Thursday, August 28, 2008


Mark Rothko, born Marcus Rothkowitz ( 1903–1970), was a Latvian-born American painter and printmaker who is classified as an abstract expressionist, although he rejected not only the label but even being called an abstract painter. Rothko believed he was "producing an art that would last for 1,000 years". It was a sentiment that was in stark contrast to the new, brash, secularised art emerging in New York in the 1960s.

He emigrated with his mother and sister in the USA in 1913 and went to the New School of Design in 1923 , where one of his instructors was the artist Arshile Gorky.

In his important essay, "
The Romantics Were Prompted" (1949), Rothko observed that the archaic artist found it necessary to create a group of intermediaries, monsters, hybrids, gods and demigods in much the same way that modern man found intermediaries in Fascism and the Communist Party.

Later Rothko labeled Pop-Art artists "charlatans and young opportunists" and wondered aloud during a 1962 exhibition of Pop Art whether the young artists were plotting to kill us all?

Rothko suffered from an aneurysm in 1968 and committed suicide in 1970. He was entered in Sharon Gardens in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, N.Y. Rothko believed he was "producing an art that would last for 1,000 years". Well, somebody said that before and it did not bring him luck.

This picture, an oil on canvas measuring 205 x 141 cm, was painted in 1950 and was for a long time in the propriety of David Rockefeller who put it for sale on auction at Sotheby's New York in 2007. It went for $ 72,8 million to an anonymous collector from Russia. At the end of the bidding, a bidder in the attendance said : "Someone had just bought a Rockfeller."

But times are changing for Rothko. The picture to the right below "Entitled" was on offer at Christie's NYC (NY) in November 2008 and reached only - if I may say- 506,500 dollars vs. a minimum estimate of 600,000-700,000. Talking about this picture Rothko said that he had a sort of religious experience while he made it. Entitled belongs to a series refered as Multiforms.

It is an oil on canvas (45.1 x 37.5 cm.) painted in 1947 (dated as 1946 on Betty Parsons Gallery label). Rothko used to like it very much.
It was first acquired by the Betty Parsons gallery, New York, in 1952.
In 1976, it was exhibited in Tokyo's Seibu Museum of Art during the exhibit Three Decades of American Art selected by the Whitney Museum.

Having said that it is extremely difficult to justify the prices' difference between "Entitled" gone for half a million dollars and "White Center" acquired for over 70 million. Anybody who can come up with a satisfying explanation about this is welcomed to leave a comment. The only -although extremely expensive- justification is that White Center belonged from 1960 to 2007 to David Rockfeller, the 91-year-old retired chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank who purchased it for $8,500 from Eliza Bliss Parkinson, niece of a founder of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

Mrs. Parkinson had bought it a few months earlier from Sidney Janis, dealer of Mark Rothko.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


How big is the International Art Market ?
For Simon de Pury, Chairman of Phillips de Pury,
it is big like that...
But not big enough to prevent him
to sell a majority stake in his house to a Russian investor

According to an exhaustive survey made in 2007 by the European Fine Art Foundation (EFAF) which interviewed 3500 art dealers and 3000 auction houses in the world, the global art market was about $ 55 billion in 2006. Out of this total, the private art market (art dealers only) was $ 28.6 billion.

However for Simon de Pury, Chairman of Phillips de Pury New York, the private art market is at least four times bigger than the public art market. The same survey found that the art dealers concluded 1 million transactions in 2006 which makes an average transaction amount of about $28,600.

In 2007, Sotheby's and Christie's accounted for $12 billion of the global art market whose definitive figure is not yet known. Minor auction houses like Bonhams and Phillips de Pury accounted respectively for $ 600 million and $ 308 million. The five major German auction houses - Lempertz, Grisebach, Ketterer, Hampel and Neumeister- realized global sales of $ 231 million in 2007 while the French houses made $ 1.2 billion.
The volume of Fine Arts (paintings, drawings...) sales realized by Christie's and Sotheby's in 2007 was respectively of $ 5 billion and $ 3.7 billion. The volume of private sales achieved in 2007 by those two auction houses through their galleries and dealers was respectively of $ 730 million (+123%) and $ 542 million (+111%).

