A landmark sale of international contemporary art

Works by Mat Collishaw and Zeng Fanzhi feature in this auction of Frank Cohen’s private collection

Sky No 7 by Zeng Fanzhi, 2005, estimate £560,000-£720,000
Sky No 7 by Zeng Fanzhi, 2005, estimate £560,000-£720,000

As auction titles go, “A Contemporary Vision: An Important British Collection of International Contemporary Art” may not be snappy, but it is accurate. The 80-lot sale (Sunday September 17, 6.30pm; previews from September 13) at Mossgreen in Melbourne features work by some of the world’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, all selected from British entrepreneur and art enthusiast Frank Cohen’s extraordinary private collection.

Auto-Immolation by Mat Collishaw, 2010, £40,000-£56,000
Auto-Immolation by Mat Collishaw, 2010, £40,000-£56,000

The lots are divided by continent, and YBA Mat Collishaw leads the European section with his mixed-media installation Auto-Immolation (estimate £40,000-£56,000). The idea of beauty in ruin is an ongoing theme in Collishaw’s work, and here a red orchid, trapped inside a gothic-style glass cabinet, is shown with its petals open, revealing a beautiful display of vitality even as it is licked by a creeping blue flame. Other highlights include a typically genre-questioning installation composed of 12 fluorescent light tubes (£24,000-£32,000) by Swiss performance artist, sculptor and painter John M Armleder.

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There are several works by American artists, including a silkscreened and painted pastiche (£64,000-£96,000) of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by The Bruce High Quality Foundation, a collective of anonymous artists that says its aims is to “resurrect art history from the bowels of despair”. Elsewhere, one of the most prominent names in the Asian art world, China’s Zeng Fanzhi, provides a standout lot in the form of Sky No 7 (£560,000-£720,000). Part of a series of calligraphic paintings exploring the emotional and psychological strain facing individuals in today’s society, it compels as it unsettles.

Bachelors of Avignon (Black on White) by The Bruce High Quality Foundation, 2011, £64,000-£96,000
Bachelors of Avignon (Black on White) by The Bruce High Quality Foundation, 2011, £64,000-£96,000

An installation from India’s Subodh Gupta is equally evocative. Made using timber doors from an old cinema, There is Always Cinema (IV) (£200,000-£280,000) continues this leading artist’s concern with elevating ordinary objects to a position of spiritual and cultural adoration.

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By staging this world-class auction in Melbourne, Mossgreen’s CEO Paul Sumner has pulled off something of a coup, and the quality of the work more than justifies a trip to the gallery for any collectors. However, those unable to make it can also view and buy online.

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