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Art Market News in Brief ! [04/20/2012 07:00]

Every fortnight, Artprice provides a short round up of art market news.

Ron Mueck at the Hauser & Wirth gallery

The Hauser & Wirth Gallery is presenting the first London exhibition of Ron MUECK’s sculptures in ten years. The exhibition closes on 26 May. With four recent pieces, the Australian artist offers a range of works that goes from ultra-realist figuration to totally unreal dimensions. The gallery is presenting three small-scale human representations (a wounded young person, a carefree young man and a woman weakened by a heavy burden) and a giant chicken hanging upside down. Mueck’s four Contemporary representations may be said to establish a link between reality, folklore, myth and mortality.
This first show for the artist at the Hauser & Wirth Gallery (that he recently joined) is his only exhibition in 2012. Next year, the artist will be returning to the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris.
Since Ron Mueck’s work was exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery in 1997 his work has been very much in demand: indeed, since 1998, only two of his pieces have remained unsold at auction and none have fetched less than $40,000. The artist apparently uses highly controlled market skimming techniques to control the prices of his works: there have never been more than three works presented for auction sale in any one year. On 28 June 2011, he became the first Contemporary Australian artist to fetch a seven-figure auction result (Big Baby sold for $1,117,200 at Christie’s in London) and in 2011 he made his first appearance in Artprice’s top 100 ranking of highest priced Contemporary artists (at 99th place).

Bernar Venet receives the International Julio Gonzalez 2013 prize

The Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, which in previous years has awarded this prize to Pierre SOULAGES and to Cy TWOMBLY, has this year decided to honour Bernar Venet. In 2010, the same institution presented Bernar VENET’s first solo exhibition in Spain.
Before that, a number of other museums around the world had also given Venet solo shows including the National Museum of Contemporary Art of Seoul (South Korea) in 2007, the Ludwig Museum im Deutschherrenhaus in Koblenz (Germany) in 2002 and the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in 2000.In fact, although Bernar Venet is of French origin, the notoriety of his work has no frontiers and his prices are rising: since 1998, his price index has multiplied five-fold.
His best-ever auction result was scored in Doha (Qatar) by his Four Indeterminate Lines (2008) that was acquired for $600,000 (Sotheby’s Doha, 18 March 2009). His second best result was generated by Ligne indéterminée n°3 (1990) which fetched more than $315,000 at Christie’s in Paris on 25 August 2008. His third best result was generated by Christie’s New York on 21 September 2009 when his 209.5 Arc x 14 (2004) fetched $280,000.
Statistically, it is nevertheless interesting that between 1997 and 2011 only 51% of his auction revenue was hammered in France from 63% of his transactions. The most recent sale of his works in France involved a piece entitled Ligne Ligne indéterminée (1996) which fetched nearly $240,000 at Cornette de Saint-Cyr (Paris) on 4 April 2012).
While Venet’s sculptures attract the most attention and generate his highest auction prices (72% of his revenue from just 27% of his transactions over the same period) his drawings represent the bulk of his market in volume terms: 38% of his adjudications.

Robert Crumb: 50 years of “stoned” creation at the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris

The Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris is currently presenting (13 March - 19 August) the first French retrospective of the work of Robert CRUMB (born 1943). Seven hundred original drawings have been brought together, presenting the singular, raw and subversively humoristic artwork of this icon of the alternative comic strip. A key figure of the US counter-culture of the 60s and 70s, the author of Fritz The Cat and Mr Natural thoroughly deserves the official reverence that he currently enjoys.
American by birth, Crumb became famous in the 1960s/70s with his original comic strip treatment of ordinary and, at the time, unprecedented themes such as drugs, sex and violence. Although he has lived in France for 20 years, his work has remained relatively unknown. Published very little in France, his illustrations adorned the covers of the magazine Actuel in the 70s and his comic strips have been published by Cornélius et Denoël Graphic only since 2000. And although his work steeped in humour and provocation has profoundly influenced the comic medium as well as several generations of artists, his market has remained very flat.
In fact his best auction results date from 2007 for lots often containing several pages. His current record is $60,000 for 7 pages of Mr Natural (at Bonhams & Butterfields, Los Angeles on 22 May 2007). His best result for a single work is $55,000: Original Art for Wierdo #8 at Sotheby's New York, also in 2007, while his contemporary and very popular Enki Bilal (born 1951) signed his personal best auction result the same year at $235,000 for Bleu sang (Eux) (Artcurial, Paris). Nevertheless Crumb’s docile market showed signs of movement in 2011 with a total of 40 of his works being auctioned, i.e. nearly equivalent to the total number sold over the six years from 1994 to 2010. This awakening of his market, coupled with the retrospective at the MAM in Paris, could well engender some positive surprises at his next auction appearances.

John Chamberlain at the Guggenheim New York

The exhibition Choices opened just two months after the artist’s death (24 February - 13 May 2012). Born in 1927 in Indiana, John Angus CHAMBERLAIN arrived in New York in 1956 and started working several years later on his coloured sculptures made of automobile bodyworks. The Pop spirit of using discarded materials and the liberty of American expressionism characterised his works, a hundred of which have been installed on the famous Guggenheim ramp. The tour of this show is punctuated by colourful and abstract shapes sometimes with Pop-py feels and sometimes with sharp metallic and angular feels.
Chamberlain’s smaller sculptures of crumpled metal work occasionally sell at auctions for under $30,000. However, his larger key works attract a much more high-end market with 7 results above the million-dollar threshold between 2007 and 2011. His current record is $4.2m (Nutcracker, 1958, Sotheby's, New York, 9 May 2011)...while none of the compressed car bodies by the French artist César have fetched more than $300,000! The auction record of the French New Realist (César) was generated by a self-portrait deliberately loaded with megalomania and self-derision: un pouce géant (nearly 6 metres high) that fetched the equivalent of $1.5m (20/10/2007, Cornette de Saint Cyr). The duo Chamberlain / César once again illustrates the price gap between the European and the American Contemporary markets.

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