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Archive for the ‘Art Values & Valuations’ Category

Once again we are at that time of year when the Latin American Art market starts to get all excited and to see what could be tremendous results at auction for some of their better known (and usually defunct!) artists!

This time around Rufino Tamayo has emerged as the leader for the sale of his works “Trovador” (sold for $7.2 M) and “El Comedor de Sandìas” ($3.625M).

Representing Colombia as ever was Botero and a “new” rising star to the art auction scene Omar Rayo.

Locally Rayo`s work have been getting much more difficult to get a hold of and prices have been strongly rising which is now being well reflected in international auctions. His work “Pijao” from 1970 (100cm x 100cm – acrylic / canvas) was sold for more that its estimate and made USD $18,000.

The Colombian sculptor Eduardo Ramirez Villamizar (RIP) also had works for sale which more than exceeded expectations: an acrylic scupture estimated at $4000 sold for $13,000!!!!

An Ana Mercedes Hoyos bronze also did well and reached its price estimate of $16,000.

All in all, a good night at the auctions for Colombian art.

What is really interesting to note is that in 1979 when Sothebys started selling Latin American art at auction they sold a total of $1M. Now, just 30 years later their total sales tops $50M which does show how the the market has expanded. And I believe will continue to expand when it is considered that the Latin American economies are growing strong despite a blip in the US economy this year. So, start visiting your local galleries and get yourself up to date on the local Latin American art scene if you think it is time to make you money count!

If you would like some tips on where to invest in the colombian art scene you are welcome to write to:

art (at) artcolombia.com

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Yesterday I was having a chat with a few artist friends and an art book editor here in Bogota, and as is not uncommon, the conversation turned to why one artist`s work is worth more than another. As is usual all the artists agreed that it has nothing necessarily to do with the quality of the work but more to do with the marketing behind the work and the support given by the galleries and the general players with the art world and markets.

Applying these comments to Colombia, the formal markets here, the artist support networks and infrastructure etc are all pretty non-existent. There is a good art market in the sense that people are happy to buy art they like. I can`t say they are always very studious in their decision making but that can often be said for general art markets around the world. Also, original art is pretty expensive when compared to average incomes in Colombia.

It is probably due to this lack of formal interest in stimulating the art market and related businesses within Colombia itself that has pretty much created a Berlin wall type scenario whereby the majority of art created in Colombia just can`t reach the right audience outside of Colombia and as such prices for many artists are limited by the economic reality of Colombia.

Those artists that have done well in Colombia and overseas have often through their own initiative and sweat gone overseas and done their own promotion. Even though it can pay off, major Colombain artists like Omar Rayo for instance will only command a price of around USD $15 – 30,000 for a good piece of work right now – and having said that his prices have tripled in the last five years probably due to the fact that he is now eighty years old! But he won`t be seeing much benefit of those prices for works that are being re-sold in auctions on the international markets.

How Much Is My Painting Worth?

Now thats almost like asking “How long is a piece of string?”.

Right now in London – at the London Business School – they are readying a conference on Art Investment. This is the second such conference. So, almost 500 years after the Medici family started the ball rolling by investing heavily in art, the world is just getting to the point where it is starting tor formalize the art markets – or al least, it thinks it is. The conference is titled “The Science and Passion of Art Investing”.

i am sure the conference will be very interesting – but I think when we try to bring science to analyze art markets we must be extremely careful or we will probably end up with no art and a lot of betting being disguised as investment in art. This will lead art markets down the road of the timeshare industry and the cowboy image it still has today.

International Art Values and Colombia

Having said all that, art as an investment can and should be something to be considered – but trying to formalize and or standardize international art markets will take an immense amount of time – if it ever happens. And here I return to my meeting of yesterday. One person commented that through the application of “science” to try and rank the artists of the world that one of Colombia`s top ranked artists would be positioned at number 36,000 in the world!!! Someone whose work regularly sells here for USD $25,000 and more would be valued at around $5000 according to the ranking process!!! So much for science! It might lead to a lot of people getting mad in Colombia were such a system to be brought in. And probably not only Colombia – science or pseudo-science when applied to the art markets could upset a lot of people and could actually scare off investors rather than provide them with security.

