New Record Price

13 November 2013   BBC News

Bacon painting fetches record price

Three Studies of Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon
Bacon painted Three Studies of Lucian Freud at London’s Royal College of Art in 1969
A painting by Francis Bacon of his friend and fellow artist Lucian Freud has become the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction after it fetched $142m (£89m, 106m euros) in New York.

The triptych, Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969), is considered one of Bacon’s greatest masterpieces.

It was sold after six minutes of fierce bidding, Christie’s auction house said.

The price eclipsed the $119.9m (£74m) paid for Edvard Munch’s The Scream last year.

‘Emotional kinship’It was the first time Three Studies of Lucian Freud had been offered at auction and bidding opened at $80m (£50m, 60m euros). Its presale estimate was $85m (£53m, 64m euros).

The auction house did not disclose the identity of the buyer.

Bacon, known for his triptychs, painted Three Studies of Lucian Freud in 1969 at London’s Royal College of Art, after his studio was destroyed in a fire.

$100M ARTWORKS

  • Edvard Munch, The Scream – $119.9m (2012)
  • Picasso, Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust – $106.5m (2010)
  • Alberto Giacometti, Walking Man I – $104.3m (2010)
  • Picasso, Boy With a Pipe – $104.1m (2004)

Francis Outred, head of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s Europe, said the work was “a true masterpiece and one of the greatest paintings to come up for auction in a current generation”.

“It marks Bacon and Freud’s relationship, paying tribute to the creative and emotional kinship between the two artists,” he added.

The pair met in 1945 and became close companions, painting each other on a number of occasions, before their relationship cooled during the 1970s.

Exhibited in Bacon’s renowned retrospective at the Grand Palais, Paris in 1971-1972, the three panels that form the painting were separated in the mid-1970s.

One panel was shown at the Tate in 1985 before the three sections were reassembled in their original splendour.

The complete work was displayed in New Haven, Connecticut in 1999.

It got its first ever UK public viewing at Christie’s in London in October this year.

Behind De Laszlo’s Famous Portrait

BEHIND DE LASZLO’S FAMOUS PAINTING

I recently completed a study, my own version of the 1921 portrait painting of Dona Maria Mercedes De Alvear, after the original by one of my favourite portrait artists, the great Philip De Laszlo. He painted many well known personalities, among them instantly recognisable members of the British royal family. Some of his subjects are not so well known, and some to me, quite mysterious, such as this aristocratic young lady from Argentina whose portrait is one of his greatest works. I felt compelled to find out who she was… and was quite unprepared for such a fascinating story:

PORTRAIT OF MARIA MERCEDES DE ALVEAR BY MICHAEL MCNAUGHTON
(DE LASZLO 1921)

It all starts when a small flotilla of Spanish naval ships leaves Montevideo harbour on 7 August 1804, en route to Cadiz in Spain.

On board the frigate Mercedes was General Diego De Alvear, transporting with him his considerable wealth accumulated after many years of service in the River Plate area, and also his wife and children.

On 5 October 1804 the Spanish ships were intercepted by a British flotilla near the Portuguese coast of Algarve, and even though both countries were at peace after the Treaty of Amiens, they threatened the Spaniards. Diego Alvear and his son Carlos María were called to the flagship Medea, to serve as interpreters as they spoke English.

The incident got out of hand when British gunfire, designed to intimidate the Spanish, hit the Mercedes, presumably detonating munitions on board, because the frigate was recorded as having sunk after a massive explosion. Tragically, over 200 people on theMercedes were killed, including Don Diego’s wife and children. The only surviving son of what was to become known as the Battle of Cabo De Sante Maria was Carlos De Alvear, who was with his father aboard the Medea at the time. Spain declared war on Great Britain two months later, in December 1804, and the Battle of Trafalgar was to follow the year after.

THE FRIGATE “MERCEDES” SINKS AT CABO DE SANTE MARIA

After the sinking of the Mercedes, the flotilla was captured and sailed to England where Diego de Alvear was made prisoner, but with honours and privileges. The tragic family loss was not lost on the British to the point that the British government decided to reimburse Don Diego part of his economic losses due to the sinking of the Mercedes.

