Flash News: Art Geneva – Asia and its fairs – Nahon’s art collection


Art Geneva is growing

This year Art Geneva will host 90 galleries versus 86 in 2018. The fair is expanding, but according to its director Thomas Hug, who has steered the fair towards a solid reputation in seven years of existence, the fair wishes to maintain a ‘reasonable’ format. The fair’s good reputation is primarily due to the exhibitors themselves as it attracts some of the global market’s heavyweights including Hauser & Wirth, the Marlborough and other high-profile galleries like Kamel Mennour, Emmanuel Perrotin, Almine Rech and Continua… all names that promise superb Contemporary works… but the offer is much broader. Indeed, Art Geneva cannot be identified as a “Contemporary art fair” as it is open to Modern art via galleries Jean-François Cazeau and Tornabuoni for example and to Primitive art, Jewelry, Decorative art and ‘historical Design’ via a renewed partnership with the famous PAD (Pavilion of Arts and Design). Beyond the galleries, it is also about educating the public and creating synergies with Swiss institutional and private collections that are well represented at the fair. We note the presence of the MAMCO, the FMAC (Contemporary Art Fund of the City of Geneva), the FCAC (Cantonal Fund for Contemporary Art), the Geneva Photography Center, Plattform 10 and three art schools from francophone Switzerland. It is also a superb opportunity to discover part of the collection of the Gandur Foundation for Art that is presenting a mix of some eighty Greco-Roman, Egyptian, Oceanian, pre-Columbian, Medieval and Baroque artworks and sculptures alongside a number of Abstract paintings… a first in Switzerland.

In parallel with this 8th edition, the city of Geneva will be putting on a number of side attractions: sculptures on the lake-side and in the Old Town, Studio Africa, performances and concerts. Until 3 February – the fair’s last day – Geneva will be brimming with cultural energy, belying its reputation as a quiet and calm city.

Asia and its fairs, 1st quarter 2019

There are some new events… but others have closed … The 2019 edition of Art Stage Singapore will not take place. Cancelled 10 days before it was due to open, the fair had previously suffered a substantial fall in exhibitors, from 170 galleries in 2016 to only 40 expected for this year (with a corresponding decline in the number of visitors). In 2018 its creator Lorenzo Rudolf said I will not give up Singapore so easily, but I think it is the format that should be reviewed, perhaps we should think of something other than a classic fair. Singapore’s reputation as a regional platform for Contemporary art in Southeast Asia has again been undermined after both the Singapore Art Fair and the Singapore Contemporary Art Show threw in the towel. But this latest cancellation is somewhat mitigated by the announcement of a new fair, Art SG (scheduled for next November), one of whose directors is none other than Magnus Renfrew, head of the ART HK and Art Basel Hong Kong fairs.

Art Stage Singapore is facing a growing number of competitors… including the new Taiwan art fair Tapei Dangdai (that ended a few days ago) whose exhibitors list reflected an impressive level of professionalism for a first edition. The tenors of the Western market occupied the central aisle including the Gagosian, David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth and Thaddaeus Ropac, alongside their Asian counterparts such as Kukje from South Korea and Tina Keng from Taipei. However, nearly 80% of the stands were occupied by local and more modest galleries presenting work by Taiwanese artists. Overall, the Taiwanese fair is clearly oriented towards local collectors since the relatively small island (36,000 km²) has one of the most active art markets in Asia and counts 521,000 millionaires for just 23 million inhabitants (Credit Suisse 2018 global wealth report). Leo Xu, director of the David Zwirner Gallery in Hong Kong, said he was pleased with the acquisition of his works by local collectors, including a painting by Yayoi KUSAMA (1929) for around $1 million, a photo by Wolfgang TILLMANS (1968) for $350,000 and two paintings by Neo Rauch (1960) for $650,000 and $325,000. Kevin Cheng, head of Sotheby’s Asian operations, summarised the situation as follows: Taiwan is a market in its own right, as important as mainland China and Hong Kong. And although a number of major collectors and dealers were absent from this first edition, many sent envoys to check it out, suggesting that the 2nd edition could be substantially larger.

