Thursday, May 31, 2007


May, 2007


Last week, as the long Labor Day weekend approached, the major New York auction houses celebrated with two jam-packed sales of American art -- and both totaled $55 million, with Sotheby’s barely edging out Christie’s by $300,000 or so.

Sotheby’s New York went first on May 23, 2007, with a sale of American paintings, drawings and sculptures that totaled $55,744,199, with 180 of 217 lots finding buyers, or almost 83 percent. Prices given here include the auction house premium (20 percent of the first $500,000 and 12 percent of the rest).

Talk of the sale, and top lot, was Albert Bierstadt’s Mountain Lake, a four-foot-wide painting of deer at lakeside during sunrise, which sold to a phone bidder for $4,856,000 (est. $2 million-$3 million). Consigned by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, one of the more richly endowed art institutions in the country, the work was the only Bierstadt painting in the museum collection. A museum spokesperson told Bloomberg news that the painting hadn’t been put on exhibition for the past two decades -- but curiously enough, one current show at the MFAH is titled "Bierstadt to O’Keeffe: Highlights from the Stark Museum of Art." It stands to reason -- why not sell your Bierstadt if you can borrow one when you need it? The museum is clearly undertaking some housecleaning, shedding 24 works to the hot art market to raise funds for new acquisitions.

As it happens, according to a report in the Kansas City Star, another Bierstadt, Mountain View, Sunset, which had been on loan at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City since 1969, was withdrawn by the anonymous lender and sold privately to another collector. The Nelson-Atkins wasn’t given a chance to make a counter offer on the picture, which was described as "much-loved." Thus does the hot art market suck paintings from public view.

The second highest lot at Sotheby’s was Norman Rockwell’s Home on Leave (Sailor in Hammock), a 28 x 27 in. oil of a young seaman with a dog in his lap, reclining in his whites in a striped hammock. Perhaps borne up by some good will from New York’s Fleet Week, the picture sold for $4,520,000, clearing its presale high estimate of $3 million by a goodly sum. According to the Baer Faxt, the buyer was London dealer Ray Waterhouse.

Other hot tickets were John Singer Sargent’s Mrs. William Crowninshield Endicott, Jr., an elegant half-length portrait featuring a society lady in a flowered muslin dress holding a rose and fan, which brought $2,168,000 (est. $2 million-$3 million) and Edward Henry Potthast’s impressionistic image of people relaxing at New York’s Far Rockaway beach, which went for $1,384,000 (est. $400,000-$600,000) -- a record for the artist that would be exactly equaled the next day at Christie’s, when Potthast’s The Water’s Fine sold for an identical sum.

Other new records were set for Gifford Beal ($132,000), Robert Spencer ($492,000), Walter Launt Palmer ($198,000), Alexander Ferdinand Wust ($60,000), Thomas Waterman Wood ($180,000), Daniel Ridgway Knight ($570,000), Herman Fuechsel ($84,000), Adelheid Dietrich ($252,000), Philip Russell Goodwin ($156,000), Colin Campbell Cooper ($180,000), Stephen Scott Young ($348,000), as well as Winslow Homer for a work on paper ($1,020,000).

Christie’s New York’s sale of American paintings, drawings and sculpture on May 24, 2007, totaled $55,405,200, with buyers snapping up 139 of 162 lots, or 86 percent. Eleven lots sold for over $1 million, adding up to more than a fifth of the sale total. While less flashy works were passed, the sale showed a still-growing market for American painting.

Top lot was Andrew Wyeth’s 1973 Ericksons, which brought a whopping $10.34 million (est. $4 mllion-$6 million), a new auction record for the artist. New York private dealer Michael Altman was the winning bidder. In a palette of soft pinks and grays, the painting features a pensive profile of Wyeth neighbor and frequent subject George Erickson, at rest in the kitchen of his rural Maine home -- a picture that is both a quintessential piece of Americana and, with its air of solemnity, slanting light and checkered floor, evocative of works by Johannes Vermeer.

Another top lot was Mary Cassatt’s Children Playing with a Dog (1907), which sold for $6.2 million (est. $3 million-$5 million). Cassatt works don’t get much more Cassatt-like than this, depicting a mother playing gently with a baby while a little girl with ribbons in her hair holds a small dog. The work was consigned to the house directly by one of Cassatt’s heirs.

Following close behind were a 1916 watercolor of an abstract blue spiral by Georgia O’Keeffe, Blue I, which sold for $3,008,000 -- quintupling its top estimate of $600,000 -- and Jacob Lawrence’s 1947 The Builders, a tempera-on-board scene of toiling construction workers in the artist’s dynamic, jagged style, which stood out amid the soft tones and country themes of the rest of the sale and brought in $2,504,000 -- quadrupling its top estimate, also $600,000, and setting a new auction record for Lawrence.

Other records were set for Mario Korbel ($45,600), Charles Demuth ($656,000), Milton Avery ($992,000), Henry Billings ($72,000), Charles Sheeler ($1,048,000), Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait ($1,104,000), Ferdinand Richardt ($288,000), George Winter ($228,000), Frederick William MacMonnies ($300,000), Francis Luis Mora ($57,600), William Henry Lippincott ($264,000), Henry Siddons Mowbray ($288,000) and Edward Potthast ($1,384,000), as well as Oscar Bluemner ($768,000) and N.C. Wyeth ($180,000) for a work on paper.