During his captivity he met, going to mass, a young Irish lady, Luisa Ward, whom he would later marry. In December 1805 he returned to Spain and in 1806 arrived in Madrid. Diego De Alvear married Luisa on January 20, 1807, in Montilla (Córdoba, Spain), where incidentally his grandfather had been the founder of the Alvear wine estate which still exists today.

Don Diego went on to attain many civil and military honours in an illustrious career. During the Spanish War of Independence he distinguished himself as commander of artillery defending the city of Cadiz against invading French troops in 1808, organising also the city’s defence in general, and capturing a French naval flotilla in Cadiz Bay.

On 18 May 2007 the salvage firm Odyssey Marine Exploration announced the discovery of a spectacular maritime treasure trove, possibly the world’s biggest, in the Atlantic Ocean. The find included USD 500 million worth of gold and (mainly) silver coins, and hundreds of other valuable objects.
Odyssey flew the 17 ton discovery from Gibraltar to its US headquarters in Tampa, Florida, but Spanish authorities suspected the discovery was made in Spanish territorial waters or on the wreck of a Spanish vessel… As the facts emerged, this vessel turned out to be none other than the frigate “Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes“, the ship of Diego De Alvear.

The Spanish government, media and people were incensed that the fabled treasure of the Mercedes may have been salvaged and whisked off to another country. A Spanish judge ordered the interception of the two Odyssey ships believed to have been involved in the discovery of the treasure and the Spanish government filed claims in a US court over Odyssey’s find, arguing that if the shipwreck was Spanish or was removed from its waters, any treasure would belong to Spain.

THE TREASURE IS FLOWN OUT OF GIBRALTAR TO FLORIDA USA

After a two month standoff, during which the Odyssey ships were effectively cornered in Gibraltar harbour, a Spanish Navy warship and a Civil Guard vessel headed them off as they attempted to escape, threatening to open fire if they did not follow instructions. The ships were then escorted to a Spanish port, Algericas, and the vessels were boarded and searched by police, the captain being arrested. A remarkably similar situation to what had happened to the Medea flotilla in 1804.

STAND-OFF … THE ODYSSEY EXPLORER, LEFT, AS IT WAS INTERCEPTED BY A CIVIL GUARD PATROL BOAT, RIGHT, AND A WARSHIP.
PHOTO: AFP

In February 2012, after a five-year court battle, during which even the government of Peru attempted to stake a claim, a U.S. federal judge awarded the treasure to Spain and ordered Odyssey Marine to relinquish the treasure to Spanish authorities. The large cache of coins and other artifacts were then collected and flown back to Spain in two Spanish Hercules military transport aircraft on 27 February 2012. Spain’s culture minister indicated the treasure would be divided among several national museums.

Odyssey Marine spent $2.6 million salvaging, transporting, conserving and storing the treasure, but it is not expected to receive any compensation from the Spanish government for the salvage because Spain has maintained that the company should not have attempted to do so in the first place. Odyssey argued that the wreck was never positively identified as the Mercedes. And if it was that vessel, then the ship was on a commercial trade trip — not a sovereign mission – at the time it sank, meaning Spain would have no firm claim to the cargo. International treaties generally hold that warships sunk in battle are protected from treasure seekers.

FLYING THE TREASURE BACK TO SPAIN
PHOTO: DEFENSE MINISTRY OF SPAIN / EPA

The young Carlos De Alvear, who as a 15 year old boy had been the only survivor of Don Diego’s children after the sinking of theMercedes, adopted his lost mother’s name, becoming Carlos Maria De Alvear. He was educated in England, moved to Spain, served in the Spanish Army in the Napoleonic Wars and eventually returned to Buenos Aires on board the English frigate George Canning, to take up a commission in the young Argentine army.

GENERAL CARLOS MARIA DE ALVEAR

He is a national hero of Argentina today, having reached the rank of General at the age of 25 and known for his noteworthy success as commander of the Revolutionary forces which forced the 1814 Spanish surrender in Montevideo (their last bastion of power on the River Plate) and as victor of the 1827 Battle of Ituzaingo during Argentina’s war with Brazil over a swathe of land between them which was later to become Uruguay.

