Printer Friendly

Spain on top: Spain's art fairs show the quality and range of its dealers--and New York, Palm Beach and London are as strong as ever.

ARCO has long been the premier contemporary art fair for the Spanish-speaking world. This month sees the 26th edition, which runs from 15 to 19 February, opening a new chapter under the direction of Lourdes Fernandez. She is seeking not only to consolidate the Madrid fair's reputation as the gateway for Latin American art into Europe but also to boost the event's already high reputation as an international fair with a global vision.

To that end, a further 50 respected international galleries will join forces to present a show boasting 255 exhibitors from 30 countries. South Korea is this year's guest country, and its pavilion will offer visitors a chance to see new dimensions in Korean art (other shows in Madrid, including a retrospective devoted to Nam June Paik, the father of video art, feature as part of a 'Korea Now' programme).

Like London's Frieze fair, ARCO specialises in primary market cutting-edge contemporary art. As well as the seasoned big-name galleries, it offers a showcase to fresh young spaces making their name on the international circuit and to new media, the latter through its Black Box section devoted to electronic and audio-visual pieces.

Enhancing its role as broker, ARCO plays a major role in promoting sales. Its focus this year is the corporations, investment funds and institutions that have committed to major acquisitions during the fair. A private collectors programme expects some 300 major international buyers to fly in for the event, and they will join Spanish VIP collectors and curators for an extended two-and-a-half days of exclusive previews. It is the growing number of Spanish collectors, however, that most delight the invited galleries. As one gallery director put it last year: 'Each time, they buy more and more and they are better prepared.' This fair just goes from strength to strength and, thus far at least, has the buzz but not the manic hysteria seen at Art Basel Miami Beach.


The potential as well as the challenges facing the Spanish art and antiques trade were well illustrated at the highly enjoyable recent Feriarte in Madrid (25 November-3 December 2006). The fair embraced both very traditionally presented stands of Spanish antiques and also those of a new generation, such as La Gazza Ladra, who attempt to present the works of art of the past in a younger, fresher idiom. Distinguished dealers well known on the international fair circuit, such as Luis Elvira, presented displays of both old and new with their customary unerring eye. The quality may have been uneven but it was a feast nonetheless. An impressive 33,000 visitors attended this event--the country's leading art and antiques fair--and over 5,000 works of art were sold.

For the first time, the dealers in secondary market modern and contemporary art were grouped together and given their own section--an indication of how strong this market has become. Dealer Daniel Cardani is not alone in having started out in the antiques business and then changing to specialise in modern and contemporary Spanish painting. Here, as elsewhere, modern and contemporary has become what most 40-somethings want to buy--as well as what most traditional collectors are turning to. On the opening night, one client--one of the 25 or so big players in this market--snapped up three major pieces by Spanish artists working in the us, Jose Guerrero, Monolo Valdes and Esteban Vicente, each for around 150,000 [euro]. The problem for the Spanish dealers, says Cardani, is that clients think it much smarter to buy from dealers in London or New York, even if--or perhaps because--they have to pay more. They are also buying more international artists, which makes for better liquidity.

The disparity of prices between the Spanish and London markets also affects the business of the likes of L. Codosero, whose stand was one of the most impressive and enjoyable at the fair. On offer here was a fine array, in particular, of Hispano-Moresque lustreware. The prices were a snip compared to those being paid by Middle Eastern clients at Sotheby's and Christie's and as a result the stand was spotted with red dots. According to the young gallery owner, her Spanish clients would not pay international prices and she, therefore, was not going to find it easy to replenish her stock.

Antiquities is one of the markets that is relatively new in modern Spain, so it was good to see burgeoning young businesses, as well as international exhibitors in this field. Traditional markets, such as sculpture and Old Masters, still offer outstanding goods--though here, like elsewhere, the offering was mixed. Particularly impressive was a Catalonian panel of the Archangel Gabriel by the probably Flemish Master of Canapost of around 1490 (Fig. 3, 210,000 [euro]) and the alabaster apostles of around 1420-30 by Pere Oller from Vic Cathedral, both presented by Galeria Bernat. Arguably the most international stand was the tour de force of constructivism and modernism offered by Manuel Barbie, with everything from Malevich to early Miro and including a whole room devoted to Robert and Sonia Delaunay, including the latter's clothes. 'Amazingly enough', sighs Mr Barbie, 'it was easier to sell this kind of material in Spain 25 years ago than it is today. Now people know so little about it.'