Meanwhile, Bonhams New York took its turn with an "American Paintings" sale on Tuesday, May 22, totaling $3 million, with 55 of the 101 lots finding buyers. Big lots were Frederick Carl Frieseke’s oil-on-canvas Two Ladies in a Garden, which went for $880,000 (est. $700,00-$900,000), and a lovely Sargent watercolor of a Venice gondola, Sandali, which brought $768,000 (est. $200,000-$300,000).

Other notable lots were a John Martin Tracy oil titled Hunter’s Rest, featuring two gentlemen hunters enjoying a picnic with their dogs and a servant, which sold for $420,000 (est. $150,000-$200,000), and an N.C. Wyeth oil with the cumbersome title Louise loved to climb to the summit on one of the barren hills flanking the river and stand there while the wind blew, which went for $144,000 (est. $100,000-$150,000). Rockwell’s oil-on-canvas study for a Life cover, titled Good Scouts, went for $120,000, clearing its top estimate of $90,000.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Christie’s Hong Kong totaled a whopping $79,170,000 for the firm’s combined sales of modern and contemporary Asian art on May 27, 2007.

The top lot in the 20th century Chinese art category was Wu Guanzhong’s 1973 work, Scenery of Northern China, an airy, snow-swept mountainscape, which sold for $4,051,150 (no estimate was given). Quite a coup for a man once supposedly dubbed "a fortress of bourgeois formalism" and sentenced to hard labor.

In the contemporary category, top honor went to Yue Minjun’s Portrait of the Artist and His Friends -- strangely, not the characteristic work featuring identical, cackling, pink-faced characters that Minjun is known for, but a looser group portrait of real people from 1991. No matter. It went for $2,618,925, handily topping an estimate of ca. $450,000-$700,000.

The Imperial Sale and Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Arts

The Imperial Sale and Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Arts


An important imperial gilt-incised lacquer throne, baozuo, Kangxi period (1662-1722), World auction record for an imperial throne. © Christie's Images Ltd. 2007.

HONG KONG.- Christie's Hong Kong held today The Imperial Sale and Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Arts auction. There was strong participation from international clients, both in the room, on the phone and by Christie’s LIVE. The top lot, a pair of magnificent famille rose 'peach' bowls, Yongzheng marks and of the period, sold for HK$50,720,000/ US$6,593,600 to Eskenazi Ltd that sets the new world auction record for a pair of Yongzheng famille rose peach bowls.

Also of note is an important imperial gilt-incised lacquer throne from the Kangxi period that sold for HK$13,760,000/ US$1,788,800 to casino magnate Dr. Stanley Ho. This established the world auction record for an Imperial throne.

“We are delighted by today’s results in which numerous world auction records were broken. Of particular note is a pair of famille rose ‘peach’ bowls originally from the Bernat Collection which sold for over HK$50 million, five times more than when it was acquired at auction ten years ago. This is an indication of the tremendous growth in this field for important Imperial objects. Dr. Stanley Ho purchased an important Imperial gilt-incised lacquer throne from the Kangxi period for over HK$13 million, forty times more than when it was last offered as part of the Sackler Collection at Christie’s New York in 1994. A European family entrusted Christie’s with a previously unknown pair of unique porcelain parfumiers which sold for over HK$33 million, ten times its low estimate. There was strong participation from international clients, both in the room, on the phone and by Christie’s LIVE. Once again, Christie's has delivered the optimal result for our consignors and collectors, presenting a highly-curated sale of the most desirable Imperial works of art. Today’s result is a testament to our efforts.” said Pola Antebi, Senior Vice President, Specialist Head of the Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art Department, Christie’s.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sotheby's to Auction Private Collection of Reunification Art

Sotheby's to Auction Private Collection of Reunification Art


Li Xiaowei, B. 1959, Chinese Heart - a group of canto-pop and local stars (e.g Jackie Chan) celebrating the handover in front of Tian'anmen - they were all popular then...oil on canvas, framed, executed in 1997. Image © Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- On the eve of the 10th Anniversary of Hong Kong’s Reunification with China, Sotheby’s Hong Kong will offer for sale An Important Private Collection of Reunification Art on 29th June 2007 (Friday) at The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong. Comprising 30 pieces of rare and outstanding Chinese paintings and works of art, the collection was first exhibited in 1997 at the “China Grand Art Show – An Exhibition of Historical Paintings and Thematical Art Works” organized by the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China. The works cover a wide spectrum of artistic creation – from realism to contemporary – capturing the different moods of Hong Kong as well as that very important and historical moment in modern Chinese history. Estimated to bring approximately HK$20 million*, both Sotheby’s Hong Kong and the owner of the collection will donate part of the net auction proceeds to The Chinese Red Cross Foundation. The entire art collection will be exhibited from 27th to 29th June, 2007 at the Hong Kong Exhibition Centre (China Resources Building) in Wanchai.

