Art market news in brief…



Every fortnight, Artprice provides a short round up of art market news. This week: Wim Delvoye invests the Louvre – Victor Hugo’s relics elicit enthusiastic bidding – Urs Fischer’s bold sculptures at the Paris Gagosian – Design prices take a dive – and a presentation of the Contemporary Art Triennial which opens in a few days at the re-furbished and expanded Palais de Tokyo in Paris.

Wim Delvoye at the Louvre…

In October 2011, the Flemish artist Wim DELVOYE (born. 1965) scored a personal auction record £190,000 for construction equipment in metallic lace (almost $300,000), for his Flatbed Trailer Scale Model and Caterpillar 5C Scale Model at Sotheby’s in London. With a total of 5 results above the $100,000 line in 2011, the provocative artist’s prices are rising rapidly and the ascension has been given additional fuel by the prestige of his current exhibitions including his latest at the Louvre! For this exhibition he has designed a 13-metre tall column in steel twisted for the museum’s pavilion entitled Suppo that will occupy the key space until 3 December 2012.
The Louvre will also host some fifteen works in stained glass, porcelain and bronze that will interact cheekily with the museum’s existing art collections (31 May – 17 September 2012).
His gallery of works announces a jubilatory cabinet of curiosities, with perhaps a few tattooed pig skins. It is these living tattooed piggy banks that most contributed to the artist’s notoriety. In the late 90s, a stuffed tattooed pig fetched less than $12,000 (£6,500) at Christie’s in London on 22 April 1998). Today you would expect to pay between $50,000 and $150,000 on average, depending on quality of design, to acquire a work of 100% pure pork.

Victor Hugo’s relics elicit enthusiastic bidding…

On 28 March 2012, Artcurial presented several drawings by the French artist Victor Marie HUGO, better known for his literature and poetry. Eight of the nine drawings and watercolors sold for nearly $670,000. Two thirds of this result was generated by Souvenir de Belgique (1858), a work in Chinese ink, watercolor and gouache that almost doubled the artist’s previous record when it was acquired for roughly $482,000. In 2002, the auctioneer Fraysse (Paris) sold Hugo’s Burg sans nom Neckarsteinach (1857) for $235,000.
Over the last twenty years, more than a hundred works by the artist have been presented at auctions in France, the UK and the United States. Indeed, Christie’s New York has managed to generate some impressive results from his works: Ruins in an Imaginary Landscape (brown ink on paper) was acquired for $80,000 on 22 January 2004, while Castle in a fantastic landscape (gouache, ink and gold paint on paper) fetched approximately $63,000 on 22 May 1990.
However, last Wednesday (4 April 2012 – Victor Hugo’s 210th birthday), Christie’s in Paris devoted an entire sale to the life and works of Victor Hugo and his descendants. Entitled Collection Hugo, Victor, George, John and the others, the sale presented 415 objects including books, furniture, photographs, paintings and correspondence. With an unsold rate of less than 21%, the Fine Art lots (248 in total) alone generated over €1.4m, exceeding the auctioneer’s expectations.

Urs Fischer at the gallery Gagosian Paris…

In May 2011, the artist Urs FISCHER signed an auction record of $6 million for his monumental Lamp Bear, becoming the world’s most expensive artist under the age of 40. A few months later he was again (after 2003 and 2007) exhibited at the Venice Biennale. As of this week, his work has been on show at the Paris Gagosian gallery which is hosting a selection of his sculptures until the end of May. The artist’s meteoric rise reflects his astonishing ability to confound the established rules of sculpture. At the Gagosian his audacious work takes the form of a frail bicycle cut in half swaying between its two extremities. There is also a field of human size nails, and real fruit simulating an eclipse or a solar system relentlessly marching towards its inevitable deliquescence.
Offered at auction since 2007 (Sigh, Sigh, Sherlock! fetched $10,000 at Phillips de Pury in New York), Urs Fischer was into six figures by his third auction appearance when his Cork fetched $112,699 on 17 March 2009 at Christie’s in Paris. Thereafter his prices accelerated and on 9 November of the following year (2010) his Untitled (Candle) fetched $900,000 at Sotheby’s in New York, the second best result for a artist under 40 in 2010. However, in 2011 his auction prices literally rocketed with only one lot unsold (out of 14 presented) and average prices over the year ranging from $442,250 for a painting to $1,255,655 for a sculpture and collectors literally queuing up to acquire his works. In 2011, Urs Fischer became the youngest artist to generate a result above $3m when his Lamp/Bear sold at Christie’s New York for $6m (he was 38 at the time). At the same age, Jeff KOONS had not sold one work over $200,000 and Damien HIRST had just got into seven-figures (Something Solid beneath the Surface of all Creatures Great and Small fetched USD 1.05 million in 2003).

Design in decline?

While the high end of the Contemporary art market is doing well, the Design market’s high end seems to be suffering a contraction in prices or, at least, temporary buyer disinterest. Sotheby’s realized this in March after focusing its 20th Century Design sale on a number of key pieces with fairly inflated estimates. Among the most dearly estimated pieces there was Gaetano PESCE’s Monumental Moloch lamp and a bookshelf by Charlotte PERRIAND. Estimated at between $80,000 and $120,000, both pieces remained unsold. In 2007, the peak year for Contemporary design, Gaetano Pesce’s Monumental Moloch fetched $150,000 at Sotheby’s (16 November, New York).
If the market has slowed in the U.S., it is a bit livelier in France: the auctioneers Leclere (Marseilles) and Tajan (Paris) have managed to sell pieces by Ron ARAD at reasonable prices since the beginning of 2012. As for Marc NEWSON’s market (another darling of Contemporary design who signed 3 seven-figure auction results between 2007 and 2010), it has been scant in major works (only the Black Hole table reached its low estimate of £40,000 [$63,000] on 29 March 2012 at Bonhams in London). Hopefully the May sales will provide a boost to the Design market!

The Contemporary Art Triennial invests the new Palais de Tokyo from April 20 to August 16.

After 11 months of work, the Palais de Tokyo will re-open on 20 April 2012 with a new mandate. Expanded by almost 14,000m², the objective of its director, Jean de Loisy, is to make it a vital space in constant mutation. So it is not surprising that this new forum for artistic exchange – open to new experiences – has chosen the Contemporary Art Triennial for its inauguration.
Formerly known as The Force of Art and previously presented in the Grand Palais, the Contemporary Art Triennial will have a completely new look this year. Designed by an international group of five curators headed by the Nigerian art critic Okwui Enwezor, the exhibition project draws on anthropology (Marcel Griaule, Claude Levi-Strauss …), film directors (Rainer Werne Fassbinder, Ahmed Bouanani, Timothy Asch …) and writers (André Gide, Ariella Azoulay…). A hundred or so artists have participated in the project including Carol Rama, Daniel Buren, Sarkis, Thomas Struth, Jean-Luc Moulène, Isaac Julien, Abel Abdessemed, Toguo and François Vergès. Under the conceptual title of Intense Proximity, the event opens its field of exploration, focusing on relations between French art and other international art centres.
In addition to investing the brand new areas of the Palais de Tokyo, this third edition of the Triennial will broaden its ambitions by investing seven other locations in Paris and its suburbs. This change of location and organization, coupled with the declared ambition to encourage the interaction between art and society, represents a major step forward for the Contemporary Art Triennial.