Sotheby's and Christie's like to gift-wrap their February Impressionist and Modern Art evening sales. Neatly packaged with specialist German and Austrian and Surrealist auctions, they constitute what seem like the two longest evenings of the season--not least to those of us who have just returned with jet-lag from the Palm Beach fair. Fortunately they also offer some of the season's choicest and most interesting works.

Certainly one of the most arresting images leads Christie's The Art of the Surreal sale on 6 February: Magritte's masked apples, La Pretre Marie of 1961 (Fig. 4). These fruits loom large in a conspicuously treeless desert landscape, the moon in the sky appropriate to a masquerade ball although the sun is shining and the protagonists are, well, enormous green apples. Given the erotic associations of the masquerade and of the apple as a symbol of carnal knowledge (something that would not have been lost on the priest of the title), the forbidden fruits are imbued with a seductively human aspect. Much as he would have disliked the fact, Magritte is now considered the consummate surrealist, although his works dealt with neither the subconscious nor the world of dreams or fantasy. This witty and strangely poetic canvas, as enigmatic in meaning as it is sharp and simple in execution, illustrates his uncanny ability to prompt us to consider afresh the otherwise unremarkable and everyday (estimate 2m [pounds sterling]-3m [pounds sterling]).


Magritte had a penchant for masked apples, introducing them into his work in 1946. Over the years he produced several oil or gouache versions of the theme and by strange coincidence one of the latter, also entitled La Pretre Marie but executed around 1966, appears at Sotheby's on 5 February (estimate 350,000 [pounds sterling]-450,000 [pounds sterling]). Here, however, another of his famous motifs takes centre stage--the bowler-hatted man. In L'Okapi, the man is seen from behind, his head crowned by an inexplicable, oversized flower. Painted in 1958, it comes to the block with expectations of 2.5m [pounds sterling]-3.5m [pounds sterling].

'Difficult' pictures are no longer the problems they once were at auction, and as if to illustrate the point, Christie's offer Egon Schiele's rather oppressive, quasi-religious Prozession for a formidable 5m [pounds sterling]-7m [pounds sterling] at its German and Austrian sale. Painted in 1911 during a period of mystical revelation, the canvas is one of a group of intense paintings that are autumnal and elegiac in palette and mood. The three female figures or faces (the latter is a skull) discernible in this rocky patchwork are suggestive of youth, decay and death.

Christie's Impressionist and Modern sale includes a recently rediscovered Gauguin landscape, Les Grandes Arbres, dated to 1889. This lyrical evocation of the lush Breton countryside is confected by a web of feathered brushstrokes (estimate 500,000 [pounds sterling]-700,000 [pounds sterling]). In Les Maisons dans les Arbres of 1914, Fernand Leger has shaken up the landscape tradition still further, offering a kind of machine-age version that rejects traditional representation for a distillation of form, line and colour (2.8m [pounds sterling]-3.5m [pounds sterling]).

Degas's late pastels saw a shift away from the linear towards a concentration on vibrant colour effects and texture, producing, as Richard Kendall has written, 'a saturated gauze of pastel'. In Three Dancers in Purple Skirts (Fig. 5) of around 1898, at Sotheby's on 5 February, it seems almost as if the picture surface has been woven, in warm rust, blue-violet, pink and green (estimate 4m [pounds sterling]-6m [pounds sterling]). Expressive brushstrokes and Fauve-like colour mark another highlight, Soutine's L'Homme au Foulard Rouge (estimate 3.5m [pounds sterling]-5m [pounds sterling]). Sotheby's anticipates over 100m [pounds sterling] for its series of sales, the highest ever staged by the company in Europe.


On 8 February, Christie's presents what it describes as the most significant Post War & Contemporary evening sale it has offered in London. Leading the auction is a group of works from the Tettamanti Collection, hailed as the most important Italian collection of its kind to appear at auction. The fruit of over 50 years' collecting, it embraces both postwar American and European--primarily Italian--masters, with many works making their public as well as their auction debut. A major offering is Alberto Burri's Sacco e Rosso of 1959, its battered and tattered and stitched-up sacking an ode to the scars of war-torn Italy (1m [pounds sterling]-1.5m [pounds sterling]). Cy Twombly's Capitoli of 1962 is perhaps a comparable peon and a reflection of the American artist's fascination with the antiquity of Rome--its scrawling lines bring to mind the ancient graffiti that adorn the city's edifices (1m [pounds sterling]-1.5m [pounds sterling]).


