Art market news in brief…

[09 Mar 2012]


Every fortnight, Artprice offers a round-up of the latest art market news in words and figures. This week: the new White Cube gallery in Hong Kong, Jan Fabre in St Etienne (France), Joana Vasconcelos in Versailles and Adel Abdessemed at the David Zwirner gallery.

Jan Fabre on a high

The symbol-laden work of Jan FABRE has seduced numerous collectors, but opportunities to buy his creations have been rare at public auctions. Although his output has been low in the past (33 sculptures in the last 15 years), his work rate seems to be picking up and, along with Luc TUYMANS, Francis ALYS and Wim DELVOYE, he is now one of the torch-bearers of Contemporary Belgian art. In 2011, four of his works were among the top 10 hammer prices for Contemporary Belgian artists and he has already kicked off 2012 with a new record. On 16 February, a polished bronze sculpture (De Man Die De Wolken Meet (The Man Who Measures the Clouds)) representing the artist on a stepladder measuring clouds, his head arched up towards the sky, sold for £170,000 in London, equivalent to $267,000. This is $31,600 more than a previous sale of this “self-portrait” – of which six casts exist – in Amsterdam in 2009.
Today, his blue Bic drawings are on display at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Saint-Étienne (France). Entitled Les années de l’Heure Bleue. Dessins et sculptures 1977-1992, the show is open to the public until 28 May 2012 and provides an opportunity for French art enthusiasts to discover his work in their own market place. Up until now, most of Fabre’s drawings have changed hands in the Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Western galleries increase their Hong Kong presence

The first White Cube gallery outside the UK, designed by the architects Maybank & Matthews, has opened in Hong Kong, in front of the free port. This is the first Western gallery of this size (550m²) to open in Hong Kong – literally, the perfumed port – a location that has become very popular with Taiwanese, Indonesian and Chinese collectors. The next big art event in this region is the increasingly successful Art HK 12 fair, beginning on 17 May, that will host galleries from all over the world, including The White Cube, which has decided to open a permanent HK showroom to be inaugurated with new work by GILBERT & GEORGE.
The White Cube will thus be joining a network of Western galleries in Hong Kong. Current exhibitions in the city include work by Hans HARTUNG (revenue of $4 million in 2011) at the French De Sarthe gallery; Callum INNES (auction record of $58,050 for Exposed Painting Blue Violate Charcoal Black on 18/02/2011) at the Edouard Malingue gallery and Damien HIRST’s (74th in the 2011 revenue ranking) Spot Paintings at the Gagosian (soon ending). Few contemporary Western artists have been offered at auctions in China, but the determination of Western galleries to present these artists to Asian collectors augers well for some impressive results in the future.
Although the primary art market is still setting up in the so-called Dynamite City (Emmanuel Perrotin, the Chinese gallery Hanart TZ and Artprice will all have a presence there by the end of this year), Hong Kong’s status as a bastion of the secondary market is no longer in doubt. In fact the city has a frenetic pace of auction sales and the auction houses have racked up numerous impressive results there in the recent past: in 2011, the highest price was $21.84 million for a work by Chinese artist ZHANG Daqian, Lotus and Mandarin Ducks. This was a record for Daqian, who was the world’s number 1 artist in 2011 with total revenue of $554.5 million. As for Hong Kong, it is now in 4th place worldwide on the secondary market, with 2011 sales revenues of $796.3 million.

Joana Vasconcelos: a breath of fresh air at Versailles

The young and talented Portuguese artist Joana VASCONCELOS (born in 1971) will be only 41 when she becomes the 2012 guest artist at the Château de Versailles. After Jeff KOONS, Xavier VEILHAN, Takashi MURAKAMI and Bernar VENET, the queen of crochet and reinventing everyday objects will not only be the first woman, but also the youngest artist of the series.
Since 2008, the Château has proposed each year a dialogue between the art of times past and the contemporary scene, by giving each guest artist the freedom to exploit the galleries, salons and the gardens as he or she sees fit. This prestigious event is also well-known for creating a lively debate between the organisers who want to revitalize the image of the institution and traditionalist associations who deplore the blending of genres.
The market began to take note of Vasconcelos’s work after her participation in the Venice Biennale in 2005. Despite a modest presence in auction rooms, with only 11 sales to her credit, her prices are climbing. Considered the most talented Portuguese artist of her generation, she has already achieved a record of £420,000 ($660,000, at Christie’s London on 11 February 2010) with the sale of Marilyn, her famous monumental court shoe. Oversized, colorful and invasive, her sculptures and installations have the potential to create an exciting contrast with the gold-leaf decor of the Sun King’s palace. And with her career surging ahead, sales of her work should spring some pleasant surprises in 2012. Either way, her work has featured in some of the world’s top private collections for several years now.

Adel Abdessemed: en route for Beaubourg

There are only a few days left to visit the Adel Abdessemed exhibition Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf at the David Zwirner gallery in New York. The Algerian artist – who will be invited to a major exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in October 2012 – is presenting a series of works that use the language of art to express the power and the violence of the modern world.
His art exploits varied forms: a barbed wire sculpture of Christ (Decor), a field of blown-glass microphones (L’avenir est aux fantômes), a listing dinghy full of illegal immigrants, represented by cast resin black garbage sacs (Hope), a wall installation made up of stuffed wolves (Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf) that faces a sculpture representing Zinédine Zidane’s infamous head butt in the 2006 World Cup final (Coup de tête). There are also numerous drawings (La Grande Parade).
His first work offered for auction was Oia in 2008. This drawing fetched the equivalent of $38,600 at Christie’s Paris, several months after having been exhibited at the Lyons and Venice Biennales. Abdessemed’s drawings (6 lots) along with his sculptures (6 lots and a record hammer price of $289,500 for Mappemonde, Olive) are his most frequently sold works at auctions, followed by his multimedia installations (5 lots, including Exit which fetched $42,463) and photographs (2 lots and a maximum price for $17,500 for Sept frères). Abdessemed’s career is taking off, but the market for his work is still relatively modest.