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Rare Enamel by Le Corbusier from Utzon’s Art Collection

Press Release   •   Oct 03, 2016 10:07 GMT

Le Corbusier: "20 heures, arrivée à Chandigarh", 1951-1959.

Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers is pleased to announce that another important work by Le Corbusier from the private collection of the world-famous Danish architect Jørn Utzon will be auctioned off in the beginning of December. The work comes from Utzon’s private home in Hellebæk about 50 kilometres north of Copenhagen. It was made while Utzon and Corbusier collaborated on the interior of the Sydney Opera House during the 1950s.

It is the second time we offer important art pieces from Utzon’s private collection. In June 2015 we broke a world record, when we auctioned off a monumental tapestry ”Les dés sont jetés” by Le Corbusier, which was purchased by the Sydney Opera. At that occasion we also sold two enamels by Corbusier. The one coming up for sale in December was made for Jørn Utzon personally, as an example for the Sydney project. It has never been exhibited in public nor offered for sale before and has been in the ownership of the Utzon family until today” says Frederik Bruun Rasmussen, director of international sales at Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers.

The collaboration between Utzon and Corbusier is well documented in a number of letters between the two – dated between 1958-60. In a letter from 31 March 1960 Jørn Utzon writes to Le Corbusier: “Your paintings are every day a great inspiration to me here on our walls – I am looking very much forward to the Tapisserie”. On the back of the enamel up for auction there is a reference to a sketch by Le Corbusier, which describes how this type of artwork could be hung in the Sydney Opera House.

Utzon and the Opera House

Jørn Utzon (1918-2008) graduated as an architect in 1942. His career gathered momentum, when he in 1957 won the international architectural competition for the Sydney Opera House. The next several years he worked on the century's most famous building, and everything went according to plan until the change of government in Australia in 1965, which forced Utzon to leave the construction process of the building.

The opera house's exterior was finished, and Jørn Utzon was about to begin work on the interior. He had plans to decorate the interior of the opera with tapestries and enamels by Le Corbusier. But the new governing party in the Australian parliament wanted the building finished quickly and inexpensively. Therefore, they suspended the payments to Jørn Utzon, who withdrew from the construction in 1966. Australian architects completed the construction, and the Sydney Opera House was completed in 1973 without Utzon's stamp on the interior design and the planned decorations by Le Corbusier.

The Pritzker Architecture Prize

In 2003 Jørn Utzon received, as the first Dane ever, the Nobel Prize for architecture, the Pritzker Architecture Prize. In the statement accompanying the award the president of the jury, Lord Rothschild, referenced Utzon's talent in general and the Sydney Opera House in particular. The building was included on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2007 - the year before Utzon died at the age of 90.

International auction

Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Bredgade 33, Copenhagen

Preview: 24-28 November

Auction: 6 December

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, France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Spain, Italy, Thailand and the US. About 100,000 lots are auctioned off 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.