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The Johnston Letter
by Jill Johnston
A Memoir of France
Cowboys 'n' Culture

Based in Paris, Art Investment News focuses on exceptional work by renowned artists on sale for $100 - $100,000, supplemented by coverage of museum and gallery exhibitions of interest to art investors. AI News is edited and published by Paul Ben-Itzak, a veteran journalist who has covered the arts and financial news for Reuters, the New York Times, his own magazine the Dance Insider & Arts Voyager, and many others from New York, Paris, San Francisco, Chicago, and Texas. Dealers, Galleries, and Artists: Reach art-buyers with Art Investment News! 24/7 sponsor ads on AIN are as low as $49/month. Contact Paul for more information. Some articles require a Subscriber user name and password to access the full articles and galleries. To subscribe for just $29.95/year and receive full access to new and archived content, click on the PayPal 'Subscribe' button below, or e-mail us for info on paying by check. Please note that for donations and subscriptions, your PayPal order will indicate "The Dance Insider," our parent company. Special thanks to AIN godmother Kim Clark.

Andre Masson, "Cavalier Chimerique I" (Chimeric Cowboy), 1968. India ink and colored ink on "Japan" paper, 26.38 x 20.28 inches. Artcurial pre-sale estimate: 10,000 - 15,000 Euros. Courtesy Artcurial.

Art Investment News Gallery, 4-2: Why the best museum in Paris just may be an auction house
Rarities and Revelations at Artcurial's Impressionism and Modern Sale
By Paul Ben- Itzak
Text copyright 2015 Paul Ben-Itzak

Normally one would expect a museum to prize its artistic mission of exposure and education over its wallet, and an auction house to function in the reverse manner. This spring in Paris, however, while the Orsay and the Pompidou are trotting out the sure and safe -- in yet another omnibus exhibition of Bonnard at the former, and of Le Corbusier at the latter -- it's France's largest auction house, Artcurial, which has once again prepared a sale, April 2 of Impressionist and Modern Art, which could easily be mistaken for a scrupulously researched and revealing museum- level exhibition of rarities if the catalog didn't include price estimates. Subscribers click here for the full article with more images. (Not a subscriber? Subscribe today for just $29.95 using the PayPal 'Subscribe' button above.)

At a time when what one French critic labels the 'escroquerie' or con jobs of Jeff Koons are reigning at the Centre Pompidou, there's something refreshing about the news that a 16 1/8 by 13 3/8 inch silkscreen and acrylic on canvas by Koons's fellow American Elaine Sturtevant (dead May 7 in Paris), whose replicas of works by Jasper Johns, Claus Oldenburg, and Andy Warhol made her the queen of re-appropriation of re-appropriations, fetched nearly three times its estimated value at Artcurial's December 2 sale of Post-War and Contemporary art in Paris. Gaged pre-sale at 80,000 - 120,000 Euros, Sturtevant's 1967 "Warhol's Marilyn Monroe" (above) -- no dissimulation there -- sold for a whopping 330,400. At that price, there's little risk that the happy owner will follow Leo Castelli's example, the legendary gallerist having once reportedly bought several of Sturtevant's replicas of his clients' work only to destroy them. Warhol, by contrast, actually supplied Sturtevant the stencils from his original, no doubt appreciating her preoccupation with the question of originality in an era of mass production -- even more relevant in an epoch when Koons deploys 100 workers to fabricate his opuses, a grotesque conflation of the elderly Matisse's modest cutaway coterie. Ignored or reviled by much of the the art establishment for most of her career, Sturtevant was eventually vindicated; for its 2004 exhibition "The Brutal Truth," as Artcurial's catalog notes, Frankfort's Museum fur Moderne Kunst replaced its entire collection with her replicas. Image copyright and courtesy Artcurial.

Gudmundur Erro, "La Femme Infidele," 2003 - 2004. Glycerophtalic
paint on canvas, 76 3/4 x 38 1/4 inches. Signed, dated, and titled on
the reverse. Artcurial pre-sale estimate: 18,000 - 25,000 Euros.
Courtesy Artcurial.

Art Investment News Gallery, 12-2: Record Establishers
From Artcurial's Sebilleau & Hoss, a tour de force of the Contemporary creme de la creme
By Paul Ben- Itzak
Text copyright 2014 Paul Ben-Itzak

