The World’s Most Expensive Paintings

1: Jackson Pollock, No. 5, 1948 – sold in 2006 for $ 140.000.000

Seller: David Geffen

Buyer: David Martinez

Jackson pollock, No. 5, 1948. Copyright AP

2: Willem de Kooning, Woman III – sold in 2006 for $ 137.500.000

Seller: David Geffen

Buyer: Steven A. Cohen

Willem de Koonig, Woman III

3: Gustav Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer I – sold in 2006 for $ 135.000.000

Seller: Maria Altmann

Buyer: Neue Galerie

Gustav klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer I

4: Vincent van Gogh, Dr. Gachet – sold in 1990 for $ 82.000.000

Seller: Kramarsky family

Buyer: Ryoei Saito

Vincent van Gogh, Dr. Gachet

5: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre – sold in 1990 for $ 78.100.000

Seller: Betsey Whitney

Buyer: Ryoei Saito

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre

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Portrait of the artist: The life and art of Jackson Pollock

He was a drunk, a depressive and a wife-beater. Many say he was also a genius. As one of his paintings sells for a record $140m, David Usborne looks at the private side of ‘Jack the Dripper’

If he were alive today, Jackson Pollock, the American painter who electrified the art world with his eruptions of swirling lines and squiggles, would be puzzled by the news. How could it possibly be that one of his paintings – not a Picasso, a Gauguin or Van Gogh – has become the most valuable in history?

After all, not everyone has ever been quite convinced about Pollock and his genius, never mind that he was a drunk, a philanderer and a depressive. Isn’t it possible that you or I could splatter some paint around on an empty canvas and command an entire wall of the Museum of Modern Art with the result?

Miraculously, we don’t have to invest in tubes of paint to attempt such an experiment, or buy a house and barn in The Hamptons of Long Island in the wood-shingle style of the home occupied by Pollock and his artist wife, Lee Krasner, in the last years of his life. Rather, just click on the very cheeky website www.jacksonpollock.org and do your own drip painting with easy movements of your mouse.

So we can all be Pollocks now. But there is no arguing with the passion felt by some for the man whose demise came in a car crash in 1956 when he was only 44 years old (he was drunk at the time). The fascination with the man whom Time magazine dubbed “Jack the Dripper” at the time of his death only seems to get deeper.

Though it has yet to be confirmed by either party, a little-known Mexican financier named David Martinez has just shelled out $140m (£73.3m) for what is admittedly a very large Pollock painting named No. 5, 1948. The seller was David Geffen, the Hollywood mogul, and the price – at $4m per square foot – is assuredly the highest ever paid for a single work of art.

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Pollock was not an artist who only became popular posthumously. Thanks in part to the patronage of the socialite collector and heiress Peggy Guggenheim, he was successful long before his death and even a bona fide celebrity of the art world. By the time he died, some critics were hailing him as one of the masters of 20th-century art. They even gave his style a name – abstract expressionism. The manner in which he created his works – by dripping and pouring paint onto the canvas – they called “action painting”.

There has never been much mystery about Pollock’s unusual mode of creation. Earlier in his career, his art was more representational, inspired in part by Picasso and the 20th-century muralists of Mexico. But in around 1947 – three years after he married Krasner and moved with her to Springs outside East Hampton – he embarked upon the drip series of works that made him a legend.

Nor have fans of Pollock ever had any illusions about the artist’s state of mental instability.An abuser of alcohol all his adult life, he suffered a nervous breakdown in 1938 while still living and working in lower Manhattan and was briefly hospitalised for depression. Thereafter, however, there were signs that Pollock’s personal and professional life might achieve some equilibrium. In 1943, Guggenheim gave him his first solo show at her Art of this Century gallery. In 1944, he married Krasner, who was already his long-time lover, and they bought the Springs house together. He was also undergoing intensive psychotherapy at the time – a process that many believe influenced the work of his most productive period in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Visitors to the wooden barn at Springs did not find the usual implements of the painter. Pollock had no easel and no stretched canvases. His signature works were created instead by the painter standing above canvases, or sometimes squares of fibreboard, laid on the barn floor. His brushes did not touch the surface but were used rather to swipe and gesticulate in violent motion.The results are his masterworks of tangled lines and swirls of which the painting just acquired by Mr Martinez is a leading example.

“My painting does not come from the easel,” he said. “I hardly ever stretch the canvas before painting. I prefer to tack the unstretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface. On the floor I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting. I continue to get further away from the usual painter’s tools such as easel, palette, brushes, etc. I prefer sticks, trowels, knives and dripping fluid paint or a heavy impasto with sand, broken glass or other foreign matter added.”

The process was one of intense concentration and, art scholars surmise, a frantic expression of his emotions and the fruit of his long sessions in psychotherapy. He called his works explosions of unconscious imagery. “When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing,” he said. “It is only after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about. I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc, because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.”

One person who was able to watch Pollock at work was the photographer Hans Namuth. One day in 1950 he arrived at Springs after arranging with the painter to take pictures of him in the barn. On his arrival, he was put out to find Pollock standing over a canvas in the barn that apparently was already done.