Finally the EFAF found that the global art market increased by 95% between 2002 and 2006 from $ 25.3 to $ 54.9 billion of which the USA represent 46% and the UK 27%.

NB : Simon de Pury sold in November 2008 a majority stake in his auction house to a very powerful Russian investor.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Zhang Xiaogang is one of the major Contemporary Chinese painters. This "Big Family" painted by him in 1995 was bought by collector Maurice Saatchi, founder of the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, who launched in London the Saatchi Gallery in partnership with Phillips auction house. Xiaogang's work was awarded the Bronze Prize at the 22nd São Paulo Biennial Exhibition in Brazil in 1994.

Born in 1958, influenced by the infamous Cultural Revolution of the 60s, Zhang Xiaogang has exhibited all over the worlds since the early 90s and is now one of the Chinese painters representative of the "new wave" or "Avant-Garde" who are taking in between $4 and $6 million a year. His work currently goes for more than 1 million dollar.

In 1980 he was a founding member, along with his contemporaries Zhang Qikai, Luo Zhongli, He Duoliing, and Ye Yongqing, of the ‘Weed Society’. It was a non-official painting group which held free uncensored art shows and had a great impact on society at the time.

Read this interview of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, colleague of Zhang, to learn more about the current conditions of artistic and political life in the China of the Olympic Games.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Raphaella Spence is an English painter born in London in 1978 who lived in France with her parents during her childhood. At age twelve her family moved definitively to Italy where she completed her studies at the St. Georges English School in Rome.

Influenced by views of the Umbrian countryside, Spence turned toward the creation of the Photorealist landscape. Her paintings are magnificent and extremely colourful. Her work goes for
£ 7,500 to £ 13,700 ($13,800 to $25,200) making a very sound Art investment if you consider that she is only 30 years old. At 30 in 1911, Picasso was just emerging from poverty. But most of all Spence's paintings show that imitation is not forbidden anymore and that artists can paint what they see without being indicted for philistinism or academicism.


It's been estimated that "Mona Lisa" — if she ever made its way to the market — might sell for up to $10 billion, arguably to status-hungry official buyers in Qatar, Abu Dhabi, or Dubai.


Photograph Copyright Newmediaguy
The total amount of sales generated by the famous flea market with is 2500-3000 stalls at the Porte de Saint Ouen in Paris - which boasted to be "le plus grand marché du monde" - is approximately 500 million ($775 million) per year. In comparison Francis Bacon's Tryptique sold for $86,28 million (57.5 million) in 2008 which means that 2 Bacons's, 3 Picassos, 2 Van Goghs and one Monet sold in some minutes in London or New York represent as much as the St Ouen fleas market in a year. The International Art Market is a monster with a huge appetite.

The average revenues for the vendors in St. Ouen turn around 160,000 Euros which means that on average, after taxes, amortization, rents, overheads and so on, the annuel net income of the individual staller at St Ouen is about 60,000 Euros. Not bad for people who sell "fleas" but far away from the revenues of a Wildenstein or a Sotheby's. In 2007 the revenues (total sales) of Sotheby's were $ 4.6 billion giving a net income of $ 213 million. Its competitor, privately owned by Mr. Francois Pinault, Christie's, realized revenues of $6.3 billion in 2007.

The American art dealer industry includes about 6,000 stores with combined annual revenue of $ 4 billion.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Fernand Léger (1881-1955) was a French painter who was originally trained as an architect's draughtsman and photographic retoucher. Having failed the entrance exam to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1903, he studied at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs and the Academie Julian. In 1909 he ranked as one of the three major Cubists and became a member of the Puteaux group in 1911. He was the first of the Cubists to experiment with non-figurative abstraction, contrasting curvilinear forms against a rectilinear grid.

He renounced abstraction during the First World War, when he claims to have discovered the beauty of common objects, which he described as 'everyday poetic images'.

