Researching Art Markets
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Researching Art Markets

Past, Present and Tools for the Future

Elisabetta Lazzaro, Nathalie Moureau, Adriana Turpin, Elisabetta Lazzaro, Nathalie Moureau, Adriana Turpin

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eBook - ePub

Researching Art Markets

Past, Present and Tools for the Future

Elisabetta Lazzaro, Nathalie Moureau, Adriana Turpin, Elisabetta Lazzaro, Nathalie Moureau, Adriana Turpin

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About This Book

Researching Art Markets brings together a scholars from several, various disciplinary perspectives. In doing so, this collection offers a unique multi-disciplinary contribution that disentangles some of the key aspects and trends in art market practices from the past to nowadays, namely art collectors, the artist as an entrepreneur and career paths, and the formation and development of new markets.

In understanding the global art market as an ecosystem, the book also examines how research and perceptions have evolved over time. Within the frameworks of contemporary social, economic and political contexts, issues such as business practices, the roles of market participants and the importance of networks are analysed by scholars of different disciplines. With insights from across the humanities and social sciences, the book explores how different methods can coexist to create an interdisciplinary international community of knowledge and research on art markets. Moreover, by providing historical as well as contemporary examples, this book explores the continuum and diversity of the art market.

Overall, this book provides a valuable tool for understanding art markets within their wider context. The volume is of interest to scholars researching into the cultural and creative industries from a wider perspective.

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Part 1

The art collector


The artist collector—a dual actor in the artistic scene

The example of Bernar Venet’s collection

Gwendoline Corthier-Hardoin


A double actor in the artistic scene, the artist collector is a figure too little known in academic studies (Collection Lambert en Avignon, 2001; Dexter, Barbican art gallery & Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, 2015; Robbins, 2016). His dual position, between the production of works and the practice of collecting, gives him a singular status within the art world. The research carried out in recent years on contemporary art collectors (Thomas, 1997; Benhamou-Huet, 2008; Guiot, 2008; Blom, 2010; Moureau, Sagot-Duvauroux & Vidal, 2015) has helped to lift the veil on a field that is difficult to embrace in its entirety and in which artist collections play an important role (Schnapper, 1976). If the collector’s usual practices are now being identified, what about the artist who has collected works throughout his/her career? How do we understand the formation of their collection in terms of motivations, acquisitions and networks, given their dual position as artist and collector? Our chapter proposes to analyse the collection of Bernar Venet as a case study, considering his intentions (artistic, social, economic), transactions (purchases, exchanges), as well as his networks, thus highlighting the relationships he maintained with his colleagues and trying to understand the specificity of an artist–collector. Bernar Venet is a French sculptor born in 1941 and an emblematic figure of the Conceptual Art Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. His collection of more than a hundred works by international artists is brought together in the Venet Foundation, created in 2014 in Le Muy in the south of France. Part of the collection has been shown in two main exhibitions: Vivre l’art: collection Venet, at the Espace de l’Art Concret in 2009; and Le Monde de Bernar Venet: Venet in context, at the Abattoirs de Toulouse in 2010.

The collection, an echo of an artistic course

We have compiled an inventory of 121 works by 53 artists from the exhibition catalogues of his collection. Among them, six artists are particularly represented: Sol LeWitt, Arman, Donald Judd, Frank Stella, CĂ©sar and Dan Flavin. These artists are characteristic of two fundamental stages in his career. The first took place in Nice at the end of the 1950s. Bernar Venet’s formal preoccupations then focused on black or monochrome and types of material. He created paintings coated with tar and continued his research around coal. During this period, he was very close to Arman, who also lived in Nice and through him he met New Realism artists such as François DufrĂȘne, Raymond Hains, Mimmo Rotella, Daniel Spoerri or Jacques VilleglĂ©. Bernar Venet was not part of this group, but being around them allowed him to integrate a network of artists who encouraged the exchange of ideas and objects. The works presented in his collection and produce before he left for the United States represent this relational networking: works by Arman, Ben, CĂ©sar, GĂ©rard Deschamps, Hains, Yves Klein, Rotella and VilleglĂ©.
In 1966, his departure for the United States marked a turning point in his career. During this second stage, he discovered the works and artists of the American scene and created the first of his mathematical diagrams. He developed a conceptual language that originated in mathematical formulas painted on monochromes, or in spatial devices composed of bars placed on the ground. At this time the new artists, who appeared in his collection, were those such as Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Dennis Oppenheim and Dan Flavin. Between 1971 and 1976, he ceased all artistic activity and pushed his investigations along three axes: Lines, Angles and Arcs, which led him to increasingly monumental works. He presented his own work in many international institutions, including the ChĂąteau de Versailles in 2011 and the MusĂ©e d’art contemporain de Lyon for a retrospective in 2019. The works in his collection, produced and acquired from the late 1960s onwards now focused mainly on the American minimal and conceptual scene.
Figure 1.1Bernar Venet, La droite D’ reprĂ©sente la fonction y = 2x+1. Collection of the MusĂ©e de Grenoble; ReprĂ©sentation graphique de la fonction y=−x24. Collection of the MusĂ©e National d’Art Moderne de Paris. View of the exhibition ‘Bernar Venet, les annĂ©es conceptuelles, 1966–1976’, in MusĂ©e d’Art moderne et d'Art contemporain, Nice, 2018. © François Fernandez
Moreover, these artists belong to the generation prior to Bernar Venet’s. A generational analysis shows that the majority of them were born between 1920 and 1940, they represent 72% of the collection, while 17% (nine artists) belong to his generation (from 1940 onwards). Only two artists were born before 1900; among them was Marcel Duchamp. Bernar Venet met Duchamp in November 1967 through the collector Isi Fiszman at a dinner at the artist Christo’s home, and presented him with one of his works in February of the same year. It is at the end of this meeting that Duchamp wrote on a corner of a newspaper ‘The sale of wind is Venet’s event’, a pun with the letters of his name, referring to an artistic project by Bernar Venet.1 The trace of this meeting is still present in the artist’s collection and testifies of Venet’s admiration for Duchamp. ‘I was totally unknown and to have the privilege of making exchanges with artists who were changing the course of history in Europe was gratifying and reassuring’ says Venet (Avrilla, MarcadĂ© & Espace de l’art concret, 2009, p. 27). The collection thus takes on multiple functions; it allowed the artist not only to be part of a contemporary art scene, in Nice before 1966, in the United States after that date but also within the history of art through his choice of guardian figures.

