating the unique auras surrounding quotidian objects and fearlessly appropriating the daily images that flooded the collective consciousness. In France, amidst the throes of New Wave cinema and sexual revolution, Dubuffet created a new language that sought to convey this unbounded joy of daily living. Les Grandes Artères conjures a new artistic handwriting, equipped to translate sensory experience and, in doing so, to suggest new ways of comprehending our daily existence, according to Christie's.

Across the surface of Les Grandes Artères, Dubuffet portrays a cast of characters to capture the sense of liberation in Paris as it emerged from World War II. The French capital’s grand boulevards are filled with bustling shops, cars and people. The street lined with shops and flanked by businesses are the artist’s creation. In addition to the archetypal city establishments, including a bank and a cosmetics store, Dubuffet depicted storefronts with signage, satirizing the rampant consumerism that he saw pervading society. Examples include Fruits et legumes du desespoir (fruits and vegetables of despair), A l’issue fatale (fatal outcome) and Societe l’indercrottable (hopeless society). The cars at the bottom of the composition are also labeled with brands (Ford, Citroën, Simca and Fiat).

Les Grandes Artères is an extraordinarily vibrant and complex canvas that encapsulates the vitality of Paris, and the dynamism of city life," stated Brett Gorvy, Christie's Chairman and International Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, in the sale announcement. "The detail with which he depicts each of his figures gives them their own individual character and the line-up of glamorous cars shows what a cosmopolitan city Paris had become—a scene which Dubuffet captures this with particular skill and spirit."

Jean Dubuffet's work has been the subject of a number of exhibitions this year. They include a retrospective at the Fondation Beyeler in Switzerland, a solo show at Acquavella Gallery in New York, an installation of his monumental sculpture, Welcome Parade, in front of New York’s historic Seagram Building, as well as his art and influence forming the centerpiece of  "Art Brut in America: The Incursion of Jean Dubbuffet" at The American Folk Art Museum in New York. In 2015, his art was the subject of the solo show "Jean Dubuffett: Soul of the Underground" at MoMA in New York.


BASIC FACTS: Christie's Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale takes place on November 15, 2016 in New York, Rockefeller Plaza. Jean Dubuffet’s Les Grandes Artères, 1961 ($15-20 million) is part of Sale 12156.


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