Having said this, the world is tending now towards a global integration – or globalization – which I suppose will lead to the creation of some kind of yardstick to measure art values by. If this is so, then the only way that an artist will rank will be to follow the rules of the algorithm that is doing the ranking – somehow, that seems to stink to me!

Art Markets Are Local (a.k.a Art and Football)

Art markets are always local. Always. Ok, The international art market does exist – but it probably moves less than 0.00001% of the art in the world. So, what to do about the art in our local markets. Should that $25,000 piece of art maintain its price or will it be devalued by globalization. I sincerely do not have an answer. But I do believe that it would be wrong to try and create a global playing field that destroys local market pricing. If a ranking system were to be introduced it should follow a FIFA soccer-type system whereby local clubs can be major players but also be major international players. Artists have to come up through the leagues, just like a soccer team. They have to build a following and maintain that. It helps when there is the right infrastructure and that is still what is lacking in Colombia which also allows for market distortions. So I really hope it comes soon.

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There was a great article written by Diego Guerrero for El Tiempo today about how now was a good time to buy Latin American art. Actually Diego, though I admire your writings (and I have still to do a detailed follow-up on an article you wrote a few weeks ago, which I hope to get around to this week) and totally accept your general hypothesis – the time to buy was really about 10 years ago!

Yep, it`s not that Latin American art is at its peak as an asset class – far from it – but the world art industry as a whole has had its eyes off-the-ball interms of Latin American art for at least the last two decades and in terms of Colombian contemporary art at least since the death of Marta Traba.

Sure some Colombian artists have done well during that time, but there are sooooo many that have been overlooked and are just starting to get “discovered”. Most of those who get the big press run with the “in crowd” and move in the “right circles” even though their art is not particularly great. Some are still born with a silver spoon in their mouths and come from rich families. when I talk about art in Colombia, the number of times I have heard the reply – ooh, my aunt paints and she`s pretty good! Boring! But worst of all, due to all of this these aunties get their work exposed in some top galleries because their related family move industries in Colombia – and some of these industrial barons just happen to . . . invest in art – ooh, what a coincidence!

I know some excellent artists who have ridden the rails of poverty and still their art is not recognized in Colombia because the country is still very elitist in that sense – and those very same artists, once their work gets external exposure start to receive the appreciation they and their art deserve. But I do digress slightly. All I will add is that not every artist that get press or gallery time in Colombia is worthy of that coverage – and many artists that are do not get covered.

Ok, where were we?, Ah, yes!

Time to Invest in Colombian Art?

Yes it is time to invest in Colombian art – but you do have to take care because there have been distorsions in the local market pricing for the last 15 years that have still to get completely ironed out. These were caused by the influx of cheap drug money into the country in the early nineties.

The local “consecrated” artists are in some ways very cheap in international terms – but the reality is, many of them have never moved in the international markets. Even a well known living artist like Ana Mercedes Hoyos has only around 20 international auctions to her name yet her work is locally moving at over $50,000 and sometime more – yet my belief is that she has still a long way to go if she want to market her art properly. With respect to the way Chinese art is getting promoted internationally, her works are way underpriced – but I do ask the question – couldn`t it be that many Chinese artworks are way overpriced . . . . ? I tend towards the latter as my answer as many of these have come form left field – but again, I digress.

Art as an investment requires the same due diligence that Benjamin Graham and other noted investors would probably give as advice prior to deciding upon where to place his money in stocks. However, art does instill in us the emotions that the purchase of a common stock probably never will!

Another reason that NOW is the time to invest in Colombian art and a rather non-altruistic reason is the following: art can unite people, countries and companies. Right now, Colombian business and the country is on a wave. Many new investors and companies are setting up business in Colombia and actually being able to show that they are “interested” in Colombia via its culture is a great way of creating/maintaining local relations on a good level. Again, not what we want to hear as art lovers – but it is a reality. It is actually also good for Colombian art – and as the country continues to develop you can expect to see further relations develop between businesses that are setting up in Colombia and the development of the careers of some of the countries artists at a national and international level – mark may words! So expect to see some new sales in the near future of some Colombian business moguls aunts artwork!

Till the next one! 🙂

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If you are interested in reading Diego`s original post (in Spanish) here is the link:

http://www.eltiempo.com/lecturas/2008-05-23/ARTICULO-WEB-NOTA_INTERIOR-4204578.html

Note: The article when published in Lecturas was followed up by an article by Cecilia Valdes Urrutia called “The World Invest in Art” and was orginally published in El Mercurio of Chile and is also worth reading.

