Etienne Hajdu (1907-1996)
incised with the artist's signature and date 'Hajdu 64' (on the base)
2014 x 1134 x 434 in. (51.4 x 29.8 x 12.1 cm.)
Executed in 1964.
Private collection
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 9 October 1986, lot 173
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
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Lot Essay

The Collection of Mireille and James Lévy is a celebration of graceful and poetic forms. The Lévys’ refined their preference and palate for art through a combination of extensive travels, exposure to art and architecture and distinguished instinct drawn from their Egyptian roots.

Like many successful collections, the paintings and sculptures acquired by Mireille and James Lévy defy strict categorization. Connoisseurs in the true sense of the word, the couple sought out objects with which they formed a very personal connection, displaying them with finesse and pride in their exquisite homes in Lausanne, New York City and Longboat Key. Undeterred by academic classifications, their premise was of “collecting pioneers of style and time. It goes without saying that we must find the works aesthetically pleasing,” the couple told Architectural Digest in March 1987, “but what most interests us is that these artists are witnesses to their time.”

The juxtaposition between the formal and expressive, and between color and form, is what breathes life into the Lévys’ collection. Their art collection spans the work of many of the twentieth century’s best-known artists, from the Dada inspired forms of Jean (Hans) Arp to the Modernist renderings of the human body by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, including 14 maquettes of his iconic sculptures. While much of the collection consists of three-dimensional works, the Lévys embraced all forms of artistic expression, from the fluid two-dimensional forms of the Color Field painters. Centrifugal, a classic Burst painting by Adolph Gottlieb, sits alongside Number 20, Morris Louis’s towering painting of colorful striations, with both works speaking to the formal investigations into the fundamental nature of painting that engaged many artists during the period.

Over three decades during the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, Warhol became the ‘Chronicler-in-Chief’ of the American cultural zeitgeist. taking inspiration from the everyday and turned it into high art. The couple embraced the major Pop Art artists such as Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann, who had abandoned the prevailing forms of abstraction to develop a groundbreaking form of figurative painting. Warhol’s disco-hued portraits of Marilyn Monroe are particularly fine examples of his unique blend of cultural high-living. In addition to the Pop hedonism of Warhol and Tom Wesselmann, the collection contains several notable examples of the more conceptual concerns that were occupying many artists of the period.

While building their remarkable collection, the couple also had a desire to share their love of art with a wider audience. They donated works from their art collection both to major international museum collections and lesser known European institutions; from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, to the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, the Lévys’ generosity was transformational to these institutions’ collections. Now, their largesse continues, as the proceeds from the sale of these works will continue their legacy of extraordinary philanthropy. Many institutions in the United States, Switzerland and Israel, including hospitals, medical research centers, museums and resettlement agencies for Jewish refugees have received donations during the Lévys’ lifetime, and will continue to do so now, through the Foundation Mireille and James Lévy, the primary beneficiary of their joint estate.

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