Friday, October 31, 2008


Mahjoub Ben Bella was born in 1946 in Maghnia (Algeria). After some studies at the Fine Arts School in Oran (Algeria), he moved to the Fine Arts School of Tourcoing in the North of France and then at the Fine Arts School in Paris before to go eventually to the Ecole nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris.

He is the painter of Lille and of the North of France and is widely considered in this region where he painted 12 kilometers of cobble stones of the infamous hard road of the Paris-Roubaix cycle race. His repute is now international and his work sells everywhere notably in the Emirates where his style illustrates the meeting of two words in a pacific way, the North and the South, the East and the West of the Mediterranean. Ben Bella's work creates a remarkable fusion between signs based on Arabic calligraphy, and Abstract Expressionism in European painting.

This painting is an oil on canvas painted in 2005 and measures 76¾ x 51 1/8in. (195 x 130 cm.) . It was offered on auction at Chrisitie's in October 2008 and reached the low level of its estimate, i.e. $ 40,000.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


The second most expensive painting of the Christie's sale on the 19th of October 2008, a realistic study of Francis Bacon's face done more than 50 years ago by Lucian Freud realized £5.42 million ($9,4 million), barely above the low estimate - but, again, a huge price.

It was the sale that saved the day because due to the economic crisis transactions were slim and became sticky
. By the end of the sale, 27 percent of the works remained stranded. At the press conference held in a subdued atmosphere, a Sotheby's spokesperson revealed that the auction house had worked hard to persuade consignors to bring down their reserves.

The work is an oil and charcoal on canvas measuring 14 x 14in. (35.5 x 35.5cm.) and was painted in 1956-57. It was only natural that these two painters, in each other's company so much, would begin to feature in each other's pictures, Freud appearing in Bacon's oils for the first time in 1951 and Bacon appearing in three drawings by Freud executed in 1951, two paintings of 1952 and 1956-57 and a later drawing from 1970.

Bacon passed away in 1992 and Lucian Freud will celebrate his 86th birthday on the 8th of December.


Francoise Gilot born in 1921 is mainly known for having been the companion of Pablo Picasso from 1944 to 1953 and having raised his kids Paloma and Claude. But Gilot is also a good painter born in a Parisian family whose mother was herself an artist and a devoted watercolourist.

At 21 Gilot met Picasso then 40 years older and raised his kids. She wrote a book about her "Life with Picasso" that sold one million copies translated in 12 languages. In 1969 Gilot was introduced to Jonas Salk, the polio vaccine pioneer, at the home of mutual friends in La Jolla, California. Their shared appreciation of architecture led to a brief courtship and they were married in 1970 in Paris.

Gilot remained married to Dr. Salk until his death in 1995 and during her marriage she continued painting in New York,
California, and Paris. At 87, Gilot's vibrant, colorful art continues to reflect her thoughts on nature, time, symbols and signs.

This oil on canvas made in 1951 measures
20 x 25 in. (52 x 63.5 cm.)and was in the propriety of Eleanor S. and John M. Shoenberg. It was sold on auction in NYC in 1999 for $ 14,950 after having been estimated for less than 4,000. I remember very well that sort of oil bottle, they were very famous in the late 50 and early 60s and we had one on the dining table at home in Marseille, France.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


In 1999, Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan made a sculpture into a room completed with wax, clothing, polyester resin with metallic powder, volcanic rock, carpet, glass entitled La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour). The scene: a wax sculpture of the pope—painstaking in its realism—laying to one side of the room, crushed under the weight of an equally realistic meteorite that seemed to have come crashing through a skylight. Glass was scattered about the floor (not visible on the photograph).

Maurizio Cattelan is an Italian artist born in Padova, Italy, in 1960. He is probably best known for his satirical and controversial sculptures of which la Nona Ora is the most famous. Cattelan did not attend art school but taught himself and his personal art practice has led to him gaining a reputation as an art scene’s joker. He has been described by Jonathan P. Binstock, curator of contemporary art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art "as one of the great post-Duchampian artists and a smartass, too". Cattelan is a knowing and sophisticated artist who teases the art world without ever falling into the naive trap of thinking he can subvert a system of which he is part.

He certainly is a smartass because la Nona Ora was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London as part of the prestigious Apocalypse show, and was sold at Christie's for $3 million. When you can reach prices of this magnitude as an artist with work of this artistic insignificance either you are a genius or the rest of the world is made of assholes. You chose !!!

