Matisse`s art head to Sotheby`s

Fort Worth: Last November Larry Gagosian paid $49 million for Henri Matisse`s bronze `Back IV` at Christie`s, setting a new record for the artist at auction. Now a Texas art foundation that owns four more sculptures from the series — which consists of 48 bronze casts of four numbered plaster sculptures, 43 of which were fired after the artist`s death — has decided that they`re too expensive to hold onto. They too will head to an auction house for a private Sotheby`s sale.

The Fort Worth-based Burnett Foundation acquired the set of sculptures in 1982, displaying them in a public park for 18 years before moving them into the Kimbell Art Museum, where they have resided for the last decade. The foundation`s bronzes comprise the complete set of I-IV, which represent the back of a woman successively becoming more abstract as the series progresses. Several other complete sets are owned by major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art. They rarely come up for auction.

Explaining the plan to sell, Burnett Foundation executive director Neils Agather says that the sculptures have simply become to pricey. "Over the years, the value of the Backs has grown significantly," he stated in a press release. "It now far exceeds anything that could justify owning them as a part of the Foundation`s main mission, which is to support activities in the community and not to own art."

The sale was discussed "at the board level" at the museum, Kimbell director Eric Lee told the Fort Worth Star Telegram, adding that "the board of the Kimbell Art Foundation and the board of the Burnett Foundation have overlap."

A date is not yet set for the sculptures to appear at Sotheby`s, and the auction house is not releasing price information because it will be a private sale.

Bureau Report