David Zwirner Gallery will now represent the family of visionary Swiss-German artist Paul Klee (1879-1940), who up until now have never officially joined forces with any commercial gallery. A solo show of works taken directly from the family’s collection was subsequently scheduled to open in the gallery’s Chelsea space in September. The gallery also announced that it will be showing a solo presentation of Klee’s work at TEFAF New York early next month (May 3-7).
Aljoscha Klee, grandson of the artist, said that the partnership aims to direct his grandfather’s work “towards a new generation of artist and collectors”. The addition of Klee to David Zwirner’s roster of artists marks a great move in the ongoing quest for the few mega-galleries to consolidate their representation of major artist’s estates.
By the early 20th century, Klee was a prominent name associated as part of the Der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) avant-garde movement. This was right before the summer of 1914 as well as the first World War which was when Munich’s promising art scene quickly came to an end. Klee, among some of his Blue Rider peers like August Macke and Franz Marc were killed in the war while other artists like abstract pioneer Wassily Kandinsky fled back home temporarily.
“Klee’s curiosity and artistic sensibility were inexhaustible, and his influence extends far beyond his lifetime,” David Zwirner said in a statement. Zwirner also described Klee as “the quintessential artist’s artist”.
Despite Klee’s worldwide reputation, his auction market does not match those of his peers. Klee’s auction record currently stands at a shy £4.2m for his Divisionist work “Tänzerin” (“Dancer”, 1932), a far lower market level than that of contemporaries like Pablo Picasso (auction record $179.4m), Kandinsky (£33m) and even the lesser-known Alexej von Jawlensky (£9.4m). About 3,000 of Klee’s works have ever been offered at auction, with a strong 90 percent sell-through rate.
“Klee’s mature work overlaps directly with some of the brightest and darkest moments of 20th-century history and art history,” Zwirner said.
The September show planned at Zwirner will coincide with the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus, where Klee taught for ten years (1921-1931), and will focus on the work the artist produced during his last years. The Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland presented a show titled “Klee in Wartime” last year, which showed the artist’s works that were produced during the dark times of World War I. While the centre in Bern is entirely separate from the Klee family estate, their works are often shown together.