“A dripping wet canvas covered the entire floor,” he later recalled. “There was complete silence … Pollock looked at the painting. Then, unexpectedly, he picked up can and paint brush and started to move around the canvas. It was as if he suddenly realized the painting was not finished. His movements, slow at first, gradually became faster and more dance-like as he flung black, white, and rust-coloured paint onto the canvas. He completely forgot that Lee and I were there; he did not seem to hear the click of the camera shutter … My photography session lasted as long as he kept painting, perhaps half an hour. In all that time, Pollock did not stop. How could one keep up this level of activity? Finally, he said ‘This is it’.”

The first of these new drip paintings won public exposure at a solo exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery in Manhattan in 1948. The show was an instant sensation and a sell-out. Pollock moved to a larger studio in East Hampton. He was profiled in Life magazine in 1949 as possibly “the greatest living American artist” and in 1950 he produced a series of six paintings for which he remains most famous. At the same time, he appeared to be winning his battle with alcoholism, intermittently staying dry.

The stability did not last long, however. By the early 1950s, Pollock was drinking again, frequently violent towards his wife, and unable to repel repeated bouts of depression. He also failed to be faithful. When he crashed his car, an Oldsmobile convertible, on 11 August 1956, killing himself and another passenger, Edith Metzger, the survivor was his girlfriend of the time, Ruth Kligman.

During his life, Pollock turned out an estimated 350 paintings, some in the drip style and others, from earlier in his career, still abstract but bearing some degree of representation. Arguably, the current cult of Pollock worship was born the day one of his paintings sold for the highest amount of money ever paid for a single piece. That was back in 1973, when the National Gallery of Australia paid $2m for his 1952 painting Blue Poles. The artist was in the headlines again in 2004, when a collector paid $11.7m for one of his paintings.

If Pollock’s popularity is ever to fade away, there are surely no signs of it yet. In 2000, a much wider public became aware of his work and of his turbulent life with the release of the film, simply named Pollock, directed by Ed Harris, who also played the title role.

In theory, all the remaining works of Pollock were sold by his own gallery upon his death. But even today our intense interest in him is periodically reignited with the discovery of new works that were previously unknown. Most famously, in 2003 a New Yorker named Alex Matter declared that he had fallen upon three dozen previously hidden Pollocks in a storage locker in Manhattan that contained the belongings of his late father, Herbert Matter, a photographer and designer who was a long-time friend of the painter and Lee Krasner. Herbert Matter died in 1984, two years before Krasner also passed away.

The 36 works – two dozen paintings and another 12 sketches – remain at the centre of a furious debate as to their provenance. The Straus Centre for Art Conservation at Harvard University is expected to declare within weeks its own judgement on their authenticity. Meanwhile, they are being shown publicly for the first time by Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York.

Then last month, an auctioneer cataloguing the belongings of a wealthy woman in Wisconsin found a picture that also bears the hallmarks of Pollock’s drip-painting style. Moreover, the owner, Lynn Anderson, a renowned architect who is incapacitated and unable herself to explain the history of the painting, had written this note on its reverse: “Bought in New York in 1959 or 60” and the name “Jackson Pollock”.

Even though the auctioneers made no attempt at authentication nor offered any guarantees as to whether it was real or fake, it was bought by Bill Kolb, an artist from Texas, for $53,000. “I’ve been looking at [Pollocks] for 40 years,” he said. “My gut tells me this is real.” Such is the power of Pollock’s pull on our imagination even the possibility of owning one of his pieces has now become a five-figure prize. For his $140m, however, Mr Martinez has a Pollock about which there is surely no doubt at all.

Taken from The Independent

PAUL DELVAUX, Nude or not Nude

PAUL DELVAUX’ YOUTH

Paul Delvaux was born September 23, 1897 in Antheit (Belgium). Paul Delvaux’ father was a lawyer and his bourgeois upbringing made him destined to become an architect. Paul followed architecture courses at the Academy of Brussels, but at the same time followed painting courses from Contant Montald. Contant Montald had also been the teacher of other Belgian Surrealist René Magritte.

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PAUL DELVAUX AS AN ARTIST

Paul Delvaux’ first group exhibition took place at “Le Silon” in 1924. At the “Forie du Midi” in Brussels in 1932 Paul Delvaux received the shock that would inspire his later painting style when visiting the Musée Spitzner. In 1934 the poet in Delvaux arose when he got to know the work of Giorgio de Chirico.

January 1, 1933 Delvaux’ mother died and the same year he destroyed over 100 of his earliest paintings. Although Delvaux is considered to be part of the Belgian surrealists, it was obvious that they both went separate ways, even though they exposes together at the Palais Royal des Beaux-Arts.

In 1937 his father died. In the same year he married Suzanne Purnal. The marriage turned out to be a disaster, but the emotional distress and loneliness gave Delvaux the necessary inspiration to make his best work ever.

