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The Johnston Letter
by Jill Johnston
Cross-Country:
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 which affect and elucidate the art market. AI News is edited and published by Paul Ben- Itzak, 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 for 40 years. New! Need professional advice on buying art? Contact Art Investment News Advisors. Dealers, Galleries, and Artists: Reach art-buyers with Art Investment News! 24/7 sponsor ads on AI News are as low as $99 for six months when you purchase by March 23. 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.


What happens to literature and letters in a time of war? Years ago, rifling through the 48-cent box outside New York's legendary Strand bookstore, I scored a paperback edition of "The Pocket Book of Verse: Great English and American Poems," published in 1941 and featuring, besides Carl Sandburg, Shakespeare, and others, selections from the Bible, including the Song of Songs. And, on the title page, the stamp, in German, "Property of the Library of Stalag IX," a POW camp. Last year, perusing the book exchange box in my petite village in the South of France, I took home a hardcover edition of Charles Baudelaire's "Les Fleurs de Mal," with the historical variants impeccably notated and an afterward of critical notes longer than the oeuvre itself, published in 1942 by the Librairie Jose Corti in Paris. Not everything passed muster; in the same year, a young tubercular writer, Albert Camus, acquiesced to the publisher Gaston Gallimard's request (anticipating the inclination of the Occupants) to suppress the name and material from the Jewish writer Franz Kafka from "The Stranger" and "The Myth of Sisyphus," according to biographer Olivier Todd in "Camus, A Life." (Gallimard, 1996.) (Camus would shortly afterwards go on to edit the leading Resistance newspaper Combat. Kafka was restored after the war.) In this oppressive environment, it's perhaps no surprise that fantasy fared better. The above signed ink and watercolor by comics artist Etienne Le Rallic (1891 - 1968), on sale in Artcurial Paris's April 30 Comics Art sale from the collection of the French singer Renaud, graced the cover of Le Rallic's album "La Cavaliere du Texas," published by Chagor-Gordinne in 1941, in Paris. (And, as a recent resident of the Lone Star state, I can attest to the image's accuracy, at least in the context of Texas cowboy lore of the time, if not the real thing.) Artcurial pre-sale estimate: 200 - 300 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Artcurial. -- PB-I


If it's true that as an illustrator -- first for acid turn of the 19th/20th century journals like L'assiette au beure and later for books -- Kees Van Dongen (1877 - 1968) was sometimes facetious, we still can't help but be tempted by Artcurial Paris's offering for its April 4 Prints & Rare Books sale of the above 1962 color lithograph "La Seine ou la Sirene," which captures the siren song that has lured poets and painters to Paris for hundreds of years: beauty, art, and the Seine itself, the ultimate river which keeps on flowing no matter what temporal vicissitudes we manage to put in its way. 50 x 65 cm, signed and numbered "84/100." Artcurial pre -sale estimate: 1,200 - 1,500 Euros. Bundled with the signed color lithograph "Rencontre au Bois." Image courtesy and copyright Artcurial.

Art Investment News Gallery, 4-3: At Artcurial Spring Prints, Illustrated Books, Post-War, and Contemporary Sales, Visions of our Fragile World
At Artcurial Turello photo sale, cherchez (et trouvez) la many-faceted femme
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak

What art does is side-steps polemics and organizes the world in a visceral sense, refracting it back in a way that bypasses the brain and goes directly to the nerves. At least this is the trait I welcomed perusing the catalogs for Artcurial's April 4 Paris sales of, respectively, Prints and Illustrated Books and Post-War and Contemporary Art. If your criteria is more mercenary, the latter sale also offers the opportunity to pick up a bundle of drawings, pastels, inks, watercolors and paintings in the low four to low five figures by Gaston Chaissac (1910-1964), who singularly fused the figurative and abstract post-war movements in work that's hauntingly playful, and to profit from the current and overdue Pompidou exhibition dedicated to Gerard Fromanger (b. 1932), companion de route (and jail) of Jean-Luc Godard, by scoring a presently low-priced but apt to go up painting from the man once arrested for 'illegally parking' nine sculptures in front of a Paris church. While the lots for the Prints & Illustrated Books sale are less spectacular, the auction still offers, besides the usual scattered Chagall and Picasso multiples, at least one reasonably-priced Joan Miro rarity as well as further confirmation that if all you know of Kees Van Dongen is the post- Impressionist's paintings, you're missing out, his designs and book illustrations providing a tonic of crafty and well-crafted whimsy direly needed in these times. Voila (and above) AI News's recommendations, in images accompanied by further background on the works and artists. 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.)


