Flash News: the year of Robert Gober – Hokusai in Paris – Rembrandt in London



Every fortnight, Artprice provides a short round up of art market news: the year of Robert Gober – Hokusai in Paris – Rembrandt in London

The year of Robert Gober

Robert GOBER, the subject of a retrospective at the MoMA from 4 October to 18 January 2015 has made himself at home among the contemporary art sales elite this year with a record of $3.6 million: his third bid of over 1 million since 2008. This recent record – $4.1 million including the buyer’s premium (13 May 2014 at Christie’s New York) – went to a work entitled The Silent Sink. It consists of a mute receptacle where nothing runs in or out, and which contains nothing: a hygienic object washed clean of its own function. While Robert Gorber has been recycling childhood memories and exploring everyday objects for the last 30 years, he imbues these objects – even the most minimalist – with a muted violence that often reflects Western society’s deference to Puritanism and hygienism. Trivial objects are all subjects for metaphor, and his recurring themes reverberate like tormented poetry. His signature fragmented feet and white sculpted sinks have seen their price indexes double since 2000. The same goes for his drawings, now difficult to obtain for less than $20,000, when a pencil work could be landed for $5,000 twenty years ago.

Hokusai in Paris

Katsushika HOKUSAI (1760-1849) is featured in an exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris from 10 October 2014 to 18 January 2015. This is his first major retrospective outside Japan, with 500 pieces chosen from one of the most prolific bodies of work ever: Hokusai produced some 30,000 drawings during a career lasting 70 years. The Grand Palais exhibition features not only the artist’s most iconic images, such as The Great Wave at Kanagawa, Fine Wind, Clear Morning and Rainstorm Beneath the Summit, but also his codified prints inherited from Edo (including shunga, or erotic images). Hokusai has been the most popular Japanese artist in Europe since the 19th century. At the time, the first prints were exhibited in Paris by a circle of Japanese art lovers, including the Goncourt brothers and Charles Baudelaire. He soon won over the artists of the avant-garde, particularly the Symbolists and Post-Impressionists. 19th-century collectors of Japanese artefacts disseminated his works, and many collections were assembled. As a result, the artist now has a particularly dynamic market in France, which accounts for 37% of his turnover.
Over the past few months, the prospect of this exhibition at the Grand Palais has caused much excitement in the French market, where his sales have raised some $304,000 in Paris since the beginning of 2014, including a wood block of the famous Great Wave (Fugaku sanjurokkei). This easily exceeded its estimate range of €30,000-€40,000 with a final result of €110,000, or nearly $150,000 (Rouillac auctioneers, 13 June 2014). This is a new record in France for a single print by Hokusai.

Rembrandt in London

The National Gallery has 20 paintings by REMBRANDT VAN RIJN in its permanent collections. The London museum is now dedicating an exhibition to the late works of this iconic artist of the Dutch Golden Age (Rembrandt-The Late works, National Gallery of London, 15 October 2014 to 18 January 2015). It will feature 40 paintings, 20 drawings and 30 engravings produced between 1650 and 1669, and includes many valuable loans from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the British Museum in London and the Mauritshuis in The Hague.
This twilight period in his work is marked by numerous self-portraits. Rembrandt produced 400 paintings, 300 etchings and 300 drawings, and used himself as a model around 100 times throughout his career. In the self-portraits selected by the National Gallery, we see a penniless Rembrandt stricken by the death of his wife Saskia and three of their children. In this respect, Self-portrait at the Age of 63 is a telling example. Painted not long before his death in 1669, it portrays an uncompromising picture of a man who is ageing but still possessed of extraordinary energy and incomparable boldness in his treatment of light and shade. Such masterpieces only appear on rare occasions at auction.
The last self-portrait that came up was one of the young artist at 28. It sold for the equivalent of $10.1 million in June 2003 (Self-Portrait with shaded Eyes; over $11 million including the buyer’s premium, Sotheby’s London). These self-portraits are most often available as etchings, with an average price range of $2,000 to $15,000, depending on the quality of the engraving – but a few prints go well over the $100,000 mark. For those hoping to acquire a work, London is the best marketplace (56% of the artist’s revenues are achieved there). And this is where a record bid of £18 million ($29.5 million) was posted for a portrait of a man painted in 1658 (Portrait of a man with arms akimbo: a fee equivalent to $33.1 million including buyer’s premium, Christie’s London, 8 December 2009).