Who but the Nahmads could stage large-scale Picasso exhibitions unaided, and lend canvases to the Gagosian Gallery for its own shows? Looking like an Olympic athlete with a hint of Paul Newman, with the kindly gaze of someone who has nothing to prove, David Nahmad, born in 1947, has none of the chilly remoteness of Larry Gagosian, his alter ego in contemporary art. In the lounges of this large hotel on Avenue Montaigne in Paris where he often stays, he settles into the interview, and – unusually – agrees to talk about himself, his family and the market. In fact, what would the Impressionist, modern and Surrealist art markets be without him? The founder of a famous line of art dealers along with his brothers Joseph and Ezra, David comes from a Syrian Jewish family who moved to Beirut, in the Lebanon. In the 1960s, the trio emigrated to Milan, where the art market was in its infancy, but full of promise. To their banker father's great displeasure, they became interested in art, and began buying and selling. When they acquired some works by Juan Gris in Milan, exhibited by Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, David and Ezra caught the dealer's attention, and he entrusted them with some Picassos to sell in Italy.
And so began the Nahmad saga. In the 1970s, faced with the threat of the Red Brigades, they left the country, Ezra and Joseph heading to Monaco while David went to New York. Today, David too has settled in Monaco. His son Helly (Hillel) has taken over the Manhattan gallery, and his cousin of the same name now runs the gallery in London. They both offer more or less the same big names of the late 19th century and the modern period, from Monet to Picasso. Together, they dominate the American and European markets. David Nahmad may now have taken a step back from dealing to focus more on collecting, but he is still active in salerooms across France, Britain and the US.
His presence is reassuring. "I have nothing to hide. I like being there, experiencing the atmosphere in the room, which you can't get over the phone," he says. "I have only missed one major sale, when my son had some trouble with the law [in 2014]. I was distraught – I didn't know what it was about. I would have been more upset if he had been punished for selling a fake painting.
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The 2015 edition of TEFAF (The European Fine Art Fair) took place between 13 and 22 March at Maastricht’s MECC. As the event closed, its organisers and some exhibitors and partners revisited this year’s edition and talked about the sale of some major works. The fair focuses primarily on medieval sculptures and Old Master works, and the TEFAF Paintings section continues to see the latter attract a large number of collectors. For example, Gemeentemuseum de La Haye purchased "Vue d’Amsterdam depuis le port d’IJ vers l’ouest, avec la tour de Zuiderkerk au loin, peinte un après-midi de septembre en 1854" by Camille Corot (1796-1875), which was offered by Douwes Fine Art. Weiss Gallery dedicated a special exhibition to paintings by Frans Pourbus the Younger (1568-1622), and
a new client paid £250,000 for a portrait of the French king Henri IV (1553-1610), which was painted by the artist in 1610. Several works, including Angelika Kauffman’s "Hector upbraiding Paris for his retreat from Battle", and Guilliam van Nieulandt the Younger’s "Adoration of the Magi", which was offered for $950,000, were sold by the gallery Jack Kilgore & Co
The flight of the hours after which this clock is named has fascinated poets and philosophers since time immemorial. Some seek to seize hold of the instant, to preserve the memory of happy moments; others contemplate with dismay the passage of each minute. “Time throws the carefree hours into a fire without memory”, writes poet Kamal Zerdoumi (in Arrière-saison). It is also a theme dear to artists, and especially to sculptors such as Rupert Carabin, who also produced furniture and objets d’art. In the late 1880s he met Gustave Geffroy, who introduced him to Parisian art circles, where he became friends with the Impressionists, but also with Toulouse-Lautrec and the sculptors
Did the dispersion of the Antoine Terrasse collection benefit from the Bonnard exhibition at the Musée d'Orsay? Timing it a few days after the opening of the Paris retrospective was clearly a shrewd move, since a number of collectors had made the trip. One thing is certain: this dispersion, organised in Fontainebleau on 29 March (Osenat auction house), had an international audience.The personal world of Pierre Bonnard, from the family collection of his great-nephew Antoine Terrasse, took €5,485,000, with the top two bids going to "La Promenade", a 1900 canvas knocked down for €970,000, and the self-portrait, which went for €960,000.
Nicknamed “The King of Ming”, Robert Hatfield Ellsworth (1929-2014) did indeed reign over the market for Asian art, a market he had himself in part created by introducing the West to 19th- and 20th-century Chinese painting. Sold without reserve at Christie's New York on 20 March last, the splendid collection that had been housed in his vast Fifth Avenue apartment-cum-gallery made more than $131M. Several sessions were needed to auction the 1,400 lots, the most interesting being that of 20 March, when sales totalled $15.84M.
When the Musée d’Orsay opened in 1986, placing academic works a few feet from the avant-gardes of the 19th century was a decidedly bold move, with Thomas Couture's "Romains de la décadence" facing Courbet's "Artist's Studio" in the centre of the hall. And yet there remained, and still remains, a long way to go in order to restore a presence of traditional painting in proportion to its historical importance. Forming a dense collection at the beginning of the circuit, the rooms devoted to the painting of Jean-Léon Gérôme…
Who but the Nahmads could stage large-scale Picasso exhibitions unaided, and lend canvases to the Gagosian Gallery for its own shows? Looking like an Olympic athlete with a hint of Paul Newman, with the kindly gaze of someone who has nothing to prove, David Nahmad, born in 1947, has none of the chilly remoteness of Larry Gagosian, his alter ego in contemporary art. In the lounges of this large hotel on Avenue Montaigne in Paris where he often stays, he settles into the interview, and – unusually – agrees to talk about himself, his family and the market.
Western fascination for the Far East is nothing new. The artists who were later dubbed the "Bosphorus Painters" were already struck with admiration for its enchanting shores in the 18th century. Then the expedition to Egypt, the War of Greek Independence and above all the conquest of Algeria opened up the Mediterranean to artists. Through the brush, they endeavoured to express the beauty of a rediscovered civilisation, and gradually sought to tame it.
April 2015 Edition
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