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Analysis out of the box

Market prospective: the Supports/Surfaces case

Analysis out of the boxArt Market | In October 1970, at a time when French society was still measuring the impact of May 1968, a dozen artists presented their work in the Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris) under the name Supports/Surfaces. The French militant group they represented positioned itself as part of a greater international movement, which questioned societal and artistic issues in the context of the post-war reconstruction.

Vue de l’exposition ‘‘Claude Viallat, Oeuvres Majeures 1967 - 2017‘‘ à la Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière New York © Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière
Vue de l’exposition "Claude Viallat, Oeuvres Majeures 1967 - 2017" à la Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière New York
© Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière

The group’s essential benchmarks

Officially founded in 1970, Supports/Surfaces first gathered 12 members, most of them based in the South of France. They were moved by a common cause : the demystification of the artistic object, which they attained by deconstructing the traditional support of paintings.

Marc Devade (1943 - 1983), Patrice Saytour (1935), Claude Viallat (1936), Vincent Bioulès (1938), Daniel Dezeuze (1942), André Valensi (1947 - 1999), André-Pierre Arnal (1939), Louis Cane (1943), Nœl Dolla (1945), Jean-Pierre Pincemin (1944 - 2005), all of them questioned painting in their own way, its process, its type of representation and its components : the frame, the chassis, the canvas and the colors. Bernard Pagès (1940) and Toni Grand (1935 - 2005) transposed this issue to their discipline, questioning the relation that connects a sculpture to its context.

The group’s early dissolution in 1972, combined with the hegemonic impulse of the American art market (Conceptual Art, Minimal Art, Pop-Art…) marginalized Supports/Surfaces. Indeed, the group did not benefit from international visibility despite a significant number of events including its artists in France and Europe : between 1975 and 2018 there were more than 526 collective exhibitions displaying the works of artists from the original group, these took place mainly in France (353) and in European countries (475). Although there have been relatively few exhibitions held outside of Europe (less than 10% of the total), they have covered almost the whole globe : Asia, Latin America, Africa, the United States.

In 2012 the Ceysson & Bénétière gallery showed its commitment to the movement by defending and reinterpreting it in line with current trends. The same year, emblematic and historical works from the group’s artists were displayed at the FIAC; an initiative motivated by a revaluation of prices and an outreach policy aimed at incentivizing exhibitions abroad (Geneva, Luxembourg, the United States…).

2014 marked a shift in the American market : the Canada gallery in New York presented a Supports/Surfaces exhibition in its historical version. This prescriptive event led to the development of new projects focusing on the movement’s artists, it was the case of the 356 Mission Road art center in Los Angeles (in charge of curator Wallace Whitney) and the Cherry & Martin gallery, which has represented the Supports/Surfaces artists since then.

The signs of change through numbers

The quantitative analysis we present focuses on the works of Claude Viallat, Daniel Dezeuze and Bernard Pagès that were sold between 2012-2018 (all auction houses combined).

If we observe the body of work auctioned since the early 1990’s, we notice extremely different patterns among Supports/Surfaces members. While Claude Viallat, Jean-Pierre Pincemin and Louis Cane’s auctioned 747, 646 and 1.287 lots respectively, Daniel Dezeuze and Bernard Pagès presented « only » 56 and 49 works.

However, although the quantity of auctioned works has been unequal among artists, general trends can be identified since the beginning of 2010. Between 2012 and 2018 Claude Viallat reached a 66% sales rate (160 lots out of 243) for a total result of 1.578.894$, which was slightly superior to the low estimates (1.447.411$). Daniel Dezeuze attained a 56% rate (14 out of 25) while Bernard Pagès sold all 7 seven works presented to auction.

The works realized in the 1960s and 1970s have generally reached higher selling prices.
- Claude Viallat’s 1970 works (mostly medium and large formats) had a low bought-in rate (8 lots out of 30, representing 27%) and a majority of sales that exceeded the high estimates (60%). Out of the 10 most highly-rated works sold between 2012 and 2018, 5 were created between 1971 and 1974. The highest sale, Colorant sur toile blanche 005 (1974) was sold by Piasa on October 15, 2015 for $ 73.524 (estimates $ 34.250-$ 45.667).
Works produced in the 1970’s and 1980’s have median prices of $ 10.289 and $ 9.359, respectively; while works from the 1960s have a median price of $ 3.364; the ones from the 1990s reach $ 6.606, and from the 2000s, $ 6.723.

- Daniel Dezeuze did not reach any significant sales on the auction market until Sotheby’s sale of September 24, 2012, in Paris. The session, which gathered works from Marcel Brient’s collection, included Rouleau de bois de placage (1970) which was sold for $ 16,147 (est. 12,918 - $ 16,147) and a 1967 work entitled Sans Titre sold for $ 75,377 (est. 25,836 - $ 38,754 - it is the record bid to date).

- Bernard Pagès’s sales’ prices raised from the year 2000 onwards, reaching amounts above $ 10,000, particularly for sculptures; this was the case of Quatre cornières à ailes égales pliées en angle droit (1978) and Murette de briques et tas de barres de bois teinté (1968) which were both sold at Piasa on October 15, 2015 for $ 24,998.

Current trends

Before 2012, the movement was barely known, however in the past seven years it has revived; its works have circulated in international fairs such as FIAC, Freize Master London, Freize New York and Art Basel Miami. The movement is being progressively recognized in the United-States and in Latin America.
This recent trend is illustrated by the development of new projects focused on Supports/Surfaces, such as an important exhibition at the Detroit Museum in 2019 and another at the Philadelphia Museum, which took place in one of its rooms dedicated to the French art scene.
In 2017, young French curators revisited the movement : Marie Maertens with her exhibition The Surface of the East Coast at 109 in Nice and Romain Mathieu with Supports / Surfaces : Les origines 1966-1970 at the Carré d’art in Nîmes.
Finally, in 2016, the Centre Pompidou reopened a historic room dedicated to Supports/Surfaces, which had been inaugurated in 2001 and then closed. This positioning shift contrasts with the idea that the French scene is neither followed nor recognized by the international art scene.

The Observatoire de l’art contemporain’s point of view

The late institutional recognition of the movement in France is the reflection of a period of change in a context where the French scene starts being valued by the international art market’s actors.
Ceysson & Bénétière’s strategy, based on higher prices and the circulation of the movement’s works in the United States, has proved to be effective. Supports/Surfaces’ market is progressively growing, through a structural international plan of action that includes fairs, museums and collectors, with Claude Viallat’s work on the front line

Vincent Kozsilovics / Nina Rodrigues-Ely
Publié le 31/05/2018
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Version française

Vue de l’exposition “Claude Viallat, Oeuvres Majeures 1967 - 2017“ à la Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière New York © Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière

Vue de l’exposition "Claude Viallat, Oeuvres Majeures 1967 - 2017" à la Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière New York
© Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière