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Flash News: Yayoi Kusama and Hammershøi in Paris

[24 May 2019]

Yayoi Kusama at the Louis Vuitton Foundation

After London, it’s now Paris’s turn to host one of the famous immersive creations by the grand old dame of Japanese artist. In the framework of what the Foundation is calling “The Collection of the Foundation. A Vision for Painting” the museum is presenting Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field (or Floor Show), Yayoi KUSAMA’s first installation (created in 1965 in New York) which actualizes her hallucinations and her childhood obsession with peas. The walls of the 4.5 m² room are completely lined with mirrors and the floor is strewn with imaginary giant mushrooms with red dots. The immersion is total and the experience altogether dizzying.

After the opening of her own museum in Tokyo and her impressive Flower Obsession, this latest exhibition of a Kusama creation is sure to attract the crowds. Over the years, Kusama made her art an ode to color and fantasy with installations that seem to warp both space and time. Now a voluntary intern in a psychiatric facility in Japan, the 90-year-old with bright orange hair is one of the most influential women on the art market and one of the world’s top 30 performing artists by auction turnover. Her prices are rising quickly and her market is very dynamic with more than 46 works for sale during April 2019. And… on 1 April 1 last, Sotheby’s set a new auction record for her in Hong Kong when her Interminable Net #4, an oil-on-canvas from 1959, reached just under $8 million.
In short, Kusama’s madness is now expensive… so if you can’t afford to buy a work, you can at least immerse yourself for 1 minute in her installation until 26 August 2019 at the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

Hammershøi’s poetic silence

Visitors impressed by the atmosphere that emanates from his paintings are inclined to move quietly around the exhibition, exchanging their impressions in whispers: the Jacquemart-André Museum is currently hosting the grand master of Danish painting, Vilhelm HAMMERSHOI (1864-1916), until 22 July next.

Hammershøi enchants his viewers with a fairly uniform palette of luminous light grays and matte whites, painting interior scapes often showing the silhouette of a woman seen from behind. Discreet and relatively unsociable, the artist preferred to paint what surrounded him: his scenes are the rooms of his house and his models are the people he was close to… his wife, his family, his close friends. The Jacquemart-André Museum has decided to approach Hammershøi’s work from the perspective of its links with the artists around him. The public can therefore compare his works with paintings by his brother Svend Hammershøi (1873-1948), his brother-in-law Peter Ilsted (1861-1933) and his friend Carl Holsøe (1863-1935) and appreciate their affinities, their differences and the singular genius of Vilhelm Hammershøi, who despite his reserved personality was nonetheless very well integrated into the national and European artistic milieu. Recognized as a master during his lifetime, criticized for his conservatism as of the 1930s, but adulated by the Symbolist painters, Hammershøi appears to the contemporary eye as the missing link between Vermeer’s intricate interior scenes and Hopper’s lonely characters.

Artistic ‘rediscoveries’ in museums usually have repercussions on the auction market. In recent years, his paintings have captured a more informed public and his prices have been stimulated by two recent auction records (2017 and 2018) the highest of which was $5.5 million for Interior with Woman at Piano, Strandgade 30 ( 1901) at Sotheby’s New York in 2017. In 2018 his Interior with an Easel, Bredgade 25 (1912) fetched $4.2 million at Christie’s New York. On 13 May last, his Interior with a Woman (Stue med en kvinde) doubled its low estimate ($600,000 – 800,000) at Christie’s Imp/Mod evening sale in New York to reach $1.215 million.

Spring is decidedly Impressionist and Modern!

Fetching $40 million at Christie’s on 13 May during New York’s major Imp/Mod sales, Vincent Van Gogh’s (1853-1890) Arbres dans le jardin de l’asile takes 10th place in the artist’s best-ever auction results. The painting, from the private collection of Samuel Irving Newhouse and purchased in 2004 at the Gagosian Gallery, had remained in private hands and was never exhibited except at a private exhibition in Lausanne in 1964. The small format work dated 1889, painted shortly after his admission to the asylum, was so exclusive that it quickly exceeded its low estimate of $25 million. It was a key period in the artist’s life… just a year later he painted Portrait of Dr. Gachet which generated his auction record of $82.5 million at Christie’s New York in 1990.

In addition to this splendid work, six other top-bracket works all fetched heavyweight prices generating a total of $205.9 million, more than half of the sale’s total proceeds! Among them, Paul Cézanne’s (1839-1906) Bouilloires aux fruits climbed way past its low estimate of $40 million to reach $59.3 million, but not quite enough to break his current record of $60.5 million (for a still life sold via Sotheby’s NY in 1999).

This segment of New York’s major spring sales illustrated the growing desire among collectors to acquire the great masters of Impressionist and Modern painting. Once again Christie’s managed to beat Sotheby’s by a substantial margin, showing they generate the best records.

As exciting as a summer soap opera! After the announcement of the sale of Claude Monet’s (1840-1926) Meules at Sotheby’s NY on 14 May, the question of a possible record was on everyone’s lips! The last haystacks painting auctioned – with similar dimensions, date and composition – fetched more than $80 million at Christie’s NY in November 2016. Monet’s absolute record dates back to the sale of the Rockefeller collection in May 2018 when his Nymphéas en fleur fetched nearly $85 million (also at Christie’s NY)… The suspense is now over: for eight long minutes on 14 May six bidders competed for the masterpiece. Harry Dalmeny finally brought the hammer down at $110.7 million. That’s more than 40 times its previous value: already sold in 1986 for $2.53 million, the work belonged to the descendants of Bertha and Potter Palmer, wealthy Chicago collectors, who acquired the Meules painting through Paul Durand-Ruel in 1891.

Sotheby’s had already set the bar high – betting on the work’s prestigious provenance – giving it a low estimate of $55 million (a fact that did not go unnoticed in the art press)… However, in the end, an Impressionist painting has crossed the symbolic threshold of $100 million for the first time ever. Meules also enters the Top 10 most expensive artworks ever sold publicly. The interest for the Impressionists and 19th century works is undeniable, despite the attraction for Contemporary Art and the new generation of bidders arriving on the market. Asian collectors are particularly enthusiastic and are now contributing to the stability of this section of the market.

Dear “Meules”

As exciting as a summer soap opera…! After the announcement of the sale of Claude Monet’s (1840-1926) Meules at Sotheby’s NY on 14 May, the question of a possible record was on everyone’s lips! The last haystacks painting auctioned – with similar dimensions, date and composition – fetched more than $80 million at Christie’s NY in November 2016. Monet’s absolute record dates back to the sale of the Rockefeller collection in May 2018 when his Nymphéas en fleur fetched nearly $85 million (also at Christie’s NY)… The suspense is now over: for eight long minutes on 14 May six bidders competed for the masterpiece. Harry Dalmeny finally brought the hammer down at $110.7 million. That’s more than 40 times its previous value: already sold in 1986 for $2.53 million, the work belonged to the descendants of Bertha and Potter Palmer, wealthy Chicago collectors, who acquired the Meules painting through Paul Durand-Ruel in 1891.

Sotheby’s had already set the bar high – betting on the work’s prestigious provenance – giving the work a low estimate of $55 million (a fact that did not go unnoticed in the art press)… However, in the end, an Impressionist painting has crossed the symbolic threshold of $100 million for the first time ever. Meules also enters the Top 10 most expensive artworks ever sold publicly. The interest for the Impressionists and 19th century works is undeniable, despite the attraction for Contemporary Art and the new generation of bidders arriving on the market. Asian collectors are particularly enthusiastic and are now contribute to the stability of this section of the market.

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