Flash News: Paul Gauguin at Beyeler – New record for Darger – Beatriz Milhazes in Hong Kong



Every fortnight, Artprice provides a short round up of art market news: Paul Gauguin at Beyeler – New record for Darger – Beatriz Milhazes in Hong Kong

Paul Gauguin at Beyeler

The Swiss Paul Beyeler Foundation is has pulled off a new tour de force with an exhibition dedicated to Paul GAUGUIN (1843-1903). Running from 8 February to 28 June 2015, its timeframe mirrors last year’s Gauguin show at MoMA in New York (8 March – 8 June 2014). This promises to be one of the most exciting exhibitions of 2015. For art lovers, Gauguin and his works are quite simply unmissable, but the artist has also cast his spell over the public at large. The Foundation has brought together 50 Gauguin masterpieces from some of the world’s most renowned museums and private collections. These works hark back to the artist’s early travels from Brittany to the « paradise on earth » that he discovered in Tahiti, an exotic world of sensual women and idyllic landscapes.
Gauguin was an avant-garde artist through and through, a leading light who exerted a major influence on the likes of Bonnard and Maurice Denis. He was also a visionary art collector who began investing in the works of Pissarro, Manet, Cézanne, Renoir and Monet during the 1870s. But despite the success enjoyed by the top artists of the period and the support of the Durand-Ruel gallery, he was still unable to make a reasonable living from his art. The majority of the shows and auction sales held during his lifetime were nothing short of fiascos. And when his companion Annah plundered his Paris apartment, his paintings were the one thing she left behind. Today these same works would be worth more than $40 million.

New record for Darger

Henry J. DARGER’s is one of the great ‘outsider’ artists whose prices are currently soaring. Born in Chicago in 1892, he was sent to live in a children’s home after the death of his mother. He was then institutionalised in a mental asylum in Lincoln, from which he escaped when he was 17 years old. He rented a room in Chicago and worked as a dishwasher and cleaner at hospitals in the city until 1963. Upon his death 10 years later, his landlord discovered a 2,000-page autobiography and a 15,000-page fantasy manuscript entitled In the Realms of the Unreal. This treasure trove also included hundreds of large watercolours depicting the Vivian Girls, his heroines with male genitals. His world is simultaneously naive (Darger traced the doll-like faces of infants from magazines) and terrifying, borrowing from children’s comics and books from the early 20th century. He recounts an obsessive fantasy that is part fairy tale and part a tale of the utmost brutality.

Only 15 of Darger’s drawings have ever been sold at auction. These works were worth less than $10,000 in the late 1980s, but since 2013 they have broken through the $100,000 threshold and their price is continuing to soar, as evidenced by a new record set at Christie’s Paris on 2 December 2014. This new record was posted by one of the artist’s most imposing works, an untitled double-sided composition measuring 3.3 metres in length. This work tripled its estimate to change hands for a hammer price of €500,000 ($623,100 or close to $750,000 including buyer’s premium). Paris has provided the setting for three Darger world records, while his best price in America is a mere $75,000 (for a double-sided drawing entitled « While inside they await developments/They are cleverly outwitted« , sold at Christie’s New York on 27 January 2003).

Beatriz Milhazes in Hong Kong

Beatriz MILHAZES is today’s most popular and expensive Brazilian artist. She is currently working on her first collaboration with White Cube, which will be mounting an exhibition of new collages in Hong Kong between March and May 2015. Much fêted in the West and Latin America, this artist has the advantage of a strong museum presence and is represented by prestigious galleries such as Fortes Vilaça (Sao Paulo), James Cohan (New York), Stephen Friedman (London) and Max Hetzler (Berlin). Beatriz Milhazes is still something of a well-kept secret in Asia, despite her participation in the Shanghai Biennale in 2006. None of her works have yet appeared in an Asian sale room, despite the fact that four have already broken the million-dollar barrier at auctions in London and New York (between 2012 and 2014). But the White Cube exhibition should help to expand her market, as her vibrant, colourful world is bound to win over local collectors.