ARGENTINE CAVALRY CHARGING BRAZILIAN INFANTRY SQUARES AT THE BATTLE OF ITUZAINGO 1827

This Argentine General De Alvear was Maria Mercedes De Alvear’s great-grandfather. During the 19th and 20th centuries the family were still well known aristocrats in the Buenos Aires area, Maria’s father, also named Carlos, being a wealthy landowner. Maria Mercedes was born in Buenos Aires on 25 March 1896, the youngest of nine children. She was named after her elder sister, María Mercedes, who had died in 1893, aged seven. She apparently grew up mostly in Paris, which was not uncommon for Argentinian aristocrats in those days, and her parents commissioned the portrait by Philip de Laszlo to hang in their palatial new home in Buenos Aires, designed by the famous French architect Réne Sargent.
It was called Sans Souci, and took 4 years to build, opening with great celebration in 1918. No longer in the family today, this grand home was used as the Presidential Palace for the 1996 Hollywood film Evita (although President Peron and his wife Eva never in fact lived there).

FOTO: MARIA MERCEDES DE ALVEAR

I have not been able to find out much more about her personal life, other than that she “lost her reason” a few years after the portrait was painted, and died unmarried in 1962 at the age of 66. It seems sad that such a fascinating story should end this way, the subject alone and ‘lost’… but her immortality is ensured not only by one of the greatest portrait painters of all time, but also in one of his best paintings ever. The original portrait was recently sold at auction for GBP 97,250 (Christies).

Christina’s World Today

“Christina’s World” Andrew Wyeth (1948)

A portrait painting may depict the subject in a variety of ways, such as ‘head’, ‘head and shoulders’, ‘half length’, ‘full length’, as well as in profile, ‘full face or ‘three-quarter view’, and with varying degrees of light and shadow. An unusual example would certainly be Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting, “Christina’s World”, where the face of the subject is not visible at all.

Out of curiosity, I have done a little research. The subject is Christina Olson (1893-1968), who lived on a farm in Cushing, Maine, where the famous American artist Andrew Wyeth spent many summers of his productive career. His wife Betsy, in her twenties, was also a model for the painting – Christina Olson was by then in her fifties. Christina Olson suffered from a degenerative muscular disorder which took away her ability to walk when she was in her thirties and, preferring not to use a wheelchair, crawled about the house and grounds as depicted. The painting is an American icon, on display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and is very rarely loaned. The house, now owned by the Farnsworth Art Museum, has been restored to appear as it was in the painting, and was officially designated a National Landmark in 2011.

Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009)

Damaging the Work of Famous Artists

What is wrong with these people?

It would surely be a great privilege for most of us just to be able to see and appreciate the works of such great artists, to even be in the same room… yet there are individuals who through either carelessness or plain misfortune seem to be able somehow to actually damage them. Not just bump a frame perhaps, but to actually tear them, punch holes in them…

How? I have in my possession some paintings of my own, such as exercises from art lessons years ago, worthless to anyone except myself, which I have lugged through various house moves, even from one continent to another, without much care or attention, and as I write, these same canvasses, unframed, are stacked against a wall to the left of this table – and not one has a hole in it or any other damage beyond perhaps some accumulation of dust or, at worst, some particles embedded on the surface. How does one manage to tear off the corner of a Matisse? Does one go snowboarding with it? The world would in my opinion be a better place if such art were to be owned and handled only by persons who appreciate art for its true worth – a concept that only those who really appreciate art would know. The paintings from the amateur years of an artist are safer stacked against a wall in a corner and carried up and down staircases around the world than those framed and hanging in the offices and mansions of some who do not love art for art’s sake.

Here are some examples:

Nu au Coussin bleu à côté d’une cheminée

This lithograph, “Nu au Coussin bleu à côté d’une cheminée”, signed and numbered by Henri Matisse in 1925, has had its top left corner torn off while in the possession of or handled by an art gallery in New York.


``Femme assise dans un fauteuil''

Picasso’s “Femme assise dans un fauteuil” (1941) has been damaged while in the care of a Gallery in New York. A tear about 2 inches long had to be repaired near the centre of the canvas.

Picasso’s famed “Le Reve” was about to be sold by its owner to another collector for an agreed USD 139 million, which would have made it the world record price ever paid for a painting, and while entertaining some friends or guests, showing them the painting at his office in Las Vegas, he  accidentally poked a hole in the middle of the canvas with his elbow.

To be fair, one should mention that art lovers have also had accidents before, such as the unfortunate incident at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2010… but even so, for goodness sake, how does someone actually manage to FALL INTO A CANVAS?

