The whole world and Europe is celebrating 50 years of Narrative Figuration. The French art movement known as Narrative Figuration was officially born in 1965. Both museums and auctioneers are planning to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary.
WHAT IS NARRATIVE FIGURATION?
The movement emerged in the 1960s in response to the dominant trend towards abstract art. Its artists created figurative works that recycled old images, much in the same way the New Realists were recycling objects at the same time. Narrative Figuration owes its cohesion as a movement to the art critic Gérald Gassiot-Talabot. In 1964, in collaboration with painters Bernard RANCILLAC and Hervé TELEMAQUE , he organized a “manifesto” exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris under the title Mythologies quotidiennes. The exhibition brought together 34 artists (including Arroyo, Bertholo, Bertini, Klasen, Monory, Rancillac, Recalcati, Saul, Télémaque) who presented their vision of contemporary society, echoing the American and British Pop artists who were then enjoying their first international successes. Somewhat forgotten after the 1980s, Narrative Figuration was nevertheless one of the most important Contemporary art movements in France. It was recently honored with a major retrospective of the work of the Icelandic artist ERRO at the Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon (3 October 2014 – 22 February 2015) and Jacques MONOR Y is currently the subject of a retrospective at the Capucins de Landerneau (December 14, 2014 to May 17, 2015). There is also an exhibition of Hervé TELEMAQUE ’s work at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (until May 18, 2015) and Art Paris Art Fair, which opens in a few days, will have a special focus on the movement. Meanwhile the auctioneer Cornette de Saint-Cyr is organising a Narrative Figuration sale and the Centre Pompidou is planning an exhibition of Gérard FROMANGER’s work in 2016.
HOW MUCH ARE THEY WORTH?
French artists have the particular advantage of being much less expensive than their American counterparts. Less productive, less media-exposed and less popular, their market is essentially French, although fans are emerging throughout Europe and, to a lesser extent, in the United States. Globally speaking, being French (or living in France) for a Post-War artist would appear to be a significant disadvantage (the gap between French and American artists is enormous: several tens of millions of dollars for the best works). Nevertheless in 2007, Erró, who moved to Paris in 1958, did manage to generate a hammer price equivalent to $1.056 million ($1.23 m incl.fees) at Christie’s Paris where his canvas Comicscape doubled its pre-sale estimate. Although that still remains his auction record, Erro has since been honoured by a number of institutions such as the Pompidou Centre in Paris (Erro – 50 years of collages) in 2010 and by the recent collation of 500 of his works at the Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon.
While most of the Narrative Figuration artists sell for under $150,000 (this is the case of Jacques MONOR Y, Gérard SCHLOSSER , Alain JACQUET, Eduardo ARRO YO, Gérard FRO MANGER and Ivan MESSA C), others have reached higher ground. Herve Télémaque’s record is not new (2007) but stands at just under $450,000 excluding costs: Family Portrait fetched €305,000 (roughly $447,000 and $537,000 including costs at Christie’s in Paris). The sale seven years later of same work at a discount of $20,000 proves that demand is active on this market but definitely not subject to strong speculation. Nevertheless, the market for Narrative Figuration has strengthened over the last seven years with a growing flow of six-figure results. Indeed, last year saw several signs that the market is beginning to tighten: in October 2014, Gérard Schlosser signed his second-best result at more than $100,000 (Il n’y a pas beaucoup de monde aujourd’hui, 1970 fetched €80,000 [$102,000] at Cannes Encheres). In June 2014, Peter KLASE N set a new record equivalent to $116,000 (Le bon magique fetched €86,000 at Cornette de Saint-Cyr in Paris) and, above all, in April 2014 Valerio ADAMI generated a new auction record of €255,000 ($353,000) at Versailles Auction with a 1966 work entitled Le Vasche Da Bagno, beating his previous record from 2013 by $90,000.
In fact all the Narrative Figuration artists have posted positive price indices since 2000 with, in ascending order, +83% for Valerio Adami, +115% for Peter Klasen, +117% for Jacques Monory, +170% for Gudmundur Erro, +491% for Alain Jacquet, +538% for Gérard Fromanger and, lastly, an impressive jump of 1,330% for Hervé Télémaque.
At the upcoming Art Paris Art Fair (March 26 to 29 at the Grand Palais), fans of this movement will find works by Ivan Messac offered between €5,000 and €10,000 by the Baudoin Lebon Gallery and works by Gérard Fromanger on the stand of Caroline Smulders. After the fair, on March 30, the auction firm Cornette de Saint-Cyr will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the movement by offering a selection of Narrative Figuration works. Most of the paintings are estimated at between €10,000 and €25,000 on average. Some drawings and photographs will also be available for between €1,000 and €3,500 making iconic signatures available to more limited budgets.