“art market”

Archaeology and tribal art: transactions under pressure

Stratospheric-level auctions, overheated prices… The market for archaeological and tribal pieces is booming! We retrace the phenomenon of star status for these highly coveted objects. An issue that we examine by seeing what dealers, collectors and members of the scientific community have to say… Ever since the start of the 2000s, the tribal-art market has literally exploded, with its turnover jumping up from €13.7 million in 2001 to €92.1 in 2014. Despite this strong growth, tribal art remains a marginal market, which represents only 0.68 % of the global turnover of art auction sales, in other words, 40 times less than the proportion occupied by modern art, according to a report published by Artkhade, Art Media Agency and Art Analytics in December 2015. Largely in front, Africa and Oceania leave other geographical zones behind in the shadows. Between 2000 and 2014, these two continents represented 64.8 % of lots offered at auctions and 81 % of the sector’s total sales proceeds. Above all, the market’s growth has been accompanied by a multiplication of auctions raising millions of euros in sales rooms. In 2014 alone, fourteen lots went over the million-euro mark, yielding a total of €39 million, in other words 42 % of the yearly turnover of the tribal market at auctions. “The market turned around when the first major public sales were held, first the sale of the Hubert Goldet collection in 2001, then above all the Vérité sale in Paris in 2006 [editorial note: which totalled €44 million at Drouot]. A spectacular sale, on the media and marketing front as well,” explains Didier Claes, African arts specialist. “This was the first time that African objects reached such records, including a Fang mask which went for €5 million. This was an important milestone for the acceptance of this...

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The Old Masters market

Between a reality often distorted by figures, and the legendary discretion of art dealing, it’s difficult to grasp the health of the Old Masters market. While the July sales in London struck it lucky, where does the Old Masters segment really stand? An investigation. The market is a drama… nourished by signs and symbols. Every year, it is played out, once again, according to a perfectly rehearsed staging, by big auction sessions, report publications and grand dinner occasions. According to whether prices are up or down, whether interest rates flash green or red lights, we scream bloody murder or else murmur congratulations at fairs, all the while speculating on art-market bubbles. In the meantime, the media monitors the scene, rushing to spread news on the latest favourites on the stage of this worldly theatre. According to dealer Arnaud De Jonckheere, “these figures conceal the reality”. Figures, in fact, reflect auctions and reports. They are indicators that are necessary for objectivising a market which begs for analysis and commentary. The problem is that these curves are today largely indexed on a few records that bring joy to major auction houses, with an inclination towards sourcing out new works. Meanwhile, reports rely on resources that are necessarily incomplete, often data on the dealing world, dependent on the goodwill of professional syndicates. Hence a bothersome dialectic: figures and reports hide as much as they reveal. The paradox comes to the fore all the more in a world marked by secrecy, as remarks Bertrand Gautier, from gallery Talabardon & Gautier: “We used to be a profession based on a certain notion of secrecy, and we remain discreet people. But in the last ten years, the profession has changed in colossal proportions.” How exactly, we might very well ask. A globally stable market The...

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Christopher “Kip” Forbes

He is vice president of the jewel of the American financial press, a great wine lover (Lafite Rothschild) and an enthusiast of the Second Empire. He is Christopher Forbes, president of the Biennale Paris for this 2017 edition. An “ambassador” of shock aesthetics, a collector and a patron. An encounter. Christopher Forbes, vice president of Forbes Publishing and an extremely well-connected art collector, is a Francophile. And here’s proof: as the new school year starts, he’s ready in place as the new president of Biennale Paris. Christopher “Kip” Forbes is therefore presiding over the destiny of the “Biennale Committee”, which this year comprises Prince Amyn Aga Khan, Max Blumberg, Gary Tinterow and Roxana Velásquez. While Forbes takes care to specify that “the decision to improve and raise the quality standards of Biennale Paris was taken before I joined the committee”, he has also confided to Art Media Agency that “the committee members, who are not affiliated with the Syndicat National des Antiquaires, are either collectors or genuine connoisseurs, or else work closely with those who are”. Before going on to say: “We’ll all try to attract as many people as possible to the fair this year.” At the same time, he remains discreet on how exactly these interpersonal networks operate, how friendships develop on the art market… Regarding the Committee’s vice president, Benjamin Steinitz, a specialist in decorative objects and classical furniture, Christopher Forbes has confessed that he has “long admired and appreciated his presentations at various art and antiquities fairs”, while becoming personally acquainted with him only recently, via the committee. Similarly, he only met the SNA’s new president Mathias Ary Jan for the first time at the launch of the Biennale Committee, at the syndicate’s head office on Boulevard Malesherbes in Paris, on 15 November 2016. So...