Hong Kong is still a strong destination for the international art community and will be hosting a number of significant events this quarter, including the 7th edition of Art Basel Hong Kong due to open end March with 242 galleries from 36 different countries. The fair will host a large selection of galleries from Mainland China, but also from all over Asia. Concurrent with this event will be Art Central and Asia Contemporary Art Show which attracted nearly 14,000 visitors in 2018. The former British colony – where there is no tax on art imports and exports – has successfully exploited its role as a commercial platform and many Western galleries have set up there, including two of the most influential, the David Zwirner Gallery (based in New York) and Hauser & Wirth (based in Switzerland).

This busy schedule of Asian fairs continue through February and March with Art Fair Philippines, the country’s largest art fair, from 22 to 24 February 2019, hosting 55 exhibitors, including 16 foreign galleries, and, no less than three fairs in South Korea during February: Korea Galleries Art Fair in Seoul, PAFS (Pink Art Fair Seoul) and AHAF Busan. Last but not least, the famous Art Fair Tokyo, which attracted more than 60,000 visitors to its last edition, will open in March with more than 138 partner galleries. It is clear that the global art market’s Asian nerve centres are organizing more and more major events, inviting the market’s most powerful and prominent players, giving them optimal visibility and gaining international recognition in order to establish and/or consolidate Asia’s position as the second largest player in the global art market.

Nahon Collection: Art, c’est la vie!

What to expect from a man who, when just 15, saved his pocket money to buy a watercolor by Francis Picabia? Since the 1960s Pierre Nahon and his wife Marianne (née Bayet) built up one of the most important collections of Contemporary art. On 19 and 20 March 2019, Sotheby’s Paris will be offering part of their collection at the Galerie Charpentier.

Pierre and Marianne Nahon met at the beginning of the 1960s. He had just returned from the war in Algeria and she was an aspiring actress. They get married in December 1960. Three years later, they forewent holidays in order to buy a work by Bernard Dufour from the Galerie de l’Oeil in Paris. Working for a number of years in the world of advertising and film production, in 1973 they dropped everything to devote themselves to art via the creation of Galerie Beaubourg, close to the Pompidou Center (which did not exist at the time). Riding out all manner of unfavourable circumstances (oil shocks, Gulf wars, etc) for 40 years, their gamble was risky, but it paid off. Their gallery became a stronghold from which they resolutely supported often controversial artists. The Nahons collected works by the artists they exhibited and they were among the first to show the New Realists in France. Among the 250 lots in this sale – all big names now, but unknown when the gallery began – there will be doll piles by ARMAN, estimated at around $90,000, two crushed cars by Caesar (Peugeot and Kadett (Opel)) the results for which could well boost the artist’s market prices which have been dormant for so many years, Yves KLEIN’s very striking Portrait relief de Claude Pascal (1962) in YKB blue on gold leaf (estimated around $500,000 and prominently featured in the catalogue), as well as Jacques Monory’s La Voleuse (1986), a large canvas measuring almost 3.5 metres and estimated at just over $68,000. The Nahons also admired nascent American Pop Art acquiring a Robert RAUSCHENBERG painting from his Urban Bourbon Series (between $450,000 and $680,000), an impressive sculpture by George Segal, Gottlieb’s Wishing Well (1963) and the screen print on canvas of the eight portraits of Jackie Kennedy, one of Warhol’s most iconic pieces (acquired in 1980 at Sotheby’s NY) carrying an estimate of $1.5 – 2 million.

This sale comes 15 years after a first dispersion, also at Sotheby’s, entitled Jardin secret de Marianne and Pierre Nahon at the castle of Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs in Vence on 18 July 2004 which generated records for Niki de Saint-Phalle and Tinguely and brought in more than $10 million. That is also the overall estimate for the sale scheduled for next March, and it could give Sotheby’s a good start in its bid to consolidate its first place on the podium of French auction houses after its record turnover of more than $286.67 million in 2018.