artnet News’s ongoing series on the world’s most expensive living artists by nationality turns next to the French—after previous installments devoted to the Brits and the Germans. And a quick glance at the list below is enough to realize how isolated (others might say undervalued) the market for French art remains. Only three of the auction records presented here hit the million-dollar mark.
Perhaps surprisingly, the generation of French contemporary artists best-known abroad—the likes of Pierre Huyghe, Philippe Parreno, and Xavier Veilhan—is nowhere to be seen. The youngest artist to make the cut is Huang Yong Ping, who turns 60 this year.
It is also worth noting that only one of these records was achieved in the French capital. Most of the others were set in London and New York. As a marketplace, Paris still has a lot to prove.
1. Pierre Soulages
The master of dark abstraction is something of a national treasure. The artist, now 94, celebrated his 90th birthday with a major exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2010. A Soulages Museum will be inaugurated in Rodez, in the South of France, at the end of May. Soulages became the country’s most expensive artist at auction in 2013, when his Peinture, 21 novembre 1959 (1959) sold for $6,651,08 at Sotheby’s London, doubling its presale estimate. According to arnet Analytics, the average value of Soulages’s non-print work has increased by 680 percent over the last decade, in tune with the growing interest for post-war abstract art.
2. Martial Raysse
Martial Raysse was a key member of the Nouveaux Réalistes, a proto-Pop movement also including Yves Klein, Niki de Saint Phalle, César, and Arman. L’année dernière à Capri (titre exotique), which set the artist’s record when it reached $6,542,323 at Christie’s London in 2011, crystallizes some of the group’s concern with found objects and mass media. It was painted in 1962, a year during which the artist spent a lot of time in New York, and also resonates with the work of Raysse’s American contemporaries Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist.
3. Claude Lalanne
Claude Lalanne and her late husband François-Xavier started exhibiting together in the 1950s, when abstract art was all the rage. Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé were among the very few who appreciated the sculptors’ talents. Inspired by animals (usually François-Xavier) or plants (usually Claude), the pair made sculptures with practical uses, walking the line between art and design. Claude Lalanne’s Ensemble de quinze miroirs aux branchages (various sizes) (1974) fetched $2,375,288 at the sale of the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé collection at Christie’s Paris in 2009. Interest in the Lalannes’ work is now on an upward trend. The record for François-Xavier Lalanne’s work was set in 2011 with Moutons de Pierre (10 works, circa 1979), which sold for $7,474,500 at Christie’s New York, 10 times its presale estimate.
Although mostly associated with the New York Pop scene, Marisol Escobar, known as Marisol, was born in Paris to Venezuelan parents. She moved to the US as a teenager. Her record was set with the sale of the large installation The Cocktail Party (1972) for $912,000 at Sotheby’s New York in 2005. It is composed of 15 life-size figures, all bearing the artist’s features. “When I first sculpted those big figures, I would look at them and they would scare me,” the artist said at the time. “Late at night they looked as if they were alive.”
Jean-Pierre Cassigneul’s record wasn’t set during a postwar and contemporary art sale, but at an Impressionist and modern art sale—and it might not be by chance. His oils on canvas are infused with the memory of the late-19th and early-20th century. Dans la Roseraie (1975), which went for 10 times its pre-sale estimate, fetching $893,000 at Sotheby’s New York in 2013, is a case in point. Although painted in 1975, it evokes Van Dongen and Gauguin with what can only be described as nostalgist brushstrokes.
6. Bernar Venet
Bernar Venet has been associated with lyrical abstraction, and Nouveau Réalisme, but it’s his minimal Indeterminate Lines sculpturesthat have had most success at auction. His record is for the 2008 piece Four indeterminate lines. It sold for $722,500 at Sotheby’s Doha, in Qatar in 2009.
7. François Morellet
The godfather of French geometric abstraction, François Morellet has pursued quasi-scientific research in the field, most notably through the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel, founded in 1960. His record was set in 2010 at Sotheby’s Amsterdam with the sale of 2 Trames de tirets 0° 90° for $590,060. The 1972 piece is emblematic of Morellet’s experiments with superimposed lines, started two decades earlier, and designed to reduce the artist’s decision process to an absolute minimum.