Mr. Kevin Ching, Chief Executive Officer of Sotheby’s Asia, said, “Sotheby’s Hong Kong is very honoured to be entrusted by Beijing Blue Harbor Properties Co., Ltd to auction its highly important and seminal collection of reunification art on the 10th Anniversary of Hong Kong’s Reunification with China. Sotheby’s Hong Kong has supported numerous charity auctions in the past, but this occasion is particularly meaningful because both our consignor and ourselves shall be donating directly part of the proceeds generated from the auction to The Chinese Red Cross Foundation. Therefore not only that this auction has great historical significance, but it also gives us the opportunity to share what we have with the less fortunate. Moreover, the successful buyers at the auction in effect will also be donors to this very meaningful charity”

Mr. Tang Shengwen, the Standing Deputy Director of the Chinese Red Cross Foundation, said, “China is going through an enormous transformation which has brought diversification to different social classes, values and cultures. Charity serves as the lubricant which marries this diversity with much needed harmony. It brings hope to the hopeless, help to the helpless and love to those in need. We sincerely thank Sotheby’s Hong Kong and Beijing Blue Harbor Properties Co., Ltd for their generosity and commitment. I wish the auction every success.”

Reunification Art – The Story- In 1997, the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China organized an exhibition entitled “China Grand Art Show – An Exhibition of Historical Paintings and Thematic Art Works”. All the pieces on offer in this charity auction, with the exception of Celebration of the Century, formed part of that exhibition. During the 2 years of preparation, the Ministry of Culture and the Chinese Artists Association invited select local artists to produce a collection of striking works of art. Participating artists and experts included those from various art schools and the Chinese Artist Association. The exhibition was held on 30th June 1997 at the Chinese Revolution Museum and was attended by the Jiang Zemin, former President of the PRC. The event gained extensive media coverage including from such staples as the Xinhua News Agency, China Central TV, People’s Daily etc, detailing all aspects of the exhibition.

In 1998, a year after the reunification of Hong Kong and China, another exhibition called “Journey to Returnification Exhibition – An Exhibition of Historical Paintings and Thematical Art Works, Hong Kong” was held in the lower block of Hong Kong City Hall, featuring 33 pieces from the earlier Grand China Show, with the addition of a newly-commissioned work entitled Celebration of the Century. In September 2006, a total of 70 paintings and works of art were once again exhibited in Beijing at the National Museum in an exhibition called “Journey to Returnification Exhibition - An Exhibition of Historical Paintings and Thematic Art Works”. Most of the lots in the present auction were included in the above exhibitions.

On 1st July 1997 the handover ceremony officially marking the return of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China took place in Hong Kong. Four artists from Shandong, China, namely Lu Zhang, Chen Guoli, Zhang Zhiqiang and Lu Hao, captured the moment in their collaborative work, Celebration of the Century. The gigantic portrait vividly illustrates the representatives of both countries including, from the People’s Republic of China, Jiang Zemin (President of the PRC); Li Peng (Prime Minister of the PRC); Qian Qichen (Vice Premier of the PRC); Zhang Wannian (Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission and PLA Chief General); Tung Chee-hwa (the 1st Chief Executive of Hong Kong). Representatives from the United Kingdom include HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales; Tony Blair (Prime Minister of the UK); Robin Cook (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs); Charles Guthrie (Chief of the Defense Staff of the UK); Chris Patten (the last Governor of Hong Kong).

This exceptionally large-scale 3-by-7-metre painting was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture of the PRC in 1998. Together with other selected works first exhibited in the “China Grand Art Show”, it was displayed in the “Journey to Reunification Exhibition” held in Hong Kong City Hall. It comprises 3 panels and is a true rarity of its category. The friendly handshake of Jiang Zemin and Prince Charles is the focal point of the painting, signifying the smooth transition of the territory to Chinese sovereignty, and also denoting the harmonious relationship between the two countries. By applying red tone (a colour commonly associated with China) throughout the painting, a deeper impact is achieved.

In a meeting with British Prime Minister Mrs Margaret Thatcher in the Great Hall of the People at around 10am on 24th September 1982, Deng Xiaoping restated the Chinese claim on Hong Kong and indicated there would be no compromise on the fundamental issue of Chinese sovereignty.

Deng’s statement inspired Lin Yongkang from Fo Shan, Guangzhou, to paint a massive painting based on a photo taken of the meeting between the two premiers in 1982. The painting demonstrates a good use of contrast: the political figures are well lit, whilst the interpreters at the back are in the shadows. A generally dark red tone frames Deng and Thatcher, capturing the solemnity and political significance of the meeting. The artist also inserted the national flags of the two countries in the centre of the piece, emphasizing again the international importance of the meeting. This work received the Excellence Prize in the “China Grand Art Show” of 1997.

The Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed on 19th December, 1984 at 5:30pm at the West Hall of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, and was broadcasted via satellite all over the world. The declaration was the basic agreement by the United Kingdom to transfer its colony of Hong Kong to full Chinese sovereignty on 1st July 1997. The ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle was agreed, denoting that Hong Kong’s way of life would remain unchanged for a period of 50 years from the date of handover. Participating in the ceremony and signing were British Prime Minister Mrs. Margaret Thatcher (seated, signing the declaration), Deng Xiaoping (middle of the 1st row), Li Xiannian (President of the PRC, to the left of Deng) as well as Sir Geoffrey Howe (Foreign Secretary; to the right of Deng.)

The Ministry of Culture commissioned this work in 1997, and the artist, Ma Baozhong executed this masterpiece based on a photograph of the event taken in 1984. He has an accomplish

Le Corbusier: Art and Architecture - A Life of Creativity

Le Corbusier: Art and Architecture - A Life of Creativity


Le Corbusier, Nature morte rouge au violon, 1920, 100 × 81 cm, oil on canvas. © FLC.

