Flash news: The Sphinx of Delft at the Louvre – Photographs. The Claude Berri Collection – Art and climate in the spotlight in Marrakesh


The Sphinx of Delft arrives at the Louvre

One of the masterpieces in the Louvre Museum is a Dutch painting,The Lacemaker by Jan VERMEER VAN DELFT (1632-1675), which Renoir considered as the most beautiful painting in the world along with thePilgrimage to the Island of Cythera by Watteau. Another Vermeer, among his most famous, is in the permanent collections of the Louvre: The Astronomer, depicting a scientist with his hand resting on a celestial globe, softly lit with light from his window. The enigmatic Sphinx of Delft, the nickname given to him by Théophile Thoré-Bürger, who rediscovered the artist in the 19th century, is as famous as he was private, his paintings as precious as they are rare. The artist added a smooth soft light to his intimate scenes, working quietly, at a slow pace, producing no more than three paintings a year. His production was, therefore, limited, no more than fifty paintings in his 20-year career. It is rare to see several masterpieces at the same time in France… The exhibition dedicated to him at the Louvre from 22 February to 22 May 2017, is, therefore, an event not to be missed. Organised in partnership with the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, it brings together the great masterpieces of Vermeer and his contemporaries, other masters of genre painting in the Golden Age: Gerard Dou, Gerard ter Borch, Jan Steen, Pieter de Hooch, Gabriel Metsu, Caspar Netscher and Frans van Mieris.

Vermeer is even more rare on the art market than in museums. This obviously affects his value, one of the highest among Old Masters. On 7 July 2004, at Sotheby’s in London, a small painting of 25 centimetres high, entitled Young Woman seated at the Virginals, reached $30m, against an initial estimate of $5m. Estimates no longer mean much for such small historical gems, especially when the artist has been absent from the market for more than 80 years… This was the case for the sale of Young Woman seated at the Virginals. Two years ago, Christie’s succeeded in selling an old canvas, Saint Praxedis (1655), which was authenticated after years of research and debate. Its style, far removed from that of Vermeer’s later works, made it much less expensive: $10.7m despite being four times larger than the work sold in 2004.

Photographs – The Claude Berri Collection

Outside Paris Photo, which took place at the Grand Palais in mid-November, Christie’s sold more works from the Claude Berri collection, one of the most well-known French collectors. The sale, which took place on 12 November, testified to a less known aspect of his collection: his interest in photography from the 1990s. Part of this superb collection was shown 13 years ago at the Rencontres de la photographie in Arles (Icons. Photographs from the Claude Berri Collection, 2003), which already revealed a keen interest in Avant-Garde and Surrealist photography. The auction at Christie’s also showed his interest in some major contemporary artists. The sale on 12 November included six prints by Brassai, five by Sugimoto, four by Nan Goldin, three by Louise Lawler, Charles Nègre, and Thomas Ruff, two by Molinier, as well as works by Alexander Rodchenko, Raoul Ubac, Roni Horn, John Coplans, Eugène Atget… The sale of the 45 lots (out of around 60) fetched €820,750. The stand-out work of this sale was lot 43, an Ektachrome by the American photographer Jeff WALL (1946), entitled Rear view, open air theater, Vancouver, a work measuring nearly three metres and inspired by Paul Cézanne’s painting , The Bridge at Maincy (1879), sold for €290,500 or $317,000. This photograph by Wall was available at auction for the first time. The three prints by Louise LAWLER rank among the top 10 auction results, with sales ranging from €20,000 to €74,500 ($22,000 to $81,000). And as the best of photography offers a wide range of works accessible for less than €3,000, some collectors were able to buy prints by Charles Nègre, Aaron Siskind, Yann Charbonnier and Jan Groover for between €1,200 and €3,000. All these prints are all the more interesting and touching due to their provenance.

Art and climate in the spotlight in Marrakesh

During the November climate conference in Marrakesh, the Al Maaden Museum of Contemporary African Art (MACAAL), Morocco’s first museum dedicated to the art of the continent, has unveiled its first exhibition: Essentiel Paysage, bringing together 80 works by 40 African artists based on five subjects (Nature recounted, The Tree of Life, Man and the Sea, Recycling / Resisting and Nature in the future). On the subject of current debates on climate change, this first exhibition showed the strong commitment of its organiser, the Alliances Foundation, which aims to promote the art of the continent in all its diversity, while raising awareness through creativity. The founders of Alliances, Farida and Alami Lazraq, are committed patrons and collectors, whose collection includes more than 2,000 works, which they want to share with the public. Part of this collection is shown in the Essentiel Paysage exhibition, which runs until March 2017. Farida and Alami Lazraq drew on their exceptional collection with the help of Brahim Alaoui, curator of the exhibition, to show the public works by Leila Alaoui, Farid Belkahia, Amani Bodo, Chéri Chérin, Mohamed El Baz, Mounir Fatmi, Romuald Hazoumé, Yazid Oulab, Chéri Samba, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Barthélémy Toguo and Billie Zangewa. This exhibition is strong evidence that Marrakesh, through its Biennial (6th edition in 2016) and with the future Al Maaden Sculpture Park dedicated to monumental sculpture, is becoming an increasingly popular cultural destination.