8. Daniel Buren
It is surprising to find Daniel Buren, undoubtedly one of the country’s best-known artists, so low on the list. But his fame owes much more to his monumental installations than it does to his canvases. Peinture émail sur toile de cotton, the piece that set Buren’s auction record when it sold for $542,500 at Phillips de Pury New York in 2010—dates from 1965. Then a young graduate, Buren had only just adopted the 8.7cm-wide stripes that were to become his trademark. They crop up here in an enamel-on-canvas piece painted at the Grapetree Bay Hotel on the Caribbean island of Saint Croix, which had commissioned frescos from the artist.
9. Françoise Gilot
Françoise Gilot is better-known as Picasso’s long-time muse and partner, and the mother of their children Claude and Paloma. But she is also an artist, whose commitment to art predates her encounter with the modern giant, and has continued since she left him in 1953. The top price for her work was achieved with Les Peintres (1952), which sold for $509,000 at Sotheby’s New York in 2013, hot on the heels of the “Picasso and Françoise Gilot” exhibition held at Gagosian on Madison Avenue the previous year.
10. Huang Yong Ping
Huang Yong Ping, who represented France at the 1999 Venice Biennale, is by far the youngest on the list. Born in 1954 in Xiamen, China, he went to Paris in 1989 for the now-legendary exhibition “Magiciens de la Terre,” curated by Jean-Hubert Martin, and has lived in France since. Among the best-known conceptual artists hailing from China, Huang Yong Ping’s influences range from John Cage and Arte Povera to Chinese philosophy. The record for his work was set in 2009 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, with the 1999 Sixty-year cycle chariot, which sold for $436,129.
Pages in category “French contemporary artists”
The following 52 pages are in this category, out of 52 total. This list may not reflect recent changes (learn more).
20th-century French art developed out of the Impressionism and Post-Impressionism that dominated French art at the end of the 19th century. The first half of the 20th century in France saw the even more revolutionary experiments of Cubism, Dada and Surrealism, artistic movements that would have a major impact on western, and eventually world, art. After World War II, while French artists explored such tendencies as Tachism, Fluxus and New realism, France’s preeminence in the visual arts progressively became eclipsed by developments elsewhere (the United States in particular).
- 1 From Impressionism to World War II
- 2 Post World War II
- 3 Contemporary art in France
- 4 References
- 5 See also
- 6 Further reading
PARIS — Mona Lisa’s smile may still draw throngs of tourists to Paris, but the city’s contemporary art scene also has its own allure. This week collectors and art fans are invading Paris fresh from London’s Frieze for the International Contemporary Art Fair, also known here by its French acronym, FIAC.
As other international art fairs have begun to export their brands, FIAC, which opened Thursday in Paris, has chosen to invest locally. In addition to outside star exhibitors like the Gagosian Gallery, Pace and Andrea Rosen, the 40th edition of the fair features French artists, more public outdoor installations, a new performance series and a lineup of films.
Jennifer Flay, FIAC’s director, who joined the fair in 2003, said, “It’s important that FIAC continues to be a force in the local community while remaining international.”
Only four years younger than Art Basel, which now has outposts in Miami and Hong Kong, FIAC has stayed steadfast in its birth city. Even London’s 11-year-old Frieze has reached New York. But FIAC remains centered in Paris and is also distinguishable because it occupies some of the city’s most illustrious patrimonial spaces, including its main venue, the Grand Palais.
Organizers expect about 70,000 people to pass through the main Grand Palais exhibition over the next five days to see some of the world’s top galleries and works by the hottest names in contemporary art like Ai Weiwei’s “Iron Tree,’’ at a height of 6.28 meters, or 20.6 feet.
The “Hors les Murs” (Outside the Walls) series, which includes public installations throughout the city, also offers alternatives for those who might not be willing to stand in long lines or pay the €35 or almost $50 tickets. Jean Dubuffet’s sculpture “Welcome Parade” is now outside the Petit Palais, while the Jardin des Plantes and the Tuileries serve as sculpture gardens for works from artists like Jaume Plensa, Giovanni Anselmo and Didier Faustino. Tadashi Kawamata’s “Tree Huts” dresses up the Place Vendôme, and the artist group Societé Réaliste has used United Nations member states flags in a new installation next to the Seine.