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If you want to discuss this article just write me a comment!

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Women in Art

If you look at the art world in general it is very rare for a woman to “make it” and to get the recognition her art deserves. In Latin American Art I can only really name Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo as being well known. Of course there are many more, but I do not believe they have received the same interest from the more general media as those mentioned. And, for the moment, the same is true of the relationship the media has with the work of Debora Arango. Strangely, as for most artists, much of the recognition start to come with their death!

Debora Arango

Debora Arango died at the age of 98 in 2005 and was one of Colombia´s female pioneers in the always male dominated world of art. In general I believe that the media in Colombia have been very generous in their recognition of her contribution to the arts and have given her work continual support even after her death in 2005. Indeed, right now her work is being exhibited in the Cabañas Cultural Institute in Guadalajara in Mexico. Why wasn´t an exhibition organized10 or 15 years ago? Well, it seems like in art you have to die before you “make it”!

Why Debora Arango?

So, why is the art of Debora Arango slowly gaining more recognition.Well, (and now here comes the sexist comment and truth) – part of this recognition by the press is directly attributable to the fact that she was a woman who was at the time (1940s) dealing with nudes as well as politics in her art. Both controversial topics for that period and more particularly for a woman to be “discussing” them.

Is this wrong? Is it wrong for the press to have given Debora Arango so much news-space due to the fact that she was a woman who happened to wish to touch on these subjects. Most definitely not, in my opinion, especially when you look at the history of the development of art and the arts in a country like Colombia.

Debora Arango was a ground breaker for women in the arts. She was the Frida Kahlo of Colombia. In any case, I am not sure that had a male artist touched on these themes that there would have been the same outcry but also I do not believe that a male artist could have represented the themes in the way that Debora did. As such – she was simply unique.

The Art of Debora Arango

Technically, I do not see that art created by Debora was at all exceptional. At least I have not seen anything in her work that would lead me to believe so. However, she did have a very well defined style, which is also important in art, that definitely help distinguish her work from other artists. And, she also had the ability to choose some exceptional themes to work with and it is that selection of themes that have allowed her work through a historical perspective to position the artist where she is today.

Few artists in the 1940´s, in Colombia at least, were presenting political and social criticism through their art to the extent that Deborah did. Not only did she comment upon the political and social situations, but also lead the way in presenting the plight of the ordinary woman in the Colombian society of that day.

Debora Arango: The Woman

I only ever met Debora Arango once, at her home in Medellín in November 2002. She would have been around 94 then. Accompanied by her younger sister we had a short talk and then she allowed me to view her beautiful home, still filled with her original artworks and ceramics, and her workshop which, as she admitted, hadn´t been in use for at least a couple of years since she had experienced difficulty with arthritis in her hand during those years.

We talked about the work she created during her “political” years, in the 1940s but she was most proud of a more recent work she had created of one of Colombia´s presidents, Belisario Betancourt, who had been very supportive of the arts and culture during his term in office.

Debora came across as a very serious if not somber person and this was largely reflected in her art . . . I do not remember seeing any work that could be described as frivolous and so I am sure she understood the power of the medium she used as a form of communication rather than as simple fine art.

Perhaps this is because of the time she spent on Mexico working alongside the like of Diego River, David Siquieros and other Mexican muralists. When she got back to Colombia however she only ever made one mural, in Medellín.

Prices

Given that Debora´s work is not really known at all internationally it comes as no surprise that there is no record (at least none that I have found) of her work being sold in auction or galleries. However, that said, given that her donation of work to the Museum of Antioquia was so large there are very few good pieces available on the market. As such the tendency of the prices for those artworks that are available and that are of reasonable quality and interest is to force up the prices. Having said that I do believe that it will take a while for the market to absorb this work locally given that the Colombian art market, though quite vibrant, is still very small.

For example a small (30cm x 40cm) watercolor work on paper will value between COP $12.000 – 25.000.000 (USD $6,000 – 12,000) in gallery. For that type of cash, if you are looking to invest, you can acquire a lot of works from artists that may better appreciate in the short to medium term. However, as always in art, if you want your Debora Arango artwork you will have to pay pretty much the price being asked.

