Paris, ca. 1921–23
The Kahnweiler Syndicate, which operated under the pseudonym “Grassat,” was a group of collectors who sought to purchase lots at four public auctions held at the Hôtel Drouot in Paris between June 1921 and May 1923. Also known as the Kahnweiler sequestration sales, the auctions represented the liquidation of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler’s property, which included his gallery and art collection.
As World War I began, the French government declared Kahnweiler, a German national, an enemy alien and his gallery stock was confiscated on December 12, 1914. The members of the Grassat syndicate (the name “Grassat” is sometimes spelled “Grassot” or “Grassa”)—which included the German art dealer Alfred Flechtheim, Swiss collector Hermann Rupf, Kahnweiler's brother Gustav, his stepdaughter Louise Leiris (née Godon), and Kahnweiler himself—sought to buy back as much of Kahnweiler’s inventory as possible. Kahnweiler, who was prohibited from bidding on his own property, did not attend the auctions but supplied the shareholders with a list of desired works before each sale.
The syndicate acquired at least 28 of the 130 paintings sold during the first sale, including 11 works by Georges Braque, 8 paintings by Juan Gris, all of the Manolo (Manuel Martínez Hugué) sculptures, and 3 works by Fernand Léger (notably, none of the 26 paintings by Pablo Picasso were on Kahnweiler’s list). At the second sale, the syndicate purchased at least 32 lots, including Braque’s Still Life with Banderillas (1911; The Metropolitan Museum of Art). While buyers participating in the third and fourth auctions are less well documented, the Grassat syndicate also acquired works from these sales, albeit less than in the previous years.
Judging by those numbers, the syndicate was the largest single entity to purchase works at the first and second sales. The participants agreed on the prices they would pay beforehand, as they had limited resources. Also, each shareholder could buy out the partners in order to keep a specific item; however, most of the acquisitions entered the stock of Kahnweiler’s new enterprise, the Galerie Simon (1920–41), and when the works sold through the gallery, the partners were reimbursed for their expenditures.
For more information, see
Assouline, Pierre. “Forgetting Drouot.” In An Artful Life: A Biography of D. H. Kahnweiler, 1884–1979
, translated by Charles Ruas, 155–89. New York: G. Weidenfeld, 1990.
Cooper, Douglas. “Early Purchasers of True Cubist Art.” In The Essential Cubism, 1907–1920: Braque, Picasso and Their Friends, edited by Douglas Cooper and Gary Tinterow, 15–31. Exh. cat. London: Tate Gallery, 1983.
Worms de Romilly, Nicole, and Jean Laude. Braque: Cubism, 1907–1914. Paris: Maeght, 1982.