There are few artists whose community and political engagement matches their commitment to their art. British- born Kristin Meller and Mexican native Raul Velasco's Association pour l'Estample et l'Art Populaire at 49-bis rue Cascades has for 27 years been an unofficial HQ for the Belleville artistic community, in its international and aesthetic diversity the closest thing Paris offers to the Montmartre or Montparnasse of yesteryear. (If we've included Meller and Velasco's origins, it's because in these days where immigrants are so often viewed as a burden and described as 'les miserables,' it's important to note that more often than not they enhance their adopted country.) On Saturday April 2 starting at 6 p.m., Meller and Velasco host a vernissage for "Ciel & Mer," the latest 'livre d'artist' produced by their atelier in the suburb of Lilas, just above Belleville, on view at the Cascades atelier through April 17. Meller's work (including the above copper etching "Capricorn - Cancer") is also on view through April 10 in the group exhibtion "a dessein..." (to draw) at the appropriately located (1 rue Francis Picabia) gallery of the Associated Artists of Belleville along with work from Annie Barel, Guillaume Confais, Daniel Duhamel Arrapel, Delphine Epron, Mary Christine Jaladon, Carlos Lopez-juan de nubes, Catherine Olivier, Angelo Pioppo, Mireille Roustit, and Maite Soler. Meller will be there to welcome you in person April 9 from 5 to 7 p.m. and April 10 from 4 to 6. You can also find both Meller and Velasco in the Cascades atelier during the next Open Ateliers of Belleville, May 13 - 16, where they'll no doubt be happy to give you a demonstration of their lithographic presses.


Imagine if Bruce Springsteen, after having devoted a small part of his fortune to amassing comic books and orginal comics art, one day got tired of seeing his "Peanuts" originals gather dust and decided to auction some off. Such is the case with the French singer-composer Renaud who, in the wave of a comeback (the cover of the new single "Les Bobos" boasts a comic pitting the singer against the local equivalent of the hipster, the Bourgeoisie Bohemian), is dispersing some of his cache of comics in an Artcurial sale April 30 in Paris. The gem is an original spread from Herge's 1939 "The Sceptre of Ottokar," published in 1939 by Casterman. Bought from a certain Madame Le Rallic, in whose home Hergé worked during the war years, for about $15,000, Artcurial today estimates it at $650,000 - $800,000. If the price reflects the over-inflated going rate for anything Tintin in recent years, it's because of the outsized role that Hergé's hero has played in the lives of French and Belgian (and some American) children (of all ages) for four generations. "There are few drawings of Tintin" in the double-page illustration in question, Renaud acknowledges, with the keystone cops Thompson and Thomson (Dupond and Dupont in the original) predominating, but Tintin's "winking of the eye, I -- like all readers, I think -- took as meant for me." Above: Hergé (born Georges Remi), "King Ottokar's Scepter," watercolor and China ink, for the concluding double-page of the album published in 1939 by Casterman. (Detail.) Total measures 9.5 x 60 cm. Copyright Hergé Moulinsart and courtesy Artcurial. (Check out the Renaud collection at Artcurial Brussels in April or Artcurial Paris from April 27 through April 29.)


