Bloomberg’s James Tarmy has noticed the brimful market for Italian artists is overflowing with strong prices. He points out that Lucio Fontana has seen five of his top ten prices this year. Though it is odd to suggest Fontana has not been a mainstay of Evening sales of Contemporary art in New York for the last 15 years or more. Fontana’s work has always been there though never as a star lot until recently.
The newfound popularity of artists like Enrico Castellani, Paolo Scheggi and Alberto Burri may be a function of the market’s need for a greater number of abstract works that can feed collectors priced out of heroes of high modernism.
Abstraction is a truly international language. Easily recognizable abstract works in large numbers are ideal for the global art market. In this sense, Fontana’s slashes are a perfect example of art as a reserve currency. The rising market for Fontana, and some of the other Italians with large bodies of work, may really just be feeding the same demand that made Gerhard Richter’s abstract paintings all but unaffordable.
In his survey, Tarmy gets some good quotes from dealers like Daniella Luxembourg on the prospects for Italian artists:
“In the last five years, there wasn’t a monumental Burri at auction; most of them were sold privately,” Luxembourg says. “It just happened, in the same way it also happened that the last Fontanas sold at auction were big. Those works sold privately before.”
“In a way,” she continues, “the private market is the forerunner of the auction houses.” […]
“It’s not the beginning, but it’s not the end of the game,” says Gian Enzo Sperone, who spent two years organizing the current show at Sperone Westwater. “The prices I paid three years ago are already doubling now. In a couple of years it could be three times, four times more.”
The 20th Century Italian Art Market Is the Latest to Feel the Boom (Bloomberg Business)