We can only hope that the vast majority of staff at galleries and museums around the world actually love the art they see every day to such an extent that they would even work there for nothing just to have the privilege of seeing a Monet or Matisse when one passes through…I would, if I could – but who can? The ‘rich’ wouldn’t and the ‘poor’ couldn’t.

Art and Money – Price Madness in 2012

The Great Game and the Scream of Nature

World records for the prices of art sold privately and at auction are being shattered in quick succession.

In February 2012, Cezanne’s “Card Players” was sold privately for a reported USD 250 million, making it the most expensive painting ever sold…

The world's new most expensive painting

According to Art History News (3rd Feb 2012) “The state of Qatar has paid a reported $250m for a version of Cezanne’s Card Players. Cezanne painted five similar images, and this was the only one remaining in private hands. The others are in the Met, d’Orsay, and Courtauld museums, as well as the Barnes Foundation. Alexandra Peers of Vanity Fair has the story:

How did Qatar get the Cézanne? For years, Greek shipping magnate George Embiricos had owned and treasured the painting, rarely lending it. He was “entertained” but unmoved, according to one art dealer, by occasional offers for it that climbed ever higher alongside the art market in past decades. A few years ago, the painting was listed by artnews magazine as one of the world’s top artworks still in private hands.

Shortly before his death in the winter of 2011, Embiricos began discussions about its sale, which was handled by his estate. Two art dealers—William Acquavella and another, rumored to be Larry Gagosian—offered upward of $220 million for the painting, people close to the matter said. But the royal family of Qatar, without quibbling on price, outbid them, at $250 million”.

Then there was “The Scream” by Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch. It sold for USD 120 million at Sotheby’s in New York on the evening of Wednesday 2nd May 2012, a new world record (auction) price.

Here it is… and brace yourself.

The Scream – Edvard Munch 1895

I suppose it is all about what Mr Will Gompertz, Arts Editor of BBC News, says:

“The reason for the record-breaking auction price achieved by The Scream is a simple case of market economics in an age of global capitalism: demand for Grade A art far outstrips supply. In a world of jittery stock markets and double-dip recessions, top-end artworks have become a reliable and highly desirable investment for the world’s super-rich. There are five factors at play in dictating an artwork’s value: rarity, reputation of the artist, confidence in the market, condition of the artwork, and competition for the piece. It is this last factor that has powered the continued rise in prices. A few years ago Sotheby’s would have had bidders from three or four countries, now it’s 20 or 30: that’s globalisation for you.”

Personally, I cannot understand why anyone would want to hang this image on their wall, let alone pay money for it. This has got to be one of the most hideous images I have ever seen. I have read all about what it represents, and how Mr Munch was feeling at the time, and what a famous painting it is and why… but with all due respect, I cannot seem to find a way to like it, or to be glad I ever saw it. I certainly hope I don’t ever have to suffer in the way Mr Munch apparently did, and my views about this particular work are merely my own opinion. Is this the point then? To be ‘engaged’ by the work? To be assaulted by the painting? Why is this so awesome? Would a piece of music containing recorded sounds of an animal in pain and distress be great too then? Not to me. At the same time, I don’t want to be saying too much about things I don’t know much about, and am sure that if Edvard Munch is held in such high esteem, there will be good reason.

If you like, here is what persons less ignorant than I have to say:

Painted in 1893, The Scream is Munch’s most famous work and one of the most recognizable paintings in all art. It has been widely interpreted as representing the universal anxiety of modern man. Painted with broad bands of garish color and highly simplified forms, and employing a high viewpoint, the agonized figure is reduced to a garbed skull in the throes of an emotional crisis. With this painting, Munch met his stated goal of “the study of the soul, that is to say the study of my own self”. Munch wrote of how the painting came to be: “I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned as red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence, feeling unspeakably tired. Tongues of fire and blood stretched over the bluish black fjord. My friends went on walking, while I lagged behind, shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature.”  He later described the personal anguish behind the painting, “for several years I was almost mad… You know my picture, ‘The Scream?’ I was stretched to the limit—nature was screaming in my blood… After that I gave up hope ever of being able to love again.”