There is more splash than calligraphic flourish in Peter Doig's White Canoe, which promises to be one of the most contested lots of Sotheby's evening sale of Contemporary Art on 7 February. Its rich, densely-layered and vibrant surface incorporates delicate areas of misty pointillism and spontaneous Pollockian drips and abstract gestures--the subject itself, a lone canoe drifting within an eerily moonlit landscape, was inspired by a film still from the cult-horror classic Friday the 13th (800,000 [pounds sterling]-1.2m [pounds sterling]).


View paintings accounted for most of the successes of London's Old Master paintings sales in December, but it is a reflection of the variable and limited availability of outstanding works in this market that both leading auction-houses fielded evening sales that were around 90 per cent sold by value but only 68 per cent by lot.

As anticipated, the collection of predominantly Dutch vedute offered at Sotheby's on 6 December accounted for the three highest prices of the evening, with the crystal-clear Jan van der Heyden view of the long-demolished St Anthoniespoort in Amsterdam (illustrated in the December APOLLO)--just about as good as it gets in terms of townscapes of the Golden Age--finding the top price of 4.49m [pounds sterling], an auction record for the artist. While both the Van der Heyden and Ruisdael's A Distant View from the South along the West Bank of the Raver Amstel sold on target (the latter for 1.69m [pounds sterling]), Backhuysen's bravura account of the historic departure of William III and Mary of Orange doubled expectations, selling for a record 1.46m [pounds sterling].

Later in the sale, a strong price of 1.35m [pounds sterling] was found for Domenico Beccafumi's The Holy Family with the Infant St John and Catherine of Siena of around 1516, double the estimate and another auction record. The 14th-century gold-ground Madonna and Child estimated at 60,000 [pounds sterling]-80,000 [pounds sterling] and attributed to Giovanni di Nicola da Pisa--perhaps bidders came up with a better idea--realised a mighty 456,000 [pounds sterling]. No less unexpected was the 512,000 [pounds sterling] paid for the Atalante and Hippomenes by the Poussin follower Nicolas Colombel, an elegant and attractive picture with a modest estimate of 70,000 [pounds sterling]-100,000 [pounds sterling].

At Christie's on 7 December, the ravishing pair of Bellotto views of Rome (Fig. 7) rightly found many admirers, finally selling well over estimate for 6.5m [pounds sterling]. Guardi's atmospheric The Punta della Dogana, Venice, the Giudecca and the Redentore Beyond similarly soared, selling for five times its estimate, 3.76m [pounds sterling]. A pair of Vanvitelli's views of Rome doubled expectations, selling for just over 1m [pounds sterling], as did Berckhyde's view of the The Grote Markt in Haarlem (881,600 [pounds sterling]).


As for the rest, one might have expected more for Jusepe de Ribera's imposing Martyrdom of St Lawrence, which sold on target for 1.35m [pounds sterling], and less for the Madonna and Child here attributed to Sandro Botticelli, for which a private European collector paid 3.8m [pounds sterling]. Perhaps the most intriguing lot was the fine and hitherto unpublished portrait of Margherita of Savoy (1589-1626), here tentatively given to the circle of Sofonisba Anguissola. Again, it seems some people took a different view. Estimated at 50,000 [pounds sterling]-80,000 [pounds sterling], she sold to a private us buyer for 478,400 [pounds sterling].

The star of Bonhams' 6 December offering was another royal portrait--royal in that it once belonged to George v, King of Hanover--Jan Lievens's lustrously tressed young girl in profile (Fig. 8), a painting long on loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Estimated at 300,000 [pounds sterling]-500,000 [pounds sterling], the portrait fetched 1.1m [pounds sterling]. Bonhams' sale totalled 2.97m [pounds sterling], while Sotheby's and Christie's evening sales totalled 16.8m [pounds sterling] and 31.7m [pounds sterling] respectively. Notably, the auction-houses reported new international bidders for such paintings, not least from Russia.


