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CoBrA at 70

Press release   •   Nov 23, 2018 09:33 UTC

Asger Jorn: Fantasy Animals, Djerba 1948. Unsigned. Oil on canvas. 44 x 51 cm. Estimate: DKK 400,000-500,000 (€ 53,500-67,000)

Bruun Rasmussen is not the only one turning 70 this year. The same goes for the CoBrA art group, which was founded in 1948 with the intent of creating a new and more liberated approach to art. Part of our anniversary auction is therefore dedicated to the art of CoBrA.

With names such as Asger Jorn, Corneille, Karel Appel and Pierre Alechinsky, Bruun Rasmussen can present a major CoBrA auction on 4-5 December here in Copenhagen. One of the highlights is a work by Jorn from 1948 – the founding year of the group. Jorn was not only one of the leading figures of CoBrA – with his radical recklessness, he was also the group's artistic rebel. In addition to a production of more than 2,000 works of art, he wrote theoretical articles and was involved in the political and cultural debates of the time. His paintings often deal with universal human themes such as life, death and love.

"Two bird-like fantasy animals represent the motif of the work from 1948, Jorn's early period. It was created on the island of Djerba, thus marking the end of one of Jorn's long journeys during the post-war years, where he started in northern Sweden, moved down through war-weary Europe and ended up on the Tunisian island. In the work, the imagination is allowed to run free and is mixed with inspiration from African masks and children's drawings. The later ideas of CoBrA are not hard to recognize in this work, and it is interesting to consider that only a few months later, a small group of artists from Denmark, Belgium and Holland, including Jorn, Christian Dotremont and Karel Appel, all met at the café of Hotel Notre Dame in Paris and established the legendary artist group," says Niels Raben, Head of Bruun Rasmussen's Department of Modern Art.

A Product of the Second World War

The members of the CoBrA group have been described as Expressionists, artistic rebels and political activists. The group initially stayed together from 1948 to 1951, but the mindset behind the abstract, expressive idiom lived on for many years after the group was disbanded. The members were particularly interested in the unconscious and the imagination, which they felt could create a new and liberated artform. They sought an unspoiled visual language that could speak directly to people, no matter who they were. In their search for something primary and true the artists sought inspiration in children’s drawings and the art of indigenous people. CoBrA was a product of the Second World War, where it was the closed national borders and the accumulated wanderlust that liberated the energy and imagination of an artistic expression that broke free of all boundaries.

The Life of the Artist Asger Jorn

Jorn was born in 1914 near the Danish town of Struer and was named Asger Oluf Jørgensen. After having completed an education to become a teacher, he decided to live as an artist instead, and in 1936 he drove to Paris on a newly purchased motorcycle. Here he became a student of one of the most prominent artists of Modernism, Ferdinand Léger. During the following years, Jorn experimented with different expressions, materials and collaborative projects in both Paris and Denmark. During the occupation of Denmark, where he and a number of other artists were prevented from travelling abroad, they developed the spontaneous-abstract painting. Not long after the end of the war, he travelled to Paris again, now with the more internationally sounding surname of Jorn.

Like many of the other post-war artists, Jorn circled around ideas such as community and socialism and insisted on a universal, abstract idiom that could help bring together a war-weary Europe. He was critical of an elevated perception of art and intentionally challenged the concept of high culture with the use of banality, satire, humour and anti-aesthetics as well as being greatly interested in myths and fairy tales. Throughout his life, he gained a large network of international artists, philosophers, poets, scientists and political freethinkers.

Despite the fact that Jorn experienced several periods with severe illnesses, including tuberculosis, he kept at his artistic work throughout his life. He spent almost two years at the Silkeborg Sanatorium from 1951-52. After he left the sanatorium, he travelled to Switzerland and Italy to recuperate. Here he bought a house and chose to leave Denmark for good and only returned on shorter visits. Jorn had six children from three marriages. He died 59 years old in 1973.

Read more about CoBrA at

View all the auction lots with CoBrA art

Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers is one of Scandinavia’s leading international auction houses, and one of Denmark’s oldest. It all started on 6 October 1948, when Arne Bruun Rasmussen conducted the first traditional auction in the saleroom at Bredgade 33 in Copenhagen. Today, Jesper Bruun Rasmussen stands at the helm of the family-run business together with the third generation of the family, his son Frederik and daughter Alexa, and the company’s CEO Jakob Dupont.

In 2004, the first online auction was launched, and today the auction house has expanded to include departments in Copenhagen and Aarhus and representations in Sweden, Germany, England, France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Spain, Italy, Thailand and the US. About 100,000 lots are put up for auction each year at the traditional auctions and daily online auctions. Here you can bid on everything from art, antiques, modern design and jewellery to books, coins, stamps, wine and weaponry.