Flash News



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

Ron Mueck in Paris

From 16 April to 29 September 2013, Australian sculptor Ron MUECK is the guest artist of the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art. Born in Melbourne in 1958, Ron Mueck works in the UK, and his hyper-realistic works always cause a sensation. The human bodies he produces, with their almost frightening attention to detail, arouse a sense of disquieting strangeness through the changes of scale he applies to his subjects. Discovered in the Nineties by the top art dealer and collector Charles Saatchi, his works are now famous around the world. His success gained considerable momentum with the exhibition at the 2001 Venice Biennial of its « Boy », literally larger than life at 5 metres high.
Ten years after Venice, Mueck obtained his first bid of over a million at auction, becoming the first contemporary Australian artist to achieve such a high hammer price (28 June 2011, Big Baby sold for $1,117, 200 at Christie’s London). His works are all too rare in the sale room – only twelve went for sale between 1998 and 2012 – so you need to keep your eyes peeled, as some works are still affordable at less than $50,000, as long as you don’t blink.

Christie’s and Sotheby’s ventures in continental China

Christie’s is setting up in Shanghai, and could be bringing down the hammer there as of the autumn of 2013. The auction house founded in London in 1766 has had to be extremely patient, given that it opened its Shanghai branch in 1994… In complete contrast with Sotheby’s when it set up in Beijing in 2012, Christie’s is going it alone here.
The market has thus recently begun opening up in continental China, despite laws that remain protectionist with regard to foreign companies, and extremely high taxes. In 2012, the Cultural Free Trade Zone enabled Sotheby’s to enter the Chinese market. The auction house then signed a joint venture agreement with the Beijing Gehua Cultural Development Group in September 2012, and founded Sotheby’s (Beijing) Auction Co. Ltd. On 27 September 2012, Sotheby’s finally staged its first sale in Beijing after trying in vain for 17 years.
China is a tough market (53.9 % of lots unsold during 2012, and major problems with non-payments), but one that is crucial to these mammoths in the art market.

Photography and re-prints: the Eggleston case

In April 2012, the collector Jonathan Sobel took the photographer William EGGLESTON to court, after the latter had put on sale digital enlargements of some of his previous works, mainly from the Mississippi Delta series. Jonathan Sobel, who owns 190 of the photographer’s prints, feared that the trend of making new from old would have a detrimental effect on the rating of the original works, because in photography, as with any work produced in a limited edition, scarcity is both a point of reference for collectors and a major criterion in terms of value.However, it seems that the media coverage of this case did wonders for Eggleston’s rating, because on 5 April 2013, Christie’s sold a famous print from the Memphis series (a picture taken in 1971, printed in an edition of 10 in 1999 using the dye-transfer technique) for $230,000, i.e. double its estimate and nearly double its hammer price in 2008 (when it sold for $120,000 on 13 October 2008, at Christie’s, New York).The judge ruled in favour of William Eggleston on 28 March this year, considering that the new prints were « markedly different », as they involved a technique and dimensions far removed from those of the first edition. The artist had indeed produced more spectacular formats (112 cm x 152 cm) in an extremely limited edition: only two copies. The sale of these new prints in March 2012 generated some impressive results, with a top price of $480,000 (Untitled (1970)) compared with a low estimate of $200,000. This sale also garnered the five highest bids in the artist’s career for a single print. The verdict of the auction house was clear: his value was definitely not undermined – quite the opposite!