I swore to the press agent for Artcurial's Post-War & Contemporary sale taking place December 2 in Paris that I would be judicious in the number of images requested to illustrate this story. That was before I had thoroughly examined the catalog for the sale, which revealed itself as a veritable precis of the major artists of firmament from the past 70 years. By firmament, I don't mean the fibers underpinning Jeff Koons's polychrome behemoths; Koons is nowhere to found here. Nor is Francis Bacon. Of the record- setters of the record-setting contemporary art auctions which have marked recent years, only Andy Warhol makes a brief appearance, with a Brillo Soap Pads box from 1964. Here, Artcurial's house experts Hugues Sebilleau and Karim Hoss seem more concerned with trail-blazers than weather vanes (with a taste perhaps also inflected by the importance of graphic or comic art in France), offering contemporary classics like Gaston Chaissac and Keith Haring, under-heralded abstract mavens like Maria Elena Vieira da Silva and Victor Vasarely, medium-busters such as Niki De Saint Phalle (the subject of a major exhibition at the Grand Palais), Christo, and Yves Klein, native geniuses like Jean-Michel Basquiat, street-art sensibilizers like Robert Combas, and even movement leaders like COBRA's Corneille, represented by his tribute to Miro. Of the dozen galleries I'd make the rounds of in Chelsea at least once every week (on vernissage night, natch) the last time I lived in New York, in 2011, I'd be lucky to unearth one artist worth savoring. (I did a little better last summer in Paris, where a nascent contemporary scene devoted mostly to new voices seems to be flourishing.) No need for such weeding here; Sebilleau and Hoss's selection instincts are sound. In contrast with the everything but the kitchen sink (Duchamp never got around to that ready-made) approach of Christie's, they've come up with a sumptuous feast made up of only the creme de la creme. Subscribers click here for the full article with more images, including of work by Keith Haring, Wilfredo Lam, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Jean-Michael Basquiat, and more. (Not a subscriber? Subscribe today for just $29.95 using the PayPal 'Subscribe' button above.)

Francis Picabia, "Menu de Noel." Pencil on paper, 33 x 26 cm. Signed lower left, "Francis Picabia. Artcurial pre-sale estimate: 35,000 - 50,000 Euros. Courtesy Artcurial.

Art Investment News Gallery, 12-1: Tracing the Line
Artcurial Impressionist & Modern sales connect the dots between Corot, Pissarro, Picabia, & More
By Paul Ben- Itzak
Text copyright 2014 Paul Ben-Itzak

And if Corot begat Pissarro begat Picabia? In art as in politics, revolutions don't spring from dry ground. Before he heard the sounds of science of the neo-Impressionism that started germinating in the brain of Georges Seurat growing up at 110, boulevard Magenta in the 10th arrondissment of Paris, Camille Pissarro was a few blocks away at 56, rue Faubourg Poissonniere, taking his first lessons in color values from Camille Corot, a pioneer of pleine air painting. And after Francis Picabia graduated from the Ecole des Beaux Arts, in 1898 he continued his lessons, with... Camille Pissarro. It's fitting, then, that all three are represented -- if not in their most famous work at least in their primary colors -- in Artcurial's Impressionist & Modern auctions December 1 and 2 in Paris, also including work from the colletion of Ernest and Liuba Wolf. To the accomplished -- one might even say ossified, as fixed in the museums of our minds as the oils of Corot and Pissarro are set on their canvasses -- masterpieces typically offered by Christie's, Artcurial answers with, and at much more moderate prices, an assemblage of watercolors and sketches, whose other virtue (besides their relatively low estimated prices pre-auction) is that one can imagine the artist at work sitting down to draw, wetting his brush to dissipate the watercolors, even offering a preliminary sketch (Picabia) scribbled on a napkin at Le Dome, perhaps coaxed by Andre Breton. ("And if, for the annual Surrealists' holiday party, you drew a picture of a naked woman dancing on a revolving planet?" "Okay, but only if I can put a cigarette in her mouth and draw a delaisse expression on her face.") Subscribers click here for the full article with more images, including of work by Degas, Bonnard, Dali, Picabia, Pissarro, Corot, Vlaminck, and more. (Not a subscriber? Subscribe today for just $29.95 using the PayPal 'Subscribe' button above.)

Albrecht Durer, "Hjaerin sind Begriffen Vier Bucher von Menschlicher Proprotion...," Hieronymus Formschneider, Nuremberg, October 31, 1528. Rare. original edition of the first known book about the proportions of the human body. The 123 woodcuts also "represent the first attempt to employ cross-hatching to depict shades and shadows in wood engraving." (Garrison-Morton.) Artcurial pre-sale estimate: 5,000 - 7,000 Euros. Courtesy Artcurial.

Art Investment News Gallery, 11-28: Secret Origins
With Wolf Sale, Artcurial puts the curating back in the art market
By Paul Ben- Itzak
Text copyright 2014 Paul Ben-Itzak