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. . . and here of course I do mean money – dosh – mulaah!!!! I am not talking about its aesthetic value.

Well let me start in the following manner – the PRICING of art and its VALUE are of course two different things. However, if markets are sufficiently transparent and geographically and culturally integrated then there should not be any great variation in prices – however the reality is much different – especially I would say for Latin American artists.

Cultural Factors in Art Pricing

This is probably the simplest to explain. If you are a born and bred latino presently living outside Latin America, perhaps in NYC, and you have had an interest in your countries art you will most probably be prepared to pay for a work by an artist that meets your cultural criteria. Whereas, an artwork that falls into a different cultural category, though it may interest you, would not stimulate that same desire to make a purchase.

However, if you were a native New Yorker, even if you had an interest in Latin Art, you would probably make the purchase based on additional recommendations from the gallery or dealer that had the work that interested you . . . plus you would probably look for a good discount!

Another factor that comes under this section is obviously what the artist paints (or sculpts or creates just to broaden the pool of opportunity) . Art that is typically Latin and reflects its authors “country / place of birth” will not appeal to everyone around the world – again it would probably be more appealing to someone from the same region. Take the work of Fernando Botero as an example. Here in Colombia his works sell very well and get the international prices that are well established and given the size of the economy and the general lack of wealth that is in the country this is rather surprising. Now, although many people who are non-latinos probably own works of Botero I am sure that apart from their enjoyment of the artists work they made their purchase under the assurance of a gallery or dealer of the works value. Whereas in Colombia, Botero is in many ways held in very high esteem and that is probably the determining factor in pricing in this market. However, there are other well-known latin artists here in Colombia such as Armando Villegas whose work may regularly sell for USD $10 – 50,000 in Colombia (Again in part for being well-known and respected) but whose work would command such prices overseas or outside Colombia only with extreme difficulty outside of the latino community. And this brings me on to my next factor.

Geographical Factors in Art Pricing

A well known and well quoted artist in terms of pricing within a select geographical zone will not always be able to sell their work outside of that zone at the same pricing levels and would probably have to drop their prices (which usually is not in their best interest) or just grin and bear it while the new zones to be marketed come up to speed with the artist and their body of work. Of course given the internationalization of the art world this in some ways has become easier to do but the contradictory effect is that so many people are doing so that supply is outstripping demand which of course means more effort and costs have to be put into marketing the artist and their work – which is where almost all profit would go . . . and not to the artist. Of course the artist does benefit from increased international exposure. But as ever, the human race being what we are, look to take the easy way out . . . and this bring me to the point of “universality” in art.

Universality as a Factor in Art Pricing

Now, given the history of the development of art and the hegemonic positions of European and American art, the tendency so far is for this type of art to obtain higher prices – particularly so now that conceptual art has developed so much and indeed captured the market in terms of higher prices. Also, this type of art has for many developed into the gold standard in art. What a great pity I say.

All European art is, is INDIGENOUS art from Europe. So, in order to sell around the world and take part in world pricing many artist from Latin America “buy into” the scheme that this is the only art to be created – and of course this too is what is taught in art schools around the world. Talk about globalization. What we really mean is homogenization – milk for the masses. I believe that real art has more to offer.

So unfortunately many young artists in Latin America are looking to become “universal artists” to help ease their work into the accepted body of world art. What a great pity I say again. Although universality in art can help enter an already broad world art market very few artists of this ilk tend to command high prices . . . and those that do usually have something else to offer.

Conclusion

Well, that raps up todays session.Just to say that if you want to find out more about how art prices behave in transparent international markets I suggest you go to ArtPrice. It is a site that I use and trust.

ArtPrice - International Art Prices

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So what do defaulted mortgages, foreclosures and art have in common?

Well, in the Wall Street Journal Americas it was recently reported that in order to reverse the problems created by the mortgage credit crisis that was created by the Federal Reserve, the Department of Treasury of the USA is looking to create a rescue fund to try and ensure an orderly way out of the mess that has been created.

They plan to do this by forming SIVs (Structured Investment Vehicles) which will be emitted as short term commercial papers ultimately backed by the banks. Anyway, the big question is how liquid will these commercial papers be in the market. i.e. will they be easy to sell as well as to buy?

