Fernand Léger’s Contraste de formes (1913), a work that has been in the family of collector Hans Arnhold since the 1950s and has never before been auctioned, will lead Christie’s Impressionist and modern art evening auction in New York this November. It is estimated to sell for $65 million, which, if met, would be a new record for the artist. The previous record was set when La femme en bleu (study), 1912–13, went for $39.2 million at Sotheby’s in New York in May 2008.
The work is consigned by the Anna Maria & Stephen Kellen Foundation—Anna-Maria Arnhold Kellen was Hans Arnhold’s daughter—and the proceeds will go toward the nonprofit’s philanthropic work.
“The Kellen Foundation’s Contraste de formes, among the greatest Légers still in private hands, has a startling intensity,” Conor Jordan, deputy chairman of Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s, said in a statement. “Executed just months before the First World War, Contraste de formes, with its groundbreaking abstract conception and its thrillingly preserved physical state, is without question a major work of Modern Art.”
The storied Parisian dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler acquired the work from Léger after it was completed, and Hans Arnhold purchased it from Galerie Rosengart in Lucerne, Switzerland, in 1956. It was passed on to his daughter and her husband, the late New York banker Stephen Kellen, and remained with the family until Anna-Maria Kellen died in April of this year at the age of 98.
Christie’s Impressionist and modern art evening sale will take place at the auction house’s Rockefeller Center headquarters in New York on November 13.