Beyond the confines of Switzerland, where she was based for much of her life, Sophie Taeuber-Arp has remained a lesser-known figure even as many art historians agree that she was a crucial figure in the development of European modernism. That stands to change, however, when a major retrospective begins to travel next year and, closer to the present, one of the world’s top galleries moves to add the artist’s estate to its roster.
Hauser & Wirth, with 10 galleries and a bookstore spread across three continents, now has exclusive worldwide representation of the Taeuber-Arp estate. The arrangement will begin with an online survey devoted to the artist that launches on June 11. (The gallery will also support a digital catalogue raisonné in the works from the estate.)
The new representation comes nearly a year before the Taeuber-Arp retrospective debuts the Kunstmuseum Basel in Switzerland, where it’s scheduled to open next March. (The show—organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Kunstmuseum Basel, and Tate Modern in London—was meant to open first at MoMA in November, but its travel schedule has been rearranged because of the coronavirus pandemic.) Marc Payot, a president of Hauser & Wirth, said he is confident that a show of such magnitude will help raise Taeuber-Arp’s profile.
“In Switzerland, she is perceived as a giant, but not enough on the international scene,” he told ARTnews. “This will change with the big retrospective. We see her as key figure in European art.”
Taeuber-Arp’s abstractions have been widely regarded as some of the most significant works of their kind during the first half of the 20th century. A cosigner of the Zurich Dada Manifesto, Taeuber-Arp produced works that playfully experimented with form, often featuring circles and squares that intersect and get halved by lines.
But because she worked in a number of mediums—including dance, painting, sculpture, and textiles—Taeuber-Arp’s work has been hard to classify for scholars. Then there is the matter of gender, as historians and curators have largely focused on the men involved in the Dada movement, notably Taeuber-Arp’s husband, Hans Arp, whose estate has been represented by Hauser & Wirth for the past 10 years.
Payot said that Taeuber-Arp, who died in 1943 after accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, is undervalued, both within the field of art history and within the market. Fewer than 90 works by Taeuber-Arp have come up for auction in the past four decades—a relatively low number for a figure so important—and exhibitions of her art have been hard to come by at major U.S. museums, which tend not to have collected her work in depth. “There is so much to be done,” Payot said.
Correction 5/28/20, 9:55 a.m.: A previous version of this article misstated the amount of time Hauser & Wirth has represented Hans Arp. The gallery has represented Arp for the past decade, not the past two years. This article has been updated to reflect this.