What Price Art Auction Philanthropy? – artmarketblog.com
Christie’s 16th of February Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction saw a staggering new auction record for a living French artist when Martial Raysse’s “L’année dernière à Capri (titre exotique), (Last Year in Capri (Exotic Title))” sold for €4,851,241 against an estimate of €1,000,000 – 1,500,000. The problem is, at least as far as the value of the work is concerned, that the painting was sold to benefit a charitable foundation. Now, before the angry emails start flooding in, I want to state that I think it is great that someone is donating the proceeds of the sale to charity. What does concern me are the effects that this sale could have on the way people perceive the value of this particular work, and the artist’s work in general.
I have no doubt that the price the bidders were willing to pay for this work was significantly influenced by the fact that the proceeds of the sale were going to be donated to charity. Although it may seem that Raysse would have benefited significantly from this sale and from the charitable association, I’m not so sure he has. You see, people are always going to question whether this work would have sold for such a high price if the proceeds of the sale were not going to charity. What makes this question even more relevant is the fact that Raysse is not the most well known or desirable artist and is nowhere near as highly regarded as his American pop artist counterparts. There is, however, significant evidence to suggest that Raysse was beginning to become more highly regarded and more popular, which makes this whole matter even more complicated.
According to artprice.com, the prices being paid for Raysse’s work at auction have been quite solid over the past few years with many works fetching six figures, and a few breaking the one million pound mark. As far as I could see, the previous auction record for Raysse was achieved with a sculpture titled “Snack”, which was sold by Sotheby’s London for 1.26 million pounds in 2008. It is worth noting at this point that a huge majority of the works by Raysse that have been sold at auction were sold in Paris. This doesn’t bode well for Raysse’s reputation as it makes the auction record, which was set in London, seem even more anomalous.
Given the current trend towards works that can be associated with the concepts of arte-povera and primitivism, it would make sense that Raysse’s work would be experiencing a surge in popularity. As an artist who is known for his mixed media collages and sculptures that include “found objects”, both of which are the type of works that are driving the current arte-povera trend, there is every chance that “L’année dernière à Capri (titre exotique), (Last Year in Capri (Exotic Title))” would have still exceeded the estimate and achieved the record had the proceeds not been going to charity. The problem is that we will never know for sure. Instead of this being an excellent chance for Raysee’s work to really excel at auction, this whole situation has generated a big question mark surrounding the true value of Raysse’s work. Given that Raysse’s work rarely appears at auction outside France, there may not be another chance like this for a long time, which is a really big shame. Hopefully Raysse’s work will continue to become more well know and more highly valued as it deserves to be.
Martial Raysse (b. 1936)
L’année dernière à Capri (titre exotique)
(Last Year in Capri (Exotic Title))
signed twice and titled ‘MARTIAL RAYSSE “L’année dernière à Capri” (titre exotique)’ (on the reverse)
oil, paper collage, glycerospray and painted wooden frame on board
72 3/8 x 53in. (184 x 134.6cm.)
Executed in 1962
**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