If you're entertaining the idea of collecting art -- and even if you don't yet have a centime to start out with -- you might want to 'jet your eye' on the collection of Ernesto & Liuba Wolf, the bulk of which is on view starting November 28 at Artcurial Paris ahead of its sale December 1-10. The first word that comes to mind to describe the treasures secured by the couple Wolff -- he a furniture manufacturer and gallery owner, she a trained sculptor, both weaned in Europe before re-locating to Latin America -- is taste. Not just taste in one realm, but cultivated and consummated in an astounding variety of forms and epochs, from a 7-inch high wood male figurine from Egypt carved in 2000 years BC, (estimated pre-sale at as little as 800 Euros), to a Tang era pottery ensemble of musicians (estimated at 3,000 - 5,000 Euros); from a 15th century Book of Hours fashioned in Rouen and a 13th century illuminated Parisian bible to mid-20th century books illustrated by Picasso (text by the legendary naturalist Buffon), Matisse (Mallarme's "Poesies," as well as "Jazz"), Ernst, and Dali. There's even the first book dedicated to illustrating the proportions of the human body -- in 116 anthropometrical woodcuts by Albrecht Durer, no less, published shortly after his death in 1528 and estimated at 5,000 - 7,000 Euros. It's yet another sale (and exhibition) which reveals that for the patron-curators of Artcurial, words -- and names (i.e., 'ART' 'CUR'ated) -- matter. Far from the blockbuster-oriented sales of Christie's and Sotheby's, Artcurial's events putatively motivated by the 'sale' of art persistently seem more intrepidly and investigatively curated than major museum exhibitions which seem to be driven more by market than museum considerations -- witness the 100-piece devotional to Jeff Koons which opens November 28 at the Centre Pompidou, whose curators are falling over themselves to discover subtlety in the master of the mercenary monolith. (As supposed evidence of the artist's power of invention, one Beauborg deacon pointed out on France Culture radio this week that the hands of Michael Jackson's monkey are made to look suspiciously human. Clever, that Koons.) To this mercenary storming of the temple, Artcurial, notably in the Wolf sale, responds with a reminder that once upon a time, art was also a reflection of civilization and an interpretive mirror of civilizations. And to the current mania for acquisition, be it of the latest smartphone or the latest of Cezanne's Card Players to resurface in the market, the Wolfs answer with a collector's ethos of preservation, the desire to guard in one place 4,000 years of artifacts from around the world whose only value is memory. For the incipient collector, it's a lesson not in art as an investment, but in the importance of investing in art. Subscribers click here for the full article with more images, including of work by Chagall, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, and Roualt. (Not a subscriber? Subscribe today for just $29.95 using the PayPal 'Subscribe' button above.)

Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968), "Mere a l'enfant," signed and dated 'T. Foujita 1917' and signed again and inscribed in Japanese (lower right). Watercolor over pencil on paper, 15 3/4 x 11 1/8 inches (39.8 x 28.3 cm). Painted in Paris in 1917. Christie's pre-sale estimate: $30,000 - $50,000. Copyright Christie's Images Ltd. 2014.

Art Investment News Gallery, 11-6: Heritage
Patrimoine, on sale at Christie's NY & Artcurial
By Paul Ben- Itzak
Text copyright 2014 Paul Ben-Itzak

The eternal French squabble between centralization and decentralization has made for a sometimes schizophrenic rapport between the country and its rich artistic heritage. Last week, at the same time Paris was celebrating the re-opening of the renovated Picasso Museum, the christening of the Luis Vuitton Institute, and the Contemporary Art Fair or FIAC (which ultimately benefited from the publicity around a Christmas tree or butt plug inflated at the Place Vendome only to be deflated, its 69-year-old creator Paul McCarthy assaulted), the new mayor of Reims (best known for the fine art of champagne) was busy shelving the previous mayor's plans (in part funded by 7 million Euros from the State) to build a new museum, preferring to gussy up the local skating rink into a full-fledged sports complex, potentially endangering the gift of more than 700 pieces of art by Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968), a member of the Montparnasse school grouped around Man Ray, Moshe Kisling, sophomore period Picasso, Chaim Soutine and Modigliani -- whose unique style (Foujita's), mostly figurative but with a touch of the Surrealist, it could be argued made him much more than just a peer of his more celebrated colleagues -- which was to be the center of the museum's collections. (A similar fate befell the projected museum of Carcassone when that Cathar city's government changed hands, reflecting the supposed popular sentiment that the artistic offer proffered by the culture mongers speaks only to the "elite," whoever they are.) To gage the generosity of this sweeping gift by Foujita's heirs, triggered by the death in 2009 of his widow Kimiyo, one has only to look at the pre-sale estimates of two of the artist's oeuvres on auction at Christie's New York November 6: "Fillette a la poupee mexicaine," an oil on canvas dating from 1950 and measuring just 13 3/4 x 10 5/8 inches, was predicted by the auction house to fetch between $80,000 and $100,000; "Mere a l'enfant," a watercolor over pencil on paper measuring 15 3/4 x 11 1/8 inches and signed in both French and Japanese, $30,000 - $50,000. Subscribers click here for the full article with more images, including of work by Degas, Picasso, Eva Gonzales, Duchamp, Valadon, De Vlaminck, Redon, Roualt, and Villon. (Not a subscriber? Subscribe today for just $29.95 using the PayPal 'Subscribe' button above.)

Andre Kertesz, "Cafe du Dome, winter morning," Paris, 1928. Silver print on monocouche brilliant, 16.3 x 24 cm. Artcurial pre-sale estimate: 1,000 - 2,000 Euros. Courtesy Artcurial.

