Mystic Suprematism (Black Cross on Red Oval) by Kazimir Malevich

Friday, September 18, 2015
Mystic Suprematism (Black Cross on Red Oval) by Kazimir Malevich

Sotheby’s is pleased to announce that its 5 November 2015 Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art will feature one of the finest works by Kazimir Malevich.

Mystic Suprematism (Black Cross on Red Oval) by Kazimir Malevich

Sotheby’s is pleased to announce that its 5 November 2015 Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art will feature one of the finest works by Kazimir Malevich remaining in private hands: Mystic Suprematism (Black Cross on Red Oval). The painting is the last of a renowned group of five canvases restituted to the artist’s heirs in 2008 to be offered for sale, and as such represents the final opportunity to acquire a seminal masterpiece by Malevich from this celebrated collection. Mystic Suprematism epitomizes the 20th century European avant-garde at its most revolutionary, and comes to auction this November with an estimate of $35/45 million.

Simon Shaw, Co-Head of Sotheby’s Worldwide Impressionist & Modern Art Department, said: “Mystic Suprematism captures a moment when Malevich was at his most radical, iconoclastic and powerful. As the last canvas to come to auction bearing the exceptional provenance of the artist and his family, its sale will mark a major market moment this fall. Sotheby’s first offered a work from this illustrious group in 2008, when Suprematism, 18th Construction achieved a record $60 million. With so few outstanding Suprematist paintings remaining in private hands, we are honored to have been entrusted by the artist’s family once again and look forward to presenting Mystic Suprematism to collectors worldwide this fall.” 

Mystic Suprematism offers a searing presentation of Malevich's art at its most iconoclastic and theoretically complex. Painted in 1920–22 in the immediate aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the image embodies the 'new world order' promoted by the Suprematist movement – Malevich's radical artistic philosophy that had transformed Russian avant-garde art in the early-20th century. Five years following the publication of his Suprematist Manifesto in 1915, Malevich had fine-tuned his philosophies and perfected the artistic expression of his ideas, eliminating many of the colors, shapes and more painterly elements that dominated his earlier Suprematist compositions. His paintings at this stage were absolute in their dismissal of cultural, political or religious precedent. Mystic Suprematism epitomizes this shift in its most extreme form, with its irreverent black cruciform and oval of red paint set against an abyss of white.

In 1927, Malevich accompanied the present painting along with more than 70 other works to the seminal exhibition Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung in Berlin. This was the first time the artist’s work was exhibited outside of Russia, and the show was pivotal in establishing his reputation as one of the most influential international artists of the 20th century.

Following the exhibition, Malevich was obliged to return to the Soviet Union and arranged for the painting to be stored in Berlin, but he was unable to return to Germany as he was prevented from leaving the Soviet Union, where he died in 1935. Mystic Suprematism was later entrusted to the German architect Hugo Häring, who purportedly sold it to the Stedelijk Museum, where it was featured for over 50 years. Following a 17-year struggle, it was finally returned to the artist's heirs in 2008 after a historic settlement was reached with the City of Amsterdam.

Of the four other works that were restituted to Malevich’s family, two were sold by Sotheby's, one was sold privately to the Art Institute of Chicago, and one was sold to an anonymous collector. In the last 25 years, only four major works by Malevich have been sold at auction.

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