Flash News! César – Kusama – Aristophil

[15 Dec 2017]

Thumbs up for César

2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the death of French artist CÉSAR (1921-1998), one of the most innovative and emblematic sculptors in France. The Pompidou Centre pays tribute to him with a major retrospective curated by Bernard Blistène, director of the Musée national d’art moderne in Paris. Opened at the beginning of the week, the exhibition celebrates César’s creativity until 23 March 2018, with a hundred works, from the first ‘Fers soudés’ series, through to ‘Compressions’, ‘Expansions’ and ‘Empreintes’. The selection is not particularly exhaustive compared to the incredible output of the artist, however the works, often monumental, have been carefully selected. For the occasion, at the entrance to the museum stands a huge sculpture of a thumb in patina bronze, six metres high and weighing six tons. Half the size of the one installed on the esplanade of La Défense, the Thumb on the forecourt of the Pompidou Centre has been recently cast at the Bocquel art foundry with the agreement of Stéphanie Busuttil, who holds the moral rights to César’s work. But this installation in front of the museum is not permanent, as the final destination of the work is the esplanade of the Rockefeller Center in New York. A prominent location for an artist who does not yet have the recognition he deserves on the other side of the Atlantic.

Polka Dot fever

Last September, the queen of the polka dot, Japanese artist Yayoi KUSAMA (1929), now almost 90 years old, inaugurated her own museum in Tokyo. From the opening, the box office was overwhelmed and for good reason: the artist is undeniably one of the most popular of our time. Visitor registration quickly became saturated over the first two months, as visits were limited to 50 people in 90-minute slots. In October, Yayoi Kusama was at The Broad Museum in Los Angeles for the opening of her Infinity Mirrors exhibition (until 1 January 2018). Here again, the success of her hypnotic installations was immediate. The museum thus took the somewhat drastic step of regulating the flow of visitors by imposing a Selfie-Rule, allowing each visitor only 30 short seconds in each of the six installations, in order to avoid endless queues. After 1 January, polka dot fever will continue to spread on social networks, which will be invaded by photographs of lucky but hurried visitors. The craze for Kusama’s work is just as spectacular in the auction room: its value is constantly on the up, with the price index rising by 850% since 2000…

Aristophil Chapter 1

This is a unique event for the French art market: on 20 December 2017, auctioneer Claude Aguttes oversaw the inaugural sale of the manuscripts from the Aristophil collection at Drouot in Paris. This is the first in a series of sales that will keep Drouot busy over the next six years… The challenge is indeed huge as several thousand autographs, letters and manuscripts will be up for grabs. This major series of sales is the result of the Aristophil scandal, a company that went into liquidation in 2015 after having encouraged 18,000 savers to invest in over-estimated historical manuscripts, with the promise of a 7 to 8% profit that was never honoured, as the investment was based on a Ponzi scheme. The purchases of the new investors financed the interest and the repayment of the original investors. When the scandal broke in 2015, the Aristophil collection included more than 130,000 manuscripts, rarities in the hand of Balzac and Saint Exupéry, letters written by Louis XVI or scores by famous composers, an extraordinary heritage bought for €850 million.

The aim of the Aristophil sales is to compensate the investors as far as possible. Although Aguttes is handling the first sale, some future sales could be entrusted to other auction houses in the coming years. The sale of 20 December includes two hundred lots, among which are the famous Rouleau de la Bastille by Sade estimated between €4 and €6 million and the manuscript of the Manifeste du surréalisme by André BRETON (1896-1966) estimated at €900,000.