Contemporary drawing



In France, contemporary drawing is now exhibited widely, having shrugged off its image as a secondary medium. Its new standing is due, in particular, to the establishment of a Drawing Prize by the Daniel and Florence Guerlain Foundation, the creation of the “Paris Capital of Drawing” label by the Contemporary Drawing Fair which is celebrating its tenth anniversary between the 10 and 14 April and the birth of Slick drawing which takes place on the same dates. However, the auction houses are not profiting from the buzz generated by these events to give more space to contemporary drawings in their sales, with no specialist sale being held in France.

The popularity of contemporary drawing does not depend on specialist sales. Prices have increased by less than that of contemporary art in all media, whose price level has increased by nearly 70% in just twelve months (between January 2007 and January 2008). For artists born after 1945, the price increase for drawings was close to 52% in 2007. With increased demand driving the strong price appreciation in contemporary art, drawing, which is generally more affordable than paintings or sculpture, is becoming an alternative.

Effectively, it offers collectors the opportunity to acquire artists who are already established in the auction market for less then EUR 3,000 – names such as Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Vanessa Beecroft, Yoshitomo Nara, Takashi Murakami, Enzo Cucchi, Gary Hume, Cecily Brown and Robert Combas, etc.Damien HIRST, for example, who is accustomed to million-ticket sales (seeing 17 hammers down at above the million dollar mark in 2007 for paintings and installations) uses felt pen, pencil or ink to create ambivalent images such as the association of a dove and a human skull on a sheet of paper measuring 15.3 x 10.2 cm. The work, entitled Dove & Skull, was purchased at auction for EUR 4,200 last October (Christie’s-South-Kensington, 24 October 2007).
Still in this price range, the Japanese artists Yoshitomo Nara, Takashi Murakami and Aya Takano are certainly affordable but not always for accomplished works: a fine water colour or gouache by Yoshitomo NARA changes hands, for example, for between EUR 10,000 and 20,000. His price index has seen rapid growth: at his auction debut in 2000, a savvy (or lucky) collector managed to acquire the gouache drawing, No Pain No Gain, for the equivalent of EUR 2,000 (USD 1,900 at Christie’s). In 2007, you would have needed double this to secure a pencil work only half the size (Untitled, The Market, Tokyo, 25 October 2007).
Japanese Kawaii art exponent, Aya TAKANO, was introduced recently at auction (in 2004). Her oils do not reach the price levels of a Murakami or a Nara and the drawings remain affordable: the series of four water colours, entitled With Delicated Mad Hands, for example, changed hands for less than EUR 7,000 euros at Christie’s Hong-Kong in November 2007. One month later, this time in London, her water colour drawing, Megu Plays on the Traffic Signs, sold for the equivalent of EUR 1,500 euros (Christie’s-South-Kensington, GBP 1,100).

Still in Asia, the boom in the Chinese market has seen the emergence of drawing. Amongst the most sought after are the rare works by Zhang Xiaogang and Yue Minjun, which already change hands for between EUR 40,000 and 150,000 on average. At the crest of the Chinese wave, for between EUR 1,000 and EUR 6,000, the collector can find water colours by LIU Ye, GUO Wei or FENG Zhengjie, and charcoals or small works in powdered enamel by CAI Guoqiang.
A number of major figures in the French market, namely François Boisrond, Jean-Charles Blais, Robert Combas, Fabrice Hyber, Hervé Di Rosa and Philippe Cognée regularly come up at auction for between EUR 1,000 and EUR 5,000.
Finally, amongst the emerging artists who have been exhibited recently or covered by the media but remain auction room novices, we could mention Philippe MAYAUX, whose kitsch and ambivalent universe won him the Marcel Duchamp prize in 2006, Silvia BÄCHLI, winner of the Guerlain Foundation contemporary drawing prize in March 2007, Jean-Luc VERNA who mixes rock, pop and gothic culture, Isabelle LÉVÉNEZ who gives childhood the flavour of a tragic fairy tale…. their rare works at auction do not always find buyers despite attractive price levels: from several hundred euros for a drawing by Silvia Bächli to EUR 4,000 for a gouache by Philippe Mayaux (Cornette de Saint-Cyr, October 2007).