Auctions | January 15, 2021

Coming up at Christie’s: Une Bibliothèque des Avant-gardes

Courtesy of Christie's

Books by Marcel Duchamp, André Breton, and others will be offered.

Paris — Following the successful sale of the first two parts of the Une bibliothèque des avant-gardes, Paul Destribats, Christie's Book Department is pleased to announce the sale of the third part, with 502 lots for a total estimate of €1,438,800-2,075,200. Three catalogues will be produced for the three days of the sale, 2nd, 3rd and 4th February. The sale will be held in collaboration with the expert booksellers Claude Oterelo and Jean-Baptiste de Proyart.

Adrien Legendre, Director of the Books Department presents the sale: "While the second part of the collection focused on two major figures of avant-garde publishing, ILIAZD and PAB, the third part is intended to be generalist and will follow the chronological thread of the literary and artistic life of the 20th century".

Jean-Baptiste de Proyart, an expert associated with the sale: "With this third part, Paul Destribats' library reveals its unparalleled and, no doubt, unrivalled breadth. It was known as the queen of inter-war surrealism; now it is powerfully original, revealing to the general public the superb books created by the sometimes little-known avant-garde and always bound by artists of genius".

Claude Oterelo: "Collecting, and in what way, the Avant-gardes of the first part of the 20th century is already a challenge, but to continue, to trace its path to those of the 70s and 80s, which are often little-known, and to dress them up by master bookbinders is a stubborn and brilliant feat”.

We will thus find the key avant-gardists of the first half of the 20th century, René Char, Paul Éluard, Louis Aragon, Benjamin Péret, Man Ray, Tristan Tzara, and of course André Breton. The latter is notably embodied in an important set of autograph working manuscripts, brought together under the title "Écrits sur la peinture" (1942-1953), and bound by Daniel Mercher. This fascinating corpus is estimated at €15,000-20,000. We also will mention the complete manuscript of the Eros dictionary, conceived for the International Exhibition of Surrealism organised by André Breton and Marcel Duchamp at the Daniel Cordier Gallery (December 1959 - February 1960). This autograph manuscript, with 275 definitions, has a daring erotic-musical binding by Monique Mathieu (€15,000-20,000).

On the occasion of the same 1960 exhibition, Breton and Duchamp also published the famous Boîte alerte. Missives lascives, presented here in a very luxurious, complete copy of her "couple of aprons" (ill. on the cover page, estimate €40,000-60,000). The collection also includes a trial version of this most suggestive ready-made, accompanied by Mimi Parent's autograph documents retracing the history of its conception (estimate €20,000-30,000).

Joan Miró is one of the most famous artists to have illustrated Breton's texts and poems, and Constellations, published by Pierre Matisse in 1959, is one of his most admirable achievements. The copy in the Destribats library originally belonged to the famous patron and collector Edmond Bomsel - it includes four original engravings signed by Miró, the complete autograph manuscript of the poem and a set of corrected proofs (estimate: €30,000-40,000, ill. right).

Another famous creation by the Catalan painter, this time inspired by a collection by Paul Éluard, gave rise to one of the most beautiful artists' books : À toute épreuve, published by Gérald Cramer in 1958. This is a copy with an additional suite on China of the 80 woodcuts by Miró (estimate €50,000-70,000).

In many ways, the library appears as a pantheon of the most renowned artists of the 20th century, including Picasso, Giacometti, Braque, Masson and Arp, but also of a new generation of authors, such as Jacques Prévert, Jean-Paul Sartre, Yves Bonnefoy and Henri Michaux. Georges Bataille is also present, notably through a head copy of Histoire de rats (1947), illustrated with 6 etchings by Giacometti, including the complete autograph manuscript of the text in which Bataille's readings and Kafkaesque influence are palpable. This precious copy is estimated at €40,000-50,000.