In summing up the painting’s impact, author Martha Tedeschi has stated: “Whistler’s Mother, Wood’s American Gothic, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Edvard Munch’s The Scream have all achieved something that most paintings—regardless of their art historical importance, beauty, or monetary value—have not: they communicate a specific meaning almost immediately to almost every viewer. These few works have successfully made the transition from the elite realm of the museum visitor to the enormous venue of popular culture.” Source: Wikipedia

And this is What Edvard Munch said:

“We want more than a mere photograph of nature. We do not want to paint pretty pictures to be hung on drawing-room walls. We want to create, or at least lay the foundations of, an art that gives something to humanity. An art that arrests and engages. An art created of one’s innermost heart.”

That is all very well, but I find “The Scream” a bit hectic. Are there not some nicer things, or more palatable things, in one’s innermost heart too? Perhaps the great artist did indeed give to humanity some other engaging masterpieces, or at least some works which are more to my taste, but “The Scream” doesn’t exactly motivate me to go scrambling to find out.

The previous record for an artwork sold at auction was Pablo Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust”, which sold for USD 106.5 million in 2010, and I find it infinitely more comfortable to look at…

At least it has some appeal, and doesn’t attack the viewer like Munch’s apocalyptic ghoul. I suppose, to be fair, it is completely different on a variety of levels, and the two paintings cannot be compared in the way I have. But at least this one doesn’t make me want to run to the pharmacy for help.

 

Here is an article about Picasso’s painting which I found interesting to read…

Mail Online (www.dailymail.co.uk)
6 May 2010

Dashed off in a single day in 1932, Picasso painted Nude, Green Leaves at the highpoint of his astonishingly productive career.

By then, the artist had been through his Blue period, his Cubist period, his Classical and Surrealist periods and was embarking on a rich phase notable for its symbolism as well as his skill.

The painting depicts Marie-Therese Walter, one of a series of mistresses and muses who inspired Picasso.

Picasso's 'Nude, Green Leaves and Bust' sold for $106.5million (£70.2million) at auction on Tuesday night, a new world record
Picasso’s ‘Nude, Green Leaves and Bust’ sold for $106.5million (£70.2million) at auction on Tuesday night, a new world record

1. Look carefully, and here you can just see the black outline of Picasso’s own nose and lips, partly hiding behind a blue veil. This signifies the secrecy of his illicit relationship with his muse.

2. Above the reclining figure of Marie-Therese is a depiction of her own bust on a classical pedestal, a sign of Picasso’s high esteem for her.

He had made a sculpture bust of her the previous year, and according to Conor Jordan, the head of Modern Art in Christie’s, New York, there is an element of self-congratulation in its inclusion in the painting – as if Picasso were pointing out his own virtuosity.

The paint on the bust in the picture is ladled on with a palette knife, making it seem like a three-dimensional statue, in contrast to the smoothness of Marie-Therese’s body.

3. These large green leaves depict a philodendron, a common creeping houseplant whose name means ‘love tree’.

Picasso owned his own philodendron which he kept in the bathroom and grew so astonishingly quickly that he once said that it almost took over his life.

By including it here, he is perhaps making a reference to his all-consuming obsession with Marie-Therese.

4. The two shadows cast over Marie-Therese’s naked body are a mystery even to art experts. Some believe they may indicate the erotic submission of Picasso’s mistress – but others believe that the one around her throat could be a reference to a celebrated Matisse picture, which Picasso owned and depicted a young girl wearing a black choker.

5. By his mistress’s elbow, Picasso has painted a plate of apples, a symbol since Biblical times of sexual temptation.

(Image courtesy www.pablo-ruiz-picasso.net)
Marie-Therese Walter: Nude muse

An illegitimate child with a pushy mother who had encouraged her to form relationships with older, richer men, Marie-Therese was just 17 when she met the 45-year- old Spanish painter in Paris in 1927.

For years, they managed to keep the relationship secret from Picasso’s wife, Olga Khoklova, a Russian ballerina with whom he had a young son, Paulo. But when Marie-Therese fell pregnant in 1935, the pretence was over.

But a year after she gave birth to Picasso’s daughther, Maya, the artist met a new mistress, Dora Maar.

Insanely jealous of her love rival, Marie-Therese later encountered Dora unexpectedly in Picasso’s studio and the two women started a physical fight, which Picasso subsequently called one of his choicest memories.

Marie-Therese committed suicide in 1977, four years after Picasso’s death at the age of 91.