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During World War II, Paul Delvaux refused to expose. After the war, in 1947, Delvaux accidentally bumped into his first real love, Anne-Marie De Martelaere (nicknamed Tam), upon which he left his wife and married Tam on October 25, 1952.

In 1950, Paul Delvaux became professor at the “Ecole Nationale de la Cambre” in Brussels. In 1952 he created the fresco at the casino of Oostende. In 1955, Paul Delvaux received the Italian Reggio Emilia-award.

PAUL DELVAUX’ DEATH

Paul Delvaux died at the ahe of 97 in Veurne (Belgium) on July 20, 1994.

Damien Hirst is rewriting the rules of the market

“Beautiful Inside My Head Forever” sounds like the name of a new work by Damien Hirst, but it’s actually the title of his solo sale at Sotheby’s. The ambiguity is appropriate because Hirst’s rank as an artist is inextricably linked to his status as a headline commanding businessman who wields considerable power over the buying and selling of his own work.

The “Beautiful” auction raises many questions, including: Is Hirst sabotaging his own market? On several stands at Art Basel last month, new and vintage Hirst works remained unsold. Hirst’s studios are not only extremely efficient in keeping his official dealers well stocked with a good range of spot, spin, and butterfly paintings, but in making direct sales themselves. At a time when some gallerists are experiencing a minor slowdown, one dealer suspected the artist of orchestrating an “end-of-boom fire sale” to accommodate his alleged over-production.

True believers, however, see Hirst’s abundant serial output as essential to his oeuvre. Harry Blain, director of Haunch of Venison, whose back room is busy in the trade of Hirst works, explained: “Just as Warhol and Picasso were highly productive, it is an important aspect of Damien’s market that he is prolific. There need to be enough works in circulation to sustain the growing global demand.”

Are primary dealers becoming cuckolds? Sotheby’s Senior International Specialist Oliver Barker claims that the sale has “the wholehearted support of Damien’s dealers…who recognise his rulebreaking charisma.”

However, Jay Jopling, owner of White Cube, sounds a tad ambivalent. “8,601 flawless diamonds notwithstanding, ours has never been a traditional marriage,” he said in Sotheby’s press release, evoking the financial sacrifice his gallery made to coown Hirst’s diamond skull when it didn’t sell outright. One collector close to both Jopling and Gagosian told me, “I love Damien’s work, but his treatment of his business partners is abusive and selfish.”

Certainly many gallerists believe the auction is “a horrible precedent”. However, some view the sale as an almost philosophical event. As dealer-collector David Mugrabi explains, “It seems to be a game for Damien. He’s seeing if he can get away with murder, just as Duchamp did with his urinal.”

What are the strategies of the auction houses with regard to the primary market? Whilst Sotheby’s goes public with a straight-fromthe-studio sale and is rumoured to be courting Takashi Murakami, Christie’s buys the multi-location primary gallery Haunch of Venison.

According to Haunch’s director, “The two auction houses have entirely different approaches and relationships. Christie’s vision is more considered. It recognises the best interests of artists themselves. Damien is one of the few who could pull this off.”

Interestingly, Phillips de Pury aligns itself with Sotheby’s move as senior partner, Michaela Neumeister, asserts, “This Hirst sale would have been a perfect project for Phillips. It’s so fast-forward. We have been the crossover pioneers of morphing business models. Art is all about transforming and border testing, but the dealer logic has been very conservative.”

However, when artists become their own dealers, Dr Neumeister says, “I worry for their freedom and their peace of mind. It’s time consuming and distracting. That’s why it’s great Damien has his alter ego. Frank Dunphy [the artist’s business manager] is a genius.”

What will the auction contain? The answer to this question is the key to the success or failure of this high-risk event. With its solid gold eighteen-carat hooves and horns, The Golden Calf is either a decadent masterpiece or a derivative work targeting a nouveau billionaire. In the end, it is important to note that the sale is not guaranteed and to remember that Hirst’s personal collection is called “Murder Me”.

So, one must agree with Sotheby’s Oliver Barker when he declares, “Damien is totally fearless. He’s not just an outstanding artist, he’s a cultural phenomenon.”

The Art Newspaper

Swiss artist touches a nerve in Iceland

Swiss artist Christoph Büchel has infuriated citizens of Reykjavík by plastering posters around the Icelandic capital as part of the Reykjavík Arts Festival. Büchel used a poster for the right-wing Swiss political party SVP (Schweizerische Volkspartei) which shows three white sheep kicking a black one off the Swiss flag. He translated its slogan, “Creating security”, into Icelandic.

“[We] received a huge number of complaints about the posters, and demands that they be removed immediately. People felt they were racist, and in many cases they simply tore them down,” a spokesman for the City of Reykjavík, told The Art Newspaper.

A field with four real black sheep and a Swiss flag was also part of the installation. However, because of its remote location, few Icelanders found it.

In May residents of a town near Reykjavík staged demonstrations after the government decided that their area should accommodate refugees from Iraq. Clemens Bomsdorf