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Christian Boltanski – from the Grand Palais to Tasmania

[28/12/2009]

 The artist chosen for the Monumenta 2010 exhibition under the great glass-dome roof at the Grand Palais in Paris is the Frenchman Christian BOLTANSKI. His selection follows that of the German Anselm KIEFER in 2007 and the American Richard SERRA in 2008. The exhibition entitled “Personnes” will run from 13 January to 21 February.

The strong emotional charge of Boltanski’s work has a universal impact. Indeed, his works have been travelling all over the world for nearly 40 years and have been acquired by collectors from far and wide. Sales of his works in France represent only 26% of his global auction revenue. For a French artist, this is rare. In fact, generally speaking, the international dimension of the market for contemporary French artists is relatively small. Pierre Soulages for example – who enjoys broad popularity outside of France – nevertheless generates more than half his auction revenue on French soil (56%). By contrast, the market for Boltanski’s work is very dynamic in “Anglo-Saxon” countries (31% of his revenue from the UK and 37% from the US) although his prices are well below the stratospheric sums generated by his English and American peers.In general Boltanski’s reliquaries and installations sell for thousands or even tens of thousands of euros. His Monuments fetch between €15,000 and €100,000 on average depending on the size of the work. Some of these focus on childhood – the first part of us to die – using photographs and electric lights. The fragility of these works with their poetic light act as an invitation to meditation. On 8 December 2009, an installation entitled Monuments created in 1985 fetched €58,000 at Sotheby’s in Paris, twice its low estimate. During the previous period of art price deflation in the middle of the 1990s, this type of work could be acquired for €10,000.

Boltanki’s “last work” has been sold even before completion! From 1 January 2010 until his death, the artist is beeing filmed non-stop at his Malakoff studio and the images are transmitted to a cave in Tasmania (in the middle of nowhere!). The collector David Walsh is the “Tasmanian devil” in this affair since he has bought this work from Boltanski on a Life Annuity basis (reversal scheme). This macabre work is a game with death cleverly calculated by David Walsh who considers this life annuity arrangement financially interesting for him during the first eight years. Christian Boltanski is currently 65 and we wish him a long and prosperous life!

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