Even if 1,500 - 2,000 Euros -- the estimate for the Marc Chagall (1887 - 1985) etching and aquatint above on auction for Artcurial Paris's February 22 evening sale of modern & contemporary art from the collection of Genevieve and Pierre Hebey -- might seem a bit steep for a multiple from an artist from whom there's no surfeit of work, the recent Chagall exhibition at the Philharmonia makes this an opportune time to sweep up any affordable Chagalls. The epoch which produced "Self-portrait with grimace," 1922-23, was cetainly an auspicious one for the artist. Leaving Russia in 1922, he stopped off in Berlin where, after unsuccessfully trying to retrieve pictures left there in 1914, he was commissioned by Paul Cassirer to make engravings for the German edition of his autobiography. On his return to Paris in 1923, Ambrose Vollard asked Chagall to illustrate Gogol's "Dead Souls." Andre Breton published his "Surrealist Manifesto" in 1924 and, in 1925, the first surrealist group exhibition was held at the Galerie Pierre. (Source: Lionello Venturi, "Chagall," Editions d'Art Albert Skira, 1956, Geneva.) Signed and numbered "52/100." Image courtesy Artcurial.


Art Investment News's investment of the week, coming straight on the heels of his monographic exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, is Wilfred Lam's oil painting Untitled (Bird), above, on auction Monday February 22 at Artcurial's Paris auction, "Le regard de Pierre Hebey -- Les Passions Moderee." Artcurial pre- sale estimate: 4,000 - 6,000 Euros. 24 cm high by 30 cm wide, signed lower right "W Lam" and signed and dated on back, "W Lam, 1974." Image courtesy Artcurial.


To read Paul Ben- Itzak's latest Paris Dispatch, encompassing, among other subjects, the exhibition dedicated to Wilfredo Lam (above) at the Centre Pompidou and the museum's innovative racrochage of its permanent collection, please visit our sister magazine the Arts Voyager. Above: Wilfredo Lam, Albissola ("Brousses" series, 1958-1963). Copyright Archives SDO Wilfredo Lam and courtesy the Centre Pompidou.


Invest in this Artist: "When I was little, I dreamed of having my own city," says the 28-year-old Palestinian artist Nidaa Badwan. "I drew blueprints, buildings, streets. I gave it the colors of my imagination. I carefully chose the habitants. My room has become my city." When your real city is under constant siege and your simplest rights snatched away, one is hardly tempted to venture outside. But when Badwan sequestered herself in her nine square meter room for a year in late 2013 and 2014, empowered by the vista of a multi-talented artist she turned a cloistered setting into a creative universe, ultimately producing an oeuvre of photographs whose mises en scene and story caught the eye of Anthony Bruno, director of the Institute Francaise in Gaza, which went on to produce an exhibition of her work in Ramallah. Even if Israel prevented her from leaving Gaza to attend the vernissage, art will out; the New York Times put her on page one and more international coverage followed. To reach the next stage, Badwan needs a studio, a 70d camera, a tripod, lens filters, lenses, light-boxes, soft- boxes and printers of different sizes. For more information -- and to see more of her work from the exhibition and book, "100 Days of Solitude" -- visit Badwan's web site. To read more (in French) about the artist on the website of France 24, from which the quote above was pulled, click here. Photo by, copyright, and courtesy of Nidaa Badwan.


Henri Cartier- Bresson, "Muslim Women at Prayer, Srinigar, Cashmere," 1948. Silver gelatin print of the epoch. Signed and dedicated, "To reward obstinacy (not ab) to Monsieur Jack Nisberg" on the back. (Nisberg was an American photographer who worked for Look, Newsweek, Elle, Vogue, and the New York Times.) 25 x 37.30 cm. Artcurial pre-sale estimate: 18,000 - 20,000 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Artcurial.

Art Investment News Gallery, 10-27: Beauty Myths, Exploded
At Artcurial Turello photo sale, cherchez (et trouvez) la many-faceted femme
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2015 Paul Ben-Itzak