TOKYO, JAPAN.- Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, presents Le Corbusier: Art and Architecture - A Life of Creativity, on view through 24 September (Monday), 2007. Le Corbusier is without doubt the best-known non-Japanese architect in Japan. Not only did this founding father of modernism leave behind numerous architectural icons, but he was also an artist, working in private to create a vast array of personal creative vistas in paintings, drawings and sculptures. There was a constant interplay between his architecture and his art, and similarities can be seen in their development over his career. By covering all of the various facets of this unique individual’s output, "Le Corbusier: Art and Architecture –A Life of Creativity" seeks to examine Le Corbusier the man, providing an all-encompassing overview of his achievements.

A Life of Creativity - Le Corbusier was born in 1887 in Switzerland, in time to witness first hand the frenzy of scientific discovery and technological invention that marked the turn of the century. However, as the age of mass production dawned, Le Corbusier, like many others of his time, saw in it the seeds of alienation of the individual and the potential for increasingly inhumane urban development. Perhaps his greatest achievement was to integrate the industrial developments of his time into a more human-friendly framework, one that took into consideration human needs and desires. In the process he created an unmistakably modern, yet at the same time more humane architectural aesthetic, one that you could say fused the stark functionality of his architect’s eye with the free-flowing, organic curves of his paintings.

The exhibition begins with paintings and then continues with models, drawings and photographs depicting his architecture and urban planning. This composition mirrors Le Corbusier's life, which was devoted to architecture and art in equal measure. It is little known that Le Corbusier devoted his mornings to painting; architecture only started in the afternoons when he went to his office. As he explained, "part of every day of my life has been devoted to drawing. I have never stopped drawing and painting, looking wherever I could for the secrets of form. You don't have to look any further than this for the key to my work and research..."

Full-scale, Walk-in Reproductions — Experience his Atelier and Significant Architectural Spaces Firsthand - One of the highlights of the exhibition is a number of full-scale reproductions of architectural spaces. The show starts with a walk-in model of his atelier in Paris – complete with furniture and other personal trappings. There is also a full-size reproduction of a two- story apartment from his important "Unité" project in Marseilles, and another of "le Petite Cabanon," a small wooden hut he built at Cap Martin in the south of France, his final home.

Each is large enough for visitors to walk inside, providing a rare chance to experience Le Corbusier’s creations firsthand and view his furniture, paintings and sculptures within that context. The exhibition is further enhanced by the use of dozens of photographs and videos, some including three-dimensional computer graphic renderings.

The majority of exhibits come from the Fondation Le Corbusier, Paris, and the Centre Pompidou, however many others will come from lenders elsewhere and in Japan. Many of the art works come from the Mori Art Collection, which includes a substantial number of drawings, paintings and tapestries assembled by Mori Art Museum founder Mori Minoru. The exhibition also benefits from the advice of leading Japanese architects such as Maki Fumihiko and Ando Tadao.

The 120th anniversary of Le Corbusier’s birth is sure to keep him in the news worldwide. This exhibition provides a rare opportunity to explore the full gamut of his creative endeavor.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Le Graffiti - De la rue au musée

Le Graffiti - De la rue au musée


L´histoire du graffiti est celle d´un mouvement underground, né au rythme du Hip-Hip des années 70 dans les ghettos américains. C´est un art populaire, sauvage et éphémère. Sauvage parce que réalisé dans l´espace public de manière illégale, et éphémère car sa durée de vie, soumise aux contraintes extérieures, est forcément limitée. Les interdits qui frappent cet art urbain dès ses premiers balbutiements en Europe n´arrêtent en rien son expansion dans les années 80. A la fin de la décennie, c´est un véritable phénomène de mode qui gagne sa légitimité artistique sous la plume des journalistes et sur les cimaises des musées. Hormis les murs des villes, le mobilier urbain et les transports collectifs, les graffeurs réalisent des œuvres sur toile, papiers ou palissades, désormais prisées par un nombre grandissant de collectionneurs.

Les pionniers

La star incontestée du genre est Jean-Michel BASQUIAT qui collectionne les enchères millionnaires (plus de quarante). Le 15 mai dernier, une technique mixte de 1981 a pulvérisé le record de l´artiste en passant pour la première fois la barre des 10 millions de dollars ! Initialement estimée entre 6 millions et 8 millions de dollars, l´œuvre a décroché un coup de marteau à 13 millions de dollars (plus de 9,6 millions d´euros, Sotheby´s NY). L´ami de Warhol au destin fulgurant (mort à 27 ans), signait ses premières œuvres dans la rue sous le pseudonyme Samo. Aujourd´hui un petit dessin au crayon gris ou à la mine de plomb s´échange entre 10 000 et 20 000 € en moyenne et il faut compter entre 50 000 et 100 000 € pour un papier aux crayons de couleurs. Les prix grimpent encore pour de beaux formats à l´encre ou au pastel gras.

Un autre proche de Warhol, Keith HARING, est aussi un pilier du graffiti. Il n´atteint pas les sommets de Basquiat mais affiche une progression constante sur les 4 dernières années. Le 8 février dernier, il fallait compter pas moins de 56 000 £ (près de 85 000 €) pour emporter une petite acrylique de 1984 (50x50 cm) chez Sotheby´s Londres. Le même jour, la maison concurrente signait un nouveau record à 440 000 £ (près de 670 000 €) pour une toile de 1983 (Christie´s Londres).