And here of course many of you will understand how such a problem also relates to the art market – right?

Exactly – liquidity.

How To Bring Liquidity To An Art Market

One of the biggest problems that I encounter when deciding where to invest in art is being able to define if my purchase is likely to have liquidity. Often, if I am selling a piece of art that is also one of the questions that I get asked too. What do I mean by that? I mean are there or will there be sufficient people interested in buying the piece of art that I decide to sell at some time in the future such that it will be easily sold?

Well apparent from being clairvoyant you will need to be able to look at reliable independent data to see what is going on in the art market. Most galleries (and the artists they represent) will probably not tell you if their art is not selling too well. (Hey, sound like when the real estate companies couldn´t move their off-plans a while ago in Miami!) So where do you go to find out? Personally I use ArtPrice.

ArtPrice is a company based in France and brings in independent data from all the important art auctions around the world and makes it available to the public for a small monthly fee or one-time annual payment. It has a lot of free info too.

Art Price - Art Auction Prices

Well, just as those SIVs may turn out be pretty illiquid for awhile – what can be done to help bring liquidity to the art markets?One of the biggest problems that the mortgage credit crisis had (and in part one of the reasons that it has become a crisis) is that the mortgages when they were packaged and sold as securities were not properly marked to market – and the companies that bought these “securities” should have known this. The reason they didn´t was because there was little transparency and perhaps a little (!) gullibility and greed on their part.

Transparency of realistic prices in the market is important and today there was a recent report that at major international auctions many contemorary “western” artworks were not sold or were sold at low prices – whereas oriental and in particular chinese contemporary art is starting to fetch record prices . . . so it is important to understand how the art market periodically changes too.

The best way to bring liquidity to the art market is to have more public auctions and/or more transparency in the sale prices of artworks in galleries.

Of course the main problem with either of these methods is that the market (especially a small one) can always be manipulated and of course the quality of different works even by the same artist can vary – which is a factor that buying bit of paper or SIVs tends to even out.

So, ideally we need transparent pricing and factors such as evening out the works of an artist over the sale of different art pieces and creating some kind of index, right!

Well, you can find that too at ArtPrice. So if you are interested in art markets and the prices therein I suggest you check them out!

Art Price - Art Auction Prices

 

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One of the artists of his generation that I admire most and have had the pleasure to meet several times is David Manzur. This gentleman is not only one of Colombia´s great artists but a person of tremendous intellectual and cultural character and an asset to his country.

David Manzur Londoño was born in the town of Neira, in the department of Caldas, Colombia in 1929. He formally started out his artistic career in the 50´s following what were the strong tendencies and influences in Colombia and the world at this time:

Abstract art (either based on the abstract expressionists or geometrical abstraction coming from the influence of fellow latino Torres-Garcia) and developed his work based on constructivism before finding his forte in the world of renaissance-style drawing in which he excels completely.

So how did such a group of different art strains come to be born within the same person? Read on to find out more about the life and work of Colombian artist extraordinaire David Manzur.

Childhood

David Manzur had a completely normal childhood. Normal that is if traveling from Colombia to Equatorial Guinea, Africa (and living there from the age of 3 till the age of 17) is the norm! Having a father from the Middle East and a Colombian Mother perhaps was not the norm for someone born in Colombia in that era (and I am sure it wasn’t!).

As a teenager he started his art studies at the Art School Arte Claret de las Palmas (in the Canary Isles) and then later (now back in Colombia) he studied at the school of Las Bellas Artes in Bogotá, which though the Colombian capital, in the 40´s was probably just as far removed from Caldas as Africa was!

David Manzur (1960)

David Manzur (1960)

Art of The 50´s

David Manzur seems to have been born with with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth as his first exhibition was an individual presentation of his work at the National Museum in Bogota, Colombia in 1953. However, knowing the man, one sees that he works incessantly, his mind especially continually criticizing his own work. So I can say without doubt that he has earned every personal achievement that has come to him during his career.

Harlequins [detail] (1959) Mural - Arlequin Theater

Harlequins (Mural – 1959)

Of course one has to remember that in those days (well it was over 50 years ago) when countries like Colombia were still very much developing states, real professional fine artists were still relatively few and far between. Indeed a modern perception or understanding of the fine art in Colombia probably only started a decade or so before this date with the works of Enrique Grau and Deborah Arango despite the fact that the “artists of the sabana” and the likes of Andres de Santamaría had been presenting their works since the beginning of the twentieth century but largely to the moneyed “bourgeois” classes.