Monday, October 20, 2008


This work by the Haitian-American painter Jean Michel Basquiat reached
$ 51,909 in April 1998 and had been estimated between 33 and 50,000 dollars.

It is a mix of acrylic, charcoal, graphite in the messy style of Basquiat who probably painted all his pictures when UTI of alcohol or drugs. I personally find no interest whatsoever in this horror but ten years ago people in London were ready to pay almost 52,000 dollars for it. It measures 30 x 40 in.

They were probably right because more recently his boxer painting sold for $13.5 million in New Ork city and seems to be a more developped copy of this picture executed bizarrely a year later (1983).

Basquiat passed away in 1988 : he was born in Brooklyn, New York City in 1960. His mother, Matilde, was Puerto Rican and his father,
Gerard Jean-Baptiste, was of Haitian origin and a former Haitian Minister of the Interior. Because of his parents' nationalities, Basquiat was fluent in French, Spanish, and English and often read Symbolist poetry, mythology, history and medical texts, particularly Gray's Anatomy in those languages.

He dated an aspiring and then-unknown performer named Madonna in the fall of 1982. That same year, Basquiat met Andy Warhol, with whom he collaborated extensively, eventually forging a close, if strained, friendship. He was also briefly involved with artist David Bowes. Basquiat died of mixed-drug toxicity (he had been combining cocaine and heroin, known as "speedballing") at his 57 Great Jones Street loft/studio in 1988

Sunday, October 19, 2008


This work was made by Rachel Whiteread in 1991 and sold in London in 1998 for £76,300 ($127,558) after an estimate of 40-60,000 Pounds.

It is a plaster
measuring 31 x 192 x 140cm. Rachel is primarily concerned with the castings with which the human body is surrounded during its lifetime.

According to Christie's that sold the work on auction, none are more poignant or haunting than the beds and the mattresses, for they are the plinths on which our most important and profound experience take place. If Christie's says so it must be true but really who wants to put an item like this in his house elsewhere than
in the attic ?

Anyway once more contemporary items of Art can reach astronomical prices without any reason except the needs of the buyer that can deeply vary according to his/her means, his/her psyche and his/her mental balance.

Her best known work, House, was a concrete cast of the inside of an entire Victorian terraced house completed in autumn 1993, exhibited at the location of the original house — 193 Grove Road — in East London : all the houses in the street had earlier been knocked down by the council. It drew mixed responses, winning her both the Turner Prize for best young British artist in 1993 and the K Foundation art award for worst British artist. Tower Hamlets London Borough Council demolished House on 11 January 1994, a decision which caused some controversy as well.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Larry Gagosian, known in the art circles, as "Gaga" or "gogo", due to his endless energy, is the owner of the Gagosian gallery in New York city. Larry began his trade as a poster and print dealer in Los Angeles and opened his first gallery in NYC with Annina Nosei almost 30 years ago.

His first first show was given to Contemporary artist David Salle (1). In 1985 he opened his own gallery and his first show was made of works from art collectors Burton and Emily Tremaine who began collecting 20th-century art when they were married in 1945. By the early 1980's the Tremaine collection had grown to more than 400 works by European and American artists. Burton was the heir of a man who founded a company that became General Electric.

The Tremaine were usually dealing with the famous art dealer Leo Castelli but Gagosian eventually succeeded to win Emily over by keeping on calling her. His first major client was the very wealthy S.I.Newhouse, owner of Condé Nast publishing Cy. to whom he sold Piet Mondrian's Victory Boogie Woogie for $10 million (picture above at left). He even convinced Newhouse to come in person at the sale and the art world was very impressed by his business acumen.

Gagosian is active in primary and secondary Art markets. Today he has a roster of customers that include Newhouse, Geffen and even the very redoutable Englisman Charles Saatchi who has his own gallery and is known for making or unravelling artists. As for the artists he represents, it is also a very long list of celebrities like Jeff Koons, Mike Kelley, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, Rachel Whiteread and the ubiquitous Damien Hirst for the U.S. market.