FIAC this year has also introduced a new series focusing on performance art, called In Process. Alex Cecchetti and Eva Kotatkova, along with other artists, will produce conceptual pieces around the theme of memory in various venues, including the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, a hunting and nature museum.
Films will be shown at the Grand Palais and at the Cinéphémère, a 14-seat construction container in the Tuileries. The director David Lynch’s exclusive nightclub Silencio will host nightly screenings, concerts and talks. Other institutions and galleries are using the fair as a pretext for planning their own events. On Sunday, for example, François Pinault played host to an exclusive preview of an exhibition at La Conciergerie, the former royal palace turned French Revolution prison on Ile de la Cité. The show features confinement-themed works by the likes of Damien Hirst, Kristian Burford and Michelangelo Pistoletto. On Thursday, most Parisian galleries will stay open for late-night art hopping.
From 700 applications this year, FIAC admitted 184 galleries from 25 countries, according to organizers. The majority of exhibitors are European, with the French leading the pack at 30 percent. The United States has the second-largest presence with 33 galleries.
The New York gallery Lehmann Maupin opened a Hong Kong branch in March and is showing some of its Asian artists, including Lee Bul from South Korea and Liu Wei from China, after a two-year absence from FIAC.
“Exhibiting in Paris is an opportunity for us to introduce new audiences to works by Asian artists who have not shown in Europe,” said David Maupin, who founded the gallery with Rachel Lehmann.
Even with the fair’s art-for-all focus, there is still a commercial aspect. Last year, some 20 pieces went for more than $1 million. In 2009 a Piet Mondrian sold for $39 million.
However, Ms. Flay insists that FIAC is not just for elite, wealthy collectors. “Artists work for everybody,” she said.
An earlier version of this post misstated the given name of one of the artists featured at the festival. She is Eva Kotatkova, not Emma. The given name of another artist was misspelled. He is Jaume Plensa, not Juame. And because of an editing error, the post misstated the day the fair began. It began Thursday, nor Friday.
The French art scene is, needless to say, very different from Britain’s and it has undergone a similar considerable transformation. Before going down the French route, it is worth taking the time to get to grips with the ‘système français’ in order to be better equipped for dealing with it.
In France, the importance attached to culture has often taken the form of direct state intervention. There are, for example, no independent or quasi-independent agencies comparable to the Arts Councils. And even after over a decade of decentralization, central government still intervenes energetically in the arts.
More specifically, as regards contemporary art, the infrastructures of the 1980s still exist, notably the Centres d’arts and the FRAC, both listed in Exhibition Venues. But they are increasingly encountering difficulties regarding funding, often because local authorities are not willing to pick up the bill when central government wants to pull out. And their “raison d’être”, perfectly clear 20 years ago when they were created under the auspices of then minister of culture Jack Lang, are increasingly being questioned.
Contrary to the description of the ailing French art scene a few years ago in Art Monthly (1998, issue 154), where a little “alternative” medicine was advocated, there are now many small independent and alternative arts organisations and “associations” (see Exhibition Venues). And all over France there has been a boom in artist-led organisationa established. Undoubtedly, these are in part a reaction to the official and often inaccessible official arts infrastructures.
The Paris art scene has been rejuvenated by the arrival of the new venue, Palais de Tokyo. This was originally intended to have a lifespan of no more than three years, but now it looks like it’s here to stay. This new type of contemporary art centre (new for France at least) which is open around the clock, is intended to compensate for the fact that the Pompidou Centre is no longer a natural home for contemporary art and that there is no other ‘happening’ venue to be found.
See the new Paris-Ile-de-France tourist site for updated events and arts information.
There is a current trend in France towards mixing contemporary art with live music (“musiques actuelles”), DJ events, contemporary dance, performance, video and live art. The Palais de Tokyo is a venue which has live art events several times a week. The Artroute guide does not cover all these aspects, since in France the Ministry of Culture has a very specific structure which prevents these disciplines mixing officially for the moment. Performance and live art is covered by the Theatre officers (Conseiller au théâtre) within each DRAC; the complexity of this structure means that performance and live art are not included in Artroute.
