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Every fortnight, Artprice provides a short round up of art market news.

Good results at sales of Latin American art

The South American continent is home to a rich arts scene that is growing in international stature. Every year in November, New York puts Latin American art in the spotlight with several unavoidable events for fans and collectors: the PINTA fair, which recently celebrated its 6th edition, and, in parallel, three specialised sales over three days at the three main auction houses.

This year, Sotheby’s went first with a sale in 2 sessions on 19 and 20 November. Among the star lots of the sale, two superb paintings by Roberto Matta and DR. ATL naturally found buyers. Roberto MATTA currently has the wind in his sails. To his recently established auction record of $4.4m for La révolte des contraires on May 2012 at Christie’s New York, he has added another fine performance: although only just above the low estimate, the $1.55m fetched for his oil on canvas Nada represents his sixth best-ever result! The Mexican Doctor ATL’s Mañana luminosa fetched $1.4m, a new record for the artist that multiplied almost sixfold his previous record of $250,000. Another new record at the sale was generated by Jesús Rafael SOTO’s La scie à métaux (the hacksaw) which fetched $900,000. Clearly ascending, in 2012, the market for Soto’s work recorded three of his five best-ever auction results.
In the afternoon of 20 November, it was Phillips de Pury & Company’s turn to offer big names in the Latin American art scene. The best result of the session was hammered for Antonio DIASFree Continent : Natural Richnesses which sold for slightly above its high estimate at $360,000. This was substantially higher than the artist’s previous record of $105,500 set in April 2011 for Evergreen Monument. In addition the evening sale also generated his second best-ever result when his The Prison sold for $160,000. The Brazilian artist, Lygia PAPE, also scored a new record with her installation “O Olho do Guara (No. 13)” which was acquired for $220,000.
Christie’s closed out the three days of LATAM sales with two sessions on 20 and 21 November. During these auctions, there were good results for works by the Cuban artist Tomás SANCHEZ, who signed two of his three best-ever auction results. His paintings Buscador de paisajes and Llegada del caminante a la laguna changed hands for respectively $540,000 and $520,000. Also note the excellent performance of Rufino TAMAYO’s Tres personajes en un interior bid to $580,000, i.e. $130,000 above its high estimate.

At Sotheby’s equivalent evening sale in November 2011, the bought-in rate was 24.6%. This year only 11% of the lots failed to sell. There was also an improvement at Phillips de Pury & Company with 24% of lots unsold this year versus 39% in November 2011. At Christie’s the unsold remained stable at 32%. Overall, the Fall 2012 sales confirmed collectors’ growing interest in sales of Latin American art.

Otto Dix and New Objectivity at the Stuttgart Kunstmuseum

Until 7 April 2013, the Stuttgart Kunstmuseum is showcasing the prolific German painter Otto Dix, leading light of the New Objectivity movement: Dix himself claimed to be the founder of the movement. Born of a reaction against Expressionism, New Objectivity strived until 1933 to portray a more analytical reality, in the context of a scathing critique of the society of that time. The Stuttgart Kunstmuseum has a large collection of works by Otto DIX which, for the occasion, it is putting into perspective with work by George GROSZ, Christian SCHAD and Rudolf SCHLICHTER, bringing together a total of nearly a hundred and twenty works.
Otto Dix’s works make frequent appearances at auctions: roughly three thousand pieces were offered between 1986 and 2012 of which 72% were prints and engravings, 23% were drawings or water-colours and only 4% were paintings. The latter do not always elicit buyer enthusiasm; in fact only the paintings corresponding to the New Objectivity period (1918-1933) fetch high prices. The artist’s record is for an oil on canvas Portrait of the Lawyer Dr. Fritz Glaser painted in 1921 (105 x 80.5 cm) which fetched $5.5m at Sotheby’s London on 6 October 1999. Recently, Die Elektrische (1919) also generated an excellent result (despite being half the size at 46 x 37 cm) when it sold for $4.1m on 8 February 2012 at the same auction house.

Yue Minjun: L’ombre du fou rire at the Fondation Cartier

The Chinese artist, YUE Minjun, is on show at the Fondation Cartier (Paris) until 17 March 2013. The institution is offering him his first retrospective in Europe. The forty paintings and a number of previously unseen preparatory drawings and photographs attempt to lift the veil on this icon of Contemporary Chinese art. For twenty years, Yue Minjun questioned Chinese society with a characteristic rictus in his paintings. These “hilarious” faces, often resembling the artist’s own face, allow the suggestion of an acute pain quite at odds with euphoria and with Chinese culture, which frowns upon demonstrations of emotions of any kind.
Looking at Yue Minjun’s auction track record, the enthusiasm of his fans and collectors is clearly well established. The artist’s record was set in 2008 for an early work entitled Gweong-gweong (1993), an oil on canvas with impressive dimensions (182 x 250 cm), that fetched more than $6m during the inaugural evening sale at Christie’s Hong Kong on 24 May 2008. Today, the artist has sold nearly four hundred works at auction, of which twenty eight have generated over a million dollars.