In any case, his work was very much “of-the-times” and formed part of the expressionist movement. After continuing in this style Manzur was nominated and won the Guggenheim scholarship in 1961 and this sent him off to live in New York. However, it must be said that Manzur himself refutes that he was painting purely abstract work as he says that “each line had inside of it a figurative form and meaning that secretly guided me and did not allow me to lose myself”.

Fish (1959) Watercolor

Fish (Watercolor – 1959)

Astronomy and Pop Art

Strange as it may seem – the great Master artist David Manzur almost gave up art after winning his Guggenheim prizes (yes, prizes – he also won the award in 1962 – something extremely unheard of). Why?

When the pop art movement gained strength in the start of the 60´s and brought down the previous reign of the abstract expressionist movement Manzur felt like his world had been defeated.

He then renounced art and even though he was no scientist matriculated himself in a school of astronomy (which was to serve him well later as he befriended the well known scientist and astronomer Carl Sagan). As he says – after about a year I almost went crazy. The scientist is a man who in contradiction to the artist cannot allow speculation. Everything must be completely proved to him.

So instead of finding a new freedom as he had hoped the mathematics closed in and around on Manzur taking him almost to crisis. However, by confronting this confining wall which had restricted and almost frozen his soul he returned to Colombia in 1964 and started again to express himself through his art. Though this time it was a much more sanitized and orderly art which presented him through his new learning.

The Moon Twice (Assemblage, Oil on Canvas) - 1966

The Moon Two Times (Assemblage, Oil on Canvas – 1966)

Returning To Colombia: Constructivism and Assemblies

Forms of the Moon (Assemblage)

Forms of the Moon (Assemblage & Collage – detail)

It was also around this time that Manzur discovered the work of the Russian father of constructivism Naum Gabo and this movement along with his recent immersion in science and mathematics brought to the fore in Manzur the desire not only to create assemblage art but to develop traditional constructivist artwork and to develop his won style using kilometers of thread and picture frames. Some of these works took immense size and were placed in public spaces. However, Manzur had only been working on these pieces for a few short years when in 1973 an encounter with the father of constructivism, Naum Gabo, changed his life and the course his art would take until the present day.

Red Moon (Assemblage) (1966)

Red Moon (Assemblage with Oils – 1966)

Gabo admired Manzur work in constructivism however, he saw in this young artist something different and he suggested that he return to organic drawing with reference to the Renaissance artists of Rafael and Miguel Angel. He also suggested that he should turn to his spanish and latin roots and look to create imprecise drawings which would not have a clear point of termination. And with this Manzur turned to what has perhaps provided him with most fame – his pastels and oils of still lifes, San Jorges (Saint George) and flies!

Astroport (1974) [Assemblage of steel and chrome cord] - 90 m2

Astroport (Assemblage of steel with chrome cord – 1974) (90 m2)

Of Still Lifes, San Jorges and Flies!

So, in the early to mid 70´s David Manzur began a third chapter of his artistic career and one which would bring him even greater recognition in Colombia and beyond.

After his discussion with Naum Gabo he started to reflect on his most recent work and decided that it was too mathematical, too cold, without emotion and without emotion there was no reason to create a work of art which should always grow from the seed planted by emotion. Deciding that it was best to use the freedom that his work as an artist gave him, Manzur made the decision to start again and work towards new expressions for a new public. So he started out creating his style of still life drawings, incorporating many of the items that had caught his interest such as the lute, fruits and musical themes working principally with pastel on paper as his medium.

Sheet Music  (1984) Pastel/Paper

Sheet Music (Pastel/Paper – 1984)

At this point, and quite by chance he decided to incorporate flies into his drawings. And, as Manzur says, this created enough controversy within the public to bring him new identity – rather than being identified with his still life drawings of lutes, grenadine fruits or sheets of music. While many were looking for a deeper meaning as to his incorporation of this insect into his works his reason is simpler: one day a fly attracted by the heat of the studio lights under which he worked landed on his drawing – and he copied it with the shadow it created and he discovered that it gave a new dimension to his work.