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Vetting, an art in itself!

At the Biennale, the Commission d’Admission des Œuvres is the necessary transit point for any object if it is to get into the Grand Palais. This year, vetting is particularly strict. An interview with two men from the art world, Frédéric Castaing and Michel Maket… With the new season starting up placed under the sign of “moralisation”, it was hard for La Biennale Paris to offer anything other than irreproachable vetting. To oversee this “meticulous examination” of works, calling on two co-presidents seemed a good solution: Frédéric Castaing and Michel Maket, the heads, respectively, of the Compagnie Nationale des Experts and the Syndicat Français des Experts Professionnels en Œuvres d’Art et Objets de Collection. To find out more about the new standards of rigour upheld by the Commission for the Admission of Works (the Commission d’Admission des Œuvres or CAO), we talked with the two presidents, both high-flying valuers. How does one distinguish genuines from fakes? What constitutes a “Biennale-quality” object? A dive into the backstage of an art market that is regularly rocked by “cases”…   You’ve arrived at a timely moment when everyone in France is talking about “moralisation”… Michel Maket: Let’s make things clear… We are acting upon a proposition from the Syndicat National des Antiquaires, at the initiative of Mathias Ary Jan, its president, to carry out a co-presidency according to new rules formulated on the operation of the Biennale’s CAO. The principle of independence – which is fundamental in our profession of valuation – is at the heart of the new committee this year. So of course, all this contributes to the moralisation and transparency of the market. Frédéric Castaing: The thing that won my support straight away really was this notion of independence with respect to the management of the Syndicat National des...

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Barbier-Mueller: four generations of collectors

To celebrate the 40th birthday of the Musée Barbier-Mueller, the Biennale Paris is welcoming a selection of 130 works from this Swiss family’s personal collections. An opportunity to retrace a passion and a saga. For the Barbier-Muellers, collecting is part of the family history… It started off with the grandfather, Josef Mueller, then continued with the mother, Monique, the father, Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller, and today the three sons, Gabriel, Stéphane, Thierry, as well as Diane, one of the granddaughters. Four generations of collectors that the Biennale Paris has chosen to honour through a selection of works from their collection, some of which have never been unveiled to the public. “The idea was to set up a dialogue between major pieces from four generations of collectors with very different tastes by recreating the atmosphere of Josef Mueller’s apartment, where modern paintings stood alongside primitive-art objects,” is the way that Laurence Mattet, director of the Musée Barbier-Mueller in Geneva, puts it. Sculptures and contemporary paintings thus brush shoulders with Japanese weaponry and art objects from Africa, Oceania and Antiquity. This year’s event is also an opportunity to pay homage to Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller, who passed away last December at the age of 86 years, and whose name is associated with the largest private collection of primitive art – a collection which comprises 7000 objects, masks, ceramics, textiles, weapons, chairs… all originating from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania, as well as tribal and classical Antiquity pieces. The Barbier-Mueller collection took off in Switzerland a little over 110 years ago. First of all, via Josef Mueller, the son of a bourgeois family from Soleure, who became an orphan at the age of six years. Josef fell “in love” with a portrait of a woman from Picasso’s Pink Period, which he saw on...

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