Carol Vogel was all over last night’s sale at Christie’s of Arte Povera works
“Some of the Arte Povera works were very rare, made during the right years and fresh to the market,” said Valentina Castellani, a director of the Gagosian Gallery who is based in New York. “There hasn’t been work like this on the market.”
One mysterious collector wearing a black porkpie hat enthusiastically bid on many of the best Arte Povera works and ended up buying several by Boetti. As he slipped out of the salesroom, declining to identify himself to the press beyond being “a private Italian collector,” several people in the audience recognized him as Pietro Valsecchi, the Italian filmmaker behind several popular comedies. Among his purchases was “Addition,” one of
Burri’s[Boetti’s] intricate embroidery works, this one executed in 1974. It had been estimated to bring $500,000 to $650,000; he paid nearly $2.8 million.
In a surprise, the top lot went to David Nahmad, according to Judd Tully, further showing a shift in the overall marketplace :
Alberto Burri’s “Combustione plastica” from 1960-61, executed in plastic, acrylic and combustion on canvas, was the top lot of the evening after triggering a bidding war and shooting to a record price of £4,674,500 ($7,6666,180; est. £1.7-2.2/$2.8-3.6 million). It sold to international dealer David Nahmad and the underbidder was Valsecchi.
Colin Gleadell tracks some of the Fontana works that seemed to overwhelm the market demand:
Another precursor was Lucio Fontana, who had a mixed evening as two small bronze ‘natura’ sculptures went unsold. But similar, unique terracotta versions did well. One, bought in 2001 for £210,000 now sold to New York dealer Neal Meltzer for £806,500. The other, bought in 2001 for £240,000, made a record for a Fontana terracotta sculpture selling for £1m.
Gleadell also thinks he knows the buyer of the cover lot:
A 1968 mirror painting by Michelangelo Pistoletto, meanwhile, which depicted the artist and his wife, was estimated at £600,000 and sought after by Italian dealer Nicolo Cardi, but was eventually sold to an Asian buyer over the telephone for a record £2m.
Gleadell offers a more detailed look at the critic-heavy marketing push made by Christie’s that recognized the previous limitations on the Arte Povera market:
According to Artnet, the number of works by Arte Povera artists sold at auction has grown from 35 in 1997, when the average price was £11,000, to nearly 300 last year, when the average was over £50,000. Christie’s £27m sale of 20th-century Italian art last year was a record in that category. The Fossattis, who had watched values going up and had been toying with the idea of selling for some time, were then persuaded that now was the right time. Having agreed estimates, which were certainly not tame, they also agreed that Christie’s would mount an exhibition (in the old Haunch of Venison space) and produce a catalogue that featured not a single price estimate but rather essays by name-brand curators Christov-Bakargiev and Hans-Ulrich Obrist. I don’t think any critics have reviewed the exhibition – perhaps because it is an auction – but Christie’s is keeping the exhibition up until Friday in case anyone wants to.
A Night of Fevered Bidding on Arte Povera at Christie’s London (Blouin Artinfo)