Nahmad Contemporary has a show of four giant works by Georges Mathieu whose private and public markets have been seeing renewed activity lately. Mathieu is from the generation of European abstract painters who combined their art making with performance.
The show of these four works from 1978 are each 19 feet wide and were created for the artist’s retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris held the same year. The series comprised seven works. One is in the collection of the Centres Pompidou in Paris.
These works are not the only ones by the artist to cause a stir. Le Figaro wonders if the show, the first in the US in 30 years, might not mark “the beginning of an international reappraisal of [Mathieu’s] unjustifiably low prices.” It isn’t clear what Le Figaro believes justifies the price of art. Perhaps they believe that there ought to be demand for Mathieu on par with his peers like Zao Wou-ki or Pierre Soulages.
On the public market, there has been some movement in the last year but the record for the artist was set more than a decade ago when The Abduction of Henri IV by Archbishop Anno of Cologne made €1.15m in Paris. At the time, the price was three times the previous auction record.
How much might these monumental works be worth in the US? Probably around one and a half million euros. These prices are in line with those obtained recently in private sales. In particular, one which sold for two million euros in June 2018 at Art Unlimited during Basel Art fair—Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon, 1959 (2.5 x 6 meters), which Mathieu painted in public on April 2, 1959, in just 40 minutes, accompanied by Pierre Henry’s music at the Fleischmarkt Theater in Vienna. Presented at the fair by Parisian art dealer Franck Prazan, the work sold within hours to a private Swiss collector. For Prazan, an advocate of the artist’s historical works from 1940 to the 1960s, this was a great secondary market transaction.