“auction house”

Memorabilia, the great revival?

For several years now, auction sales related to pop culture have flourished. From French music to video games via the Star Wars saga, auction houses have been exploring new segments. A panorama of these wide-appeal niches. Mylène Farmer’s military jacket, Maurice Chevalier’s boater, a childhood videogame or the robot R2-D2, the pipe smoked by singer Georges Brassens… The list of fetish objects from what is known as “pop culture” is long… and sells well! Once reserved to an obscure minority of underground collectors, for several years in France now, the purchase of memorabilia from childhood, the stars of music, film or television, has been transposed to auctions. So is this an auction-house strategy to reconquer market shares? Or is there a genuine demand for these objects? In any case, this new category of memorabilia is gaining more and more fans. Of course, it’s not new for these astonishing relics to exercise a power of fascination. In the 1970s, MGM studios would auction off objects from every category in their possession, including over 350,000 costumes. “Marilyn Monroe dresses and Elvis clothing articles were sold for around $1,000,” explained, in 2011, Darren Julien, founder of the auction house Julien’s Auctions, to Alex Ritman from the website theNational.ae. Around a decade later, in about 1980, Drouot in France began holding auction sales of the personal belongings of Claude François or Édith Piaf. But what is surprising these days is the sudden recurrence, ever since the start of the 2010s, of sales focusing on popular culture: French music, videogames, Star Wars… Is this the emergence of a new market? Culture geek icons In Paris, the auction house Millon & Associés has set up a specific department for pop culture, directed by Alexis Jacquemard. “It was a matter of opening up to a new...

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Data: Rauschenberg, auctions lagging behind?

Robert Rauschenberg, the rebel; Robert Rauschenberg, the die-hard experimenter. This man who worked in “the gap between art and life” and who contributed to the emergence of the concept of the “visual artist”, would leave his mark on the history of art in the second half of the 20th century. But has the market followed him? Robert Milton Ernest Rauschenberg was born on 22 October 1925 in Port Arthur, in Texas oil country. His parents, fervent Protestants, had limited means. He had a German physician grandfather who fell in love with a Cherokee Indian. At the age of sixteen, young Rauschenberg started studying pharmacy at the University of Texas in Austin. In 1943, he signed up with the US army and joined the Navy Hospital Corps in San Diego, California. Upon his discharge in 1945, he enrolled at the Kansas City Art Institute before setting off for the Académie Julian in Paris. This is where he met Susan Weil, with whom he would have a son. Rauschenberg continued his studies at Black Mountain College (North Carolina), where he met Josef Albers. A stint at New York and the Art Students League, alongside Morris Kantor and Vaclav Vytlacil, gave him the opportunity to meet Knox Martin and Cy Twombly. 1952 marked a turning point in his career. While he was still a student at Black Mountain College, he took part, with John Cage, Merce Cunningham, pianist David Tudor and Jay Watt, in the Untitled Event, also known as Theatre Piece N°.1, often referred to as the first happening by historians. In the same year, he travelled across Europe and North Africa with his lover Cy Twombly. At the start of the 1950s when the United States was under the thrall of abstract expressionism, Robert Rauschenberg had already started to incorporate...

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Data: Robert Mapplethorpe, a stabilising market

