Urban Art in Paris: new records expected…



Now that BANKSY has become a social and art market phenomenon, a lot of art buyers have become convinced that Street Art is a new manna, and certain auction houses have positioned themselves to exploit this conviction. In France, we have Leclerc in Marseille and Artcurial in Paris. The latter – which has specialised in this field since 2007 – is organising a sale dedicated to Urban Art on 5 February 2014.

It is difficult for the French auction houses to fuel their sales with important works by Street Art’s historical figures (e.g. Jean-Michel BASQUIAT and Keith HARING) simply because their prices, as dictated by UK and American markets, are too high for the French market place (except in one or two very rare cases). So French Street Art sales tend to focus on 2nd and 3rd generation artists, with the occasional signature by one of genre’s pioneers thrown in. Artcurial’s sale on 5 February will include a number of drawings by Keith Haring, one of which is a particularly dense and well-dated work (1984) estimated at 30,000 – 40,000 euros. Artcurial is therefore hoping to generate its best hammer price for a drawing by Keith Haring since it sold a large untitled chalk work for €30,000 ($42,780) on 23 October 2007. Other Parisian auctioneers like Pierre Bergé, Cornette de Saint Cyr and Charbonneaux have all managed to sell Keith Haring drawings above that price… so there is no reason why Artcurial should not succeed.

The Street artists who have joined forces with major galleries and thereby gained access to an efficient form of legitimacy in the eyes of art market participants, including collectors of course, are today much in demand. This is the case for FUTURA 2000 who was promoted by the Jerome Noirmont gallery, and also for JR and KAWS who teamed up with Emmanuel Perrotin.
Artcurial’s forthcoming sale includes an anecdotal piece by Kaws: a multiple issued by Medicom Toy (Tokyo) in 500 copies. The copies are not numbered but are signed and dated, and the piece on offer is carrying an estimate of 1,000 – 1,200 euros. For the same price or even lower, the sale is also offering several original drawings by the signatures T-KID 170, CRASHand … yet another reminder of the important role played by the prestige of the artist’s gallery in the inflation of his/her market prices.

Less anecdotal and more interesting for collectors of the genre, Artcurial has eight works by JR (for whom the Emmanuel Perrotin gallery devoted an exhibition in Paris between 19 November 2011 and 7 January 2012). Among these eight lots, six are prints estimated between 700 euros (Mafia, 2006, edited in 200 copies) and 3,500 euros (Women are Heroes-Favela Morro da Providencia, 2009, in 80 copies) and two are photographs, one of which is a very large face (84 x 174 cm) affixed to wood panels. This unique piece entitled Wrinkles of the City (Marino Saura Oton), Cartagena, Spain) is expected to fetch between EUR 40,000 and 60,000 (USD 54,000 – 81,000). JR’s auction market is still in its infancy (auction debut in 2006 and 40 lots offered since then) and his unique pieces always sell. A French artist who lives in New York, JR is beginning to appear in sales in both London and New York; but if Wrinkles of the City sells within its estimated range, his auction record will belong to Paris.

Among the other top lots that could flirt with record prices there is a canvas by Futura 2000 (Reflections) estimated at EUR 25,000 – 35,000 (USD 34,000 – 47,500). Futura 2000’s current record is for Untitled, a performance piece created live on the Clash’s ‘Combat Rock’ tour which fetched approximately $50,000 on 11 January 2011 at Bonham’s Urban Art sale in London). There is also a JONONE canvas (R.I.P. Rest in peace – 190 x 368 cm) carrying a record estimate (for a Jonone canvas) of €50,000 – €70,000 ($68,000 – $95,000). His all-media record was generated by a painted Rolls Royce (Corniche) that fetched €128,500 ($171,110) on 22 January 2013 at Artcurial.

Collectors will also be sensitive to the presence of Shepard FAIREY (aka Obey) whose rework (2005) of a Warhol portrait is being offered at €30,000 – €40,000 and who clearly has the wind in his sails after two new auction records signed in 2013 (Guns and roses fetched €50,000 [$66,580] on 22 January 2013 at Artcurial in Paris and War is over fetched €52,000 [$71,700] on 25 October at Digard). They will also be interested in works by ZEVS including two representing immediately recognizable brand logos that have already crossed the €10,000 threshold in Paris (in 2012 and 2013). Three works from this series are available on 5 February including the McD and Chanel logos with dripping paint (Liquidated McDonalds and Liquidated Chanel) estimated €6,000 – €9,000 each ($8,000 – $11,000). Indeed, both Obey and ZEVS usually attract the attention of other European and some American collectors… an internationalization of the market that is bound to inflate their prices.