Art market news in brief…

[23 Mar 2012]


Every fortnight, Artprice offers a round-up of the latest art market news in words and figures.

Monumenta: Daniel Buren takes up the challenge

Every year since 2007, Paris’s famous Grand Palais has invited an internationally recognised Contemporary artist to design and set up a new installation that takes advantage of the building’s colossal nave-like floor space. To date, this annual Monumenta project has hosted installations by Anselm Kieffer, Richard Serra, Christian Boltanski and Anish Kapoor.
After the huge success in 2011 of Anish Kapoor’s Leviathan (which attracted nearly 280,000 visitors, almost double his predecessors’ audience), the difficult task of inhabiting the Grand Palais’ enormous space is being offered to the French artist Daniel BUREN (born 1938) from May 10 to June 21, 2012. No stranger to the problematics of creating art in public spaces, Buren is indeed ideally suited to this type of project having worked for 50 years on the challenges afforded by in situ art works.
In economic terms, Daniel Buren has a very discreet auction presence for such an important artist. With only 119 works sold at auction since 1990, his works have crossed the $100,000 threshold on only four occasions. In fact, today, his works represent very interesting investment opportunities with unique pieces accessible at less than $20,000 such as the Peinture et collage sur papier that recently fetched $16,500 (22 October 2011 at Cornette de Saint-Cyr, Paris). Naturally, a major event like the Monumenta exhibition should boost the artist’s auction profile and considerably revitalise his prices.
As the details of his proposal for the Grand Palais have not been publicised, we will have to wait for until the exhibition opens to discover what devices and materials the artist will use for this project. We might expect to see, for example, alternating bands of colour, mirror-works and coloured filters… In any case, in view of the artist’s skills, we can expect a simple but extremely effective transformation of the Grand Palais space.

The Gerhard Richter effect

The extraordinary popularity of German artist, Gerhard RICHTER, is spilling over onto the work of a number of his compatriots, whose prices seem to be rising in unison.
Recall that Gerhard Richter was the only living artist in the 2011 global Top 10 artists ranked by auction revenue, in 8th place behind Daqian Zhang, Qi Baishi, Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Xu Beihong, Wu Guanzhong, Fu Baoshi. His price index has soared 274% over the last decade making him the world’s most coveted living artist and who nowadays is rarely absent from major Contemporary art sales in the West. The Recent Contemporary art sales in London (February 2012) confirmed the appetite of collectors who pushed his prices over the £1m threshold on six separate occasions, including one result at £8.8m (nearly $14m) for an abstract work created in 1994 (Abstraktes Bild, February 14, Christie’s).

The price inflation on Richter’s works has been boosting the prices of other German artists and some collectors are turning their attention to these younger and, as yet, considerably less expensive creators. Among these, Albert Oehlen (born 1954) signed his record of £370,000 ($581,000) on 15 February 2012 at Sotheby’s for an abstract work just as imposing as the Richter work which sold the previous day at Christie’s. On the same day (15 February) AR Penck (born 1939, real name Ralf Winkler) more than doubled the estimated range and set a new personal record of 270,000 pounds ($424,300) with a work entitled Method, Fertigzuwerden at Sotheby’s. Yet another artist who seems to have benefited is Thomas Schütte (born 1954) who was a student of Gerhard Richter in the 1970s, and who scored a result of £200,000 ($314,000) the following day at Phillips de Pury & Company with his installation Gelber Hund.

William Eggleston – large formats

Limited in the 1970s to producing small format prints, the American photographer William EGGLESTON selected 36 shots from a career spanning over 40 years and printed them in a new large-scale format. The new works were offered for sale at Christie’s on March 12 with the proceeds going to the Eggleston Artistic Trust.
The sale, entirely dedicated to the artist (like Damien Hirst’s Beautiful Inside My Head Forever sale) generated $4.8m in sales revenue, 44% above its high estimate. With no lots remaining unsold, the proposed 36 photographs all found takers and 8 managed to climb into the artist’s personal Top 10 highest auctions results.
Presented in large formats, some works attracted substantially higher bids than their corresponding smaller formats. For example, Memphis fetched $480,000 on 12 March 2012 versus $220,000 in April 2011 for a smaller version. Greenwood, Mississippi sold for $130,000 in 2009 in a 30 x 50 cm format and fetched $320,000 when printed in a 112 x 152 cm format. His On the way to New Orleans was also presented in a format 4 times larger than its previous dimensions and it generated 8 times the hammer price of the smaller version (38 x 26 cm – $40,000 in October 2010 at Christie’s) becoming the artist’s 5th best result at $320,000 (the 4th best result of the evening sale).
By the end of this sale, the artist’s price index had doubled despite having already risen 76% between January 2010 and December 2011. And with this sale under his belt, the American artist, who focused his lens on the details of everyday life, takes the title of most sought-after photographer on the art market so far this year with a revenue total of $4.8m of sales, ahead of another artist who is very much in the limelight at the moment (retrospective at the MoMA currently underway): Cindy Sherman.

Lee Bul: From me, belongs to you only at the Mori Museum of Art

The sculptures of the Korean artist Bul LEE are being exhibited at the Mori Museum of Art in Tokyo until 27 May 2012. From me, belongs only to you is presented by the institution as the first major exhibition devoted entirely to an Asian artist. Indeed, her works, inspired by her political commitment, have made her one of the leading figures of Contemporary Asian art.
Her success is also visible on the secondary market although her auction debut was relatively recent. While only 16 lots have been offered for sale since 2008, including six that remained unsold, her prices have revealed the powerful appeal of her work to certain collectors. Her auction debut on 13 April 2008 at Larasati Auctioneers (Singapore) was a video entitled Girl With a Pearl Earring (2007) that fetched the equivalent of $19,500.
Her market also included prints, paintings and sculptures and the latter have attracted her best auction results: on 4 October 2008, her sculpture Autopoiesis was acquired at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for HKD 900,000 (nearly $116,000). Her current auction record was set on 10 November 2011 when her sculpture Sternbau No. 25 fetched $135,000. However, Sotheby’s was hoping to generate between $150,000 and $ 200,000 for that piece.