PARIS -- It might be easy to dismiss a collection of photographs purporting to explore the beauty of women as a guise for exploiting the subject as a sex object, objectifying the female body. Particularly when the collector's day job is fashion photographer -- for what, on its surface, could be more superficial, concerned more with appearances and imposed 'beauty myths' than inner value? A first glance at the cover of the catalogue for Artcurial's October 27 sale of the collection of Amedeo M. Turello would seem to confirm this: A folded female nude whose face is obscured by her bent head and bunned and braided chestnut hair. But turn the page, and you discover the photo is not by Howard Schatz but Edward Weston, dates from 1936, and that it has been featured by the celebrated politically-oriented New York gallery and publisher Aperture. Keep turning, and you discover Steef Zoetmulder's "Old and Young," a lightly blue-tinted photograph which shows three elderly women congressing on a park bench while beyond the fence behind them a group of schoolgirls playfully tussle for control of a ball. Even the celebrity photographs are atypical and prime the subject's inner beauty more than her outer appearance, such as Cecil Beaton's candid shots of Grace Kelly -- not the glamorous blonde actress become princess of the late 1950s, but the brunette mother of 1965, content to be nuzzling her baby daughter Stephanie. On the polar opposite sentimental side, Cindy Sherman's somber if stylized 1975 portrait of Lucille Ball more than hints at the comedian's darker side. 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.)


Melvin Sokolsky, "Bubble on the Seine, Paris," Harper's Bazar, 1963. Pigmented print on archival paper. Artcurial pre- sale estimate: 4,000 - 5,000 Euros. Image courtesy and copyright Artcurial.

Art Investment News Gallery, 6-29: Your Llama awaits
Rarities and whimsical fantasies at Artcurial photography sale
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2015 Paul Ben-Itzak

PARIS -- Artcurial's June 29 evening photography sale continues the trend by France's largest auction house of revealing heretofore less celebrated gems rather than focusing on well-known (and thus over-exposed) icons (with a few exceptions). In the realm of photography -- which, even when offered as part of a limited tirage, still can't rival the uniqueness cache of paintings, watercolors, pastels or drawings -- the emphasis on rarities makes good marketing sense. Also refreshing in this sale, compared to just about any sale of, at least, Impressionist and post-war paintings, is the more balanced representation of female artists, not by any political design but because of the outstanding works themselves. Inge Morath may have been married to Arthur Miller, but an argument can be made that her 1957 "Llama on Fifth Avenue" is as much a New York icon as the author of "Death of a Salesman." (And the serendipity implied in her catching the shot indicates that she shares her teacher Henri Cartier-Bresson's knack for being in the right place at the right time, and alertness and dexterity in being able to profit from this fortuitousness.) By the look of it, Ruth Bernhard's "Triangles" could have been shot last year; that the nude female study was taken in 1942 suggests her influence on later male photographers, while at the same time proving that capturing female body parts isolated from the head doesn't have to imply objectification, and can be justified by the sensual symmetry they vaunt. In a similar vain, no one familiar with one of Alfred Eisenstaedt's subjects of choice, dance schools, would see libidinousness in his 1932 "Tunnel of women's legs, Truempy Dance School, Berlin." As for Robert Doisneau, his power as a dramatist is underlined with the 1953 "Le Petit Balcon," in which the spectators both provide the spectacle encadred, and suggest the show hors cadre. 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.)


Verve, artistic and literary review, 37 volumes, dating from 1937 to 1960. Artcurial pre-sale estimate: 8,000 - 12,000 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Artcurial.

Art Investment News Gallery, 6-3: Saying it with 'Verve'-->
Artcurial and Joel Garcia celebrate the illustrated book
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2015 Paul Ben-Itzak

PARIS -- With all respect to Picasso -- a signed lithograph of whose stunning 1949 "Women in armchair or the Polish coat" is also on sale at Artcurial's June 3 sale of prints and illustrated books, with a pre- sale estimate starting at 40,000 Euros -- far and away the 'steal' of the auction is a collection of 37 issues of Verve, which from its first number (included here) in 1937 became the standard for large format artistic and literary revues. Among those you'll find in the pages of the magazine published by Teriade - Editions de la Revue Verve, some in issues completely consecrated to them, are Kandinsky, Masson, Matisse, Chagall, Braque, Derain, Bonnard, Picasso (whose cover for two numbers published in 1951 was commissioned by the magazine), Giacometti, Gromaire, Klee, and Leger, the whole lot pre-sale estimated at 8,000 - 12,000 Euros. While the value, or esteem, of prints, on the one hand, may not be as high as that for originals because the only thing not reproduced about them is the signature, and they are not unique, the lavishly and brilliantly illustrated artistic and literary revue has a double value, in both publishing and art collecting. It also evokes an epoch in which the value accorded to both art and literature was at its zenith, no longer a sure thing in a France where the culture minister freely states she doesn't have time to read books and the number of bookstores even in Paris is dwindling. 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 Helion, "The Easels," 1979. Ink, watercolor, gouache and charcoal on paper, 32 x 44 cm. Signed, dated, and dedicated at upper right, "a Jacqueline / 14.IV.79 / Helion." Artcurial pre-sale estimate: 1,800 - 2,200 Euros. Courtesy Artcurial.

