A post-war masterpiece by Russian-born French artist Nicolas de Staël will lead Christie’s Paris sale on 17 October during the week of FIAC (International Contemporary Art Fair). The painting, Parc des Princes (1952), has been kept in the artist’s family since his passing in 1955. It is expected to fetch €18m-25m (US$20.2m-28.1m), which could set a new auction record for the abstract painter.
Measuring 200x350cm, this large-scale painting marks the zenith of the series of soccer players which Nicolas de Staël painted after attending the France-Sweden match with his wife, on the evening of 26 March 1952, in the renowned Parisian stadium. Many pieces from the series are now in museum collections, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Musée des Beaux Arts in Dijon, France.
The Football Player (1952). Collection of The Museum of Contemporary Art
Les Footballeurs (1952). Collection of The Musée des Beaux Arts
Parc des Princes (1952) was immediately critically acclaimed after it was first exhibited at the Salon of May 1952. The auction house called it ‘a work that challenged the pictorial idiom of the post-war period’.
Nicolas de Staël started painting the series of soccer players after attending the France-Sweden match with his wife, on the evening of 26 March 1952, in the renowned Parisian stadium. It is more the forms and colours of the soccer players’ movements rather than the physical performance which interested De Staël, a rising figure in abstraction at the time. The series marked a turning point in his practice, as the artist embraced a more colourful chromatic palette whilst moving away from his signature impasto effects.
The current auction record for the artist is held by Nu Debout (1953), which was sold at Christie’s New York in May 2018 for US$12.1m, far exceeding its presale estimate of US$7.5m-9.5m.