Plus abordable, FUTURA 2000 fait partie des pionniers de la peinture urbaine qu´il exprime de manière instinctive sur les murs de Brooklyn dès les années 70. Seules 3 œuvres du graffeur furent soumises aux enchères en 10 ans! La dernière, une œuvre sans titre à l´acrylique et la peinture aérosol sur une planche de bois, a trouvé preneur pour 4 000 € en octobre dernier chez Artcurial qui propose début juin une toile graffée à la bombe intitulée Bar code (1983, 137 x 181 cm) pour une estimation comprise entre 4 000 et 5 000 €.

Le Graffiti plébiscité en France

La maison de ventes Artcurial va proposer une vingtaine d´œuvres de graffeurs américains et français le 6 juin prochain. Le catalogue de la vente regroupe les œuvres dans une section « Art Graffiti et post-graffiti » : jamais un auctioneer français n´avait accordé autant de crédit au genre ! La pièce maîtresse de la vente est la grande Balle de Match, Hôpital éphémère, 1993 (214,5 x 190 cm) de John PERELLO alias Jonone estimée entre 15 000 et 20 000 €. Extrêmement vif et coloré, ce travail prend des libertés avec les maîtres de l´art abstrait comme Kandinsky, Pollock et de Kooning. Dans cette vingtaine de lots et pour des estimations entre 5 000 et 10 000 € en moyenne, l´amateur peut jeter son dévolu sur les grandes toiles aux accents de BD signées John Matos CRASH ou ASH II. Entre 1 000 et 5 000 €, le choix des œuvres est large : un Jonone de près d´un mètre, les graffitis abstraits de SHARP, Chris Ellis DAZE, KOOR ou une toile au graphisme surréaliste de Alex/Mac-Crew. Pour moins de 1 000 €, on peut espérer emporter des toiles bombées de SONIC ou de HONDO et pour une estimation basse de 100 €, une œuvre sans titre mêlant divers matériaux sur un panneau de contre-plaqué signée Thierry CHEVERNEY. En deux ans, la cote des graffeurs a doublé : le phénomène des rues deviendrait-il phénomène des ventes publiques ?




Whit czar Adam Weinberg grinned at the press preview for "Summer of Love," the celebration of ‘60s youth culture that rocks two floors of the Madison Avenue museum.

"Did you pick up your tab of acid in the lobby, Charlie?" he asked.

"Gee, Adam, you aren’t even providing coffee for the press at 10 in the morning. Perhaps you were afraid that someone would spike it!"

In honor of the Whitney’s psychedelia exhibition, here, dear readers, is a piece on my teenage days at the Fillmore East, originally published in 1988 in the long defunct Metro magazine. . . Trip out!

* * *
Oh to be 16 again, dangling your legs over the balcony rail at the Fillmore East, a big bag of weed on your lap, your longhaired, free-loving babe snuggling your shoulder, and a sheet of water-pure windowpane acid in the pocket of your flannel shirt. On stage, the most beautiful woman in the world, Grace Slick, leans against an amp, intoning her immortal Bear Melt while the oil-based mandalas of Joshua Light bounce around her. Bliss!

Just remembering the bills I saw at Bill Graham’s East Village pleasure palace sends flashbacks up my spine: The Dead, Love and the Allman Brothers; The Mothers of Invention and the Youngbloods; The Kinks and the Byrds. Of course, there were the phenomenal Jefferson Airplane concerts that were always followed the next day by an even longer, better, more cosmic, free set in Central Park. And who can forget those weird Fillmore opening acts: Sea Train, The Sons of Champlin, Stone the Crows and a guy named Chris who played gongs with various parts of his body and always opened for the Airplane?

Fillmore habitués were divided into two classes: Airplane freaks (like yours truly) and Deadheads. Each liked and respected the other’s group, attending each others’ gigs, but there were differences. For Airplane freaks, Ms. Slick was Alpha and Omega, her searing voice and long dark hair riding the chuggachuggachugga of Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen. Marty Balin and Paul Kantner took stage turns as her consort. The Airplane had a driving sexuality and a commitment to the ethic of free love that drove a true acidhead couple to the heights of ecstasy.

The Dead’s main icon at the time was not so much Jerry Garcia as that ultimate biker Ron McKernan (a.k.a. Pigpen). The pig has a gravelly voice, no commercial potential and was a primo stagehog. Deadheads, a bit alienated and often unable to get laid, strongly identified with Pig’s sense of danger and self-destruction. Yet it cannot be denied that the Dead made their best music in 1967-69, with the immortal discs Anthem of the Sun and Aoxamocoa (pronounced "Wazamozoa"). These records, along with the Dead’s best tune, Dark Star, were the Kant and Kierkegaard of LSD philosophy. Who was St. Stephen, anyway? (He was Stephen Gaskins, the head of a Memphis cult which supported itself by marketing molasses.) The Dead philosophy embodied the acceptance of mortality and timelessness: "he knows he has to die" is the main refrain of Anthem. The Angels, the leather, the menacing Pigpen turned each Dead gig into a crystal ship moving towards the heart of darkness.

Dead concerts put the green-shirted staff of the Fillmore East on red alert, though these ushers were lambs compared to today’s steel-brained club bouncers. The biker fraternity hung around the Fillmore’s bathrooms looking to pick up badges of courage: a knife fight or an overdose. At the Airplane concerts, the johns were reserved for nymphettes and free love.

The dominant dude at the Fillmore East was the Brooklyn-born ex-crony of Frank Sinatra, Bill Graham, who seemed to cross the country as if by magic from his West Coast clubs, Fillmore West and Winterland, on any given weekend.

