Our picks from Frieze Masters 2021...
Written by Silke Lohmann | 16 October 2021
Johnny van Haeften
A remarkable pair of paintings by the Antwerp painter David Ryckaert III (1612-1661), which has recently emerged from an old Spanish aristocratic collection. Originally commissioned from the painter by the distinguished Spanish courtier, soldier, diplomat and art collector the Marqués de Leganés (c.1585-1655), their imposing size and unusual format suggest that they were intended for a specific location, perhaps as overdoors, or part of an architectural scheme.
Born into a family of artists, David Ryckaert III lived and worked in Antwerp all his life. This pair of paintings, executed in 1652, belong to an especially successful phase in the artist's professional life when he produced much of his best work. The discovery by Matías Díaz Padrón in 2008 that they had belonged to the Marqués de Leganés, one of the most distinguished collectors of the seventeenth century, tells us much about the artist's reputation abroad during these years.
The key to making the connection with Leganés is the characteristic inventory number "1324", inscribed in white in the lower right-hand corner of The Annunciation, and the red collection seal of the Marqués affixed to the canvas of its companion piece. These marks make it possible to identify the paintings among the 1333 artworks listed in the inventory of the Marqués's estate drawn up on 21 February 1655.
This is an exceptional work by the early Sienese master Gregorio di Cecco di Luca, pupil of Taddeo di Bartolo, and is significant in furthering our understanding of this rare artist's work; particularly given the panel's quality and the variety and skill of the techniques employed.
Moreover, it is also an important document of early quattrocento Tuscan art, and remarkable as a rare survival of a fully-intact early Sienese Triptych painting, in excellent condition.
This is one of several objects, but in particularly one of four reliquary busts, on Sam Fogg's stand at Frieze Masters that have been included in the new section called Stand Out, curated by Luke Syson (Director of Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), which will bring together art objects from across the ages that are great works of design, of sculptural and conceptual brilliance. It looks beyond hierarchical distinctions between works of art in different media, and in doing so reconsiders art objects often termed 'decorative' or 'functional.'
A rare group of early works by Christo form part of Colnaghi's presentation at Frieze Masters.
Christo: Early Works comprises nine sculptural works, alongside select works on paper, produced by the artist in the first years of what would become a prolific and legendary career. These early works, including Two Wrapped Chairs, 1961, Wrapped Road Sign, 1963, and Wrapped Vespa, 1963-1964, mark the beginnings of artist practice and pursuit that would continue to develop over the next five decades. The Two Wrapped Chairs sculpture is in very good condition and is essentially as the artist created it.
The present work shows two African soldiers from the so-called Krumen people, an ethnic group living mostly along the coast of Liberia and Ivory Coast. The picture belongs to a series of around twenty-seven portraits of prisoners-of-war commissioned by the German explorer in Africa, Adolf Friedrich, Duke of Mecklenburg (1873-1969) and painted by Thomas Baumgartner between 1916 - 1917, as a result of which the artist was likely spared from being sent to the front line. The soldiers in our painting and the others from Baumgartner's series were almost certainly painted in either the Halbmondlager (known in English as the 'Half-Moon or Crescent Camp' - named after the crescent moon of Islam), a prisoner-of-war camp in Wünsdorf near Berlin, Germany, or the neighbouring Zossen and Weinberger camps. The Halbondlager housed mainly soldiers from the French North African colonies and India. Most of the inmates were Muslims, but also included Sikhs, Hindus and a few Indian Christians from the British and French colonies, all of whom had been drafted into the war by the Allies to fight against Germany.
As David Olusoga writes in his book, The World's War. Forgotten Soldiers of Empire, London, 2014, 'What took place behind its [the Halbondlager's] barbed-wire fences, between 1915 and 1917, is one of the most bizarre and least known stories of the First World War' (op. cit., p. 250). Indeed, he devotes an entire chapter in his remarkable book to this little-known episode.
Stephen Ongpin Fine Art
Painted in 1905, this large landscape in watercolour and gouache was entitled Pax by the artist, and was included in his 1913 exhibition at the Konstnärshuset in Stockholm. As the artist noted, this large watercolour was inspired by a sketch made on a journey to the Swiss Alps in 1903, and in particular a visit to the upper Rhône valley in the canton of Valais. At the headwaters of the great river, Forsberg was struck by the majestic form of the Rhône Glacier.
Forsberg associated the grandeur and isolation of this alpine landscape with the fragility of life, and this sense was heightened by an accident that befell the artist and his wife as they were leaving the area which almost cost them their lives. Haunted by the trauma of this close brush with death, Forsberg was determined to translate his sketch from Gletsch into a finished work, but this took some time. Pax was eventually painted in Stockholm in the early months of 1905, where the artist had organized an exhibition of his work the previous year.
The watercolour depicts the Rhône Glacier in the centre distance, with Lake Totensee in the valley below. Barely noticeable, seated on a small island at the left, is the tiny figure of Death with his scythe. Forsberg appears to have regarded Pax as his most important work, describing it as a 'capo d'opera' in his book Opera, published in 1913.