Flash News: Paris – Moroccan art – Hong Kong – Wifredo Lam

[02 Oct 2015]


Every fortnight, Artprice provides a short round up of art market news: Paris: showcase for Moroccan art – Signs of hope in Hong Kong – Rétrospective Wifredo Lam à Paris

Paris: showcase for Moroccan art
Paris is making itself the place to discover Moroccan creation. Several events opened the breach over the same period last year (autumn 2014), including the exhibition Le Maroc Contemporain (Contemporary Morocco) at the Institut du monde arabe (IMA), Medieval Morocco, An Empire from Africa to Spain presented at the Louvre, and the 9th festival organised by the l’Institut des cultures de l’islam on the theme of identity arts in Morocco. Alongside these cultural events, Moroccan works have made headway in French auction halls, including those of Beaussant-Lefevre, Millon in partnership with Mazad & Art for the sale entitled Master Artists of Morocco, and Cornette de Saint Cyr, who organised in collaboration with the Marocaine des Arts for the second time this year a session dedicated to Moroccan art. The next sale, announced for 27 October 2015 in their auction house on Avenue Hoche in Paris, is to bring together such artists as Jilali GHARBAOUI, Miloud LABIED, Farid BELKAHIA, Saad BEN CHEFFAJ, as well as Fouad BELLAMINE and Moulay Ahmed DRISSI, together with masters of international art, including Poliakoff, Soulages, Hartung, Warhol and Basquiat, who drew inspiration from the Moroccan tradition.
The last sale organised by Cornette de Saint Cyr and the Marocaine des Arts (17 May 2015) saw an auction record being set for the young Badr Bourbian (USD 10,740 including fees for an untitled painting from 2009) and for Larbi CHERKAOUI (USD 3,700). This kind of session, which attracts collectors from both Paris and Casablanca, undeniably contributes much to the distribution of the best known Moroccan artists and the development of this niche market.

Signs of hope in Hong Kong
No fewer than eight sessions entirely dedicated to Asian creation are to be provided by Sotheby’s on 4 and 5 October in Hong Kong. This torrent of sales covering traditional drawing as well as modern and contemporary Asian art is counting on the appeal of the most highly rated artists of the moment, whose works are as much sought after by major Asian collectors as by Westerners, particularly CHU Teh-Chun (23 works to be auctioned), ZAO Wou-Ki (represented by 16 pieces including a superb 1966 abstract work that should fetch more than USD 3.5m), Ming ZHU (30 works), Kazuo SHIRAGA, becoming less rare at auctions (five works up for sale on 4 and 5 October), and two major installations by AI Weiwei, who achieved two auction records the first six months of 2015 in London.
In what could be seen as a rather gloomy period, marked by the Chinese recession and anti-corruption measures in the Chinese art market, Sotheby’s is not giving in to anxiety. The auction house is even proposing more than 3,900 lots this autumn (including works of art and rare objects). The Hong Kong market is not so much dominated by distrust, but rather by a trend towards large gatherings, such as the opening with great pomp for the tenth anniversary of Fine Art Asia, the international art fair running from 4 to 7 October at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Hong Kong.

Autumn in Hong Kong is also to mark a high point for Bonhams, preparing for their first auction of modern and contemporary art in the city, as well as for Artcurial, launching a first Asian sale in Hong Kong on 5 and 6 October (organised in collaboration with Spink).
Although the economic climate does not look favourable, market players remain optimistic, hoping that the crisis will not have a harmful impact on the art market.

Wifredo Lam retrospective in Paris
For a year and a half, the Cuban painter Wifredo LAM is to be given pride of place in a travelling retrospective that begins at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (30 September to 15 February 2015), moving on to the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid (12 April to 15 August 2016), and ending at the Tate Modern in London (14 September 2016 to 8 January 2017). Under the direction of Catherine David, Deputy Director of the Museum of Modern Art, the exhibition brings together nearly 300 works and around a hundred items (paintings, ceramics, art books, archival documents and photographs) that highlight significant encounters in the artist’s work and career. And Wifredo Lam was indeed a man of many encounters. Having been close to the Surrealist group without ever officially becoming part of it, he was a friend of André Breton, Aimé Césaire, Benjamin Peret, Asger Jorn and Pablo Picasso. Perhaps his most decisive encounter was with Picasso, who said of him: “Lam, I believe you have my blood in you, you must be one of my relatives a nephew, a cousin”. Picasso welcomed him on his arrival in Paris in 1938, recommended his work to the leading art dealer Pierre Loeb and sponsored his first Parisian exhibition at the Galerie Pierre in 1939. Pierre Loeb was himself an ardent defender of Lam’s “magic” paintings, he described in these words: “This religious spirit without which there is no art (understanding the word religious in its deep, eternal sense) was to be found by a mixed-race black and yellow man, and it was in the Caribbean that a balance was to be achieved, thanks to Wifredo Lam, between the instinct of the man who still feels magical forces, and the science of the civilized.” (Pierre Loeb, Wifredo Lam in “Voyages à travers la peinture“, published by Bordas, 1946).
This “mixed-race black and yellow” artist, born to a Chinese father and a mother who was half African and half Hispanic by her father, died in Paris in 1982. In the 1980s, his works began to reach good prices at auction in Paris and New York (with some paintings going for over USD 100,000 in the late 1980s). His top-selling works currently comprise ten paintings passing the million mark, including a record USD 4.5m incuding fees (for the canvas Idolo -Oya / Divinity of the Air and Death sold in May 2012 at Sotheby’s New York). Wifredo Lam is not yet among those major artists for whom speculation is booming, the evolution of his prices remaining calm, with an increase of only 50% since 2000.