Cubist sculpture

[28 Aug 2006]

 

As a Fine Art segment, the price index for Cubist sculpture contracted in 2005, but seems to be growing again this year.

Cubism was born in 1907 with the Demoiselles d’Avignon, and it begat various different cubist periods from Cézanienne to Analytical to Synthetic, with the use of different materials. Pablo PICASSO and Georges BRAQUE deconstructed shapes, mixed points of view, geometrised drawings. As of 1912, sculptors like Alexander ARCHIPENKO, Henri LAURENS, Jacques LIPCHITZ, Louis MARCOUSSIS, Jean METZINGER, Gustave MIKLOS, Joseph CSAKY, Jean LAMBERT-RUCKI, Alexandre NOLL, and Jan & Joël MARTEL were all inspired by cubist theories. The broad range of styles of the different artists makes cubist sculpture a highly rich segment, and it lasted until 1955.

Indeed, Cubism was not just a flat phenomena; it was also expressed in three dimensions. Cubist sculpture derives from the geometrical experiments of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. After a morose period in the 1990s, this market has regained dynamism since 2000 and its price index has doubled since that date.
The members of the founding clique of cubism and of the « Section d’Or » remain the most sought-after artists. These artists, such as Braque, Picasso and Archipenko, have left a huge volume of sculptures and the prices for these works have been climbing sharply since the beginning of 2006. For example, Archipenko’s works have tripled in price since 2004 and sales of Picasso’s cubist sculptures for around 30 to 40 thousand euros are showing a very low bought-in rate (15%). Interest for the post-cubist works of these artists is just as strong as for the sculptures produced during the cubist movement.

The increasing rarity of the works is stimulating prices; this is notably the case for Marcoussis and Miklos. Only 5 Marcoussis sculptures have been sold over the last 10 years. The latest work, Composition, sold for EUR 20,000. In the case of Gustave Miklos, on 1 June 2005 his bronze entitled Jeune Fille, a unique piece from 1927, estimated at EUR 180-200 thousand euros, finally sold for EUR 1.4 million at Mouel-Cabinet Camard! This record was followed by three others at Christie’s June sales this year. Divinité Solaire, a gold plaster work, sold for EUR 38,000 tripling its estimate, and Jeune Homme au repos appuyé sur un coude sold for EUR 28,000, although estimated at EUR 15-20,000. The last, Tête de Femme from 1929 went under the hammer for EUR 260,000 after being estimated EUR 100-150,000, a very surprising price considering that this bronze had been bought-in twice at sales in February and December 2001 (Christie’s Paris, 8-9 June 2006).

The most sought-after themes are women and the human body in general. The highest sales in 2006 involved geometrical representations of naked human torsos and bodies. Works like Portuguese: Woman Standing from 1916 or Flat torso from 1914 recently changed hands for EUR 130,000 and EUR 230,000. Leaving aside thematic preferences, the most sought-after sculptures are unique works (single productions) made with rarer materials such as the oxidised copper or exotic wood pieces by Lambert-Rucki and Noll. Although, the price index of these artists is tending to remain flat or even to contract, with high bought-in rate of 45-50%, it is nevertheless rising for their rarer works: At the record sale hosted by Tajan in November 2001, Totem, masques et sphères, a sculpture in oxidized copper and polished steel sold for EUR 114,337. Likewise, a sculpture in mahogany from 1955 by Noll sold at Sotheby’s NY on 14 June 2006 for EUR 140,000, a good price considering that the work was bought in at a number of previous auctions.

The start of 2006 saw the initiation of an upward price trend that has been confirmed by the record sale at Christie’s Paris offering a broad selection of sculptures by Miklos on 8 and 9 June last. Likewise, Archipenko recorded 7 superb results at the Sotheby’s NY sales on 3 and 4 May 2006: the hammer fell at USD 45,000 for a bronze from 1916 entitled Femme Debout, and at USD 350,000, for Large Dance, a bronze from 1912.
Other cubist sculptors like Laurens, Lipchitz , Metzinger or even Jan and Joël Martel have seen a constant and positive evolution of their price indices over the last ten years. The annual revenue generated by the Martel Brothers, for example, have grown from EUR 10,000 to EUR 440,000 in a decade.