Top 2010 Art Market Trends Pt. 2 – artmarketblog.com
There is really not just one dominant “art market” that one can refer to anymore. Once upon a time when one referred to the art market they were generally referring to the global leaders England and the USA, with perhaps the French market included depending on who you talked to and what their allegiances were. Now, however, there are so many more highly influential markets emerging on a regular basis that it has become extremely difficult to trace, track and predict art market movements – not totally impossible though. My last post focussed on the art market trends that I have seen emerge during 2010, which were identified primarily from observing auction sales throughout the year. With this post I want to look a bit further into those trends and the reasoning behind them.
The arte povera trend that I mentioned in my previous post on art market trends is not exclusive to the auction world. Some of the world’s top contemporary galleries are exhibiting works that have obvious ties with the concepts and characteristics that one associates with the Arte Povera movement – in particular the use of found objects. For instance, the Barbican Gallery recently held a special exhibition of work by Damian Ortega, a Mexican artist who has strong associations with the White Cube gallery, which consisted of a number of installations using found objects. New York’s Gagosian Gallery chose to use one of Rauschenberg’s ‘Combine’ paintings, a series of works that incorporate found objects and reproduced images, as the feature image of their Rauschenberg show that finished in November 2010. In fact, the first three works of the exhibit were from the artist’s ‘Combine’ series. Since September Hauser and Wirth have exhibited a sculpture by Martin Creed titled ‘Work No. 700’ (2007), three progressively slimmer steel I-beams balanced on top of each other. Creed’s steel girders are left in their used, practical state, which once again fits in with the “found object” trend.
If I can divert back to the auction market for a moment, the January 11-12 2011 Christie’s sale of items from the estate of Dennis Hopper included a particularly interesting array of works that perfectly reflect the current market trends that I have been talking about. A range of junk assemblages by George Herms, an artist who many consider to have been overlooked by the art world, attracted a particularly high level of attention and sold for several times the estimate. The Hopper sale also included a noticeably high number of collage works – another trend that I consider an extension of the “found object” trend. A “found object” collage by Bruce Conner titled ‘Picnic on the Grass’ took the third highest price of the auction reaching a fantastic $96,100 against an estimate of $10,000-$15,000. According to the Christie’s press release “Conner was a key artist in the development of assemblage art, a movement of found-object sculpture that critic Peter Plagens defined as “the first home-grown California modern art.” Hopper’s collection boasts several Conner works, including this multi-layered work that employs fabric, printed paper, plastic, string and even an acorn”. A verifax collage by Wallace Berman proved popular finding favour with a US buyer who paid $42,500, going well beyond the $12,000 to $18,000 estimate. Also included in the sale were collages by Viggo Mortensen and Llyn Foulkes; a collage by Lyn Foulkes titled ‘The Scene that is God’s Mouth’ was purchased by the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.
Collages also proved popular on the gallery side of the market during 2010 with Gagosian Gallery holding an exhibition of discarded object sculptures and photographic collages by Nancy Rubin from June to July. Victoria Miro extended their exhibition of renowned collage artist Tom Lubbock who passed away less than a month after the exhibition closed. According to the gallery website, “Tom Lubbock died on Sunday 9 January 2011. In tribute to him Victoria Miro Gallery will reopen his exhibition on Saturday 15 & Saturday 22 January. This exhibition of beautifully crafted paper collages, provides the first opportunity to see a small selection of works made weekly by Tom Lubbock for the Saturday edition of The Independent between 1999 and 2004”.
The current fascination and focus on the 2D and 3D versions of “found object” assemblages tells us more about the market than you may realise. Erik Davis gave an excellent explanation of the allure of found objects in an article he wrote titled ‘The Alchemy of Trash, the West Coast of Spiritual Collage’. According to Davis:
“Duncan (Robert Duncan) praises the outsider artist, who goes against the grain, risks height, ignores dogma. This is all part of our “alternative” myth these days, but it remains to be seen whether the margins still exist — culturally, economically, spiritually — that could allow such creative feats to flourish. Juxtaposition has become an advertiser’s art. Trash is not the same thing today, in our belated self-conscious world of thrift-store savvy, mediated hipster rebellion, and omniverous collector mania. Before you know it, it’s on Ebay. Many of us still hear the spiritual call of redemptive refuse, of glimmers, junk, and “bits of beauty.” But it remains to be seen whether we can join the ranks of those who, in Ginsberg’s howling words, “dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images juxtaposed…”.
In a world that is so obsessed with material possessions, and that is so influenced by commercialism, it is inevitable that there will be times when the world becomes disillusioned with this particular path of progression and the objects associated with it. In my opinion the false, shallow and impersonal nature of the material world we live in is more than enough reason for collectors to want to seek works of art that represent a more idealistic and romantic approach to life. The familiar nature of works that are constructed of “found objects” is one reason that such works have greater appeal during times of disillusionment and disenchantment. As far as I am concerned it makes sense that a work constructed of familiar “found” objects would quite easily evoke a sense of nostalgia and sentimentality in many people and, as I have mentioned in previous posts, the familiar brings a sense of comfort and confidence to people during times of uncertainty.
The work of artists who are influenced by, or who produce work in line with, the concepts adopted by the Arte Povera movement, can also act as a sort of escapism that transports the viewer to another world that Erik Davis describes in his article ‘The Alchemy of Trash, the West Coast of Spiritual Collage’ as:
“a life authentically rooted in the noncommercial margins of bohemia, a magic circle of art and fellowship and esoteric romanticism that transmuted the objects and images it embraced”.
The inauthentic, sterile and commercialistic path that the art market tends to take during heady times of blissful ignorance will always come to a grinding halt when people are forced to face facts and return to reality. Works that embody the concept of arte povera, such as “found object” collages and sculptures, have an authenticity and spirituality that is extremely difficult to ignore unless one has been blinded by the glitz, glamour and sheen of the modern material world. Thankfully, the veil of commercialism and materialism has been lifted allowing these often shunned works to be experienced in all their glory – if only for a short period of time.
To be continued…………
Song for Hope
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications