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Foot Painting Fetches $4 Million in Strong Sales

By Mary Romano


Two abstract works by a Japanese artist who painted with his feet sold for a total of about $6 million in Paris as collectors brush off worries about volatile markets.

The canvases by the late Kazuo Shiraga, who spread paint with the bottoms of his feet while holding onto a rope above him to keep from falling, sold at Fergus McCaffrey’s booth at the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain, which ended Sunday.  “Ryusen” from 1991 fetched just under $4 million and “Kakueki,” a 1985 oil on canvas, went for $2.5 million.

Dealers said sales were strong at FIAC, the main attraction of a modern and contemporary art week in Paris, which followed a buying spree in London at auctions, galleries and the Frieze Art Fair. Postwar, contemporary and Italian art at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips in London fetched 238.6 million pounds ($366 million), a 3.2 percent increase from 2014 and a sign that the wealthy haven’t lost their appetite for blue-chip works.

“It was more focused buying,” said Bona Colonna Montagu, director of Skarstedt’s London gallery, which sold German artist Gunther Uecker’s 1964 work of oil, kaolin and nails on canvas for $1.8 million, and a 2015 painting by George Condo for $600,000. “It wasn’t frenzied, speculative buying, where they don’t know the work and it’s just spur of the moment. They are taking their time and making specific acquisitions.”

Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, Francois Pinault, the French billionaire owner of Christie’s auction house, and Peter Brant, the American newsprint magnate, visited the fair, according to organizers.

A bronze abstract sculpture from a new series by Georg Baselitz commanded 750,000 euros ($829,000) at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Robert Longo’s charcoal drawing on mounted paper showing an X-ray of the Mona Lisa garnered $500,000.

Serious Collectors

FIAC brought out “what the trade describes as good people, which means they are serious collectors,” said David Nash of the Mitchell-Innes & Nash gallery. His New York-based gallery sold a 2015 work by Keltie Ferris, in which she coats her body with oils and powdered pigments and then presses her figure onto the paper, for $16,000. Two of Eddie Martinez’s silkscreen ink, oil, enamel and spray paint works on canvas -- including one that contained chewing gum -- went for as much as $75,000 each.

Puerto Rican artist Angel Otero’s 2015 painting was purchased by the Istanbul Modern museum, with an asking price of $100,000 to $150,000 at the Lehmann Maupin booth. Otero has a solo show at Lehmann Maupin in New York set to open Nov. 7.

David Maupin, the gallery’s co-owner, said that some collectors may be keeping their eye on their financial portfolios in light of the volatile markets, but it hasn’t stopped them from buying art.
“Maybe art is an asset but you can also have an emotional attachment to it,” Maupin said. “It’s hard to have an emotional attachment to stocks and bonds.”

Miami Fair

Attendance at FIAC was down to 71,717 people from 74,567 last year, making the event the fifth most attended art fair in 2015, according to a report to be published in November by Skate’s, a New York-based art market researcher.

The sales in London and Paris bode well for the bellwether auctions set for November in New York and the big fair, Art Basel Miami Beach, in December.

“From everything I’ve seen, we have every reason to think Miami will go well,” Marc Spiegler, global director of the Art Basel fairs, said as he walked through FIAC at the VIP preview on Oct. 21. “The top tier collectors will make that trip from far away to Miami.”