The notion of ‘creative industries’ is one which has yet to find an expression in France. The idea of entrepreneurial initiative in the art scene is still alien, and there is very little merging of public and private initiatives. The failure of the Pinault contemporary art foundation is a major example of the difficulties which France still faces in its attempts to go beyond the “sentiers battus” (or “beaten path”).
Business sponsorship has never been a great French tradition but it is slowly growing. New tax laws passed in 2003 encourage private support for the arts. Businesses participate in cultural events by giving financial support to exhibitions, films, restoration projects and so forth. However, it is proving difficult to change the financial focus of the French art scene from State sponsorship to private patronage.
Stephanie Délcroix has written two articles on various aspects of working and exhibiting in France for the a-n website. Read The Hole of Art: Part 1 (on the Centres d’Art structure of galleries) and The Hole of Art: Part 2 (on the processes of public commissioning in France).
Reviving the French contemporary art scene
French artists have been overlooked outside the country. Théo Mercier, Tatiana Trouvé, Cyprien Gaillard and Adel Abdessemed and others are helping change that.
PARIS —When Théo Mercier talks about his work — sculptures with tribal masks sticking out their tongues or flora sprouting around fleshy pink, bulbous posteriors — he does it with a straight face. His sculpture, “The Loner,” is “a kind of monster monument,” he said, then paused. “In spaghetti.”
The 27-year-old’s sculptures can be disturbingly funny but beautiful creatures to look at. “We never know … if we are dealing with something amusing, or something sad,” he said of his creations. They include human body parts dressed in street wear, latched onto indigenous artifacts, with intricately arranged fruits and seashells, that all transform into beings fit for some crazed Neverland.
Dubbed a “Dada of the 2010’s” by the French Beaux Arts magazine, Mercier often makes his more life-like “monstrosities,” as he calls them, dance or just slump with a silly grin. And the French public is grinning right back, especially since he exhibited his nearly 10-foot-high spaghetti man in a group show at Paris’ Museum of Modern Art in 2010.
All of which might seem odd because Mercier doesn’t make the kind of art usually associated with the French scene. He doesn’t explicitly attempt to deconstruct grand theories with his work, which also includes photographs. When it comes to philosophy, he said he “would rather read about it” than see an exhibit by a conceptual artist. His sculptures don’t evoke the clichés of postmodern French art, often called “intellectualisant,” as one critic said. By that he meant “boring.”
Mercier is also a testament to the diverse range of French contemporary art, which has tended to be overlooked outside France. Since Paris lost its status as the global center for the arts decades ago, the contemporary art scene here has suffered in varying degrees, with studies showing French artists are left out of major public and private collections abroad.
“For a time you could get a lot of kudos for being a British, American artist or a German artist,” said Jennifer Flay, the director of the International Contemporary Art Fair, or FIAC, in Paris. “But for some reason being a French artist was kind of a minus.”
And though “there is still something of that left,” Flay said, she, like many others here, believes the situation “has changed for the better.” The younger generation doesn’t seem to have had to overcome “the same huge obstacles as a whole generation of French artists that are excellent but were largely ignored for most of their careers.” Younger artists like Tatiana Trouvé, Cyprien Gaillard and Adel Abdessemed, for example, have enjoyed growing recognition abroad.
“There are fantastic French artists out there,” said Allegra Pesenti, curator of the Hammer Museum’s Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts. For Pesenti, the only problem has been finding them. “The thing that’s always surprised me is that there are great galleries in Paris, and yet they show so few French artists,” she said, noting that Gaillard is participating in a residency at the Hammer.
Even the Hammer’s current exhibition by late Polish sculptor Alina Szapocznikow, who lived many years in Paris, is an example of “one of these fantastic talents completely overlooked by the French” during her life and decades after her death in the 1970s, Pesenti added.
Mercier, at the start of his career, hasn’t been significantly shown outside France and Germany. He nevertheless won international attention at the October 2011 FIAC, which has been successfully wooing major galleries and collectors back in recent years.
