Hugues Sébilleau, Head of the Post-War and Contemporary Art Department:
Well, he is certainly one of the most important sculptors, if not the most important, of the second half of the XXth century and up to today!
The fact of having worked in a steel mill as a young man as well as discovering the work of Brancusi at the beginning of the sixties were to be key elements in his development as an artist.
Coming face to face with Serra’s monumental sculpture works enables you to understand the uniqueness and the importance of this artist; it is a singular and sensory experience, but one which is also unsettling. This artist manipulates paradoxes – finesse, balance, lightness and steel – mass and power! There is also always the sense of impending collapse or of a house of cards, where the simple fact of heaviness is anchoring his works to the ground. This remarkable confrontation of minimalism and power, whether in his sculptures or his graphic work, gives him, in my view, the status of a major artist.
Why is this such an important work?
HS: It is, above all, a historic piece, from when the artist was at a crossroads. At the beginning of the seventies, after having used various materials during the sixties in his quest for minimalism, Serra turned definitively to steel. It was also during this period that he started making drawings on paper, firstly using charcoal, then ‘paintstick’, and finally, at the beginning of the eighties, ‘oilstick’, which allowed him to saturate large areas of paper with a deep, tarlike black. The paradox of minimalism and power are omnipresent, Serra’s work on paper is essential to and a preparation for his monumental sculptures; he is able to obtain immediate results from it.
“Judgment on a sheet” is, therefore, a key work of art – a major piece from the origins of his work on paper and, moreover, very rare on the market. The highest bid during last December’s auction reflected this rarity - €1,260,000 including commission, against an estimate of €150,000/200,000.
This artwork made an impressive €1,260,000 with commission.
HS: Yes. The results for this artist’s works on paper are relatively consistent, but these are generally for post-1980 pieces. On the contrary, early and important pieces, such as ‘Judgement of a sheet’, haven’t been offered on the market for a long time. Therefore, it is important to make a reasonable estimate of the work in order to maximise its strong potential, knowing that today collectors won’t let the opportunity to acquire such a rare piece slip by.