Max Beckmann self-portrait breaks German art auction record with €20m sale

A rare and remarkable self-portrait by a 20th century German expressionist max beckmann Sold for €20m (£17m) in Berlin, breaking the record for a work of art sold at auction in Germany.

Striking Self portrait yellow-pink (self-portrait yellow-pink) painted by Beckmann during his wartime exile in Amsterdam after he fled the Nazi Germany, The identity of its new owner was not immediately available. With fees and other charges, the cost to the buyer was €23.2m.

The sale at the Villa Griesbach auction house attracted buyers from around the world. The auction house’s director, Mikaela Kapitzky, said it was a unique opportunity to purchase a self-portrait of Beckmann. “This kind of and quality work by him will not come across again. It’s very special,” she said.

The auctioneer, Marcus Krause, told potential buyers “this opportunity will never come again”.

Beckmann completed the work in 1944, when he was in his 50s, and in it he portrayed his much younger self. The painting remained in the possession of his wife Mathilde, known as the Flask, until her death, and was last for sale in 1996.

Prior to the sale, thousands of people flocked to see the work, first in New York where it was displayed in November, and later at the 19th-century Villa Griesbach in the center of West Berlin.

The sale is a coup for Villa Griesbach, which was founded in 1986 when Berlin was still divided by the Wall. At the time, the high-end German art trade took place mainly in Munich and Cologne or at auction houses in London and New York.

The painting was Lot 19 among 56 other works, from Otto Dix and Egon Schiele to Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. It broke the record for an auctioned work in Germany at over €10m. Last year, the Nagel auction house in Stuttgart sold a bronze statue given by a concubine to the Chinese Emperor Chenghua in 1473 for €9.5m. Beckmann painted several self-portraits, which are highly sought after by collectors but are rarely available for sale, but this work is considered unusual because of the artist’s rare choice of bright colors. The yellow fabric and fur trim in what may have been a dressing gown, or what Beckman called his “artist king”, expressed his sovereignty over himself at a time when he often felt trapped and in control of his life. felt the lack of

The effort has long been a refugee, with Beckman embodying it as “searching for his homeland, but losing his home along the way”.

Beckmann left Germany in 1937 for Amsterdam, one day after hearing a speech by Adolf Hitler denouncing “degenerate” artists. The authorities later confiscated 500 of his works from museums. Beckmann and his wife, Mathilde, never returned to Germany, emigrating to America a decade later where he died in 1950.

When Amsterdam was invaded by German troops in 1940, it was no longer a safe haven, and he withdrew to his studio in an old canalside tobacco warehouse, where his paintings, especially his own The paintings became a key to his survival or, as art critic Eugen Blume put it, “symbolic expressions of the spiritual crisis he endured”. The decade Beckmann spent in Amsterdam became his most prolific period.

“Beckmann had to watch helplessly as the German occupiers interned Dutch Jews, among them his personal friends, westerburk Concentration camp, ”said Bloom. Beckmann himself narrowly escaped being called up due to a heart condition, but he lived in constant fear that he might be arrested or that his paintings might be confiscated. Bloom said, “going back to his atelier … became a self-imposed obligation that kept him from breaking down.”

Beckmann wrote in his diary: “Silent death and fire surround me and yet I live.”

According to Kapitsky, Beckmann “gifted many of her self-portraits to Kuppi, then variously took them away to give them to friends or sell them. But she clung to it and never left it until her death in 1986”. .

“Quite possibly because of what it stands for,” she said. “He portrays himself as a young man and this is full of vitality and an inner strength and defiance, his will to overcome this difficult time, and also his quiet, enigmatic smile.”

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