During the Second World War, Leger lived in the USA where he taught at Yale, returning to Paris in 1945, when he opened an academy. His large paintings celebrating the people, featuring acrobats, cyclists and builders, thickly contoured and painted in clear, flat colours, reflected his political interest in the working class, and his attempt to create accessible art.

In 1950 he founded a ceramics studio at Biot, which, in 1957, became the Leger Museum. In 1967 it became a national museum.

His Femme en Bleu was sold on auction this summer 2008 for $ 39.2 million.

Friday, August 8, 2008


Who are the top 10 collectors of Art in this world ? Well, it is simple : they are billionaires. Having said that there are different sorts of billionaires, even if they are very often unsurprisingly into the finance world as well and Americans.

Alphabetically speaking, the top one of the 10 biggest is the investment banker Leon Black (left) and his wife Debra, from New York who collect Old Masters, Impressionists, modern painting, contemporary art and chinese sculpture. Black's estimated net worth was $4 billion in 2007.

Black is followed in the collectors train by the founder of Kaufman &Broad and financial giant Sun America, Eli Broad (right below) and his wife Edythe, from Los Angeles who collect Contemporary art. Broad's wealth is estimated at some $ 5.8 billion making him the 42th -richest person in America . The Broads created an Art Foundation in Los Angeles whose goal is not only collecting art works but helping people in education as well. Eli Broad is very well known as a big philanthropist.

Then comes the legendary Steven Cohen from Greenwich (CT) who owns and manages the SAC Capital Partners hedge fund and collects Impressionists, Modern and Contemporary art. His net worth is estimated at $ 6.8 billion.

Cohen is followed by founder of private equity firm, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co, Henry R. Kravis and his wife Marie-Josée from New York (right). They collect Old Masters, Impressionists, 20th-century art and French furniture. Kravis' s net wealth is estimated at $5.5 billion. In 2007 Henry Kravis was the reluctant star of a film highlighting corporate greed and the riches earned in private equity. Directed by Robert Greenwald, the film started by tallying Mr Kravis's income: $450 million last year which comes out to $1.3 million per day, or $51,369 per hour, every hour of every day. For Mr Kravis and his collegues Cohen, Broad and Black buying a 1 million dollars work of Art is like you taking a friend to lunch....

Then come the Lauders, Ronald S. and his wife Jo Carole from New York, whose inherited wealth is estimated at $3 billion. Ronald is the heir of cosmetic empire Estée Lauder and a very nice man : he created a Foundation whose philanthropist goal is very well known and appreciated notably in Central Europe. The family originates from France and Hungary. The Lauders whose real name was Mentzer collects late 19th and early 20th century art, especially German and Austrian and decorative art.

The Lauders are followed by French businessman Francois Pinault (left) , owner of PPR, a multinational holding company specializing in retail shops (Printemps) and luxury brands (Gucci) and of auction house Christie's. Pinault is the biggest art collector in the world and his fortune is estimated at $ 14.5 billion. He collects Contemporary art.

Behind Pinault, always alphabetically, comes the Ukrainian Viktor Mykhaylovych Pinchuk from Kiev, founder and main owner of the Interpipe Group, one of Ukraine's leading steel industry groups. His fortune is estimated at $ 1.5 billion and he collects Contemporary art like Pinault.

Then we have Mitchell Rales from Potomac (Maryland) who owns a manufacturing corporation Danaher Cy. and his worth $2.8 billion. Rales collects Modern and contemporary art. The ninth biggest collector of art is the Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim Helu (left below) from Mexico city who is the second richest man in the world with a net worth of around $60 billion through his holdings (Telefonos de Mexico and America Movil). He collects Old Masters, pre-columbian, colonial Mexican art and modern art, especially Rodin.

Finally the tenth alphabetically art collector is Sheik Saud bin Mohammad bin Ali Al-Thani, one of the founders of the UAE oil and gas giant Danagas who lives in Doha (Qatar) and London and collects Antiquities, Old Masters, rare books, photographs and Islamic art. His wealth is not known but it is certainly in the billion of dollars.

