“auction”

Data: Christopher Wool

Christopher Wool is what one might call a phenomenon; he produces little work, rarely expresses himself and his work began to change hands for tens of millions of dollars at a relatively early stage in his career. We take a look at his 350 million dollar portfolio. Graffiti on a white van; legend has it that Christopher Wool’s famous word paintings were inspired by graffiti on a white van, with the simple words ‘sex luv’. In 2012, 20 years after its creation, Phillips sold the mother of all wall paintings for a hammer price of 3.5 million dollars. Christopher Wool is one of those rare artists to have had various strokes of luck. Born in Boston in 1955, he grew up in Chicago in middle class family. In 1973, at the age of 18, he moved to New York to study art at the New York Studio School under the supervision of Harry Krame and Jack Tworkov, before swiftly abandoning the course to make the most of what the Big Apple had to offer. During the early 80’s he made the most of this newfound freedom by working from time to time in the studio of artist Joel Shapiro. It was during this time that he developed his most popular series; from his famous word paintings and flowers to his patterns and eagles series. A contemporary of Basquiat, he was one of the first artists to integrate graffiti and street art techniques (spray paint, stencils, rollers) into work on canvas. Above all, Wool is an artist who takes an avant-garde approach to painting, whilst everyone else is preoccupied with finding new media. In just 10 years, he has firmly established his position in the market. Star exhibitionist Christopher Wool has already been the subject of numerous exhibitions; no less...

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Data: Hockney or brazen youth

After the Tate in London, and prior to the MoMA in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris is celebrating the artist’s 80th birthday. Landscapes, portraits and drawings show the incredible vitality of this British painter, the author of a dense, colourful, polymorphous body of work that is more sought after than ever – as figures show. A thin silhouette in front of a monumental work, David Hockney poses before The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire, a 2011 painting that the Briton recently donated to the Centre Pompidou. It’s Tuesday 27 September, and the 80-year-old artist, donning a cap as always, has a green cardigan and a raspberry-coloured tie… The painter has a knack for matching colours. He’s smiling of course. He also makes jokes, it’s almost a habit for him. Hockney, we all know, is good-natured. This donation marks the retrospective that the Beaubourg in Paris is devoting to the artist until 23 October. No less than the most spectacular retrospective, in the painter’s opinion, for visitors can see, the artist confided in July 2017 to Éric Dahan for the magazine Vanity Fair, “one hundred and sixty works including my biggest painting, currently conserved in Australia – Bigger Trees Near Warter ou Peinture sur le motif pour le nouvel âge post-photographique –, as well as small paintings from my youth that I painted in Bradford sixty years ago.” This donation also enriches a French collection that has left little room for the pop artist. But can we reduce, to this adjective alone, the work of this Briton who can be considered the spiritual son born of the Picasso-Matisse union, this master illustrator and genius of colours, this artist who championed hyperrealism at a period when abstract expressionism was the only path to salvation in painting? “Abstraction dominated everything...

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The tribal art market at auction in 2016

Growing sharply since 2000, tribal art has not been spared of upsets in the last three years: a dilution of the historic Sotheby’s-Christie’s duopoly, consolidation of the intermediary market, mainly in favour of African pieces whose average value is dropping. The past inertias are shifting… If there’s one sure thing about this market – an extremely heterogeneous one as it is made up of classic African, Pacific, Pre-Colombian and North American arts –, it would be its growth. The turnover from auction sales, despite a little fluctuation, is following an upward trend, jumping up from around ten million euros in 2001 to flirt with 60 million euros in 2013, up to the excellent year in 2014 when it exceeded the symbolic bar of 100 million euros – an absolute record for the auction market. Meanwhile, the number of lots placed on sale has varied greatly, but its growth is just as indisputable. An average of around 3,100 objects has been presented every year from 2000 to 2005, compared to 5,800 in 2014, 7,050 in 2015, and over 8,300 in 2016. The evolution of the Artkhade price index makes the phenomenon all the clearer: between 2000 and 2016, the price level for classic African and Pacific objects has tripled. However, the last three years have sent out contradictory signals, seemingly sanctioning the market’s mutations. Certain historic dealers and collectors have withdrawn, to be replaced by young buds; the market has globalised; Internet has changed the habits of both professionals and amateurs. Since 2014, the rise in the number of lots presented at sales – following a first phase of growth between 2006 and 2009, nonetheless incomparable with the current one – has been accompanied by a significant drop in the turnover of the tribal-art auction market. Following the absolute record...

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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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Wolfgang Tillmans, at the frontiers of the visible

As one exhibition concludes, another opens… While the solo show dedicated to German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans is finishing at the Tate in London, the retrospective on him at the Fondation Beyeler is starting up in the Swiss city of Basel. Perfect timing for a closer look at this artist whose experimentations have taken him far and wide… Contemporary photography – unfortunately – doesn’t always have many superstars to boast about. Even if the medium has achieved recognition in the last decade, its ecosystem still remains closed: it has its own dedicated galleries, themed auction sales, mono-medium fairs, specialised journals… In this respect, Germany’s Wolfgang Tillmans emerges as something of a phenomenon. Earning steady recognition from institutions and art critics from a very early stage in his career, he is already counted amongst the most fashionable photographers… And yet we can sense that this artist still has more tricks up his sleeve. Born in 1968 in Remscheid in West Germany (near Cologne and Düsseldorf, and therefore also near Europe-focused Belgium and the Netherlands), he discovered the photography of Polke, Richter and Rauschenberg while he was still a teenager in the museums of big neighbouring cities. After three years in Hamburg, Tillmans continued his studies at the Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design in South England. He then moved to London before staying in New York for one year in 1994. This is where he met gallerist Andrea Rosen, who would be the first to support him, as well as his lover, painter Jochen Klein. The two Germans would return to Europe where they lived together in the British capital until the death, in 1997, of Klein, a victim of AIDS. Tillmans was not yet 30 at the time. In 2000, the artist suddenly emerged from obscurity by becoming...

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