CHRONICLES OF AN UNDERCOVER REPORTER FROM LONDON TO MÁLAGA
By Nicolas Trembley, photo by Jessica Craig-Martin Jenny Saville has become the most expensive living woman artist in the wor ld. Propped, her 1992 nude self- portrait, made over $12 million at a sale that has already gone down in the annals, held at Sotheby’s in London at the beginning of October. The new owner is a Russian investor, but women still cost less than their male colleagues. The record holder is Georgia O’Keeffe, one of whose canvases sold for over $ 44 million at a 2014 sale in New York, almost 30 years after her death. O’Keeffe categorically refused all “feminine” interpretation of her work ( which mostly featured flowers), just like Elaine Sturtevant, who decided to drop her first name in order to “degender” her oeuvre, both seeking parity with their male counterparts.
I f the Sotheby’s sale went straight down in history, it’s not so much because of Saville but rather because of the Banksy hullaballoo. Just as one of his drawings was hammered down at over £1 million, it partially self- destructed, causing considerable consternation among the audience and auctioneers. A paper shredder had been hidden in the frame, which was presumably set off by somebody present in the sales room just as that night’s master of ceremonies, Mr. Branczik, cried “Sold!” Ever yone thought that Sotheby’s was in on the stunt and that the whole thing was a sort of hoax intended to increase the work’s value and generate publicity for the artist, who usually expresses himself through street art and whose prices have recently been going up. On his Instagram account, Banksy posted a video of the shredding mechanism, which, at the time of writing, has been viewed over ten- million times. It was accompanied by a quotation from Picasso: “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.”
It’s not the first time that an auction “trophy” has been publicly
destroyed and afterwards increased in value. In 2006, Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas casino magnate, who was about to sell Picasso’s painting Le Rêve, managed to put his elbow through it as he was showing it to friends. A contract that had already been signed with a buyer for $139 million had to be cancelled and the painting withdrawn from sale. After its restoration, the canvas, which had enjoyed considerable media exposure because of the accident, went for $155 million, i.e. $16 million more than the original asking price.
Talking of Picasso, he’s everywhere right now, including in Málaga, where the local Picasso museum celebrated its 15th birthday with a symposium about the Málagaborn master and the theme of histor y. The Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz- Picasso para el arte ( FABA), which is run by the artist’s grandson and his wife, the gallerist Almine Rech, had invited dozens of specialists ( including all the directors of the world’s Picasso museums, of which there are quite a few) as well as their friends and family, among them Ira von Fürstenberg, Jean Pigozzi and Paloma Picasso.