Two collections dedicated to Michaux

On 24 March 2019, by Anne Doridou-Heim
Henri Michaux (1899-1984), "Le Clown", 1939, gouache on paper, 50 x 32 cm.
Result: €85,592

Two private collections featuring Henri Michaux (1899-1984) were on offer at this sale: those of René Bertelé, the protean artist's publisher, and Bernard Loliée, one of his most loyal supporters. Together, and because they set each other off harmoniously, they made a total of €1,058,696, with 89% of the lots sold. The common theme was paper: a medium for not only books but also drawings, gouaches and collages. A little over twenty years ago (on 28 November 1997, with Paul Renaud), a large proportion of René Bertelé's book collection was auctioned off, but at that time his sister, Geneviève Vallette, found it impossible to part with the major works – including this iconic piece by Michaux, "Le Clown", a 1939 gouache on paper. A highly personal work, then, long coveted by film-maker Claude Berri, who according to the expert Claude Oterello was ready to pay €100,000 for it. In the absence of the director, who died in 2009, it went to another buyer for €85,582. But the sale was largely dominated by Max Ernst's extremely fine collage and gouache at €353,472 (see photo C). Executed in 1921, it was exhibited the very same year at the Paris gallery Au sans Pareil. Ersnt was unfortunately unable to attend, as he was barred from leaving Germany. Paul Éluard, who was fascinated by his work, went to visit him in Cologne, and chose this "Invention ou l'Oiseau de l'infini" – as well as some other collages – to illustrate his new poetry collection, "Répétitions". This marked the beginning of a close friendship.

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