The large canvas depicts an almost life-size Marie-Therese in lilac, a colour favoured by Picasso to depict his lover’s pale flesh. The voluptuous girl is asleep, a pose he favoured for his women, reflecting his own obsession with submission and possession.

A prospective buyer admires Matisse's 'Nu au coussin bleu' as Picasso's piece hangs alongside it prior to the auction
A prospective buyer admires Matisse’s ‘Nu au coussin bleu’ as Picasso’s piece hangs alongside it prior to the auction

The sellers

The painting had belonged to the estate of Los Angeles philanthropists Sydney and Frances Brody, whose art collection included celebrated works by Giacometti, Matisse and Braque.

The Brodys, whose money came from property, lived in a modernist house designed to show off their collection – Matisse created a mural for their courtyard. This Picasso, the pride of their collection, was bought in 1952 for $17,000 from a New York art dealer, who had acquired it from the painter in 1936.

All 27 lots from the Brody estate that were included in this week’s sale found buyers, and the total proceeds of £148million will go towards the upkeep of the magnificent grounds of California’s Huntingdon library, which the couple adored.

The buyer

The successful bid was made by a telephone buyer who wants to remain anonymous. Some believe he must be a Russian oligarch.

But among art insiders, speculation is rife that he may be Californian hedge fund manager Steve Cohen – who owns an art collection worth around £400 million. Cohen has always

wanted a Picasso painting of Marie-Therese and four years ago agreed to buy one owned by Las Vegas casino boss Steve Wynn, entitled The Dream.

The agreed price of $139 million would have made it the most expensive private sale ever, but the sale fell through when Wynn accidentally put his elbow through the painting.

The price

When the hammer finally came down at $106.5 million (£70 million), the painting beat the previous record of $104.2 million for an auctioned artwork set in 2004 for another Picasso painting, Boy With A Pipe. It also trumped the $103.4 million achieved in London last February for Giacometti’s Walking Man sculpture.

The value of Tuesday’s sale was augmented by the fact that, having been in a private collection for 50 years, the painting had been shown in public only once – to celebrate Picasso’s 80th birthday.

A Record Price for Contemporary Art

USD 87 MILLION
MARK ROTHKO – “ORANGE, RED, YELLOW” 1961

CNN
May 9, 2012

One week after Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” shattered art auction records (USD 120 million), Mark Rothko’s “Orange, Red, Yellow” has broken the price ceiling for a work of contemporary art.

The 1961 painting, described by auction house Christie’s as arguably the most important work by the Russian-Amerian artist to ever appear at auction, sold for almost $87 million Tuesday. The previous record was held by Francis Bacon’s Triptych at $86.2 million.

“This was an historic event in the auction world, with three major records set in the space of a few short hours,” said Brett Gorvy, Chairman and International Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art in a press statement.

The entire auction raised a record $388.5 million, surpassing the previous record set in May 2007, also at Christie’s, by some four million dollars.

Feverish bidding also produced the highest price for a collection sold at auction, for 13 works from the Pincus Collection, described by Christie’s as the “most important and comprehensive ensemble of Abstract Expressionism ever to come to auction.”

The Pincus lots were part of an impressive catalog of post-war art collected over 50 years by former clothing manufacturing boss David Pincus and his wife Gerry before his death last December.

The collection included the record-breaking Rothko, bought by Pincus in 1967, which was sold to an anonymous phone-bidder after a seven-minute volley of more than 50 bids, Christie’s said.

“The art market is ignoring European woes,” Randy Slifka, a New York collector and money manager told Bloomberg. “People feel comfortable buying prime works by world-class artists.”

Of the top 10 works sold, eight buyers were listed as “anonymous,” while two were attributed to private buyers from Europe and the U.S.

Jon Reade, the managing director of Art Futures Group in Hong Kong, says there’s a good chance the money flowing into the Christie’s New York auction room Tuesday came from Asian investors looking to diversify their portfolios.

“A lot of it’s from China, new wealth from China. They’re buying property, they’re buying cars and they’re looking for new asset classes to get involved with,” he said.

“Of course it’s like a knock-on effect, one Chinese billionaire buys an artwork and makes money from it, tells his friend, and it’s just reverberating around the whole world art market at the moment.”

Reade said the Chinese started emerging as major buyers in the art market in 2009 and 2010, coinciding with strong growth in the Chinese economy.

