Flash News: Beauty in the Congo at Fondation Cartier – Doris Salcedo – Alexander Calder



Every fortnight, Artprice provides a short round up of art market news: Beauty in the Congo at Fondation Cartier – Major Doris Salcedo retrospective – Alexander Calder large-scale.

Beauty in the Congo at Fondation Cartier
A retrospective of contemporary Congolese art replete with more than 300 works… This world first will be held at Fondation Cartier in Paris through 15 November 2015. The diversity of this African stage immerses the viewer in painting, music, sculpture, photography and comic strips, to offer the widest possible overview on a century of contemporary Congolese art, with the first works dating back to the 1920s. André Magnin, commissioner general of the exhibit, says he is focused on the Democratic Republic of Congo because “it has a unique creativity in Africa that doesn’t exist at all in Congo-Brazzaville, even though its capital is directly across from Kinshasa.”
Apart from the rare artist with international popularity – with Chéri SAMBA leading the way – the contemporary African art market remains one of the most affordable, including those considered to be true pioneers. Likewise, the rare drawings of Antoinette LUBAKI have yet to pass the USD 12,000-dollar mark at auction. Those of Djilatendo – who, along with Albert and Antoinette Lubaki, created the first works known on paper at the end of the 1920s – have never been seen at auction. The succession is ensured by the decidedly colourful works of Steve BANDOMA, born in 1981 in Kinshasa. His large-scale drawings measuring more than one metre can be purchased for approximately USD 5,000 at auction. Slightly more expensive is his colleague Kura SHOMALI, 36 years old, whose work sells for between USD 8,000 – 10,000 on average. African artists are generally entering auction houses in France. The market is still in its early stages, as it only began in 2014 with artists such as Pathy TSHINDELE and Rigobert NIMI, both of whom work in Kinshasa. Three large canvases by Pathy Tshindele were sold for roughly USD 6,000 apiece at Piasa (7 October 2014) and a first sculpture by Rigobert Nimi was sold for approximately USD 10,000 at Millon & Associés (Prédator, valued at sold for EUR 7,500 on 19 November 2014). The small canvases by thirty-something JP MIKA (Jean-Paul Nsimba Mika, born in 1980) tested the market for USD 500 in 2010. Since then, larger works have gleefully sailed past USD 5,000. These are consistent prices for emerging artists, far from the spectacular soaring prices seen for protégés of influential galleries (soaring, but likely to fall quickly afterward). Contemporary African art remains a widely varied field of exploration, free from the current games of speculation.

Major Doris Salcedo retrospective
This year, the Columbian artist (born in 1958 in Bogota) will be honoured with a comprehensive retrospective, held in some of the world’s most celebrated museums: the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the Guggenheim in New York. For decades, Doris SALCEDO has created work exploring the themes of loss and violence, including research work and contemplating testimonies of atrocious crimes: kidnappings, rapes, murders. Salcedo wants to raise visitors’ awareness, encouraging them to analyse the paths she presents in her works.

Her retrospective has just begun at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. It will run until 12 October 2015, featuring reworked objects, like so many memorials in homage to forgotten victims. The exhibit notably displays furniture made of repurposed wood, weighed down with cement. Taken from their initial functions, made cumbersome, these domestic objects take on a new meaning, as with the Lebanese artist Mona Hatoum or the French Jean-Pierre Raynaud. The last work of this type sold at auction – an armchair cast in concrete – sold for USD 365,000 (14 May 2014, Christie’s New York), or more than USD 100,000 more than its upper estimate. The retrospective, already publicised at the time of this sale, had a ripple effect on the popularity of this artist who normally keeps a low profile in the art auction market…

Alexander Calder large-scale
When the Tate Modern decided to launch a retrospective on the American artist Alexander CALDER (1898-1976), it had a big vision, in keeping with the size of his monumental stabilo-mobiles. Fascinated by the movement and by the industry, inveterate handyman, Calder was raised by two artist parents (his father was a sculptor and his mother, a painter) but studied geometry, physics and chemistry (mechanical engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology, New Jersey), before art. In 1926, he took off for Paris, where he created Cirque (Circus), cobbled together from wire ends and pieces of cork, then met Fernand Léger, Piet Mondrian, and Joan Miro and built an abstract language, composed of geometric shapes and primary colours.
After the second world war (period during which there was a shortage of metal for constructing large-scale works), he received requests for increasingly larger stabiles. The artist surrounded himself with technicians to create 120 giant stainless steel works and never stopped pushing the limits. The most monumental works were created in the 60s and 70s. The Tate Modern exhibit will include an imposing work, La Veuve Noire (Black Widow), which stands nearly 4 metres high and has left the Architecture Institute in Brazil for the first time, where it has been quietly turning since its installation in 1948.
At auction, the largest work ever sold is a red dragon measuring 9 metres high and 17 metres long: Flying Dragon was completed in 1975, a few months after the artist’s death. Sold for USD 5.6m including fees at Sotheby’s New York in 2006, it could be worth several million if resold, as since then Calder’s large metallic Poisson volant (Flying Fish) sold for USD 25.9m (including fees, Christie’s New York, 13 May 2014).