Flash News



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

Opening of the Musée Soulages

Pierre SOULAGES, the most popular living French artist, has established himself through a majestic and rigorous body of work produced over more than 70 years of creativity, in which he has asserted black as a catalyst for light. During 2013, Soulages crossed further thresholds and garnered new records. One of these was the sum of nearly $6.7 million, including the buyer’s premium, for a dynamic painting from 1959, which was sold at Sotheby’s London (Peinture, 21 Novembre 1959, knocked down for £3.8 million, $5.86 million, on 26 June 2013). Soulages’ price index has risen 490% over the decade, mainly thanks to the French market (63% of revenues). His older paintings from between the 1950s to 1970sare the most sought-after and most expensive. They mark a genuine pictorial turning point in mid-20th century European creation, and the artist has particularly chosen paintings from this period to donate to his eponymous museum.
The Musée Soulages in Rodez, the painter’s native town, will be receiving 500 works donated by Pierre Soulages, worth nearly $70 million. The opening is planned for 23 May 2014 in a building designed to provide a true setting for the works, a kind of architectural accomplice. This building is a feat achieved by the Catalan firm RCR Arquitects, honorary members of the Royal Institute of British Architects. It has façades in Corten steel, which develops a special patina on its surface, evoking the walnut stain that is so beloved by the artist.

Gaitonde: the new champion of Indian art

The first Christie’s sale in Bombay, held on 19 December 2013, opened with a new record – and a significant one at that, as it was the highest record registered for an Indian artist in the world. This new peak was scaled by Vasudeo. S. GAITONDE (1924-2001) with a 1979 painting estimated at $1.04 -1.3 million, which finally went for $3,792,400 including the buyer’s premium (Untitled (1979)).
This record illustrates theadjustment in the price index of great modern Indian artists that has been taking place over the last few years progress that has been firmly established now that Gaitonde has been dubbed by the history of art’s key international influencers. The announcement of his retrospective at the New York Guggenheim (24 October 2014 to 11 February 2015) is of crucial importance to the international recognition of Indian art. The Guggenheim Museum is also launching a major awareness campaign on Indian art, as the retrospective devoted to Gaitonde will come shortly after the Zarina Hashimi exhibition there (25 January – 21 April 2013). On an international level, Gaitonde had already established his pedigree before the Guggenheim event through numerous exhibitions and his entry into the permanent collections of top institutions like the New York Museum of Modern Art. But this retrospective is still remarkable, as it will be a stopover in a much larger travelling exhibition that is due to visit venues such as the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the New Delhi National Gallery of Modern Art and the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim (opening in 2017).

Gaitonde was a reserved artist who gave few interviews and only produced five or six paintings each year. His personal life remains somewhat mysterious. We are more familiar with his artistic eye-openers, especially the impact they had on American abstract expressionists (Gaitonde spent a few years in New York, on a scholarship he received from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1964). Before the Christie’s Bombay sale, his record had been set in New York, but the market is beginning to consolidate its position in India, giving a further boost to the price index of this great modern Indian artist.

Lee Ufan at Versailles

Ufan LEE is the highest-rated artist in the group called Mono Ha (« the school of things »). This is a key movement in contemporary Japanese art, of which he was the main theorist. Yet Lee Ufan was not Japanese, but South Korean. A writer and philosopher, his visual language is ultimately expressed through a minimalist vocabulary in both his sculptures and paintings. The latter are the works best known to an audience of initiates who regularly visit the major contemporary art fairs. His white canvases, often featuring one or two oblong forms in grey paint, are increasingly found on the stands. And this presence will probably intensify in the first and second markets alike, given his prestigious programme in 2014, which includes an exhibition at the Château de Versailles. Lee Ufan is to take over from the Italian artist Giuseppe PENONE, whose sculptures were exhibited in the château gardens during 2013.
Lee Ufan’s emergence in the market is similar to many other major breakthroughs by Asian artists: his arrival on the international stage is as dazzling as it is recent (his first foray into the auction room in 2002 was unsuccessful). In 2006, a first work sold for $140,000 – double its high estimate – and the first results in excess of one million came the following year. Today, Lee Ufan has seven bids of over a million to his credit. Some small paintings are still affordable at between $15,000 and $20,000, and a few charcoal drawings are available at under $3,000. Enthusiasts who are keen to buy should keep an eye on sales,not only in New York but also in Hong Kong and Seoul, because supply and demand is now truly international.