A 2011 report by auction sales analysts Artprice said that sales that year “confirmed China’s domination of the art market, with the economic health of Asian collectors generating higher price levels than anywhere else in the world.”

Reade said: “The Chinese art market has been strong for the last two years and is getting stronger and now some of the big global players are coming on board as well.”

Of the 59 works offered by Christie’s at the New York auction, 56 were sold including more than a dozen for record prices for their respective artists.

Jackson Pollock’s Number 28, 1951, a riot of black enamel and silver-grey paint, sold for just over $23 million, a new world auction record for the artist, Christie’s said. And at $36 million, Yves Klein’s FC 1 (Fire-Color 1) set a new record for the French artist who created the work just weeks before his death in 1962.

Reade, whose firm encourages investment in art, said that he expects demand to continue to rise as investors look for returns beyond traditional and poorly performing markets.

“At the moment property in Asia, not just in Hong Kong, has just topped out in a way. Stocks have obviously been very volatile over the last few years to say the least so people are looking to put their money in new asset classes,” he said.

A ‘new’ Van Gogh comes to light….

What an ‘Unknown’ Could be Worth

London (CNN) – A painting dismissed for years as the work of an unknown artist has been identified as a piece by Vincent Van Gogh, after x-rays revealed an image of two wrestlers fighting underneath the floral still life.

“Still Life with Meadow Flowers and Roses” has hung in the Kroeller-Mueller Museum in the town of Otterlo, in the eastern Netherlands, since 1974, but doubts over its authorship have dogged the painting for decades.

Experts argued that the large format, the location of the signature, and the huge number of flowers in the composition all suggested the painting was the creation of an unidentified artist, rather than the famed Dutch painter, and the work was officially “dismissed” from his catalogue in 2003.

“There were so many questions around this painting,” explained Teio Meedendorp, researcher at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. “There were a lot of things about it that were strange — it couldn’t quite be trusted [as a piece by Van Gogh].”

But the latest high-tech x-ray imaging has allowed scholars to re-examine an underpainting, featuring two wrestlers fighting, first glimpsed in the 1990s, and confirm that the picture is indeed by Van Gogh.

Van Gogh (1853-1890) created some of the world’s best known and most loved paintings, including “Sunflowers,” “Irises” and “The Starrry Night,” and a number of self-portraits.

He was virtually unknown as an artist during his lifetime, but his reputation soared in the years after his suicide at the age of 37 following years of mental illness, and his works now hang in major museums and galleries around the globe.

During the art market boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s, three of Van Gogh’s works succeeded each other as the most expensive paintings ever sold: “Sunflowers” for $39.9 million, “Irises” for $53.9 million, and “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” for $82.5 million.

“The painting was x-rayed before, so we knew there was something underneath, but the image was not very clear,” he told CNN. “This new technique gave us a much clearer image, and lots of details about the pigments and the paint layers.

“We know Vincent painted wrestlers, we know much more than we did 10 years ago about the pigments he used, and we know that at the time, when re-using a canvas, he simply painted over the top of

the previous image, without an intermediate layer.

“This painting was a complete match with all the research that has been done over the past 10 years.”

Van Gogh wrote about the wrestlers picture — which he painted as an assignment during his studies at the art academy in Antwerp — in a letter in January 1886: “This week I painted a large thing with two nude torsos — two wrestlers,” adding that he was delighted with the result.

Research suggests that the still life was painted on the same canvas fewer than six months later, while in Paris.

“The top layer was applied not long afterwards,” said Meedendorp. “We can tell this because he used a lot of zinc white in the wrestlers picture, and it dries very, very slowly.

“The x-rays show that it had not hardened completely when the still life was added, causing some cracks in the paint of the flower picture, which suggests it was painted less than half a year later.”

Meedendorp said there was always the possibility of discovering other “unknown” Van Gogh works in future. “There are other paintings that haven’t been x-rayed,” he told CNN. “There are always other opportunities.”

The Man Who Exposed the Absurdity of the Art Market

And All Because of an Incorrectly Labelled Tube of Paint

Perhaps the greatest art forgery scandal of all time is unfolding in Germany right now. The perpetrator has been caught, and is behind bars. Who knows how many ‘valuable’ paintings hanging in museums and private collections around the world are in fact the work of one man, a certain Wolfgang Beltracchi from Freiburg. I have assembled all the articles which were published in Der Spiegel, and the fascinating story may be read here on a sub-page of this blog because it is quite extensive.