The market of this “sculptor-painter”, whose auction prices are still affordable, is currently stabilising, even if great disparities exist. A market that still tends to be dominated by the United States… Robert Mapplethorpe was born on 4 November 1946 in New York State, into an English-Irish Catholic family. He was the third of six children. He spent his childhood in Floral Park, Queens (New York) where he attended Our Lady of the Snows. “I was a Catholic boy, I went to church every Sunday. A church has a certain magic and mystery for a child. It still shows in how I arrange things” (Deborah A. Levinson, Robert Mapplethorpe’s Extraordinary Vision). In 1963, Robert Mapplethorpe enrolled in Pratt Institute, Brooklyn. First — and primarily to please his father — he studied graphic arts. Bad choice. He dropped out two years later and it was then that he turned his attention the visual arts — drawing, painting, sculpture. He began making surrealist collages, in tandem with his discovery of cannabis and LSD. He met Patti Smith, and they became friends — following a short tryst. At this time, Robert Mapplethorpe was largely marked by Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Cornell: he continued to practise collage, but also made boxes, installations and altar pieces, influenced by his Catholic childhood but also by black magic. At the end of the 1960s, Robert Mapplethorpe became fascinated by the New York avant-garde. He namely frequented the clubs near Union Square, such as Max’s Kansas City or CBGB, where Factory members tended to congregate: Andy Warhol himself, but also Gerard Malanga and Candy Darling. According to Patti Smith, it was only at the start of the 1970s that Robert Mapplethorpe started photography. His interest in the medium is inseparable from his visits to the Metropolitan Museum (New York), when John...

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Data: Paul Gauguin, not exotic to the auction market

He was one of the painters who heralded modernity. Some of his masterpieces are currently on display at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, in Paris. Spotlight on Gauguin, equally appreciated by the art market as by museum institutions. Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin was born on 7 June 1848, in Paris. His father, Clovis Louis Pierre Guillaume Gauguin, was a Republican journalist for the National, who would die three years later off Punta Arenas when the family planned to move to Peru to flee Napoléon III’s regime. Young Paul Gauguin and his mother Aline Chazal (1825-1867) would return to France in 1855. Paul Gauguin kept a taste for travel from his early years. He signed up with the French Navy in 1865, to serve on the clipper Luzitano, but following the advice of his tutor Gustave Arosa — a painting collector —, he left it in 1871 to become a stock-exchange agent — not without first taking part in the 1870 war. Notching up a certain success in business, he wed Danish woman Mette-Sophie Gad (1850-1920) with whom he had five children, and became a weekend painter… In 1874, Gustave Arosa introduced him to Impressionists, starting with Camille Pissarro. Gauguin started to show his works regularly at Impressionist fairs and at that time painted in Pontoise, where he invited Jean-Baptiste Armand Guillaumin and Paul Cézanne to join him. The latter helped to detach Paul Gauguin from Impressionism. In 1883, economic crisis drove Gauguin away from the stock market, and he tried to earn his living from painting. The next year, he spent ten months in Rouen with Camille Pissarro, and painted some forty works over this period. When he began to run short of money, he tried to enter into business in Denmark with his in-laws. But things didn’t work out: Gauguin...

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Data: Jackson Pollock, auction star

We look at “Jack The Dripper”, one of the best-rated painters on the auction scene. New proof of the dominance of American artists on the art market. Shows and hammer blows! Jackson Pollock was born on 28 January 1912 in Cody (Wyoming), the youngest of five siblings. He was affected by the immense landscapes of the American West where Amerindian culture is still visible — he would take part in rituals from a distance in the 1920s. Between 1912 and 1928, the Pollocks moved eight times. The family had trouble making ends meet and alcoholism took a toll. Jackson Pollock didn’t have much success at school either. He didn’t finish secondary school, and was expelled from Manual Arts High School for criticising the teaching methods. Open to Marxist ideas, he appreciated mural art and along with his brothers, discovered the frescoes of José Clemente Orozco at Pomona College (California) in 1930. He enrolled at the Art Students League of New York, where he followed Thomas Hart Benton’s class and met Orozco. During the crisis, Roosevelt’s New Deal instigated the Federal Art Project to offer financial support to artists. As part of this programme, orders for his frescoes multiplied, but Pollock was excluded from the Project because of absenteeism. At the end of 1937, Jackson Pollock went into rehab and started therapy — the first in a long series — before being rehired for the Project until 1942 in its “easel-painting” section. A delicious touch of irony for the man who, as of 1947, would lay canvases on the ground to perfect his famous dripping technique. Jackson Pollock was passionate about Amerindian art, the sand paintings of the Navajos, the Kachinas, the Hopis, and so on. He had the opportunity to fine-tune his knowledge at the “Indian Art of the...

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