Art Investment News Gallery, 10-31: Detail work
Andre Kertesz at Artcurial: Le vif au sujet
By Paul Ben- Itzak
Text copyright 2014 Paul Ben-Itzak

PARIS -- If it would be an exaggeration to postulate that without Andre Kertesz (1894-1985) there would have been no Henri Cartier-Bresson, it's fair to say that the Hungarian-born Kertesz -- 125 of whose rarely viewed photographs amassed from private collections Artcurial exhibits November 12-14 at the Rond-Pont of the Champs Elysees before auctioning them off November 14 -- helped legitimize photography a la vif as an artistic path. And if the impeccability of the dramatic moments arrested sometimes makes the famous spontaneity of Cartier-Bresson seem fabricated, the oeuvre of Kertesz -- who, like his contemporary Jacques Lartigue, insisted that he was just an amateur -- is marked by a singular lack of caprice, often revealed in the unexpected angles from which he views familiar subjects. ("Every time Kertesz snaps his shutter, I feel my heart beat," said Cartier-Bresson.) Thus in capturing Le Dome, the cradle of artistic Montparnasse, in 1928, Kertesz focuses not on any of the famous denizens of the cafe like Hemingway, Stein, or Picasso, but on an anonymous woman of a certain age, too seasoned and round to be a flapper, absorbed in her newspaper in a window booth, her feet warming at a decrepit cast-iron stove, a detail which singularly reveals that Le Dome of the epoch had nothing to do with the elegant shell that remains today to titillate nostalgic tourists, but was once a run-down, even nondescript bistro du coin. (To sample working class Paris cafe life of a different era, check also Foujita's panoramic post-WW II painting on display at the Musee Carnavalet.) And where Cartier-Bresson's portrait of the elderly Matisse chez lui features the painter in the premiere plan, morosely looming in his wheelchair, the titular focus of the work is nowhere to be seen in Kertesz's "Chez Mondrian," the selection of a single flower in a vase behind which a stairway lurks in shadow saying more about his subject than Carter-Bresson's does about his. What makes Kertesz's cliches authentic is the lack of immaculate perfection in their arrangement. This very absence of a deliberate mis-en-scene naturalizes the scenes and makes it easier for the viewer to enter within: to join a detachment of Hungarian soldiers profiting from a respite in battle during WW I to play a round of cards (1915); to be a secret witness to a first kiss between a pair of gypsy waifs (1917), whose impoverished nakedness (note the bloated stomachs) also evokes Eden, a needed reminder of innocence in an epoch where the gypsies (or "Roms" as they're called here) are the new Jews of Europe, with even Socialist France chasing them from bidonville to bidonville. Subscribers click here for the full article with more images. (Not a subscriber? Subscribe today for just $29.95 using the PayPal 'Subscribe' button above.)

Gino Severini (1883-1966), "Danseuse," signed and titled 'Gino Severini "Danseuse"' (on reverse side). Oil on canvas, 55 x 45.7 cm (21 5/8 x 18 inches). Painted Winter 1914-15. Christie's pre-sale estimate: 1 million - 1.5 million Euros. Copyright Christie's Images Ltd. 2014.

Art Investment News Gallery, 10-23: The Futurist is Now
In Paris, Christie's auctions off the fount of a movement
By Paul Ben- Itzak
Text copyright 2014 Paul Ben-Itzak

"The worse painter in Paris is still better than the best painter from any other place. The tradition of Paris is irreplaceable."

-- Gino Severini, quoted in the magazine Jardin des Arts, January 1964

SAINT-CYPRIEN (Dordogne), France -- So it has come to this. 180 galleries hawking 1,500 artists at the Foire International d'Art Contemporaine (FIAC) at the Grand Palais (even the "off" satellite of the Paris event, at the Cite de la mode et design, is sponsored by the 'on' organization; for a non-official off festival, check the YIA fair, hosting 65 galleries in the Marais); the re-opening of the Picasso Museum after five years of renovations and a year of internecine battles between ex- and new directors and, of course, the obligatory heir; a new foundation of contemporary art named after a hand-bag maker (Luis Vuitton), and financed by a captain of industry in a Crystal Palace on the frontier of the Bois de Boulogne designed by Frank Gehry, the octogenarian American chou-chou of the Paris culturati; a monographic exhibition of Abstract pioneer Sonia Delaunay at the Modern Art Museum of the City of Paris; and a (literally) Sadistic exhibition by a theme-obsessed Musee d'Orsay, purportedly demonstrating the influence of a certain Marquis on several generations of artists who succeeded him (even Cezanne was not immune). And yet the cultural media hullabaloo has centered for the most part on what was either a gargantuan Christmas tree or one behemoth of a butt plug balloon, inflatable art erected at the Vendome and promptly deflated by a descendant of the reactionaries who chastised the Communard Courbet for an earlier attack on the bourgoisie sensibilities represented by the Place and its indisputably phallic column, the difference being that instead of imprisoning the creator for his impudence (Courbet), this time the Philistines physically attacked the artist, the 69-year-old American Paul McCarthy, on the streets of a Paris where ideologies are orphaned even as unorphaned two-year-old 'Rom' children are turned out by public hospitals onto the autumnal curbs until the city's first female mayor can find them housing for the night. The country's president, meanwhile, has reacted to polls which show his popularity in the teens by suddenly discovering Culture, showing up to christen the openings of institutions like the Vuitton, while scrupulously avoiding officially inaugurating the two-year-old Cite de l'Immigration. And what if that gypsy child is a future Picasso or Apollinaire? If more of the cultural powers that be had an artistic memory that extended beyond Christian Boltanski, in between proclamations that Paris has regained the title of capital of art and hand-wringing over the illegal immigration 'problem,' they might pause to remember the immigrants that helped secure that title a century ago, including a certain Gino Severini. Subscribers click here for the full article with more images. (Not a subscriber? Subscribe today for just $29.95 using the PayPal 'Subscribe' button above.)