Mirroring these authors who imposed themselves on the cultural landscape of the post-war period, various artistic movements appeared, such as Art Brut, of which Jean Dubuffet was one of the main initiators. His work as an illustrator for the book Les murs d'Eugène Guillevic, for which he produced 14 lithographs, is of great importance (1950, left, inside illustration). According to Dubuffet himself, the different tones of the black walls evoke an invitation to see beyond the limits of reality, plunged into infinite darkness during the Second World War.

Dubuffet's work seduced Jean Paulhan, who introduced him to Francis Ponge, with whom he produced Matière et mémoire ou les lithographes à l'école (1945). The talking binding by Monique Mathieu that adorns this copy continues the play of materials of Dubuffet's 34 lithographs (estimate: €20,000-30,000). Among the other books produced or illustrated by Dubuffet, let us finally mention Anvouaiaje par in ninbesil avec de zimaje (1950), a copy with the artist sending it to his friend and patron Henri Pierre Roché, covered with a binding by Georges Leroux inspired by the emblematic "bonhomme" (estimate €12,000-18,000).

The Paul Destribats Library is home to many artists from the post-war movements who deserve to be mentioned: Asger Jorn, Karel Appel, Pierre Alechinsky and the Cobra movement, the lyrical abstraction of Hans Hartung and Georges Mathieu, Nicolas de Staël and Simon Hantai, the Romanian School of Jacques Hérold and Victor Brauner. The latter collaborated with many writers, including Gherasim Luca. He illustrated Ce Château presenti (1958) with a beautiful etching (estimate: €8,000-12,000), and this manuscript copy of Le Tangage de ma langue (1949) with an original watercolour (estimate: €5,000- 7,000).

Pop Art is also in the spotlight with Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, Jim Dine, Roy Lichtenstein and this mythical Pop book, Walasse Ting's One ¢ Life, published by Sam Francis in 1964. The top copy of the Destribats collection is decorated with a superb binding by Georges Leroux (€20,000- 30,000, ill. left).

The liberation of morals, still in its infancy at the end of the war, became established in the 1960s and especially after 1968. Although the sadomasochistic work L'Image by Catherine Robbe-Grillet (published under a pseudonym) was censored in 1956, and a lawsuit was brought against Jean-Jacques Pauvert for the publication of the writings of the Marquis de Sade, Western society evolved, and erotic writings and works were less subject to the censors' wrath. Hans Bellmer's reflection and work on the possibilities offered by the human body, real or fantasised, are represented by several choice copies, including his Jeux de la poupée (1949), where his photographs play the leading role and, in an inversion of the traditional text-image relationship, are "illustrated by texts by Paul Éluard" (estimate: €40,000-60,000). Bellmer had long been fascinated by the character of the anatomist from the Tales of Hoffman, and became a puppeteer: the copy of Von Kleist's treatise on puppets, illustrated by Bellmer and covered in a fascinating, flexible binding by Monique Mathieu, develops this register (estimate: €8,000-12,000).

After the war, women authors and artists gained in visibility: Emily Dickinson, Joyce Mansour, Catherine Robbe-Grillet, Emmanuelle Riva, Mila Gagarine, Annie Le Brun, Léna Leclercq, Toyen, Geneviève Asse, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Joan Mitchell, Mimi Parent, Germaine Richier and Dorothea Tanning are also present in the Destibats library. In addition to these names is Unica Zürn, whose sale will feature an exceptional autograph collection entitled Orakel und Spektakel. Anagramm texte und Zeichnungen (1955-1956), estimated at €15,000-20,000. These poems, most of them unpublished, combine anagrams and original drawings in ink. In these fourteen chimerical creations, the artist gets rid of the conventions of the artist's book, where text and image are placed side by side without intersecting, in order to create, notably through collage, effects of superimposition and accumulation.

Finally, the library offers numerous productions of the Lettrist movement, embodied by Isidore Isou, and, following him, Jacques Spacagna, Maurice Lemaître, Roland Sabatier, or Roberto Altmann. Often disconcerting, sometimes provocative, always chosen with care and attention to detail, these documents and works are the image of this library representative of the 20th century, where all the avant-gardes are in dialogue.