Art With A Bite: CoBrA Sale Returns To Bonhams Auction

Corneille, Mon canal chante, 1949
Estimate: €335,000-400,000 / DKK2,500,000-3,000,000

Following the success of the first CoBrA sale last year in Copenhagen, where several records were set, notably for Corneille and Stephen Gilbert, the Danish auction house Bruun Rasmussen, part of the Bonhams network, presents a new CoBrA sale on 5 December at its new premises in Lyngby. A touring exhibition featuring a selection of paintings will begin in Amsterdam from 14 to 15 November, then travel to Brussels from 17 to 19 November at Bonhams Cornette de Saint Cyr, before concluding in Copenhagen with the auction on 5 December. An online sale will take place from 29 November to 12 December.


The CoBrA group, made up of Danish artists Asger Jorn and Carl-Henning Pedersen, Dutch artists Karel Appel and Constant Anton Nieuwenhuys and Belgian artists Corneille, Pierre Alechinsky and Christian Dotremont, was founded in Paris in November 1948. It was later joined by French artists, Jean-Michel Atlan and Jacques Doucet. This international collaboration was short-lived, as CoBrA disappeared in November 1951 after three exhibitions and the publication of eight issues of its journal. The first exhibition, in Amsterdam in 1949, was a bombshell for a public baffled by this new language.

Niels Raben, Head of Bruun Rasmussen’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Paintings, said: “Once again this year, we have decided to pay tribute to the great CoBrA painting movement, and have found some exceptional works from private collections in Denmark and elsewhere. We will be exhibiting them in Amsterdam and then Brussels before offering them at auction in our new venue in Lyngby, Denmark.

The sale features a particularly strong selection of works by Corneille, Jorn, Appel and Alechinsky, who were major figures in the CoBrA movement.


A 1949 oil on canvas by Corneille entitled Mon canal chante will be offered with an estimate of €335,000-400,000 (DKK 2,500,000-3,000,000). It comes from the renowned Birch gallery in Copenhagen, which has promoted CoBrA artists.

“CoBrA was my school”, says Pierre Alechinsky. Two paintings will be offered in this sale: Noyé (Drowned), an oil on canvas circa 1960 from Galerie Ariel in Paris, is estimated at €270,000-310,000 (DKK 2-3 million) and Lucioles (Fireflies), an acrylic on paper laid down on canvas from a private Danish collection, is offered with an estimate of €400,000-470,000 (DKK 3-5 million).

Pierre Alechinsky, Noyé, 1960
Estimate: €270,000-310,000 (DKK 2,000,000-3,000,000)

A beautiful, brightly coloured oil by Asger Jorn entitled Bel Air (Beautiful sky) from 1971 has a fine pedigree after being acquired from the Birch Gallery and exhibited in all the major CoBrA exhibitions in Norway, France and Denmark. The estimate is between €270,000 and €335,000 (DKK 2,000,000 – 2,500,000).

Asger Jorn, Bel Air, 1971
Estimate: €270,000-335,000 (DKK 2,000,000-2,500,000)

Finally, a fine 1957 painting by Karel Appel purchased from Galerie Moderne in Silkeborg then in a private collection is estimated at €200,000-270,000 (DKK 1,500,000-2,000,000). Karel Appel moved to France in 1950. His work was actively supported by critics such as Michel Ragon and Michel Tapié, who saw Appel’s work as the European equivalent of American abstract expressionism.

Karel Appel, Untitled, 1957
Estimate: €200,000-270,000 (DKK 1,500,000-2,000,000)

Bonhams Amsterdam

De Lairessestraat 154 – 1075 HL Amsterdam

14 & 15 November from 11:00am to 5:00pm

Champagne reception & lecture by Maarten Bertheux on 15 November 2023, 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Bonhams Brussels

Chaussée de Charleroi, 89 – 1060 Brussels

17 November from 2:00 to 6:00pm

18 & 19 November from 11:00am to 6:00pm

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world’s largest and most renowned auctioneers, offering fine art and collectables, collectors’ cars and a luxury division, which includes jewellery, designer fashion, watches, wine, and whisky. In 2021 and 2022, Bonhams made a number of important acquisitions which form the wider Bonhams network. These include: Bukowskis, Bruun Rasmussen, Bonhams Skinner and Bonhams Cornette de Saint Cyr.

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