Max Beckmann’s 'Bird’s Hell' could set $30 million record at Christie's



2017-05-10 10:37:09

A surreal vision of hell painted during the rise of the Nazis will lead a Christie's Modern Art sale in London next month.

Max Beckmann’s 'Bird’s Hell' is expected to achieve in the region of $30 million – a new auction record for the artist - when it goes under the hammer in London on June 27.

The painting presents a terrifying scene, filled with monstrous bird-like creatures who torture their victims.

In the centre of the image is a multi-breasted creature emerging from an egg, giving what appears to be a Nazi salute to a crowd of naked figures, whilst a man lays chained to a table with knife wounds across his back.

The work was created by Beckman in 1938, as a direct response to the barbarity of the Nazi regime, having been forced to flee Germany due to cultural persecution.

In 1933 Beckman had been described by the Nazi government as a "cultural Bolshevik", and fired from his teaching position at the Art School in Frankfurt.

Then in 1937 more than 500 of his works were confiscated, and many were put on public display as part of the infamous Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich, which represented Adolf Hitler's hatred of modern art.

Beckman and his wife fled to Amsterdam, where they lived in self-imposed exile for years before emigrating the America after WWII.

During this period he created many of his most powerful works, including 'Bird’s Hell', which many regard as his masterpiece.

"We are honoured to present such a seminal work by Max Beckmann at auction for the first time," said Jay Vincze, Head of Impressionist & Modern Art at Christie’s London.

"Bird’s Hell stands alongside Picasso’s Guernica as one of the most politically charged paintings of its time and it is a rare opportunity to offer a work of such historical significance by Beckmann.

"For the artist there were two worlds, one of spiritual life and the other of political life. In this painting he is asking the viewer to decide which is more important. It is a terrifying, yet timeless history painting and a masterpiece of the artist’s oeuvre."

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