Cendrine Rovini, "Enantiopanaxioi," 2014. Mixed media on tintoretto, 70 x 50 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Da-End.

Paris Dispatch & Gallery, 9-15: Frame it Black
Shadow Dancing in Saint-Germain des Pres with Cendrine Rovini & Jean-Benoist Salle at Da-End
By Paul Ben- Itzak
Text copyright 2014 Paul Ben-Itzak

PARIS -- What if there were a gallery which achieved optic brilliance not with the crutch of 'new technology' (the Impressionists may have been influenced by the nascent science of photography, but they didn't replace their pinceaus with Kodachrome; not that this protects them being retro-binded with science, as witness the recent efforts of latter-day meteorologists to pinpoint the exact moment that Monet painted "Impression of the Sunset"), but by the simple device of setting the art against a luminous black background? In this current context, in which gadgets and gimmicks have been accorded equality with the painter's palette, I was quick to misapprehend -- on a recent Left Bank gallery gambol -- the black walls of the cavernous Da-End gallery on the rue Guenegaud for clever effect, an understandable snap judgment given a moniker more likely to evoke the '50s aesthetic of faux-hipster Brooklyn ("Da-End, man!" shrieks Brando's molle as he sweeps her off to Avalon on his Harley-Davidson) than the winding streets of storied Saint-Germain des Pres, the legitimate Dauphine of Noir since Juliette Greco, Miles Davis, Boris Vian and coterie first introduced it at the Club Tabou as the wardrobe of choice for orphans of the most somber of wars, and who, godfathered by Sartre and de Beauvoir, Camus and Cocteau, shaped this darkness into a berceau of beauty, temporarily aborted by Algeria, but persistently pushing like pissenlit through this fertile terrain, undeterred by the ruling ethic of "austerity." Subscribers click here for the full article with more images. (Not a subscriber? Subscribe today for just $29.95 using the PayPal 'Subscribe' button above.)

Jean Dubuffet, "Site domestique (au fusil espadon) avec tete d'Inca et petit fauteuil a droite," 1966. Vinyl on canvas, 125 x 200 cm. Fascicule XXI des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, ill. 217. Copyright Dubuffet and courtesy Galerie Jaeger Bucher / Jeanne-Bucher, Paris.

Paris Dispatch, 9-4: How the Southwest (of France) was won by a Paris gallerist
Gajac Museum retrospect celebrates Saint-Germain des Pres's Jean-Francois Jaeger
By Paul Ben- Itzak
Text copyright 2014 Paul Ben-Itzak

PARIS -- Accessibility has become a dirty word, with its implication that to reach the masses, art must be dumbed down. But truncate the word to "access," and you understand the collaboration that the municipality of Villeneuve-sur-Lot in Southwestern France -- a region better known for the fertility of its grapevines than the fecundity of its modern art scene -- and the legendary Saint-Germain des Pres gallerist Jean-Francois Jaeger of the Gallery Jeanne-Bucher have forged over the past 45 years, under which the anything but hic residents of this 'provincial' town have been able to experience the contemporary art revolution(s) of the '50s, '60s, and beyond contemporaneously with the putatively hip Parisian public. This complicity is being celebrated, through October 26, at the Musee de Gajac, a converted Villeneuve flour mill, in "A Passion for Art: Jean-Francois Jaeger and the Gallery Jeanne-Bucher," with work selected by the 90-year-old honoree which, true to form, prizes mystery over mediocrity and discovery over dilettantism. Subscribers click here for the full article with more images. (Not a subscriber? Subscribe today for just $29.95 using the PayPal 'Subscribe' button above.)

