With this bronze hand, the Besch auction house has gold in its fingers. The "Roman Hand", a bronze sculpture by Lalanne depicting a bird whose sleek shapes contrast with the lines of the hand on which he landed, will be the star piece of the sale of August 15. For several years, the creations imprinted with surrealistic poetry by the French sculptors have seduced the most prestigious collectors. Among their bestiary, their famous Sheep have become regulars of the Cannes sales house.
In 2011, two specimens had left at record prices (239120 euros) and the following year a herd of two sheep and two ewes totalled 367220 euros. On 15 August 2014, a herd of two transhumant sheep was acquired for 169425 euros.
One year, Bernard Arnault and François Pinault even competed for one, and in 2012, one of them was awarded 164700 euros. Estimated at between 28000 and 35000 euros, the sculpture created jointly in 1993 by the late Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne is more affordable this year. "I liked the object, said auctioneer Jean-Pierre Besch. It is a poetic and elegant work, with this small intellectual side that represents this period of the twentieth century that I love so much.”
Along with the 357 paintings, sculptures and art deco objects presented for sale entitled «From impressionists to contemporaries», another work is particularly awaited at the traditional hotel Martinez, on the Croisette. The Woman with the harp, attributed to the Croatian artist Ivan Mestrovic (1883-1932), is estimated at between 25000 and 30000 euros. The charm of this wooden panel from the first half of the twentieth century does not only come from the elegance of this round woman’s S-shape. For Jean-Pierre Besch, this panel carved in high relief "is at the heart of the role of auctioneer".
After a private collector asked him for an estimate of the work, the auction house begins an important research work. It will end with a good surprise. Two variants, in marble and bronze, allow to assign the wooden panel to Ivan Mestrovic. “I love all this research work on a work to try to find it a pedigree, a story, until an expert can say “you can attribute it to an artist”.” This artist, whom Rodin will say is «the greatest sculptor of all time», is one of the most important names of the Croatian sculpture. Enough to seduce, once again, art lovers from all over the world.
However, some works in the catalogue have a much higher estimate. For example, an oil from Jilali Gharbaoui is estimated at more than 70000 euros. But, for Jean-Pierre Besch, the interest of a work is not limited to its value. A conception of the job of auctioneer that also contributes to its longevity. On Thursday, he will strike his hammer for the thirtieth consecutive year, which was not assured at the beginning.
In 1989, this contemporary art enthusiast struggled to attract clients to this city far from the capital. If he had a quick success with his wine sales, he had to innovate to stand out in art. The auctioneer was one of the first to attach a photo of all the works presented in his sales catalogue, which is now a common practice. And over time, he has managed to make his remoteness an asset. 'To make a difference, we put our sales outside the traditional sales periods and on fixed dates: August 15, Easter, mid-July and late December,' he explains.
Today, these dates have almost become a tradition. «Many artists of the 20th century spent a stay on the Côte d'Azur», he adds. A godsend for those who love above all to «showcase works», and whose house, now ranked 27th in the world art market, became unavoidable in August.
PIERRE MOREL - firstname.lastname@example.org