Flash News: El Anatsui – Miquel Barcelo – Fabio Mauri



Every fortnight, Artprice provides a short round up of art market news: El Anatsui, Golden Lion award at Venice Biennale – Barcelo exhibiting at Taddhaus Ropac –

El Anatsui, Golden Lion award at Venice Biennale

Ghanian artist El ANATSUI, born in 1944, just received the Golden Lion award at the 56th Venice Art Biennale. The prize honours his entire career, sixteen years making majestic sculptures which have toured the world several times. The artist still lives in Nigeria but his work has travelled all over Europe, the United States and Asia. Works evoking multi-coloured tapestries, made of thousands of metal caps, patiently flattened and then knit together. An art from recycling and deflection of objects from African culture, combined with an alchemical sensitivity of base metal transformed into gold. Already chosen to represent Africa at the 1990 Venice Biennale, El Anatsui created a sensation during the 2007 edition with a masterful work adorning the facade of Palazzo Fortuny in the heart of the city of Doges and two monumental works at the Arsenal. Since then, art dealers and collectors have pounced on his work, his popularity climbing swiftly in 2008 with a first hammer price of USD 500,000 (Healer, sold for USD 500,250 or more than USD 602,000 including fees, Sotheby’s London, 10 October 2008).
The prices blithely multiplied by tenfold in 10 years and half of his market is now found in world leader New York. The artist made his first million-dollar auction sale in 2014, with a sculpture resembling a shimmering tapestry that sold for USD 1.2 m (Paths to the Okro Farm, Sotheby’s New York). This piece measuring more than three metres wide is far from being his most monumental creation. Because El Anatsui no longer works alone. He is surrounded by some forty assistants, fortuitous help for completing his often immense works. His largest creation, installed on the facade of the London Royal Academy in 2013, measures less than sixteen metres high and fifty metres wide. Another event not far from Italy: the artist is exhibiting in France, at the Chaumont-sur-Loire castle until November 2015, along with Brazilian artist TUNGA and Mexican artist Gabriel OROZCO.

Barcelo exhibiting at Taddhaeus Ropac

The Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery in Paris has just opened an exhibit featuring the celebrated Spanish artist Miquel BARCELO (through May 31, 2015). L’Inassèchement, as it is named, to express the relationship between the artist’s immersion in his work and the independent transformations of his work as it dries. As soon as the artist puts his tools down, the work proceeds to make subtle, final changes, as the titles of the 17 works suggest: La Dynamique de l’Inassèchement, Brisements, Manifesto Haptique. International recognition came early for Barcelo, at the start of the 80s: invited to the Documenta VII in Cassel in 1982, he became friends with Jean-Michel Basquiat and exhibited four years later at the gallery of his New York art dealer, one of the biggest markets of the period, Leo Castelli. Since then, Barcelo has been established as one of the biggest names in contemporary art, with a neo-expressionist sensibility.

Institutional recognition took 10 more years. In 1996, the Musée national d’art moderne (National Art Museum) and Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume (Jeu de Paume National Gallery) in Paris simultaneously held an exhibition titled Impressions d’Afrique (Impressions d’Afrique), which went on to the Ivory Coast and Mali five months later. At the time, several of his works had already passed the threshold of USD 100,000 at auction. It is only the beginning of a rise which is establishing him as the most popular Spanish artist of his generation. Today, his work has earned 11 million-dollar auction sales, including a peak price equal to USD 5.5m, achieved in 2011 in London with Faena de muleta, a huge matter canvas large enough to fill an arena (sold for the equivalent of USD 6.3m at Christie’s on 28 June 2011). The artist, who divides his time between Mallorca, Paris and Mali, makes up part of the most prestigious public and private collections in the world.

Fabio Mauri and Venice

The 56th Venice Biennale (from 9 May to 22 November 2015) exhibits, one pavilion at a time, emerging artists who are still unknown in the international scene and others already known. The most recognized artists are Chiharu SHIOTA (Japanese pavilion) and Sarah LUCAS (United Kingdom), while those still to be discovered include Joan JONAS (United States), Fiona HALL (Australia), Joao LOURO (Portugal) and Céleste BOURSIER-MOUGENOT (France) among others.
Artists exhibited are generally still active and the Biennale is a good springboard for earning international notoriety. However, for the second consecutive time, the Biennale is exhibiting Fabio MAURI, artist who was born in 1926 and died in 2009. Fabio Mauri already exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1974 but the path to international recognition was longer for him than for many others. The Biennale commissioner, Okwui Enwezor, insisted on including the work entered by Mauri, still a little-known artist, yet integrated into collections at Centre Pompidou in Paris and represented by the Swiss gallery Hauser & Wirth. This slow work of recognition could be, according to defenders of Mauri’s work, in the process of bearing fruit and could ultimately have significant impact in terms of pricing. Time will tell. For now, most of his work has changed hands for less than USD 10,000 at auction.