MILAN: Italian “junk artists” Piero Manzoni and Alberto Burri’s works may set records at this week’s London auctions as prices for their work reach levels already attained by contemporary artists in the US and the UK.
Burri and Manzoni may also be benefiting from greater investments by Italian museums and foundations, including Turin’s Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo and the Museo D’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina in Naples, said Massimo De Palma, head of discretionary portfolio management at Deutsche Bank AG in Milan, who advises clients on investing in art. “Liquidity is driving demand.” Still, for the portfolio manager, the prices they’re now heading for are excessive, even if in line with those of other artists. “Art is a cyclical market and a correction is overdue,” De Palma said.
Indian art prices have also been soaring both within the country and abroad and the industry has grown to a Rs1,000-crore business, say experts. But recent sales, including at an auction at the well-regarded Osian’s, where 49 out of 139 pieces went unsold, has raised questions as to whether soaring prices are making buyers a lot more discerning.
Among Sotheby’s top lots at its contemporary sale this week is Manzoni’s 1959 Achrome, whose estimate of as much as £2 million (Rs17.16 crore) is 50% higher than the artist’s previous record set in New York in November, according to Artnet AG. Alberto Burri’s Sacco e Rosso has a maximum estimate of £1.5 million, exceeding his record set in 1989.
Record banking bonuses in London and demand from collectors in markets such as China and Russia are fuelling the rise in contemporary art prices, which have quadrupled in the past 10 years. Auctioneers bet that Italian “Arte Povera” practitioners, who used junk for their creations, will be worth as much as pieces by Cy Twombly and Francis Bacon. Manzoni’s piece, measuring 100cm by 70.2cm, is being offered for sale by an unnamed collector from Turin, Italy. The canvas consists of a series of horizontal pleats made with kaolin, a white clay used in porcelain manufacturing.