Portrait of a Friend With The Face of Mona Lisa [detail] (1978)

Portrait of a Friend With The Face of Mona Lisa

(Acrylic on Canvas – 1978) [detail]

It was shortly thereafter that his work turned away from the still life and took a life of its own when he began to create almost theatrical settings in his works based on themes set around San Jorge and one which Manzur admits is a reminiscence of his childhood in Neira. [It should be noted that Manzur´s brother Jaime owns and operates a well-known children’s theater here in Bogota so perhaps this was partly an influence in his creation of this new presentation of his art.]

Neira & St. George (1983) Pastel/Paper

Neira & St. George (Pastel/Paper – 1983)

Manzur relates that he first remembers those staid yet marvelous but terrorific and never-ending processions set around Easter in his small town of Neira when wooden images dressed with brilliant silks and velvets were paraded around the town. Something which later would remind him of the religious works of the Flemish painters of centuries past.

San Sebastian

One of Manzur´s themes that began in the mid 80´s was his affair with the image of San Sebastian. Works of huge proportion covering six square meters of canvas painted in oils and taking several years to produce reflecting the analytical pauses that Manzur requires to take in his autocritical study and detailed studied process of working.

San Sebastian (Oil on Canvas 1984-86)

San Sebastian (Oil on Canvas 1984-86)

The works from this period are so much different form his twisted and sometimes tormented San Jorge´s. The San Sebastians created with an apparent yet measured simplicity evoke – apart from a martyric sensibility – sympathy with the central character of the work.

Hwowever as these works progressed and Manzur started to develop the theme through his more usual medium of pastel on paper they have taken on a greater sense of terror – of horror even. many of these images have tended towards presenting a disturbed or troubled mind. Had they not been created by this always serene Master one would almost deny their existence. So why did they occur?

I can only presume, but many of them were developed while Manzur took part in the committee that looked to reconcile the Colombian FARC guerrilla (before they became terrorist after 2001) . He traveled to the jungle to meet with them several times and although he always maintains his calms composure perhaps this episode caused him difficulty to reconcile internally and so it translated itself to his art.

The Martyring of Sebastian (2000) [Acrylic /Charcoal on Paper]

The Martyrdom of Sebastian

(Acrylic /Charcoal on Paper – 2000)

In any case, some of the most horrific works were created around 2004 – 2005 a period in which Colombia itself was starting to show great improvements and was generally much more peaceful. As such one can only surmise that what is depicted comes from deep inside the artists being and as such only he can really say why he came to express such torment and rage in a subject that initially had begun presenting a calmness and solitude.

Sebastian & The Angels (2004) Pastel/Paper

Sebastian & The Angels

(Pastel/Paper – 2004)

The Martyrdom of Sebastian in Auschwitz (2005) Oil/Acrylic on Canvas

The Martyrdom of Sebastian in Auschwitz

(Oil/Acrylic on Canvas – 2005)

Prices and Values

Manzur is a meticulous and very detailed artist and follows in the tradition of those who define a clear time period in which to labor and complete a work no matter what his emotional state is that day. However, given this he also never shows works to the public that he feels were created while not being able to give his all to that artwork. As such, despite over thirty years now of creating his pastel drawing, only works that he himself accepts are numbered and made available to the general public.

To date, in the first decade of the new millennium there are less than 1800 such drawings created over the last thirty years and perhaps even less available in the open market. Sixty works per year plus a small number of oil and acrylic paintings. Quite a small body of work given that Picasso is said to have left around 18,000 works between drawings and paintings.

The pastel on paper drawings can be obtained from between USD $10,000 and $30,000 depending on the theme and quality of the work and oils on canvas or board can fetch from USD $10,000 up to several USD $100,000. Perhaps due to the small quantity of works available around the world, very few have ever made it to the secondary art market defined by the auction houses and so as such Manzur´s auction record is still quite small. This by itself should ensure that as more works become available in the future we should see some new records being created.

If you want to find out more about international art prices you can check out the transparent sales records of many auction houses via the #1 international site to make this data available at ArtPrice or feel free to write to me if you are interested in purchasing artwork by David Manzur.

ArtPrice - International Art Prices

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David Manzur (2004)

“An artist is mature when he starts to see the defects in his own work

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