Archive for November, 2010

Record-Shattering Auction Sales Bode Well For Art Market

November 15th, 2010 | posted by Bill Rau

“Politicians anxiously trying to find out just how serious the current economic difficulties are might like to take a look at the art market…The numbers can leave no one in doubt about the buyer’s readiness to part with cash.”

– Souren Melikian, “What’s in a Name? At Art Auctions, Lots of Money,” The New York Times, Nov. 5th, 2010

At the outset of Sotheby’s 19th Century European Art Sale on November 4th, 2010, the expected sale price of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s The Finding of Moses was set between $3 and $5 million dollars. When the gavel fell nearly eight minutes later, the final sale price was nowhere near that range. It was seven times that much. After an intense bidding war between three hopeful buyers, one of the undisclosed bidders won the exceptional painting for just under $36 million.

Setting a staggering new record for Alma-Tadema’s work—the same painting had set his previous record at $2.8 million in 1995—this sale was only the first of several record-breakers for the day’s auctions. Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Sale on the same date witnessed a new record set for Modern artist Amadeo Modigliani’s La Belle Romain, which sold for double its estimated price at $69 million and contributed to Sotheby’s overall sales of  $227.5 million.  And Christie’s followed suit, racking up $231.4 million with their 84-lot Impressionist and Modern Sale.

After a period of economic uncertainty, these record-shattering sales indicate that the art market is steadily regaining strength. Indeed, Sotheby’s had not seen such high numbers for an Impressionist and Modern sale since May of 2008. But with the U.S. stock market at a two-year high, wealthy individuals are again looking at art both for its beauty and for its investment potential. Knowing the rarity of fine art, these affluent connoisseurs come prepared to pay top dollar for works attached to the great masters of art history. But, in today’s economy, what more solid addition to a financial portfolio could one make? Whoever won Alma-Tadema’s The Finding of Moses actually received a bargain. It is one of the most beautiful works by one of the greatest artists of the 19th-century, and it comes with the security of most assuredly rising in value. For that, it is priceless.

Re-Writing the Book on Bouguereau

November 5th, 2010 | posted by Bill Rau

“. . .the arrival of this thoroughly researched and extensively illustrated publication is well-timed, and text books will have to be rewritten as this work has permanently changed how art history of 19th Century Art should be taught.”

– post, October 27th, 2010

"Fleur de Rocaille" featured in Bartoli and Ross’ new cataloge raisonne

As a gallery that specializes in 19th-century European painting, we always get excited when new publications appear on one of the era’s all-stars. One of our favorites is William-Adolphe Bouguereau, an incredibly important artist whose story was silenced for far too long. Fortunately, Bouguereau is back in the spotlight with the recently-published definitive biography and catalogue raisonné of his work, produced by Damien Bartoli and Frederick Ross of the Art Renewal Center.

Bouquereau was, in his day, one of the most decorated and beloved artists of all time. “Each minute costs me 100 francs,” he quipped to a colleague at the pinnacle of career, as commissions cascaded into his studio. His touching genre scenes, infused with both classical refinement and romantic expression, made him a favorite of art collectors around the world. After his death in 1905, however, Bouguereau and his impressive oeuvre fell into obscurity, returning to artistic acclaim only within the last few decades. Publications like Bartoli and Ross’s help to secure Bouguereau’s status among the pantheon of 19th-century greats. The most complete portrait of an often-misunderstood artist, this catalogue raisonné not only re-writes the book on Bouguereau but opens up a new field of scholarship that explores the other artists of the 19th century that have yet to get their due.

To celebrate the arrival of such an important text, we decided to create a dedicated blog to all the other masters of 19th-century painting. Our goal is to not only showcase the best and brightest painters of the age, but also to shed a little light on what made them so important. We’re calling it “The Art Brief,” a taste of a dynamic century in a single-serving size. Stay tuned!