Alberto Burri “Sacchi” Work Expected to Set New Artist Record at Sotheby’s

The artist's current auction record was set in 2014.

Alberto Burri, Sacco e Rosso (1959).Image: courtesy of Sotheby's.
Alberto Burri, Sacco e Rosso (1959).
Image: courtesy of Sotheby's.

There could be a huge new auction record set for Italian artist Alberto Burri when one of his “Sacchi” canvases comes to auction, as a last-minute addition, at Sotheby’s London on February 10. If the sale of Sacco e Rosso meets the £9 million low estimate ($13.6 million), it would more than double the artist’s current record of £4.7 milllion ($7.7 million), which was set in 2014.

Formerly a doctor, Burri turned to art after World War II, during which he spent time in an American Prisoner of War camp in Texas. In the “Sacchi” series, Burri incorporated burlap, adding a unique textural element to the works, and using delicate stitching recalling his surgical training.

“The coarse burlap held a profound resonance for Burri,” said Cheyenne Westphal, co-head of contemporary art worldwide at Sotheby’s, in an e-mail to artnet News. “It was the ubiquitous material used for supply sacks during the war—which he would have encountered both as a frontline soldier, and as a prisoner of war.”

Sacco e Rosso was one of the last works in the 15-work series. Its last appearance at auction was also a record-setter for the artist, fetching £1.9 million ($3.8 million) in 2007.

“This is one of the largest of the rare Sacchi works, and it encapsulates everything that made Burri such a pioneering artistic force,” said Westphal, “blurring the boundaries between painting and sculpture in such a strikingly beautiful composition.”

The painting, which is being sold by a private collector, has previously been exhibited at Venice’s Palazzo Grassi, Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, where it was included in the recent retrospective. Another “Sacchi” painting is in the permanent collection of the Tate Modern in London.


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