Art market news in brief…



Starting today, Artprice will be publishing a fortnightly overview of art market news in just a few words and figures. This week we cover the Contemporary and Post-War Art sales in London, the Cindy Sherman retrospective at the MoMA, the nomination for the Prix Marcel Duchamp and Robert Combas at the Lyon MAC (Museum of Contemporary Art).

Successful Contemporary & Post-War Art sales in London.

Some skeptics had predicted a contraction in London’s Contemporary art market after the UK introduced droits de suite (resale royalties) on 1 January 2012. However with a combined turnover of £113.9m from their evening sales, Christie’s and Sotheby’s have again proved that Contemporary art is hermetically sealed from the crisis and fiscal policies!
Christie’s kicked off on 14 February with 66 lots, of which 56 sold (12% unsold rate) for a total of £70.2m, substantially higher than their high-estimate total of £49m.
The following day, Sotheby’s was unable to match its rivals success, but nevertheless exceeded its combined low estimate (£41.6m) with a revenue total of £43.6 m for 57 lots sold (out of 66 offered).
Gerhard RICHTER’s price index continued its ascension. The artist, seventh in Artprice’s 2011 global ranking, generated 4 of the 8 bids above £3m on both evenings and his Grau (Grey), acquired in February 2008 for £250,000, sold at christie’s this year for £320,000, a 28% increase in 4 years!
The best result of the sales was obtained for Francis BACON’s Portrait of Portrait of Henrietta Moraes which fetched £19m at the Christie’s evening sale. Bacon has now discretely returned to his pre-crisis price level. His Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne fetched £1.5m on the same night, just £100,000 less than its purchase price in November 2007 (at the height of the bubble).
The best capital gain of the sales was achieved by Jean-Michel BASQUIAT’s Orange Sport Figure which fetched £3.6m ($5.657m) after being acquired for $105,000 in 1992, equivalent to a 22% annual investment.

The nominees for the Marcel Duchamp Prize 2012 are:

The names of the four finalists selected for the 2012 edition were officially unveiled on 16 February by the President of the ADIAF (Association for the International Diffusion of French Art) and jury member Gilles Fuchs. The works of Valérie FAVRE (Jocelyn Wolf Gallery), Dewar Gicquel (Gregory & Daniel GICQUEL & DEWAR) (Lovenbruck Gallery), Bertrand LAMARCHE (Poggi Gallery) and Franck SCURTI (Michel Rein Gallery) will be the subject of two exhibitions: the first at Castle Tour (15 June – 15 September) and the second, as usual, at the FIAC (19 to 21 October).
The Marcel Duchamp prize, created by the ADIAF, is awarded to a French artist (or resident in France) for his/her innovation in the visual arts every year since 2000. In collaboration with the Centre Pompidou, it aims to support the French scene and to help artists gain international exposure. After the jury’s decision, the winner is awarded a show at the “315 Space” at the Centre Pompidou and a prize of 35,000 euros. This highly sought-after prize is closely followed by collectors. It acts as a real boost, marking a turning point in the career of the winner, who is subsequently likely to receive numerous exhibition proposals and see an increase in his/her gallery sales. In addition, the prize significantly increases the artist’s chances of developing a successful secondary market.
Note that this 2012 edition will include for the first time an artistic duo: Daniel Dewar and Gregory Gicquel. Sculpture and installations will be in the limelight this year with only one painter on the shortlist, Valery Favre.

Robert Combas : My painting is like rock music

On 24 February 2012 (until July 15), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon will be opening the first major retrospective dedicated to Robert COMBAS and entitled Rock on the wide size / wild side. For the occasion, the artist is moving into the museum, transformed partly into a recording studio/workshop for two months.
The father of Figuration Libre began his artistic adventure in the 1970s in the small Mediterranean town of Sète against a backdrop of rock and punk music. Thirty years later, his work is a key element of French Contemporary art sales. He also has a sizeable audience in the U.S., making him the most sought-after artist from the Figuration Libre movement. In 2007, Combas’ best auction year to date, his works generated €1.3m on the secondary market … i.e. €1m more than the combined auction revenues of Figuration Libre artists François BOISROND and the Di Rosa brothers.
Overall, his price index has increased 188% since 1998 and the best paintings of the 80s and early 90s have soared in value over the last 10 years. Le Petit Cheval, a large acrylic dated 1992, sold for the equivalent of €16,500 in 1998 and €67,000 in 2007 (at Perrin-Royère-Lajeunesse-Vergez Honta, and then at Cornette de Saint-Cyr). Another work from the same year entitled Hécatombe set his latest auction record at €90,000 on 3 July 2011 at Versailles Enchères. However, this sum is only a fraction of the best result generated by his American contemporary Keith HARING (who was highly inspired by the “Frenchie” in the 1980s): Haring’s best auction record stands at €1.8m (May 2007 for Untitled, 1982, at Christie’s in New York).

The avatars of Cindy Sherman at the MoMA

The famous photographs of Cindy SHERMAN will be presented from February 26 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in a new retrospective. The institution, which gave her a retrospective almost fourteen years ago, has selected over 175 portraits, tracing the career of an artist who has triggered passionate bidding over the last twenty years with over 1300 lots sold. The work of the American artist mainly sells in the United States (70% of the artist’s transactions were hammered in the USA, producing 89% of her auction turnover).
With seven results above the $1m line, and a price index that quadrupled between 1998 and October 2011, Cindy Sherman is one of the world’s most sought-after photographers. In fact, she was the world’s most expensive photographer for six months after an untitled work from her Centerfolds series (1981) fetched a record $3.4m against an estimate of $1.5 – $2m (11/05/2011 Christie’s NY). This work, numbered 1 of 10, remained at the summit of the secondary market for art photography until Andreas GURSKY’s Rhein II (1 of 6 copies) fetched $3.8m at Christie’s New York on 8 November 2011.
Aside from Cindy Sherman’s big-number results, we should remember that her work is not always expensive: 40% of her works are in fact accessible for less than $6,000 at auctions. Indeed, this affordable aspect of the photography market is one of its primary advantages, being open to a broad population of amateur collectors.

Munch’s The Scream going to auction!

Some works in art history are invested with almost mythic value such as the Vénus de Milo or LEONARDO DA VINCI’s Joconde. Edvard MUNCH’s The Scream is also in this category. If an unknown version of the Mona Lisa was sent to auction, what price would it carry? Globally known masterpieces have the world at their feet and trigger multi-million results.
This was the case on 10 July 2002 when Peter Paul RUBENSMassacre des Innocents was presented by Sotheby’s with an estimate of $4-6m and fetched no less than $45 million. It was also the case on 8 December 2009 when RAPHAEL’s delicate black chalk drawing Head of a Muse (estimated £12m to £16m by Christie’s) fetched £26m ($42.7m), and it will no doubt be the case on 2 May 2012 when Sotheby’s presents the third version of The Scream by Edvard Munch that it hopes will reach $80m and set a new world record for a drawing. This version of The Scream is a pastel drawing created in 1895 as the central element of the series The Frieze of Life. This is also the only version for which it will ever be possible to bid, since the others belong to museums. Never exposed to the public, the drawing remained for 70 years in the same family, that of a Norwegian businessman, Petter Olsen, son of Thomas Olsen, who was a friend, boss and neighbour of Edvard Munch. Just like his Scream, Sotheby’s final hammer price is likely to resonate far and wide.