Graham argued with audiences from the stage, checked crowds at the door and engaged in harangues with those protesting the high price of tickets ($4!). One-time performance pioneers Julian Beck, Judith Malina and the Living Theater attempted to turn the FIllmore East into a free theater, only to have Graham drive them out in defense of his right to make a profit. But, the Fillmore had no drug busts, there was always a doctor in the house and vibes were good. The intimate lower balcony and steep cheap seats put everyone on top of the stage. Graham even provided cute little programs, which are probably worth a fortune in flea markets.

In many ways the crowd was the show. Frank Zappa habitually sent most of his band members, like Native American drummer Jimmy Carl Black, into the aisles for the duration, dancing and choogling. Banana of the Youngbloods brought young girls on stage to tinkle his piano, and Pigpen used to leap into the first row. As most of the audience used psychedelics, contact highs were common. No fear of sex, no burnout, just free love. Instead of old winos, beautiful 14-year-old girls in beads and shawls, just in from the coast, panhandled in the lobby.

It’s sad to trace the demise of rock in New York. The long ago ’60s created great clubs like Steve Paul’s Scene, Ungano’s and Cafe Au GoGo, where Hendrix and Clapton were regulars. The few years of the Fillmore East gave way to the Academy of Music and CBGB’s. Now we’ve got an aimless club scene and arena concerts. If only we could turn back the hands of time!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Manet's Femme nue se coiffant Sells for $7.5 Million

Manet's Femme nue se coiffant Sells for $7.5 Million


Edouard Manet (1832-1883), Femme nue se coiffant, 1879. © Christie's Images Ltd.

PARIS, FRANCE.- A work by Edouard Manet titled Femme nue se coiffant was sold at Christie’s in Paris for $7,569,408. This is a record for a painting in France since 1993. This is also a record for a nude painting by a French impressionist painter. The work was purchased by an American collector.

The years 1878 and 1879 are oftentimes heralded as Manet's great return to the nude following his notorious compositions Déjeuner sur l'herbe and Olympia of 1863. However the fact is that the artist treated the female nude only very rarely throughout his career; including the present work, only nine completed oil paintings exist in Manet's oeuvre (Wildenstein nos. 7, 40, 67, 69, 176, 226, 241, 287, 318). Along with four pastels executed the same year, Femme nue se coiffant is the last time the artist would treat the female nude in any important manner his work.

While Manet was renowned as an accomplished boulevardier - a "dandy in a top hat" - his production from 1879 includes only a smattering of scenes from modern life, amongst them a few images from a café-concert and figure groupings in parks. The vast majority of his work from this year are dedicated to portraiture, for 1879 marks the serious onset of a debilitating illness that would eventually claim his life. The professional result was numerous sittings of friends and family and painting and working sessions with his sole student, Eva Gonzalès.

While the younger members of the Parisian avant-garde held Manet in great esteem, he was continually reproached by critics and officials at the Salon for the "sketchy" handling of his compositions and for the implausible realism which, by concentrating on the act of painting itself, ushered "modern art" into existence. His focus on light, colour, form and composition foreshadow twentieth century artistic currants to come. "It was he," said Renoir speaking of his own early training, "who best rendered, in his canvases, the simple formula we were all trying to learn." Matisse echoed this thought years later, "He was the first to act by reflex, thus simplifying the painter's metier... Manet was a direct as could be... a great painter is one who finds lasting personal signs for the expression of his vision. Manet found his" (Manet, 1832-1883, exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 1983, p. 18).

Manet's working process is readily apparent in the present work. The background was first established with ochre and blue tones which he then scraped away, leaving behind only a semi-transparent wash. His frenetic pace is palpable in the ensuing execution - the model was quickly sketched and the drapery built up around her forms, resulting in a bravura performance not only technically in the creation of space and depth, but in spontaneity of subject as well. In Femme nue se coiffant, Manet achieves a fluidity and grace, a total liberation from his subject all the while capturing the vivacity in a way that not even Monet would achieve his own Nymphéas for another thirty years to come.

The "male gaze" present in Manet's work is of a very different nature to that of his contemporary - and rival - Degas. Manet himself proclaimed : "I can do nothing without nature [before my eyes]... I do not know how to invent... If I am worth something today, it is due to exact interpretation and faithful analysis" (E. Zola, "My Portrait by Edouard Manet", L'Evénement illustré, 10 May 1868; in: Gronberg, Manet: A Retrospective, New York, 1990, p. 100). Manet worked with his subject in view, yet his paintings are more like impressions of the image beheld. Degas worked in his studio from memory and sketches, yet his nudes are more like realistic transcriptions of a moment viewed from a keyhole.

So while the model for his nudes of 1879 (including the four pastels heretofore mentioned) remains somewhat of a mystery, Méry Laurent, one of the painter's closest female friends in his later years, is a plausible conjecture. A highly celebrated courtisane, Méry is said to have served as the primary model for Proust's Odette Swann. At the turn of the century, Méry was one of the great demi-mondaines and she lived a life of luxury and leisure, surrounding herself with as many fine toiletries as learned men of the arts. Prior to meeting Thomas Evans, who would become her protector, she had a short-lived career as a stage entertainer. To her Mallarmé dedicated odes, and Joris Karl Huysmans, John Lewis Brown and James McNeil Whistler were counted among her close friends. Manet was delighted by her presence, her gaity, her frivolity, and she would bring him with her to the dress-maker, Worth, and to her hat-maker on rue de la Paix. It is difficult to imagine any one else in the artist's circle of intimates who would have posed for such daring compositions.