Among the low-priced treasures by well- and lesser-known masters on sale at Christie's Amsterdam's May 29 sale of Impressionist and Modern Art: Maximilien Luce (1858-1941), "Chantier sur les bords de la Seine," signed 'Luce' (lower left). Oil on canvas, 33 x 55 cm. Pre-sale estimate: 15,000-20,000 Euros ($19,429-$25,906). Copyright Christe's Images Ltd. 2013. Pupil and friend of Pissarro, anarchist, president of the French artists' union, and the last of the hard-core Impressionists, count on Maximilien Luce to not just follow his colleagues in another bucolic and light-infused study of the banks of the Seine, but to thrust into the foreground a group of workers busy prettying up those banks. For more on the pertinent painter, see our Arts Voyager Gallery on the Luce museum in the Paris suburb of Mantes-la-Jolie here.

Art Investment News, 5-29: Canal plus
Luce, Rodin, Courbet, Guillaumin, Bieling: Low-priced Treasures at Christie's Amsterdam
By Paul Ben- Itzak
Text copyright 2013 Paul Ben-Itzak

If you thought the only reasons for an art investor and art lover to travel to Amsterdam were the Van Gogh museum, the Old Masters, and the city's winding canals, think again: Christie's Amsterdam's May 29 Impressionist and Modern Art Sale offers the collector of modest resources the chance to acquire no less than an early Courbet oil painting with a pre-sale estimate of less than $12,000, a Rodin pencil and watercolor estimated to fetch less than $16,000, more stunning and signature work from the under- appreciated late Impressionists Maximilien Luce and Armand Guillaumin in the low five figures, and a breathtaking 1917 "Dancing Nude" from Herman Bieling which approaches Picasso's rarefied air at the much-more Earthbound figure of $3,886-$6,476. Subscribers click here for the full article with more images. (Not a subscriber? Subscribe today for just $29.95 using the PayPal 'Subscribe' button above.)

One of the priceless masterpieces available for interesting prices at Christie's Paris's May 28 sale of Impressionist and Modern Art: Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940), "L'hiver," with the cachet of the atelier 'E Vuillard' (lower right; Lugt 2497a). Oil on canvas, 34.7 x 25.7 cm. (13 5/8 x 10 1/8 in.). Painted about 1900. Pre-sale estimate: 15,000-20,000 Euros ($19,359-$25,811). Copyright Christie's Images Ltd. 2013.

Art Investment News, 5-27: Crazy Christie's
Unique gems at (relatively speaking) bazaar prices from Vuillard, Fini, Vlaminck, and Renoir at Christie's Paris
By Paul Ben- Itzak
Text copyright 2013 Paul Ben-Itzak

What makes an apparent atypical masterpiece by Edouard Vuillard worth less than $26,000, an oil painting by the over-rated Eugene Boudin worth up to $900,000 -- oh look, another undistinguished water setting -- and a gouache, watercolor, and ink by the perpetually under-rated Maurice de Vlaminck valued at less than $24,000? The pre-sale estimate of the Vuillard -- like the others, as well as a stunning Renoir and an early Leonor Fini, on auction at Christie's Paris's May 28 sale of Impressionist and Modern Art -- can perhaps be explained by the fact that authorship is indicated with a cachet of the artist's atelier, and not a signature, although the sheer uniqueness of the stark "L'hiver" (Winter) in the Vuillard universe -- dominated by subtle interiors whose most outstanding feature is the painter's use of refracted light -- would seem to mitigate for a higher expectation. (The work is so exceptional that one can even argue for pre-emption by the State to keep it in public view.) The high pre-sale estimate of the Boudin can perhaps be explained -- if not justified -- by recent exhibitions which (erroneously, in my opinion) have had the effect of putting this lesser Impressionist on the same plane as his major contemporaries, poor Vlaminck's low estimate by his being born 50 years later, and thus technically speaking not grouped with the pioneering first wave of Impressionists. And as a general rule, size does seem to matter to those who determine the valuations at Christie's; its 9 1/2 x 11 7/8 in. dimensions might explain the relatively paltry pre-sale estimate of $77,434-$103,246 for Renoir's lush "Saule au bord d'une mare" (the illegible signature might also have something to do with it, but the tableau's impeccable provenance -- beginning with the Durand- Ruel gallery, which acquired it directly from the artist on August 15, 1916 -- would seem to minimize that factor). What all these works (save the Boudin) have in common is they offer the art investor with modest resources the opportunity to make his collection without breaking his budget. Subscribers click here for the full article with more images. (Not a subscriber? Subscribe today for just $29.95 using the PayPal 'Subscribe' button above.)

If you want to look for where art is being made in Paris today, don't look in the hills of Montmartre but the heights of Belleville. And if you want to look inside the artists' studios, check the Portes Ouverte of the Artists of Belleville, taking place through Monday, May 27. Besides seeing recent work by living artists (including, top, Sarah Dugrip's "Liseuse" and, bottom, Catherine Olivier's "Parcour IV techniques mixtes," both on view in Olivier's atelier at 42 bis rue des Cascades), the promenade offers some of the most extraordinary views of the City of Light, including that of the Eiffel Tower from the parc Belleville. For more information on the Portes Ouverte and the artists of Belleville, click here. To see images of more work by Olivier, visit her web site or see our 2012 Arts Voyager Gallery, and by Dugrip, click here.

