Flash News



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

Enki Bilal’s phantoms at the Louvre

Since December 2012, the Musée du Louvre has been « marrying » its collections with the work of contemporary artist and successful comic strip author Enki BILAL. Camera in hand, Bilal has paced the length and breadth of the Louvre, immersing himself in this unique historical building imbued with an incomparable atmosphere. Many legends have sprung up there, like that of the phantom of Belphegor, but Enki Bilal, the great storyteller, has decided to create his own. He is exhibiting his own ghost stories in the Hall of Seven Chimneys, making sure that they echo the museum, its works and their creators. Enki Bilal’s name is no stranger to the auction room. In the « comic strip » category, he is even the best-rated contemporary artist, and enthusiasts are so avid that the Artcurial auction house dedicated its sale on 29 October 2012 entirely to him. At this auction, the acrylic on canvas entitled La folle du roi almost doubled its high estimate when it went for over $181,000. This was not far below his record, registered in 2007 with the $235,000 garnered by Bleu sang (Eux) (Artcurial, 24 March).

The biggest sculpture in the world

CHRISTO Christo and Jeanne-Claude (who died in 2009) have always shown patience and pugnacity in achieving their ends. Their colossal wrapping projects have often needed years of dogged negotiation with administrations. If it took 24 years for them to be able to wrap the Reichstag in Berlin, their greatest work – the only one designed to be permanent – has required nearly 40 years of patience…This is the Abu Dhabi Mastaba, a project begun by the couple in 1977, whose completion has finally been announced for 2015. Abandoned during the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, it was started up again in the early 2000s, when engineers the world over were called upon to find some capable of erecting this pharaonic work 150 metres high (taller than the Giza pyramid) and 300 metres across. It will be made of 410,000 painted oil drums in a mosaic of red and yellow, the colours of the desert and the sun. The Mastaba will be located at the site of Al Gharbia, 150 kilometres from Abu Dhabi, which is pursuing its transformation into a cultural capital.As with previous in situ projects by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the Mastaba – whose construction costs will come to some $340 m – will be made possible through independent financing, including the participation of the artist himself. Christo’s masterpieces, ephemeral by nature, are not for buying: they are experiments for seeing and experiencing. In this respect, the artist falls outside market standards, so to finance his projects he sells preparatory drawings (his record is $400,000 for a drawing of The Gates (Project for Central Park, New York City) sold at Christie’s New York on 10 May 2006), prints, and photos (between $150 and $5,000 on average). Thanks to the Mastaba, his secondary market looks set to flourish in the United Arab Emirates. And in fact, the first work he sold in Dubai was a 1979 drawing outlining what is to be the largest sculpture in the world. On 24 May 2006, the work (The Masatba of Abu Dhabi) was knocked down for $38,000 at Christie’s.

Manet : Portraying Life at the Royal Academy of Arts

After a spell at the Toledo Museum of Art (Ohio, USA), the exhibition Portraying Life is stopping off at the Royal Academy of Arts (London) from 26 January to 14 April 2013. Devoted entirely to Édouard MANET‘s portraits, the exhibition looks back over the artist’s career through some fifty works borrowed from European, American and Asian collections. We discover the faces of his wife, Suzanne Leenhoff, his friends, and intellectuals of the time, like Marcel Proust and Emile Zola. Manet had a very particular way of creating his portraits, making the subject a player in the picture, through scenes of daily life in mid-19th century Paris. As an icon of modern art, it was no surprise that he garnered his finest bid with a self-portrait: Portrait de Manet par lui-même, en buste (Manet à la palette), an oil on canvas dated between 1878 and 1879, which sold for $30 m on 22 June 2010 at Sotheby’s, London. Although the UK has only accounted for 13% of his auctioned works since 2000, 42% of his turnover has been achieved there over this period, just behind the US, which represents 50% of his market (with 38% of transactions during the same period).

Auguste Renoir conquers the cinema

Selected for the 2013 Cannes Festival, the feature film by Gilles Bourdos describes the meeting between Pierre-Auguste RENOIR and his last muse, Andrée Heuschling. The master, then aged 74 and crippled with arthritis, could only paint the young woman with great difficulty. Nevertheless, numerous oils on canvas resulted from this encounter. For example, Femme à la rose, Andrée (1919), which fetched over $1.1 m in 1989 (12 November 1989 at Habsburg-Feldman New York). The girl also posed as a Spanish woman in Femme à la mandoline (Andrée en espagnole avec un turban jaune et une mandoline), a picture that went for a song in New York in 2008, undoubtedly the victim of a sluggish economy and a very ambitious estimate (estimated at $2.5 m/3.5 m at Christie’s on 5 November 2008). Rare in the sale rooms, his paintings from the 1870s are the most sought-after, and achieve records: Au Moulin de la Galette, an oil on canvas of 1876, remains the Impressionist’s most impressive sale, going for $71 m over twenty years ago at Sotheby’s (17 May 1990).