Art, a return to modernity – MilanoFinanza News


After the euphoria of the exceptional – and almost impossible to repeat – year that was 2022, the art market has returned to basics. A healthy correction that slowed the pace a bit in 2023, but without many of the feared collapses. There was no recession, but a strong degree of economic and geopolitical uncertainty also led art to return to safe values ​​without taking too many risks. This explains the return of modern art (from Picasso to Klimt, from Monet to Kandinsky, to mention the first), the protagonist of the most expensive works sold at auction. Picasso returns to pole position after two years Woman à la montre, which surpassed initial expectations to change hands in November at Sotheby’s in New York for more than €130 million. This is the Catalan maestro’s second best result, surpassed only by one Les femmes d’Alger (version ‘O’) from 1955, sold in 2015 by Christie’s for 160 million euros. This year’s canvas is characterized by freedom of expression and symbolic value, which reveal to the world the love for Marie-Thérèse Walter’s muse. The work, which has never been auctioned before, is one of the right ones: from the date 1932, a year of extraordinary grace for the painter, through the format to the provenance. In fact, it belonged to the American patron Emily Fisher Landau, passionate about the historical avant-garde and post-World War II American art, who died last March at the age of 102.

The Fisher Landau collection was the richest and most important collection to be dispersed this year and has long been the subject of controversy between Christie’s and Sotheby’s. The latter prevailed, collecting $424.7 million from it in November, although light years away from what the same major achieved with another epoch-making collection, Macklowe ($922 million between 2021 and 2022) or Christie’s results with a once-in-a-lifetime collection Paul Allen (1.62 billion in 2022).

It is clear that the numbers have shrunk, even when comparing the ranking of the top awards. Last year, Andy Warhol took the top step on the stage with a blue Marilyn that exceeded 180 million euros. But not only that, there were six works that exceeded the 100 million ceiling. In 2023, however, only Picasso crossed this line, followed by the highly refined Klimt of Lady with fanwhich set a record for a portrait of the artist at around 99.2 million euros and Monet s Le bassin aux nymphéas, one of the most famous Impressionist pictures, which fetched 69.1 million at Christie’s. After the first four results in the ranking, the numbers then seem to be even half. 2022 certainly had features that were difficult to reproduce: from post-pandemic enthusiasm to Allen’s collection of a century of museum, impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces.

Now the real contraction is announced. Christie’s reported annual turnover of $6.2 billion (approximately €5.8 billion), down 25% from 2022 (-7% if we exclude the Allen collection). However, details will not be available at Sotheby’s until the end of January, and at the moment the expected turnover of 8 billion, which would duplicate last year’s performance, seems very little indicative. As part of this figure, the auction house, whose business ranges from luxury to prestigious real estate, has not yet specified what percentage relates exclusively to art in the narrower sense of the word. Caution, which could be justified even in possible revisions under the supervision of the owner. In fact, the recent indiscretion that Sotheby’s owner and telecoms tycoon Patrick Drahi is considering selling some of the group’s assets, including the auction house, to ease its accumulated debt.

Instead of returning to the most popular artists, the present finds a representative in Jean-Michel Basquiat. His El gran espectaculo (The Nile) from 1983, from the collection of the designer Valentino, sold at Christie’s last May for more than 61 million, well above expectations of 45. However, among living artists, two leading figures of American art of the last century Jasper Johns are in the first places and Ed Ruscha, whose works benefited from the famous provenance of the Fisher Landau collection.

As for the ancient, the great rarity of available high-quality works, combined with attributional uncertainties, contributed to the reduction of this segment to a secondary role. Old masters in the rankings are very rare and you have to wait until position 34 to find the first one. It is a youthful and vaguely splattered canvas by Rubens, Salome with the head of St. John the Baptist, a replica of which does not exist, was sold last January by Sotheby’s in New York within the estimation for 24.79 million euros. To find the second old master, you have to wait for the 65th place with the portrait by Goya. The Rubens work came from the collection of ex-husband Mark Fisch, a real estate magnate, and Rachel N. Davidson, a judge, who dispersed their important collection of seventeenth-century art during their divorce.

Even the hunt for Italian artists is not so easy, and only a very recognizable female portrait by Amedeo Modigliani stands out, which managed to attract the oriental public at the Hong Kong Sotheby’s in October with a hammer price of 33 million. In addition to this catch, Lucio Fontana and his spatial research continue to maintain great interest among collectors, including international ones, without hindrance. Suffice it to say, one of his Space concept. The end of God, from 1963, one of only 5 white examples of this monumental series of 38 paintings, was sold at Sotheby’s in New York in November for 18.9 million, the third best result for the artist and a nice revaluation for a canvas that was auctioned at Christie’s in December 2000 for 488 thousand pounds. In addition, the Alighiero Boetti market is in a phase of consolidation, with values ​​exceeding one million for important and always highly sought-after works, especially Maps and Everything, although this year it has failed to repeat the records already achieved. in 2022 and many say a correction is inevitable on the horizon. On the other hand, Salva’s production of fairy-tale and colorful landscapes was definitely turbocharged, winning over national and international audiences and breaking record after record until the latest morning, a large canvas from 1994 sold at Christie’s in Hong Kong in November for just over one million euros. (All rights reserved)


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