Other famous Art collectors are the Japanese school books publisher Soichiro Fukutake who collects Impressionists and Contemporary art and holds a fortune of $ 1.2 billion ; Iraqui born publicist Charles Saatchi from London who collects Contemporary art, especially British and the Sainsbury family from London who enjoys a collection of Impressionists, modern and contemporary paintings.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Which country has more artists considered as Impressionists ? France or the USA ?
And which artists are considered the core of the Impressionism movement ?

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Edvard Munch ( 1863 – 1944) was a Norwegian Symbolist painter, printmaker, and an important forerunner of expressionistic art. A macabre quality pervaded his early work. Munch came to Paris in 1889 and based his expressive style on Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and Gauguin. His most famous picture, the Scream, shows the influence of all three.

Munch (pronounced Munk) painted several Screams and several Girls on the Bridge. This one went on auction for $ 30.8 million in 2008.


Frans Hals (1581-1666) was born and lived almost all his life in Haarlem (Netherlands) where he essentially painted portraits. He was extremely successful and is considered as one of the best portraitists of his age equal to Rembrandt.

This portrait of the poet Samuel Ampzing was probably made about 1635, some time before the death of the sitter whose attitude makes us think that he is alive and looking at us in earnest. It is an oil on brass and measures 16.2 x 12.3 cm.

It was bought at the beginning of the XIXth century by the 2rd Earl Clancarty, British Ambassador to Brussels and was acquired in the XXth by Sir William Cornelius van Horne (1843-1915), American railroads magnate.

In July 2008 it was sold in London by Sotheby's for £ 4.15 million ($ 7.67 million), four times its estimated price, to an English art dealer.

Friday, August 1, 2008


If you want to know what the 200 biggest collectors of Art in the world are collecting, it is easy. They collect Contemporary art : 147 of the 200 main collectors (73%) of Art prefer to buy and collect Contemporary art.

According to a extensive survey recently made by an art magazine, the preference for Contemporary art is overwhelming and it is understandable. Contemporary art offers reasonable prices and huge potential capital gains whereas Old Masters and Modern art are out of reach and much more sensitive to prices' variations on the art market.

However the second main choice of the 200 biggest collectors is ... Modern Art : 74 out of 200 (37%) collect Modern art. Once more it is not really a surprise : among the 200 biggest collectors there are more than 50% of multi-billionaires who can afford to play high stakes and pay million of dollars for a certain canvass. Inside this category, 17 (23%) collect Impressionism paintings which means that almost a quarter of people who collect Modern art do collect Impressionists painters.

Then we have the inevitable Old Masters. They are out of reach from the hands of the rich people and are affordable only by the very very rich : Paul Allen (Seattle), the Blacks (New York), Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein, the Kravis (New York), the Landaus (New York), Philip Niarchos (Paris), the Plotnicks (Chicago), the Resnicks (Los Angeles), Elie and Eric de Rothschild (Paris), the Schwartzs (Bloomfield Hill), Sheikh Saud Ali al-Thani (Doha), David Thomson (Toronto) and some nostalgic and wealthy Hispanics like José Luiz Varez Fisa (Madrid), Placido Arango (Madrid), Alicia Koplowitz (picture) Marchioness of Bellavista (Madrid), the Abellos (Madrid) and the richest Mexican man Carlos Slim Helu (Mexico city). Only 20 (10%) of the biggest Art collectors in the world possess and enjoy the view of an Old Masters at home.

Behind the Old Masters and surprinsigly enough come the collectors of.... Photography (11 out of 200) which represents 5.5%, a non negligible percentage. Then we have the collectors of Expressionism (4%), Sculpture (3.5%), Asian art (3%), Tribal art (2%), African art (2%), Furniture, Islamic art and Video art (each with 1.5%).

Collectors of Pop art, Chinese ceramics, antiquities, rare books and works on paper represent globally 5% of the collector world while collectors of Rare coins, Primitive and Conceptual art represent each 0.5% ot the total.