Since its inception, Femme nue se coiffant has been in the collection of the painter's family and his descendants. Acquired at the Manet Atelier sale by his brother, Eugène, and his wife, Berthe Morisot. The work was then passed on to Julie Manet, Eugène and Berthe's only daughter, and her husband, Ernest Rouart, and with whose descendants this painting has been with ever since.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Christie's confirme sa position dominante en matière d'art contemporain

Christie's confirme sa position dominante en matière d'art contemporain


Les ventes publiques new-yorkaises d'art contemporain vibrent non plus à coup de centaines de milliers de dollars, mais de millions de dollars. Au firmament des vacations de mai, une œuvre de Mark ROTHKO a été adjugée 65 millions de dollars, devenant l´œuvre post-war la plus chère du marché. Désormais pour Sotheby's et Christie's les vacations d'art contemporain affichent des produits de ventes supérieurs à celles "Impressionist & Modern Art". En 138 lots, les 15 et 16 mai ont engendré, tous frais compris, 639'528´400 millions de dollars, contre 515'012´000 millions de dollars sur 123 lots une semaine auparavant avec les ventes "Impressionist & Modern Art".

Christie´s a eu l´occasion de prouver une nouvelle fois qu´elle domine les ventes d´art contemporain. Les coups de marteau donnés à l´occasion de sa vente du soir du 16 mai 2007 résonneront longtemps encore. S´élevant à 384´654'400 dollars frais compris, il s'agit du meilleur produit des ventes d'art contemporain enregistré à ce jour. Précisons encore qu´il constitue le deuxième meilleur résultat jamais atteint en ventes aux enchères, Christie´s détenant elle-même la première place avec sa vente ventes "Impressionist & Modern Art" du 8 novembre dernier, qui lui rapportait 491'472'000 dollars, frais compris. Par ailleurs, la maison de vente est parvenue à réaliser 26 nouveaux records. Jusqu´alors détenu par son Mao depuis novembre dernier, Andy WARHOL a vu son meilleur prix quadrupler avec l´adjudication de Green Car Crash pour 64 millions de dollars. Autre record que celui de Damien HIRST dont le Lullaby Winter, créé en 2002, partait pour 6'600'000 dollars. Plusieurs œuvres faisaient monter les enchères à un rythme effréné. Ainsi, Mark ROTHKO obtenait son deuxième meilleur prix avec son Untitled de 1954 frappé à 24 millions de dollars. Celui crée en 1961 partait quant à lui pour 20 millions de dollars. Willem KOONING de enfin livrait son Untitled I pour lequel le marteau tombait sous le coup des 17'000'000 de dollars.

Bien qu´inférieur au résultat obtenu par sa concurrente, la vente de Sotheby´s ne peut pour autant être qualifiée d´accessoire. Le 15 mai, elle comptabilisait, frais compris, pas moins de 254'874'000 dollars. Mark ROTHKO trouvait ainsi meilleur preneur chez elle et signait par là même son nouveau record. Son White Center, crée en 1950, trouvait preneur à 65 millions de dollars. En novembre 2006 déjà, Sotheby´s permettait à Francis BACON de dépasser la barre des 10 millions de dollars en adjugeant sa Version No.2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe pour plus de 13 millions de dollars. Trois mois plus tard, sa concurrente lui arrachait le titre en obtenant près du double, frappant 24'632'500 dollars sur Study for Portrait II. Sotheby´s espérait certes plus de 30 millions de $ pour l´étude d´Innoncent X, elle en aura finalement obtenu 47 millions le 15 mai dernier. Pour ne faire que les citer, les trois autres records de la vente ont été obtenus par Jean-Michel BASQUIAT dont le Untitled datant de 1981 est parti pour 13 millions de dollars, Robert RAUSCHENBERG dont Photograph a entendu le marteau frapper sur 9 millions 5 et enfin Tom WESSELMANN dont le Smocker n 17 aura été adjugé à 5,2 millions.

En 2006, les deux rivales obtenaient près de 660 millions de dollars au terme de ces ventes de mai new yorkaises. Cette année, les acheteurs ont déboursé plus d´un milliard de dollars sur ces dernières. Les ventes de mai des années à venir vont très certainement confirmer la position des deux maisons.




The evening sale of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s New York on May 16, 2007, was certainly dramatic, if higher and higher bids coming one after the other almost without end is your idea of drama. The sale totaled $384,654,400, a new record for a contemporary auction, with 74 of the 78 lots finding buyers, or 95 percent. Looks like the bulls still rule the art market.

"I’m stunned and exhausted and thrilled," said auctioneer Christopher Burge at the post-sale press conference. It seems he’s always saying something along those lines, though this time it was truer than ever. "We had strong prices in all sections of the market with bidders from all over the world." Indeed, the first passed lot didn’t come till lot 37, about an hour into the sale. Sixty-five of the lots sold for over $1 million, and 26 new artists records were set.

Prices given here include the buyer’s premium of 20 percent of the first $500,000 bid and 12 percent of the remainder.

Although plenty of action took place in the room, most of the top ten lots were won by phone bidders. Andy Warhol’s Green Car Crash (1963), which Christie’s said would establish a new price level for Warhol, did just that, soaring above its presale high estimate of $35 million to go for $71,720,000.