My take on this is: Yes he was wrong, very wrong to do what he did. It is unfair too, to everyone, and especially, in my view, to his fellow artists whose work he ‘stole’… but he is a highly talented artist nonetheless, even admirable in some way, and it is a pity he chose to apply his gift in this way. But doesn’t this all make one think a little about the whole concept of the ‘experts’, the ‘art market’, and so on?

Marcel Duchamp’s Classic – Why is this painting so famous?

A Master’s Descent into Fame and the President’s Navajo Trance

I’m not a great fan of  Modernist, Cubist, and Futurist paintings, but sometimes a particular work is just…amazing. Or interesting somehow. And sometimes when one is curious to find out what such a painting is all about, and why it is so famous, or interesting to oneself at least, one investigates….

So read on if you are also interested in this painting:

Widely regarded as a Modernist classic, and one of the most famous of its time, the work, an oil painting on canvas with dimensions of 147 cm × 89.2 cm (57.9 in × 35.1 in) in portrait, seemingly depicts a figure demonstrating an abstract movement in its ochres and browns. The discernable “body parts” of the figure are composed of nested, conical and cylindrical abstract elements, assembled together in such a way as to suggest rhythm and convey the movement of the figure merging into itself. Dark outlines limit the contours of the body while serving as motion lines that emphasize the dynamics of the moving figure, while the accented arcs of the dotted lines seem to suggest a thrusting pelvic motion. The movement seems to be rotated counter-clockwise from the upper left to the lower right corner to move, where the gradient of the apparently frozen sequence corresponding to the bottom right to top left dark, respectively, becomes more transparent, the fading of which is apparently intended to simulate the “older” section. At the edges of the picture, the steps which are indicated in darker colors. The middle of the image is an amalgam of light and dark, that becomes more piqued as one approaches the edges. The overall warm, monochrome bright palette of the painting ranges from yellow ocher, to dark, almost black tones. The colors are translucent applied. At the bottom left of the painting Duchamp placed as title, “NU DESCENDANT UN ESCALIER” in block letters, which may or may not be related to the work, as the question of whether the figure represents a human body remains open; the figure viewers infer gives little clue to its age, individuality, character, or sex (though the work’s title has the masculine gender).

The painting combines elements of both the Cubist and Futurist movements. In the composition, Duchamp depicts motion by successive superimposed images, similar to stroboscopic motion photography. Duchamp also recognized the influence of the stop-motion photography of Étienne-Jules Marey, particularly Muybridge’s Woman Walking Downstairs from his 1887 picture series, published as The Human Figure in Motion.

Duchamp first submitted the work to appear in a Cubist show at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, but jurist Albert Gleizes asked Duchamp’s brothers, Jacques Villon and Raymond Duchamp-Villon, to have him voluntarily withdraw the painting, or paint over the title that he had painted on the work and rename it something else. The hanging committee objected to the work on the grounds that it had “too much of a literary title”, and that “a nude never descends the stairs—a nude reclines”.

Of the incident Duchamp recalled,

I said nothing to my brothers. But I went immediately to the show and took my painting home in a taxi. It was really a turning point in my life, I can assure you. I saw that I would not be very much interested in groups after that.

He submitted the painting to the 1913 Armory Show in New York City located where Americans, accustomed to naturalistic art, were scandalized. Julian Street, an art critic for the New York Times wrote that the work resembled “an explosion in a shingle factory,” and cartoonists satirized the piece. It spawned dozens of parodies in the years that followed.

After attending the Armory Show and seeing Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote (using his own, also valid translation): “Take the picture which for some reason is called ‘A Naked Man Going Down Stairs’. There is in my bathroom a really good Navajo rug which, on any proper interpretation of the Cubist theory, is a far more satisfactory and decorative picture. Now, if, for some inscrutable reason, it suited somebody to call this rug a picture of, say, ‘A Well-Dressed Man Going Up a Ladder’, the name would fit the facts just about as well as in the case of the Cubist picture of the ‘Naked Man Going Down Stairs’. From the standpoint of terminology each name would have whatever merit inheres in a rather cheap straining after effect; and from the standpoint of decorative value, of sincerity, and of artistic merit, the Navajo rug is infinitely ahead of the picture.”

Source: Wikipedia