WASSILY KANDINSKY (1866-1944)
Studie für improvisation 8
Painted in 1909 in Murnau
oil on cardboard laid down on canvas, 38 5/8 x 27 ½ in. (98 x 70 cm.)
August 30, 2012, source: Christie’s
Widely recognized for its significance to the advancement of abstract art, the work is a fully realized study for the last of the eight numbered paintings Kandinsky created in 1909 as part of his pioneering series he called “Improvisations.” Estimated at $20-30 million, the mystical scene of a conquering hero wielding a golden sword has the potential to set a new record price for any work by the artist at auction. The current record of $20.9 million was set in 1990.
“Study for improvisation 8” is offered from the collection of the Volkart Foundation, a charitable trust founded by Volkart Brothers, a prominent Swiss commodities trading firm established in 1851. Since 1960, the painting has been on loan from the Foundation to the Kunstmuseum Winterthur in Switzerland. Over the years, it has been featured in major museum shows organized by the Tate Modern, Kunstmuseum Basel, the Fondation Beyeler and the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montréal, among others. Proceeds from the sale of the painting will benefit the Foundation’s charitable programs.
The record-setting estimate assigned to the work is indicative of both its exceptional museum provenance and its great rarity. Studies from Kandinsky's landmark “Improvisation” series of 1909 have come to auction only twice in recent years from private collections and nearly all of the known finished versions of the studies are housed in museum collections. In 2008, Christie’s offered “Studie zu improvisation 3” as the cover lot of its major November Evening Sale in New York. Despite the looming economic crisis during that season, the painting fetched $16.9 million, the second-highest price for the artist at auction.
“From a collector’s perspective, Kandinsky’s Improvisation series is at the nexus of some of the most compelling innovations of the avant-garde era,” noted Brooke Lampley, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie's.