Yayoi Kusama The canal on glow 1990


Recent international auctions were characterized by an increase in the collectors’ interest in Japanese works by Yayoi Kusama, Yoshitomo Nari and Kazuo Shiraga, three artists who, in spite of being completely different from each other, have all become prestigious icons in the art market. Yoshitomo Nari, the youngest of the three, achieved his top record with Knife behind Back, a 2000, 234×208 cm acrylic on canvas that went for EUR 22,720,000 at Sotheby’s; this achievement was confirmed by another work of his that went for EUR 4,340,000. As for the Italians, the collectors’ interest in Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri and Alighiero Boetti was confirmed. Furthermore, less inflated artists whose works are quite rare on the market also drew attention; among them there are Leoncillo, Sergio Lombardo, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Maria Lai, and Giuseppe Gallo. Over the last twelve months, that is to say since his last record, which he set at Sotheby’s in Milan, Leoncillo continues attracting interest. His works almost always went for six-figure prices, as it is the case with Taglio, a 1960, 60-centimetre high, enamel-printed ceramic sculpture that went for EUR 210,500 at Christie’s in London; this sale ranked eighth in the maestro’s top ten and third in the coefficient-based ranking of all his works. Sergio Lombardo also achieved great results.


After literally revolutionizing the market of his rare outlines by selling one of his works for EUR 275,000 – about ten times the average hammer price of his works – at Sotheby’s in Milan last spring, during the Christie’s auction that has taken place in London recently, he sold a collage on canvas for EUR 152,000, a most unique event as only two works of the same kind had been put at auction since 2001. Pier Paolo Calzolari, too, deserves to be mentioned. The sale of his 1973 Untitled work (a 72×100 cm salt and burnt tobacco on board) at Christie’s in London set no record, since its hammer price was lower than the prices of 2016; however, it confirms the slight and constant rise of the trend line of his auction sales. In the case of Maria Lai, the analysis is much easier. The work that was sold at Christie’s in London (Al volger della spola, mixed technique on paper, 1995, 32x22x5 cm) set her record in international auctions for this kind of work, confirming the market’s interest in the Sardinian artist. Giuseppe Gallo’s 2002 Untitled oil on canvas (200×220 cm), in addition to becoming the maestro’s second most important auction sale, went for a price that is three times Christie’s experts’ maximum estimate; this is a clear sign of the collectors’ great interest in Gallo’s works.


Roberto Capitanio



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