Christie's inspired decision to host a one-off Rembrandt print sale to mark the 400th anniversary of the artist's birth paid dividends on 5 December when a packed saleroom competed fiercely for the best of the 169 etchings and paying high prices across the board. The artist's A Sleeping Puppy of around 1640 even fetched over 10 times its estimate, selling for 176,000 [pounds sterling]. The top lot was the monumental Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves (467,200 [pounds sterling]).

On the same day Christie's also sold master drawings from the distinguished Oppe collection. No one doubted the star--Goya's black chalk The Butterfly Bull (illustrated in the December APOLLO)--but the 1.46m [pounds sterling] final price was astounding. This was a season of high-price one-offs. On 30 November, for instance, the Cunha Braga cup, a fabulous gold-mounted and lavishly enamelled renaissance crystal wine cup, had soared over estimate to sell at Christie's to London dealers S.J. Phillips for just under 2m [pounds sterling]. A lion and lioness, white Meissen animals modelled by J.G. Kirchner from Augustus the Strong's Japanese Palace in Dresden (illustrated in the December APOLLO), failed to find as much enthusiasm but fetched 2.8m [pounds sterling], just under their published estimate.


In Barcelona, meanwhile, Antiquatis Barcelona, which embraces both antiques and modern art, prepares for its 31st fair, 3-11 March. This year some 20 per cent of the 111 exhibitors are from overseas. On offer will be paintings, drawings and sculpture as well as furniture, jewellery, oriental art, antiquities and tribal art. In a novel attempt to encourage new collectors, the organisers have instituted NOVA, a selection of exhibits priced under 2,000 [euro].


Snowbirds flying south to Florida this month would do well to spend some time at 'Palm Beach! America's International Fine Art & Antique Fair' (don't let the exclamation mark put you off), 3-11 February. The event, which has been a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows since its inception, lines up an exceptional field of leading international galleries this year. New or returning exhibitors include London sculpture dealer Robert Bowman, Chicago tribal art specialist Douglas Dawson, New York print specialists Hill-Stone, Antiguadades Linares of Madrid, London's Partridge Fine Arts, silver specialists Shrubsole and Old Master dealer Otto Naumann, both from New York.

This is a fair that has long been strong on antiquities--participating galleries include Ariadne, Royal Athena, Numisart and Phoenix Ancient Art. It has also, rather surprisingly, often seen high quality Old as well as more modern Masters, and here Dickinson, Moretti, Noortman and Richard Green oblige (I illustrate Boucher's Une Dame a sa Toilette, courtesy of Bernheimer-Colnaghi, but don't miss Millet's preparatory sketch for his famous The Gleaners, at Anderson Galleries). As for the decorative arts, they are represented with impressive breadth if not great depth. Sadly for all the above, however, most visitors to the fair head straight for the jewellery (see Collectors' Focus, pp. 75-76).


New York found some high prices too. Sotheby's 6 December sale of the Judith H. Siegel Collection of historicist jewellery by Castellani and Giuliano totalled $7.4m, with only five lots left unsold. Once again, it came as no surprise that the highest price of the day should have been the $475,200 paid for Castellani's glorious Egyptian Revival gold, scarab and micromosaic necklace and brooch. What elicited a gasp from the floor was the $234,000 paid for his copy of a Byzantine gold and micromosaic brooch which had been estimated at $10,000-$15,000.

The real McCoy stole the day at Christie's antiquities sale on 7 December: an Egyptian sarcophagus complete with the mummy of one Neskhons. The former was extravagantly painted in hieroglyphs, as was the custom in the Third Intermediate Period (c. 1040-900 BC). It appears that the coffin was excavated in 1900 when Liberty H. Holden of Cleveland, Ohio, purchased Neskhons during his Egyptian tour and donated him to the Western Reserve Historical Society, which is now $1.14m (576,650 [pounds sterling]) richer.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Apollo Magazine Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:ART MARKET
Author:Moore, Susan
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Previous Article:Villa Frankenstein: what's in a building's name? Almost nothing, to judge from the changing application of the word 'villa' over three centuries.
Next Article:20th-century jewellery: recent jewellery is challenging 20th-century classics in terms of quality and price - but there are bargains in neglected...

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters