Sarah Thornton takes to the pages of the Economist to explain the market for Maurizio Cattelan’s work. In June, his “mini-Me” was the subject of a bidding war that drove the work to nearly £500,000 but that price is nothing compared to his primary market, which Thornton tells us commands more than $3m for a big piece. Demand is high because of Cattelan’s strong collector base and his low output. The only thing that saves him is the fact that he does multiples of his work.
A few months ago one of Cattelan’s most significant sculptures, “Him” (pictured left), traded behind the scenes for $10m, a sum that few living artists of his generation can command. Smaller than life-size, “Him” is a spookily realistic depiction of Hitler kneeling in prayer. Among other things, it poses the question: if the Führer asked for absolution, would God forgive him? Stefan Edlis, a Viennese-born Holocaust survivor and eminent American collector, is a proud owner an edition of the work. “When people see this piece,” says Edlis, “they react with gasps, tears, disbelief. The impact is stunning. Politics aside, that is how you judge art.” [...]
While Cattelan’s work has been subject to price surges, it was not swept up in the speculative bubble of the bull market, from 2006 to early 2008. His highest price at auction was set in 2004 when “The Ninth Hour”, a sculpture depicting Pope John Paul II knocked down by a meteorite, sold for $3m. Cattelan’s primary prices for large-scale works, such as “All”, a white marble sculpture of nine draped corpses, now exceed that benchmark figure.
Cattelan is supported by serious collectors, such as Edlis in Chicago, Dakis Joannou in Athens, Patrizia Sandretto re Rebaudengo in Torino, David and Danielle Ganek in New York and Philippe Niarchos in Paris. “It’s a hallmark of bravery to own a Cattelan sculpture,” says Amy Cappellazzo of Christie’s. “It usually signals an ambitious collection.”
Word may also have got round that the Guggenheim Museum in New York is planning a Cattelan retrospective in 2011 and that the artist has been asked to consider an exhibition at Versailles.
Against the Odds (Economist)