Flash News: Anselm Kiefer – Alberto Burri – Alex Katz – Guggenheim – New York – Bilbao



Every fortnight, Artprice provides a short round up of art market news: The library according to Anselm Kiefer. Alberto Burri, at Guggenheim in New York. Alex Katz, at the Guggenheim in Bilbao.

The library according to Anselm Kiefer
This German artist should have been a writer. He’s never stopped recording his notes and reflections in diaries. “In my work, the book is very important”, he confides. “Its aesthetic aspect, its material aspect, interest me very much. Some are true sculptures, larger than human size, open but impossible to leaf through” (interview with Pierre Assouline, Anselm KIEFER, Sternenfall, Editions du Regard). Writing and books are one of the bedrocks of the work, and the artist has been transforming books into sculptures since the mid-1960s, integrating sand, ash, clay, straw, photography, and lead. His current exhibit at the BnF François-Mitterrand in Paris – Kiefer, l’alchimie du livre (Kiefer, Book Alchemy), through 7 February 2016 – features work dealing with books that represents 60% of his work. Kiefer is launching himself into stage design, unveiling a hundred or so books created since 1968.
The exhibit is designed to be an intimate space, with a singular sensation of meandering in an artist’s workshop and stumbling upon his personal library, set up in the two first adjoining rooms. It is a kind of laboratory exhibit, while his huge retrospective is being prepared at Centre Pompidou (from 16 December 2015–18 April 2016). This exhibit will explore the monument aspect of the artist, who was, as you will recall, invited to create an installation at the Grand Palais in 2007 as part of Monumenta. At that time, in 2007, one of the canvases loaded with materials – Lasst Tausend blumen blühen! – measuring nearly three metres across, was bought for USD 3.5m during a vacation at Christie’s London. A record that has yet to be broken.

Alberto Burri, at Guggenheim in New York
A major figure in 20th century art history, Alberto BURRI already exhibited at the Guggenheim museum in New York in 1953, as part of a group show where he was the only Italian artist (Younger European Painters, organized by James-Johnson Sweeney). This time, the prestigious museum is dedicating a huge retrospective to him titled, The Trauma of painting, through 6 January 2016. This major homage spans nearly 40 years of creation and covers all the artist’s major series: from Sacchi (bags) consisting of shredded burlap bags, the remains of which are sewn and patched, Catrami (tar), Muffe (molds), Gobbi (hunchbacks), Bianchi (whites), Legni (woods), Ferri (irons), et Combustioni (plastic combustions).
Former physician disturbed by the experience of World War II (he was taken prisoner by the British in 1941, then transferred to an American camp in Texas), Burri plunged headlong into art upon his return to Italy in 1946.

After a few years of trial and error, he co-founded the group Origine in 1951, rejecting the decorative effects of abstract art. The following year he took part in the 26th Venice Biennale, and Lucio Fontana bought one of his works. It was the start of an international career… In the 1950s he revealed his assembly art, with convoluted, piddling objects in a sensitive style summoning Arte Povera, and “unpainted paintings” created by tearing up, sewing, welding, melting and using combustion.
Alongside Lucio Fontana and Lucio FONTANA, Enrico CASTELLANI is part of an Italian triumvirat for which the market is becoming increasingly frenzied. The price index shows an increase of +305% since the year 2000 and three pieces sold for more than USD 5m (including fees) in auction houses since February 2014. Prices have been exploding for their work created more than 50 years ago, because the buyers are aware of the next market contraction. They must by now, since acquiring an Italian work created more than 50 years ago or 50 years after the death of its creator, is subject to Italian legislation (the Law of 1939) requiring an export license obtained from the government.

Alex Katz, at the Guggenheim in Bilbao
The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, in Spain, has opened its exhibit featuring the work of Alex KATZ, running through 7 February 2016. The museum selected 35 landscapes, a little-known aspect of the American painter famous for his portraits, which positioned him in the Pop Art movement. Katz’s work emerged in the 1950s, when Abstract Expressionism dominated the American art scene. His figurative works offer a radical alternative to the art trends of the period and herald Pop Art, as Katz chooses the realism of the portrait, based on colourful masses. His smooth canvases question the nature of representation, in the perception of images through the bias of the portrait, as Andy Warhol did in diverting the screen printing principle. A major artist in the American scene in the 20th century, he is more discrete than the popes of Pop Art (Warhol, Wesselman, Rauschenberg); however, the auction market firmly supports him, with a price index up 800% since 2000. If this increase seems phenomenal, it actually only illustrates a price readjustment concerning the best of the oldest works, knowing that Katz’s small canvases were bought for USD 10,000–20 000 on average in 2000. Today, that is the price for a beautiful screen printing, but small original works from the 1980s can still be bought in this price range, like Red Nude sold for USD 23,000, including fees, on 17 October 2015 at Christie’s London.