Many here hope that trend is part of a general “dusting off of the Paris” contemporary art scene and a sign of shifts in France’s art world. They credit FIAC’s growing international appeal with strengthening the local art market, as collectors here take a more active interest and waves of new French exhibit spaces have emerged alongside heavily promoted prizes for young artists, who are themselves leading increasingly nomadic, international careers.
Pesenti said she is impressed by the wide range of exhibitions in Paris and experienced a “special buzz” on recent visits. “There were lots of openings in the same week, so lots of people meeting and interacting and exchanging of ideas,” she said. Her only caveat is that, “these are not visits that introduce me to Parisian and French artists, but they introduce me to a great scene.”
Organisation: The City of Lyon and the Ministry of Culture, Contemporary Art Museum of Lyon
Year founded: 1991
The Lyon Biennale stems from a project by the Lyon’s Museum of Contemporary Art, directed by Thierry Raspail in 1984. Following the Paris Biennale’s closure in 1985 the Biennale proceeded by an annual event from 1984 – 1988 entitled October of the Arts. This event gave rise to the Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art in 1991, which was inaugurated by the City of Lyon and the Ministry of Culture within the framework of decentralization, aiming to move the French Biennale of Contemporary Art outside Paris. Since 1991 the Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art has been financed in equal parts by the City of Lyon and the French Ministry of Culture.
The organizational model of the Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art is to create events of artistic self-renewal while also building a stable, long-term project, bonding with its host territory. For each edition the Artistic Director builds the event’s identity, choosing a curator or curatorial team to devise an artistic project in close collaboration. Each edition of the Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art provides the opportunity to explore a specific theme such as, history, globalization and temporality.
Curators have included amongst other: Harald Szeemann, Guy Darmet, Jean-Hubert Martin, Le Consortium (Robert Nickas and Anne Pontégnie), Nicholas Bourriaud and Jérôme Sans, Stéphanie Moisdon and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Hou Hanru.
The 10 Best Contemporary Art Galleries in Marseille
Thousands of visitors will be flooding to beautiful Marseille as the city was named the European Capital of Culture for 2013. With a plethora of events to be held in France’s second largest city, we look at the city’s top ten contemporary art galleries and highlight some of the standout exhibitions they will hold in 2013.
Atelier de Visu
Atelier de Visu was founded in 1998 and is dedicated to the art of photography. The gallery focuses on displaying exceptional work by well-known artists and also the work of talented emerging practitioners. Through its program, the gallery hopes to support young talent and to promote artists both nationally and internationally. The Gallery hosts a range of events including exhibitions, debates and workshops.
Anouk Deville/ Stéphane Degros: 21 March – 27 April 2013
This exhibition will feature the work of two talented yet strikingly different photographers, Anouk Deville and Stéphane Degros. The artists’ works explore contrasting aesthetics: Degros’ features textured and folded surfaces, while Deville’s explores emotive fragments of the human body. The union of these two practitioners will be both a visual and intellectual treat.
Backside Gallery is dedicated to the urban art form of street art. However, not all of the artworks inside this hidden gallery are spray paintings on a wall. Tucked away in its unique location, Backside Gallery is an immersive space that presents avant-garde and ambitious works which have been made through artistic collaboration. The exhibitions highlight the work of talented French and international artists.
VNANIMVS: January – February 2013
Named after the grandmother of one of gallery’s directors, Galerie Anna-Tschopp was opened in 2005. Since its inauguration, the gallery has held two policies at its core. The first is to unite both nationally and internationally distinguished artists with up-and-coming practitioners with the hope to continually support the future of art in Marseille. The second is linked to the idea that less is more. With strict criteria on quality, Galerie Anna-Tschopp only displays work that they deem to be exceptional.
Images de Femmes: 19 February – 2 March
The Detaille family’s history in the field of photography dates back to 1897, when Nadar Detaille bought a studio in Marseille. The passion for art has flowed through the family tree, and now Helen and Gerard Detaille run this gallery on rue Marius Jauffret. Proud of its history, the gallery continues to display exceptional photos that explore the world realistically, poetically and artistically. Historic and contemporary, famous and emerging, the Galerie Detaille exhibits exciting pieces of all kinds.
Dreams of Silence: 12 January – 23 March 2013
This eerie exposition displays the work of Matthias Olmeta. These artworks experiment with historic techniques to scrutinise the contemporary world. The works explore many themes including family portraits and spirituality.
