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Market preview.

New York's spring season of blue-chip Impressionist, modern and contemporary sales dominates the market this month, offering a barometer to gauge the nuances in taste of various artists' markets and overshadowing any other activity in terms of the quantity and value of works of art sold. This time last year, a phenomenal $1.42bn changed hands at auction alone.

One of the promised highlights is arguably the most significant Fauve portrait to be seen at auction in decades (Fig. 1). AndrE Derain painted Madame Matisse au kimono in 1905 when he spent the summer with Matisse and his family at the small fishing village of Collioure in the south of France. Both artists were experimenting with bold blocks of hot, pure colour, the frenetic handling of which earned them the soubriquet les fauves--the wild beasts--when their paintings were exhibited at the Salon d'Automne that year. As DErain put it later: 'For us, Fauvism was a trial by fire ... colours became sticks of dynamite that discharged light.' The portraits painted by the group of friends were among the most revolutionary produced that summer. This portrait of AmElie Matisse in her Japanese kimono returns to market after 40 years in the same collection, and is expected to fetch $15m-$20m at Christie's New York's Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale on 8 May.

The season is also likely to see increased business at Frieze New York. After a strong debut, the fair returns to Randall's Island Park for a second edition that promises to be Frieze's biggest and most international event to date (10-13 May). Some 185 contemporary art galleries from 32 countries are taking a bow, many featuring curated booths of thematic or solo shows. Long March Space from Beijing, for instance, presents work from different generations of artists responding to the extraordinary social change in China. Frieze Projects also fields a strong programme of talks and artists' commissions this year, including Andra Ursuta's little cemetery that ponders the afterlife of the fair, by way of a field of marble slabs where the art 'goes to die'.

There is, of course, much going on elsewhere too. What remains of an exceptional ensemble of furniture made by the art deco designer and cabinetmaker Armand-Albert Rateau for the Duchess of Alba is offered at Christie's Paris, for instance, on 23 May. Commissioned by her husband, the 17th Duke, probably on the occasion of their marriage in 1920, and intended for her private apartments in the Palacio de Liria in Madrid, this ensemble is one of Rateau's earliest and most important projects.

Inspired by the bronze furniture and frescoed murals that he saw during his first trip to Naples and Pompeii in 1904, the pieces are a fantastical and sumptuously elegant reinterpretation of antiquity in bronze, lacquer and marble. An old photograph of the duchess's bathroom reveals the inset circular marble tub (150,000 [euro]-200,000 [euro]) surrounded by lacquer murals of birds and beasts among foliage, and the dark green patinated bronze furniture 'aux oiseaux' here. One of the original four bronze floor lamps stands near the door; there is also a low table in bronze and marble (both l.5m [euro]-2m [euro]) and a dressing table (600,000 [euro]-800,000 [euro]). Seven pieces survive in total; the rest were destroyed when the palace was bombed in 1936, making them--for the time being at least--the last of Rateau's private commissions remaining in situ.

A remarkable survival in an Italian historic house is the extraordinary pair of massive famille rose pagodas from the Castello di Vincigliata in Fiesole, near Florence (Fig. 4). Dating to either the Qianlong or Jiaqing period (1735-1800), it seems that they were modelled after the famous Porcelain Pagoda of Nanjing, built in the 15th century on the orders of the Yongle Emperor to honour his parents, and considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World by some later European travellers. It, too, had rising and graduated hexagonal tiers, the upwardly curving green roofs finished with gilt-metal carp and little bells. These two imposing pieces of Chinese export porcelain are extremely rare due to their huge size--the larger of the two models is over 2.5m high. They would have been very expensive and difficult to make, and are of a type much favoured by European aristocracy and royalty- an almost identical pair survives in the British Royal Collection. The pair goes under the hammer in Christie's London's Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art sale on 14 May, estimate 250,000 [pounds sterling]-300,000 [pounds sterling].

There is more porcelain at Sotheby's London on I May in the sale of the collection of Sir Gawaine and Lady Baillie. Included are 140 lots representing the most important holding of Meissen animals and birds ever seen at auction, almost all of which were produced during the 1730s and 1740s under the direction of the great Johann Joachim Kandler (1706-75). Most of the figures are rare, and several are unpublished. The coup here is a superbly realised white porcelain monkey taking snuff (Fig. 3). It has been recently identified as by Kandler himself, and was executed around 1732 for Augustus the Strong's Japanese Palace in Dresden. This restored piece was previously thought to be 19th century (200,000 [pounds sterling]-400,000 [pounds sterling]). Estimates range from under 1,000 [pounds sterling]-150,000 [pounds sterling] for the other lots.

On 29 May, Bonhams' Modern British and Irish Art sale presents Stanley Spencer's Garden Path, Cookham Rise which has remained in the same collection since its purchase at the Royal Academy in 1950 (Fig. 2). This is the sun-filled, fecund garden of Meliora, home of the local market gardener, its battered signs and cracked path flanked by late summer flowers. Spencer considered his garden paintings 'potboilers', necessary commercial distractions from his ambitious visionary and religious works that were also set in the houses and gardens of his village. Yet even he recognised that 'landscape painting has enabled me to keep my bearings. It has been my contact with the world.' Purchased for 250 [pounds sterling], this domestic Eden is now expected to fetch 400,000 [pounds sterling]-600,000 [pounds sterling].

Hong Kong, meanwhile, sees the first edition of the rebranded Art Basel Hong Kong--previously ART HK (23-26 May). As with the Basel and Miami Beach fairs, the Swiss organisers are keen to showcase the art of the region, and half of the 245 participating modern and contemporary art galleries are fielded from Asia and Asia Pacific (although that figure includes the growing number of Western galleries with a Hong Kong base). Expect fewer, larger and probably better stands, and to find a shift in emphasis towards modern rather than contemporary art, too.
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Title Annotation:THE ART MARKET
Author:Moore, Susan
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2013
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