Rising Stars of Italian Post-War Art Market Pt. 1 – artmarketblog.com
The October 2011 auctions of post-war/modern Italian art held by Sotheby’s and Christie’s saw two post-war Italian artists finally achieve the market recognition that they deserve. Sotheby’s and Christie’s each achieved a new world record for a post-war Italian artist whose prices had previously lagged behind those of their more famous and highly valued peers such as Fontana and Manzoni. Sotheby’s, who held their ’20th Century Italian Art’ sale in London on the 13th of October, achieved a new world auction record for Italian abstract painter and sculptor Alberto Burri (1915-1995) with the work ‘Combustione legno’ which smashed the £800,000 – 1,200,000 estimate for a final price of £3,177,250 – the top price of the sale. Another of Burri’s works offered by Sotheby’s, ‘Rosso Plastica L.A.’, again smashed the given estimate of £850,000 – 1,200,000 for a final price of £2,001,250 and the third highest price of the sale. ‘Rosso Plastica L.A.’ would have been the new world auction for Burri record had ‘Combustione legno’ not reached the price that it did.
The recent interest in the Arte Povera movement, combined with the greater level of attention being paid to Burri’s work by the cultural establishment as evinced by the ‘Combustione: Alberto Burri and America’ exhibition held by the Santa Monica Museum of Art in 2010, would partly explain the recent desire for works by Burri. According to the Santa Monica Musuem of Art:
“Alberto Burri (1915–1995) was a seminal artistic figure of the 20th Century, a forebear to many artists and artistic movements—from Pop Art to Arte Povera—both in Italy and the United States. Burri’s fame is great in his native Italy, but he remains relatively unknown in the United States, despite the fact that for over 25 years he would winter in his home in the Hollywood Hills, where he produced more than 60 major works of art”.
Although Burri’s work has received significant attention from the cultural sector, and has had some strong auction results over the previous years, the prices for his work have remained relatively stagnant. A brief period of action during the 2008 art market boom saw a string of high prices for Burri’s work that unfortunately did not last. The previous auction record for Burri was set at £1,924,000 against an estimate of £1,000,000 – £1,500,000 by Christie’s in 2007 with the artist’s ‘Sacco e Rosso’. Prior to that an auction record had not been set for the artist since 1989 when a buyer bid an extraordinary £1,635,992 (hammer price) for one of Burri’s works during an auction in France.
Having lingered in relative obscurity compared to his like-minded contemporaries, Burri has now come out of the shadows to claim his place as not only one of Italy’s most important post-war artists, but one of the most highly valued as well. In fact, recent auction results would suggest that the more polished and minimalist work of Fontana is losing ground to the grittier work of artists such as Alberto Burri.
To be continued………..
signed and dated 57 on the reverse
wood, plastic, vinavil and combustion on fabric
117 by 97cm.
46 by 38 1/4 in.
**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.
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