Larry has two galleries in New York city, one in Los Angeles, two in London, a very beautiful one in via Veneto in Rome and plans to open one in China. His "branding" (2) power is equal only by his capacity to pre-sale an exhibit. In June 2006 he pre-sold £4 million of a Damien Hirst show and although he does not represent Francis Bacon's estate he is capable to exhibit and sell a lot of the Irish-Englishman painter's works.

The very expensive American artist John Currin who was under contract with the art dealer Andrea Rosen came to "Gaga" when Larry brokered the sale of his Fishermen to S.I. Newhouse for $1.4 million. Hedge fund manager Adam Sender had paid $600,000 for it 18 months earlier . Sender got his start trading stocks in 1989 at the University of Michigan. By 1998, Sender was making tens of millions of dollars per year and had started his own firm. With no place to reinvest his funds, he found a perfect outlet—his love for art. He is known in the art and finance world as the man with 107 "screeens" (picture). Gagosian's strategy to open multiple galleries all over the
world is not a cheap one and it is reserved to dealers with very deep pockets. It is said that Gagosian can afford to pay stipends in hundreds of thousands artists to a roster of artists.

It will be interesting to see in the current market conditions how dealers like Gagosian are going to perform. Will the perenial fight between dealers and auction houses will end due to a crunch of the credit and a dry-up of the ressources of the wealthy clients of the galleries ? Most hedge funds are already forced to sell their assets either due to the demand of their impoverished clients or to cover their margin calls.

Gagosian is a "bourreau de travail" (work alcoholic) and expects his staff to do the same. He recently said to his collaborators and helpers that if they would like to continue working for Gagosian he suggested they start to sell some art." Who said that the current Contemporary Art market was doing better than any other market ? Certainly not Gaga !


(1) David Salle (born 1952) is an American painter and leading contemporary figurative artist. Salle was born in Norman, Oklahoma. He earned a BFA and MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, where he studied with John Baldessari. Salle’s work first came to public attention in New York in the early 1980s
(2) the capacity for an art dealer to make and promote an artist and his/her works


Alexander "Sandy" Calder (1898-1976) did not only made Mobiles. He also designed carpets and made lithographs, toys, tapestry, jewelry, and paintings, like this Red Nose on gouache on paper measuring 29 x 43 in. (74 x 109.2 cm.) made in 1969.

Born in
Lawnton, Pennsylvania, on July 22, 1898, Calder came from a family of artists. His father, Alexander Stirling Calder, was a well-known sculptor who created many public installations, a majority of them located in Philadelphia. Calder’s grandfather, sculptor Alexander Milne Calder, was born in Scotland and immigrated to Philadelphia in 1868.

He had a very exciting life full of adventures and in the summer of 1916, Calder spent five weeks training at the Plattsburg Civilian Military Training Camp. In 1917, he joined the Student’s Army Training Corps, Naval Section, at the Stevens Institute of Technology and was made guide of the battalion. Calder received a degree from Stevens in 1919. For the next several years, he worked a variety of engineering jobs, including working as a hydraulics engineer and a draughtsman for the New York Edison Company, but he was not content in any of the roles. He decided to become an artist and moved to New York and enrolled at the Art Students' League.

While a student, he worked for the
National Police Gazette where, in 1925, one of his assignments was sketching the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Calder became fascinated with the circus, a theme that would reappear in his later work. In 1926, Calder moved to Paris where he established a studio at 22 rue Daguerre in the Montparnasse Quarter.

This Red Nose was sold in 1999 in auction for $ 10,350 against an estimate of 6,000/8,000 dollars. It belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Michael C. Levee, Jr.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


The Brazilian brothers, Fernando and Humberto Campana, born respectively in 1961 and 1953, have injected new life into contemporary design and today their work features in dedicated exhibitions around the world : in the United States, Italy, Germany and Switzerland.
In 1998, the MOMA hosted Project 66: Campana/Ingo Maurer. The following year, the brothers were the subject of a first retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in Bahia (Brazil) and they were awarded the Georges Nelson Design Interiors prize by the American magazine Interiors.

After the dawn of the new millennium, their fame accelerated and their design acquired a veritable international reputation with pieces being integrated into the permanent collections of a number of museums, including the MOMA. From among their most successful creations, their best auctions have been generated by the doll chairs with the evocative name Sushi.
This Sushi sofa (plus 7 copies + 2 proofs and 3 prototypes) reached $ 250,000 at an auction held at Phillips de Pury in New York in December 2007.