Friday, November 21, 2008


If you ask art dealers and auctioneers about who are the most famous Contemporary artists, you have a good chance to obtain very different answers. For instance, Philippe Segalot (picture at left), the French art consultant and former manager of Christie's contemporary art departement, think that there are no more than 10 great artists in any one generation. And he adds that those ten will show their prices grow while the others will simply disappear like fog.

For Segalot, among the ten best he puts Koons, Basquiat, Gonzales-Torres, Hirst and Cattelan. The other five, you might have never heard of them and among the best of the 21st century Segalot ranks Murakami, Toymans, Barney and Gober. I personally have never heard of the last three but I am not an expert and not even a specialist. So who are those famous three whose works we should rush to buy ?

Luc Tuymans (born 1958) is a Belgian contemporary artist (autoportrait on the right), considered one of today's most influential painters. Shame on me I did not know that. Tuymans was born in Mortsel, Belgium (double shame I live 3 years in Brussels and I still do not know it) and began to study fine art at the Sint-Lukasinstituut in Brussels in 1976. He first exhibited in 1985 and his first U.S. exhibition was at The Renaissance Society in Chicago in 1995. Tuymans lives and works in Antwerp. Recently some of his work has been exhibited in "The Triumph of Painting" exhibition in the Saatchi Gallery in London. In May 1995, the David Zwirner gallery featured a two-person exhibition of paintings by Francis Picabia and Luc Tuymans. The Museum of Modern Art hold six works by Tuymans. In October 2008 one of his paintings sold by Christie's London fetched almost 47,000 GBP ($70,000).

Matthew Barney (born in 1967 in San Francisco, California ) is an American contemporary artist who gained fame by a film called Cremaster cycle, a sequence of five films, entitled Cremaster 1 to Cremaster 5, which create a self-enclosed aesthetic system.

The conceptual departure point for the cycle is the male cremaster muscle, and the films are filled with anatomical allusions to reproductive organs and the process of sexual differentiation. Some critics think he is simply a buffoon, notably with regard to his second film, Drawing Restraint 9. Others thik he is a genius. Barney could well be the most important American artist of his generation. He produces films and videos, most of which he performs in. He and his crew also make sculptures and objects for the films and turn out photographs, books and installations derived from the films.

The sculptures include dumbbells made out of tapioca, a weight bench made of petroleum jelly, a mirrored saddle and nylon chairs with backrests curved at the waist so that only contortionists could sit comfortably on them. Barney doesn't regard any of his works — the sculptures, the photographs, the books, the films — as subsidiary to any others.

To say the least Barney (photo on the right) is not easily understandable and is very often provocative : I do not know what to make of his works and I send the reader to the
Gladstone gallery where more of this achievements can be seen.

In 2006, his works were exhibited at the show "all in the present must be transformed: Matthew Barney and Joseph Beuys," held by Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin. In November 2008, one of his works fetched $86,500 on action at Phillips De Pury in New York. He is acclaimed all over and his works are walked around the museums and galleries of the planet.

The third great artist of our fresh century is or may be Robert Gober,
an American sculptor, who was born in Connecticut, in 1954. He studied at Middlebury College, Vermont Tyler School of Art in Rome. He lives and works in New York City and is represented by the Matthew Marks Gallery.

His work is often related to domestic and familiar objects such as sinks, doors, and legs, and has themes of nature, sexuality, religion, and politics. The sculptures are meticulously handcrafted, even when they appear to just be a re-creation of a common sink.

His work is in many museum collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Menil Collection, the Tate Modern.

This hanging bulb is an enamel, beeswax and rope measuring 8 x 3 x 3in. (20 x 7.5 x 7.5cm.) and was executed in 1990. At auction in June 2008, it fetched £457,250 ($911,300) at Christie's London.

Author Don Thompson, after a comprehensive survey and study of the Art market, cites 25 major Contemporary artists : Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Gehrard Richter, Bruce Nauman, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauchenberg,
Joseph Beuys, Ed Ruscha, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Cy Twombly, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Martin Kippenberger, Donald Judd, Willem de Kooning, Takashi Murakami, Peter Fischli, Richard Serra, Antoni Tapies, Maurizio Cattelan, Andreas Gurky, David Hockney, Rochard Diebenkorn and Jean Michel Basquiat. To tell the truth before to read his study (1) I had never heard of 9 of them.

(1) Don Thompson, The 12 million Stuffed Shark, 2008, Palgrave, Macmillan

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