Among the American stories available at Christie's New York's May 23 sale of American Art are, top: Ludwig Bemelmans (1898-1963), "Madeline and Pepito," signed 'Bemelmans' (lower left). Oil on canvas, 24 x 36 in. (61 x 91.4 cm.). Pre-sale estimate: $50,000- $70,000; and, bottom: Stuart Davis (1892-1964), "The Tug Boat," signed and dated 'Stuart Davis 1922' (on the reverse). Oil on panel, 12 x 16 in. (30.5 x 40.6 cm.). Painted in 1922, 1951 and 1953. Pre-sale estimate: $250,000-$350,000. Copyright Christie's Images Ltd. 2013. While this piece exceeds our $100,000 threshold, we include it here because when it comes to Abstract Expressionist art that is as intricate as it is accessible, as technically accomplished as it is magically whimsical, Davis sets the standard. Both images copyright Christie's Images Ltd. 2013.

Art Investment News, 5-23: An American Narrative
Storytellers for Sale at Christie's New York
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2013 Paul Ben-Itzak

Once upon a time American painters told stories, their canvasses teeming with the colorful life of a society embracing the ongoing industrial revolution, as well as the rural pockets of benign resistance. The very term used to describe one of their movements said more about theme than technique: The Ashcan School. And even Abstract champions like Stuart Davis usually offered a narrative hook to anchor the viewer. Christie's New York's May 23 sale of American Art offers a nostalgic return to this age when content meant meaning, with several examples available at refreshingly low pre-sale estimates, all the more bon marché when one considers the grist for the imagination they'll inspire when hanging on one's wall. Subscribers click here to read the full Article and see more Images. (Not yet a subscriber? To subscribe today for just $29.95/year, just click on the PayPal Subscribe button above. Just want this article? Donate $5 using the PayPal Donate button above and we'll send it to you.)

Among the chefs d'oeuvre available at Christie's London's May 22 sale of 19th Century European Art at moderate pre-sale estimates are, top: Johan Barthold Jongkind (Dutch, 1819- 1891), "Clair de Lune sur un canal, Dordrecht," signed and dated 'Jongkind 1876' (lower left). Oil on canvas, 15 3/8 x 18 1/2 in. (39 x 47 cm.). Pre-sale estimate: 18,000-25,000 British pounds ($27,342- $37,975); and bottom: Emile Bernard (French, 1868-1941), "In the Harem," signed 'Emile Bernard' (lower right). Oil on canvas, 42 3/4 x 55 1/2 in. (108.5 x 141 cm.). Painted circa 1903. Pre-sale estimate: 15,000-20,000 British pounds ($22,785- $30,380). Both images copyright Christie's Images Ltd. 2013.

Art Investment News: At Christie's London, Major Masterpieces at Minor Prices from Under-heralded Masters
Forget that record sales week; here are some masterpieces you might actually be able to afford to buy
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2013 Paul Ben-Itzak

If you've got auction fatigue after the recent record sales week in New York, don't take a break quite yet; if you do, you'll miss an opportunity to bid on chefs d'oeuvre by major 19th-century artists like Corot, Bernard, Raffaelli, Rico, and Jongkind too often over-shadowed in the mainstream media and auction house hype by the usual Impressionist bread-winners -- and at pre-sale estimates much more modest which, from a strictly artistic standpoint considering the magnificence of the tableaux on sale, deliver a lot more bang for the buck. Herewith a sampling of some of the gems on sale at Christie's London's May 22 sale of 19th Century European Art Including Orientalist Art. Subscribers click here to read the full Article and see more Images. (Not yet a subscriber? To subscribe today for just $29.95/year, just click on the PayPal Subscribe button above. Just want this article? Donate $5 using the PayPal Donate button above and we'll send it to you.)

Pablo Picasso, "Femme assise dans un fauteuil (Eva)" (Woman in an Armchair), 1913. Oil on canvas, 59 x 39 1/8 in. (148 x 99 cm). Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection. Copyright 2013 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Art Investment News, 4-14: Game-changers
From Lauder, a trove of Cubist Masterpieces for the Met; Le Corbusier at MoMA
By Paul Ben- Itzak
Copyright 2013 Paul Ben-Itzak

In an epoch where high culture is more than ever in danger of being drowned out by the noise of so- called popular culture in a mass media that no longer just caters to the tastes of the middle- and low-brow but seems determined to lower standards, museums more than ever must play an educative role -- not in the dry didactive sense of that word but in the enlightening one. And yet, in portraying the full panoply of art history in all its richness, they're often hamstrung by the fact that so much of that catalogue remains in private hands, only to surface briefly when it comes up for sale. Meanwhile, institutions like the Museum of Modern Art which steward a substantial part of that history feel they must charge admission prices which -- twice the cost of going to the movies -- can discourage the masses from discovering their collections. All the more reason to celebrate when a museum which still lets patrons pay what they can, as does the Metropolitan Museum, receives a mission-enhancing gift like the 78 works by Picasso, Braque, Gris and Leger just bestowed on it by Leonard Lauder. Even moreso with the additional news that in connection with the acquisition of this trove, the Met is establishing a new research center for modern art to be suppored by a $22 million endowment set up by Lauder and other supporters. Click here for the full article and more images.