Galerie du Pharos
The Galerie du Pharos presents many exceptional artworks, ranging from paintings and sculptures to photographs and video installations. Somewhat eclectic, these artworks by a number of exemplary artists are representative in style and their unification is what makes Galerie du Pharos so unique. The gallery is located near the old port of Marseille.
Phil Stein: February 2013
Phil Stein’s work consists of photographic fragments that combine together to reveal scenes of busy city streets. Exploring the notions of downloading and musical sampling, Stein’s artwork has been described as a physical representation of String Theory’s predicted dimensions.
Galerie Gourvennec Ogor
Founded by Didier Gourvennec Ogor in 2011, Galerie Gourvennec Ogor is located in the ‘Golden Triangle’ of Marseille in an old factory. Dedicated to international contemporary artists, it displays a wide range of art mediums and uses its compelling space with its five metre high ceilings to put on cutting edge exhibitions.
Over the Rainbows: 10 July – August 10 2013
This collective exhibition will display several artists’ work. The pieces will all explore the theme of Europride’s ‘rainbow in the sky’. Including the works of Alix Delmas, Pascal Fancony, Julien Friedler and more, the money raised from the exhibition will go towards AIDS prevention organisations.
Situated near the old port in Marseille, Galerie Sordini presents an exciting range of contemporary, figurative and abstract artworks. The works displayed are of many different mediums, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, lithographs and more. Owned by John and Francette Sordini, the gallery aims to expose current painters and artists, so that artwork and artist can be celebrated together in the present, and not in retrospect.
Reliefs: 19 Nov – 21 Dec.
Labelled ‘reliefs’, Joseph Alessandri’s works stand in the middle of sculpture, painting and collage. Largely made up of scrap pieces of wood and metal, Alessandri transforms these disregarded objects into provoking works of art.
Built in a former tobacco factory, La Friche is a cultural venue and gallery that stimulates the imagination. Over the last two decades, the 45,000 square metres that make up La Friche have been dedicated to contemporary and experimental art. The space has seen the birth of hundreds of exciting exhibitions and projects, with more than 150,000 people visiting annually. Perhaps more of a creative village than a standard gallery, La Friche’s unique space has seen a vast range of projects by both established and emerging artists.
ART-O-RAMA Internation Art Exhibition: August 30 – September 7 2013
Bringing exceptional artworks from all over the world to Marseille, this event is a must for all art enthusiasts. The exhibition will be multi-dimensional with several of La Friche’s spaces being used for different artist’s work. There will also be concerts and performances organised around the exhibitions.
La GAD (Galerie Arnaud Deschin)
Previously an artist himself, Arnaud Deschin describes his gallery as his new artwork. The gallery was opened in 2010 in Deschin’s apartment, which he proudly states is a beautiful fusion of art and life. The gallery is committed to the discovery of young artists while also having a strong affiliation with artists with international reputations. La GAD aims to contribute to the rhythms, invention, dynamics and exploration of art through its radiant personality and commitment to exemplary work of all mediums.
Tableau historique: 19 May – 28 June 2013
This exhibition will display the work of Jérôme Cavalière, Camila Oliveira Fairclough, Cécile Meynier, Olivier Mosset, Frédéric Sanchez and Hugo Schuwer Boss. Using the story of Robert Rauschenberg’s request to erase some of Willem de Kooning’s drawing as inspiration, this exhibition will explore radical concepts that are born through the union of artists.
Located in the heart of Notre-Dame-du-Mont, Seize Galerie (Gallery Sixteen) is focused on the contemporary and the futuristic. Dubbing itself an art gallery and corner shop for amateurs and professionals alike, Seize Galerie is committed to the exploration of the modern art form of graphic design. The gallery displays works of many themes and modes of expressions, including painting, graphics, drawing, graffiti, video and installation.
CROS2: 27 March – 1 May 2013
This will be Vincent Landry’s second exhibition at Seize Galerie. Investigating hip hop and urban culture, Landry (AKA Cros 2) uses screen printing to add emotive and sometimes disturbing depth to the faces and scenes he depicts.