Burge started the bidding at $16 million, ran it quickly up to $25 million, and then the bids ping-ponged between the phones in $500,000 increments (Burge tried but never cajoled the bidders to take leaps of $1 million, like Tobias Meyer had done at Sotheby’s the night before).

The back-and-forth telephone duel between one bidder on the line with Marc Porter, president of Christie’s Americas, and another with Ken Yeh, Christie’s deputy chairman for Asia -- who was comically holding two phones, one to each ear -- seemed to go on forever, until it was abruptly interrupted by Larry Gagosian, sitting in the room, who jumped in at $61.5 million. "He’s bidding for David Geffen," guessed one know-it-all in the crowd.

Gagosian’s last-minute effort was to no avail, as Yeh’s phone bidder would not be denied, and the Warhol was knocked down at $64 million, or $71,720,000 with premium. The crowd applauded. Could the picture be heading east?

Three lots later, a small (20 x 16 in.) Andy Warhol portrait of Marilyn Monroe, dubbed Lemon Marilyn (1962), sold for $28,040,000, once again to a phone bidder -- though Gagosian, on his cell with a client, came in at $25.5 million, only to quickly rescind his bid. "We can go back and do it again if you like," quipped Burge.

For a while, it seemed as if every third or fourth lot broke $10 million. A red and pink Mark Rothko painting from 1954 sold for $26,920,000, a dark red and crimson Rothko from 1961 went for $22,440,000, a 1981 Willem de Kooning painting was purchased for $19,080,000.

Jasper JohnsFigure 4 (1959), a picture as small as the Lemon Warhol (ca. 20 x 16 in.), sold for $17,400,000, a new auction record for the artist. The buyer was again Larry Gagosian, who won several other lots as well, including the record-setting Marc Newson riveted aluminum Pod of Drawers (1987) for $1,048,000, a large (99 x 147 in.) Damien Hirst dot painting for $2,392,000, and a painting by Eric Fischl, Slumber Party (1983), for $768,000. They obviously don’t call him "superdealer" for nothing.

As for the crowd in the room, most dressed up, and a few dressed down. Stephanie Seymour, sitting up front with her husband, Peter Brant, wore a long ribbon in her hair, a black turtleneck and black pumps, and a flared skirt with concentric rings of piping that suggested an homage to the Paul Poiret show at the Metropolitan Museum. She looked sharp.

On the other hand, Tobey Maguire, sitting further back with a couple of friends (including collector and Hollywood producer Stavros Merjos), dressed down, wearing sneakers, jeans, a gray t-shirt and gray baseball cap. Though he is an art collector (as well as Spiderman), he watched the action quietly and didn’t buy anything.

Successful bidders did include L&M Arts, which won the large (77x 62 in.) Lisa Yuskavage painting of a sultry babe, Night (1999-2000), for $1,384,000, a new auction record for the artist, and London dealer Tim Taylor, who snagged the impressive Philip Guston Head and Bottle (1975) for $6,536,000, though only after a ferocious battle among several bidders.

Daniela Luxembourg, sitting in the front row, took home an impressive set of 79-inch-wide lips by Tom Wesselmann, Mouth #2 (1966), for $2,168,000 -- the dealer flashed her own happy smile when she won the lot -- and also successfully bid for Roy Lichtenstein’s 1965 Landscape with Column, paying $4,744,000.

Jack Tilton bought Agnes Martin’s Minimalist Mountain II, a 72-inch-square traversed by pairs of parallel pencil lines, for $4,520,000, and Andrew Fabricant of Richard Gray Gallery purchased an impressive 1957 Hans Hofmann abstraction titled Early Dawn for $2,112,000, a new auction record for the artist.

Paul Judelson of I-20 gallery in Chelsea was the successful bidder for Andy Warhol’s beautiful, 40 x 40 in. portrait of art dealer Leo Castelli, which sold for $1,720,000. The painting was consigned by Laura de Coppet, a close associate of Castelli’s and the co-author of The Art Dealers.

Also late in the sale, Chelsea dealer David Zwirner won two lots back-to-back, setting new auction records for both artists: Hiroshi Sugimoto, whose Black Sea, Red Sea, Yellow Sea triptych from 1991-92 went for $1,888,000; and Cindy Sherman, whose Untitled No. 92 (1981) -- one of the well-known double-square "victim" images -- went for $2,112,000.

Needless to say, whether all these dealers were buying for clients or for stock is a secret known only to the principals.

The sale set so many new auction records that it almost makes more sense to list the lots that weren’t milestones. But let’s not; in addition to those already cited, records were set for Richard Artschwager ($1,272,000), John Baldessari ($4,408,000), Cecily Brown ($1,608,000), Richard Diebenkorn ($6,760,000), Lucio Fontana ($1,832,000), Arshile Gorky ($4,182,000), Eva Hesse ($4,520,000), Damien Hirst ($7,432,000), Donald Judd ($9,840,000), Morris Louis ($2,896,000), Agnes Martin ($4,744,000), Richard Prince ($2,840,000), Gerhard Richter ($6,200,000), Susan Rothenberg ($1,496,000), Wilhelm Sasnal ($396,000) and Matthias Weischer ($480,000).

One seller of note was Mel Bochner, who consigned a 1966 work by his friend Eva Hesse, Untitled ("Bochner Compart"), which sold for $3,064,000.