Among the paragons of illustrated books being auctioned off at Christie's NY April 9 and 10 from the Collection of Arthur & Charlotte Vershbow are chefs-d'oeuvres including (top): Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), "Klange (Roethel 71-4, 85, 95-140, 142-6)," the complete set of 56 woodcuts including 12 in colors, 1907-13, on Van Gelder laid paper, with title, text in German and justification, signed on the justification, copy number 290 of 300, published by Reinhard Piper, Munich, 1913, estimated pre-sale at $30,000-$50,000; (middle), Marc Chagall (1887-1985), "Mein Leben (Kornfeld 1- 20)," the complete set of 20 etchings and dry-points, 1922, on Japan paper, with title, justification and table of contents, all signed in pencil, numbered 10/110, from the edition of 26 on this paper (there were also 84 on wove paper), published by Paul Cassirer, Berlin, 1923, overall 18 5/8 x 14 5/8 inches, estimated pre-sale at $120,000 - $180,000; and (bottom), William Blake (1757-1827), "The Waking of Leonora," original design for the tailpiece in a bilingual edition of "Leonora. A tale by Gottfried August Burger" (1796), an autographed pen-and-ink and watercolor drawing, finished in black, red, two tints of blue and grey wash, on wove paper (82 x 140 mm). Signed in pencil in lower right-hand corner. Framed and glazed, and estimated at $60,000-$80,000. Chagall, who came to printmaking at age 35, recalled (quoted in Forestier, Sigeals, p. 9), "I would have been missing something if, aside from color, I hadn't also devoted myself, at a certain moment in my life, to gravures and lithographs.... In holding a lithographic stone on a copper plate I believed I was touching a talisman [,] in which it seemed I could place all my sadnesses and all my joys." Images copyright Christie's Images Ltd. 2013.

With Corot hard to locate between the collections of the Louvre and the Orsay, and Delacroix not safe at the Louvre-Lens (see news items below), this might be a good time to buy work by these masters for yourself -- especially when Christie's has them available for a relative song this month. On auction in New York April 29 (left): Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875), "Paysage aux bouleaux argentes." Oil on canvas, 10 1/4 x 7 in.. Painted circa 1860-65. Pre-sale estimate: $50,000 - $70,000. And at Chrisitie's Paris April 10 (right): Ferdinand-Victor-Eugene Delacroix (Saint Maurice 1798-1863 Paris), "Jeune femme nue debout." Plume and brown ink, filigrane 'J Berger.' 385 x 218 mm. Pre-sale estimate: 6,000 - 8,000 Euros $7,679 - $10,238. Both images copyright Christie's Images Ltd. 2013.

The Art Maverick, 4-9: French Art Beat (illustrated)
New director at the Louvre; battle over a Signac; bring me the head of (Courbet's) 'Creation of the World' (just don't try showing her naked body on Facebook); Delacroix defaced; where's Corot?; where to buy Delacroix, Corot, Laurencin, Sisley, Millet & more for peanuts
By Paul Ben- Itzak
Copyright 2013 Paul Ben-Itzak

French newspapers were aflutter last week with the story of Jerome Cahuzac, a former Socialist budget minister who confessed to having squirreled away 600,000 Euros in a Swiss bank account to avoid paying taxes on the income after previously having denied doing so and denounced others who did. The headline-grabbing 'cultural' news was the death of a doctor participating in "Koh-Lanta," the French answer to "Survivor." One had to scroll to the bottom of the websites of Le Monde and Liberation, two of the major Paris dailies, to discover political and artistic news that France has reason to be proud of: That a new president has been named for the Louvre -- chosen by President Francois Hollande, who personally informed the lucky man, chief of the Louvre's department of Greco-Roman antiquities Jean-Luc Martinez, 48, a sign of the importance France places on culture. That Hollande's selection over-rid the preference of his culture minister, Aurelie Filippetti -- who was determined to nominate a woman for the position -- signaled that the French president, who spoke little about the arts in his 2012 electoral campaign, is finally taking cultural decisions seriously. Still, if you'd rather not trust your art conservation to politicians -- and if you want a legal place to bank your money -- we're including in this update on French art news a special illustrated preview of some of the bargains available at upcoming Christie's sales from the likes of Corot, Delacroix, Utrillo, Sisley, Rodin, Laurencin, Millet, Fragonard, and others, at pre-sale estimates of as little