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French Auction Hailed as A ‘Victory for Paris

The Nouveaux Réalistes were the focus of attention at the Cornette de St-Cyr contemporary art sale in Paris on April 19. All 13 artists who belonged to the movement were represented; and 29 of 41 works on offer made a total of €1.2 million ($1.55 million). The highlight: Yves Klein’s 1962 Portrait Relief de Martial

PARIS—The Nouveaux Réalistes were the focus of attention at the Cornette de St-Cyr contemporary art sale in Paris on April 19. All 13 artists who belonged to the movement were represented; and 29 of 41 works on offer made a total of €1.2 million ($1.55 million). The highlight: Yves Klein’s 1962 Portrait Relief de Martial Raysse, in IKB blue on a gold-leaf panel (numbered 3/6), which fell to a private buyer for €481,300 ($625,000).

The work was consigned by the widow of Pierre Restany, the critic who championed the Nouveaux Réalistes. Five of six works by Raymond Hains were sold, with the top price of €55,600 ($72,300) paid for Rue Delambre, 1960. All five works by Daniel Spoerri were sold—led by Tableau-Piège, 1972, at €23,600 ($30,700).

A 46-lot Collection d’un Couple d’Amateurs at Christie’s on April 14 brought €1.85 million ($2.38 million). All but four lots were sold; eight of the top ten went to private buyers.

COBRA group artists (whose name is an acronym of Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam) made the highest prices: Asger Jorn, €213,600 ($273,600) with Flexions et réflexions, 1972; and Karel Appel, €174,000 ($222,900) with Animals, 1953. Arman’s 1963 Sacked Secretary, a dismantled typewriter on a red ground, took €168,000 ($215,200), while Jean Fautrier’s Vase de fleurs. 1929, went to a U.S. buyer for a triple-estimate €162,000 ($207,500). Christie’s expert Caroline Smulders reckons U.S. collectors are “starting to look with a fresh eye” at French artists because they offer better value than American artists.

A rare vintage silver print of Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville, the legendary image of Paris romance by Robert Doisneau (1912-94), was acquired by a Swiss collector for €185,000 ($240,000) at ArtCurial on April 25—an auction record for both Doisneau and a French postwar photograph.

The print, estimated by ArtCurial to bring €15,000/20,000, had been consigned by Françoise Bornet, the girl kissing in the photograph. She attended the auction and called the sale price “unimaginable.” Sale expert Gregory Leroy called it “a victory for Paris—proof that photographs can sell just as well here as in London or New York!”

The print had Doisneau’s personal stamp on the back and a pencil-written negative reference number. Contrary to popular belief, the photo—part of a series on the theme “Paris Lovers,” commissioned by Life magazine—was posed, not spontaneous. Bornet and her then-boyfriend Jacques Carteaud were drama students at the time.

SIMON HEWITT

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