Art Investment News Gallery, 5-29: Deja vu vs. something new
Bonnard? Bof! Give me Wols, Helion, Fini, Vlaminck, and more at Artcurial Impressionist and Modern and Post-War and Contemporary sales
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2015 Paul Ben-Itzak

If it's true that there's nothing new under the Sun, there's certainly a lot hidden away in the attic. The good news is that much of it seems to emerge for the art auctions, most consistently those offered by Artcurial, France's largest sales house. The bad news is that, at least in exhibition programming, most of it seems to be ignored by the major museums, at least in Paris, most of which continue to disdain the educative aspect of the traditional museum mission. I have nothing against Bonnard -- he used to be my favorite painter after Pissarro (not incidentally, the least programmed of the major Impressionists, at least in France, probably because French institutions let so much of his work get swiped up by the Americans at earlier auctions that they don't have much left to show) -- but do we really need a second monographic exhibition a decade after the last? And monographic is the appropriate term; like the earlier showing at the Modern Art Museum of the City of Paris, the Bonnard canvasses on view at the Orsay are apparently so crammed into the space that the viewer leaves blinded by the light, a risk the curators might have taken into account given that after color light was the painter's major element. (The graphic work appears to have been entirely left out; no room.) The second tendency is the 'concept' exhibition, which loosely fabricates a theme as an excuse to throw together a stone's soup of bests of, the least imaginative of which currently running is the Grand Palais's exhibition of the best of MOMA. No, not that MOMA, but its poor cousin in San Francisco. Earlier this season the Orsay used the premise of the Marquis de Sade to gather together works which supposedly reflected his influence (the exhibition was called something like "Blinded by the Light"), or at least could be related to his XXX-rated writings. The film medium is not immune to this singular lack of curatorial curiosity; the three big retrospectives at the Cinemathaque Francaise this summer, of work by and/or featuring Frank Sinatra, Ingrid Bergman, and Orson Welles (everything but the Paul Masson commercials) seem to be justified primarily by the fact that they were all born 100 years ago. Subscribers click here for the full article with more images from Artcurial Paris's upcoming Impressionist and Modern as well as Post-War and Contemporary Sales. (Not a subscriber? Subscribe today for just $29.95 using the PayPal 'Subscribe' button above.)


Georges Wolinsky (1934 - 2015), "Attention!," humorous illustration. China ink and felt pen, 32 x 26 cm, signed. Artcurial pre- sale estimate: 2,000 - 2,500 Euros. Courtesy Artcurial.

Art Investment News Gallery, 5-27: Nous sommes tous Charlie
In Artcurial comics auction, a response to the PEN dissenters
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2015 Paul Ben-Itzak

In perusing the sale catalog for Artcurial's May 23 Paris sale of comics art, two devastating facts emerge when one comes to lots no. 568 & 569, and reads: "Georges Wolinsky, 1924 - 2015." That date of death wasn't put there by any of the natural maladies of old age, but imposed by the abnatural incursion of psychotic terrorists during a staff meeting for Wolinsky's weekly Paris humor magazine Charlie Hebdo at which the terrorists' victims were formulating an editorial response to racism. And the Wolinsky cartoons featured have nothing to do with Islam or Mohammed. In lot 568, an ink and felt marker drawing, a caveman-type instructs another about to strike a pick-ax at a pile of disjointed naked female mannequins, "Careful! If you want an intact one, cut around it." In Lot 569, a vexed young woman enters the apartment she shares with another complaining "Merde! Merde! Merde!," from which her roommate eventually extracts that the problem is that she's in love. 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.)


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 (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 (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 (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 (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

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-changersClick 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.