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Trend in sight

Market prospective: Eugène Leroy’s case

Art Market | Born in 1910, Eugène Leroy has been known since the 1970’s for his enigmatic art, which is characterized by the accumulation and solidification of pictorial materials into several layers. After his death in 2000, his work was progressively left behind by the art market’s globalized dynamic, which turned its focus towards the Asian region. However, a revival of the artist’s market has been observed recently.

L’oeuvre ’’Grand nu assis’’, 1978-1980 adjugée par Artcurial pour 74.352€ (est. 50.000 - 70.000€) le 29 janvier 2008 © Eugène Leroy
L’oeuvre ’’Grand nu assis’’, 1978-1980 adjugée par Artcurial pour 74.352€ (est. 50.000 - 70.000€) le 29 janvier 2008
© Eugène Leroy

A few points of reference

- At the margins of mainstream trends, Eugéne Leroy’s artistic practice is perceived as a slow exploration leading to an absolute painting, between chaos and light. Discovered and admired by German artist Baselitz, supported by German art dealer Michael Werner and, later on, by the Galerie de France; the artist knew a belated notoriety.

Vent d’hiver, Eugène Leroy, circa 1968 © Alberto Ricci/Archives Galerie de France
Vent d’hiver, Eugène Leroy, circa 1968
© Alberto Ricci/Archives Galerie de France
- From his first exhibition in 1937 at the Lille-based Montsallut gallery until 2018, his work has been displayed in 144 individual exhibitions, most of them organized by galleries (48) and public institutions (30).

- Throughout the 1980’s a paradigm shift took place, it was initiated by the artist’s first exhibition in the United States, held at Gallery K. Up until then, Leroy had only displayed his work in Europe, of 33 exhibitions 29 were held in France, 3 in Belgium and 1 in Switzerland.

- The turning point in the artist’s career was directly linked to his collaboration with the Michael Werner Gallery, which started representing him in 1983. To this day, the gallery has hosted 19 events related to Leroy in its New York, London and Trebbin spaces.

- From then on, Leroy attained international notoriety. Several retrospectives were dedicated to the artist by institutions such as the Musée d’art moderne de Paris in 1988 and the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain in Nice in 1993. Leroy also held an exhibition at the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum in 1988 and at Basel’s Kunsthalle in 1997. He participated in the Sao Paulo XXI Biennale in 1991 and in Documenta IX in 1992; he was also invited to the Venice Biennale Identity and Alterity. Figures of the body, 1895/1995 in 1995.

- Nowadays Eugène Leroy’s works constitute several public and private collections. In France he is present at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Centre Pompidou, the Beaux-arts de Lyon and the Musée d’art moderne et contemporain de Toulouse. On the international art sphere his work can be found at the Hishhorn Museum and the Smithsonian in the United States, the Stedelijkmuseum in Amsterdam, the Kunsthalle in Basel, the Ludwig Museum in Cologne...

Data on the market’s renewal

When we analyze the 400 lots that were auctioned between 1990 and 2018, all auction houses combined, we can observe a revival in the artist’s market :

Throughout 28 years, Eugène Leroy’s sales represented a total amount of € 3,195,500 (est. € 3,519,317 - 4,545,198), distributed in the following way :
- 128 lots (32%) exceeded the estimates
- 89 lots (22%) were consistent with the estimates
- 28 (7%) lots were sold under the low estimates
- 142 (32%) were bought-in

Between 1990 and 2006 we observe the repetition of a pattern : sales were generally under the low estimates and there was a high rate of unsold lots.
- During the year 2001, the sales rate reached 33% for a result of € 31,541 (est. € 44,064 - 54,616) ;
- In 2002, sales rate : 40% / result : € 46,840 (est. € 106,788 - 134,559) ;
- In 2005, sales rate : 23% / result : € 71.962 (est. € 183.842 - 232.466).

The turning point took place in 2008 with the sale of Grand nu assis (1978-1980) by Artcurial for € 74,352 (est. € 50,000 - 70,000), during the Jean Albou collection’s sale. The painting, which was sold for the first time in 2005 by Sotheby’s London for € 31,864, confirmed its notoriety in 2011.

The 2011-2017 period was characterized by annual sales volumes exceeding $ 300,000 and relatively low unsold rates, ranging between 13% and 33% except for 2016 when the bought-in rate represented 52% of the 31 lots auctioned. 2014 was the year with the most outstanding results : of 23 lots, 20 were sold for € 452,786 (est. € 324,960 - 434,827) and 65% of sales exceeded the high estimates.

It is also worthy noticing how of 400 lots auctioned since 1990, 86% of the artist’s top 50 sales happened between 2011 and 2017.

According to the numbers, the artworks realized from the 1970’s onwards sold better and reached higher prices :
- Works realized in the 1990’s : of 34 lots, 28 were sold for a total of € 634,851 (est. € 566,767 - 739,306) attaining a median of € 22,672 ;
- Works from the 1980’s : of 63 lots, 48 were sold for a total of € 757,560 (est. € 712,898 - 916,800) reaching a median of € 15,781 ;
- Works created in the 1970’s : of 40 lots, 29 were sold for a total of € 667,720 (est. € 617,345 - 804,277) with a median of € 23,024.

During the period 1970-1999 the artist sold 105 lots out of a total of 137 (77%) against 107 lots sold out of 187 (57%) between 1940 and 1969. Also, 13 of the best 15 sales the artist has recorded consist of works produced between 1970 and 1999, the number one sale being the painting Grand nu assis (1978-1980).

Current trends

Vue d'exposition ''Peintures-Fusains'', Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris, 2015 © Galerie Nathalie Obadia
Vue d'exposition ''Peintures-Fusains'', Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris, 2015
© Galerie Nathalie Obadia
New prescriptive galleries are betting on the artist, it is the case of the Nathalie Obadia Gallery which displays the artist’s paintings since 2014 and organizes exhibitions dedicated to him almost annually, in Brussels and Paris.

Nevertheless, since Leroy’s passing, international exhibitions remain rare, they are mainly led by his historical representative Michael Werner. Besides his work, there have only been two events concerning the artist outside of Europe : at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in 2000 and at the Alan Koppel Gallery in 2003.

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

Countering the dominant aesthetics of the 2000’s which were based on pub culture, simulacrum and hyperrealism, Eugène Leroy’s work was in tune with the renewal of abstraction that characterized the end of the decade.
The artist’s market, which is concentrated in Europe (particularly in Northern countries), shows signs of potential development, as is the case in the United States. The analysis of public sales reflects stability with a slight uptrend in 2011 which peaked in 2014.

Vincent Kozsilovics / Nina Rodrigues-Ely
Publié le 30/04/2018
Copyright © Observatoire de l'art contemporain - Tous droits réservés
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Version française

L’oeuvre ’’Grand nu assis’’, 1978-1980 adjugée par Artcurial pour 74.352€ (est. 50.000 - 70.000€) le 29 janvier 2008 © Eugène Leroy

L’oeuvre ’’Grand nu assis’’, 1978-1980 adjugée par Artcurial pour 74.352€ (est. 50.000 - 70.000€) le 29 janvier 2008
© Eugène Leroy

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