Artist-specific modes of acquisition

If Venet’s collection has a specific character through the motivations that animate it—admiration, artistic membership—the modes of acquisition employed are also particular. The usual collector sometimes practices exchange, but sales and purchases of works seem to be more common. Conversely, exchanges between artists are a familiar and recurrent practice (Collection Lambert en Avignon, 2001). The collection of Bernar Venet is a singular example. A gift from Arman occasioned the artist’s departure for the American continent. He knew that Venet dreamed of going there and offered him one of his works in 1966, advising him to sell it to finance his trip. After six months of hesitation, Venet sold the piece for $300 and left for New York. This story is symptomatic of artists’ collections in that a large number of works are obtained through exchanges. It is because Bernar Venet worked and was friends with the artists of New Realism that he acquired works. His first exchange took place with Ben (Benjamin Vautier), then with Arman, CĂ©sar, Deschamps, Paul-Armand Gette and VilleglĂ©. In the United States, he exchanged work with Allan d’Arcangelo, John Chamberlain, Dan Flavin, On Kawara, Joseph Kosuth. With Sol LeWitt, he also exchanged a wall drawing made for his apartment in 1970. These artists were the precursors of his own preoccupations, and together they shared a taste for collecting.2
Figuration never interested me
 I knew Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rosenquist well, but it wasn’t my taste and that’s not what I ended up collecting
 Since I had a strong taste for abstraction, I immediately found myself closer to minimal art. I became friends with Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, Carl André 
(Avrilla, MarcadĂ© & Espace de l’art concret, 2009, p. 29)
Figure 1.2Sol LeWitt, Asymmetrical pyramid drawing #428, 1985, wall painting made with coloured inks, 255,5 x 724 cm. Bernar Venet Collection. © Bernar Venet archives.
It thus appears that there was a correlation between his artistic practice and that of a collector. Bernar Venet was in contact with artists with whom he felt close both formally and personally. The choice of works in the collection was oriented to correspond with his own searches. In the 1980s, for example, he exchanged one of his works with art dealer Hans Mayer for a Campbell Soup by Andy Warhol. Venet then sold this work to Daniel Templon in exchange for a work by Ellsworth Kelly and a sculpture by Tony Smith. Although he was aware of Warhol’s importance on the art scene, the work he owned did not correspond to the spirit of his collection.
While exchanges between colleagues were, therefore, a key element in this artist’s collecting practice, these exchanges also took place regularly with dealers. Exchanges with galleries appeared to be a normal mode of acquisition and seemed to take place mainly in two situations. On the one hand, when the gallery was unable to pay the artist, then it offered payment to the artist in the form of another artist; this is, for example, the case of the exchange with the art dealer Templon of Carl André’s Belgica Blue Cliff in return for the money that the gallerist owed to Venet—around $70,000. On the other hand, when the gallery wished to acquire a work by Venet, they might offer a work from their stock; this was the case in the exchange of a bow by the artist for a work by Tony Cragg with a New Zealand gallery. In both circumstances, it was the fact of being an artist that made the transaction possible. Moreover, when the artist solicits a gallery for a purchase, he is often offered advantageous prices:
I always get a bit of a special price, because I’m an artist, I...

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