Knowing the Salon du Dessin at first hand, and contemplating its 2012 iteration, I find myself thinking back on the world of master drawings as it was when I first entered it in 1980 and how it has changed over the years. Attended by over 13,000 people in 2010, the Salon is a large, public event which spans five days. It brings together the larger part of the world’s curators, scholars, collectors, and dealers in the field in a busy, but rarely overcrowded public space, the Palais de la Bourse. One can survey the available stock at the dealers’ stands, attend conferences, lectures, and guided tours, visit exhibitions at the Bourse and at Paris museums, as well as satellite enterprises around the Hôtel Drouot, where drawings can be had at auction, and further afield. There is a wealth of opportunities to learn about drawings, as well as to collect them. In 1980, no one thought that a fair of this size might ever exist in the field, and in its early years, during the 1990s, no one ever thought it would grow to these dimensions.
Of course the Salon du Dessin is relatively small, considering that Art Basel Miami attracted 40,000 people that same year (2010) and jumped to 50,000 the following year, and in 2010 the Armory Show in New York attracted over 60,000 visitors in over a five-day run. On the other hand, 13,000 seems enormous, if you consider that drawings comprise only one type of artwork, defined by media and methods that can somehow be related to a representation in line and shadowed areas on a flat surface, classically embodied in a pen, chalk, or graphite drawing on a sheet of paper, but including at one end of the chronological spectrum a potsherd and at the other the Retina display of the new iPad.
One should also consider that the world of master drawings has also had a reputation for exclusivity, beginning not when people began to collect them, but when people began to take an interest in exclusivity as a social concept, which, most likely derived from economic concepts (as in exclusive trading), first became current in English in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Before that, people generally thought of collections of drawings as belonging to the paraphernalia of an artists’ studio or to the amenities of a noble or royal country house. Souren Melikian once referred to dealers in old master drawings as “the aristocrats of the art world.” As a curator, I often came up against populist resistance to drawings by museum directors and boards, as works of art which were somehow limited, because they couldn’t be shown to every museum visitor all the time (because of the deleterious effect of light exposure), and, when they were on display, it was in relative darkness (which has been known to inspire fear in some museum visitors and sexual license in others), and ultimately because it required some advanced knowledge to understand them. After all, drawings tend to be small; even colored drawings are not as colorful as, say, a painting by Lee Krasner; and often their subject-matter is hermetic. One could discuss this further, but it is a depressing subject at best. Let us just say that, in considering all this, 13,000 people is an impressive turn-out.
When I entered the world of drawings in 1980—quite literally, by entering Konrad Oberhuber’s office for his proseminar on the connoisseurship of drawings—fairs were not a part of the milieu. Auctions, which were basically wholesale outlets, were attended largely by dealers. Curators and collectors made their acquisitions mostly from dealers, either by visiting the dealer’s gallery or receiving a visit from the dealer while on tour. If they bought a work at auction, it was usually through a dealer, who would take on the ungentlemanly task of hoisting the paddle, or an eyebrow. Collectors were educated by curators or by dealers they had learned to trust. The print clubs which are such a venerable part of museums around the United States never appealed much to drawings collectors, who are generally too individualistic for club activities—the circle at the Art Institute of Chicago being the most notable exception, and was perhaps smaller back in those times.
Since then, the decision of the auction houses to transform themselves into retail establishments, the ups and downs of the global economy (which are usually kinder to the old master market than the typically volatile contemporary market), the rise in commercial rents in the major urban centers, and above all the drastically shrinking supply of material have exerted massive pressure on all participants to concentrate their energies on specific events in specific places, that is, London, Paris, and New York, the traditional centers of the market in master drawings. It does not take a formal study to understand that fairs have become the primary venue for dealers, whether they have galleries or work out of their apartments, along with the Internet, although this, as one might expect, plays a smaller role in the old master world. In this way they can approach the exposure possible for a major auction house and get the attention of a broad range of collectors.
One cannot overestimate the importance of the shrinking supply of good drawings. Sotheby’s and Christie’s each used to hold at least 5 or 6 sales a year, devoted to old master drawings alone, with more modest sales interspersed between the two major auctions in New York (winter) and in London (summer). Today, only the major New York and London sales survive, and nineteenth century drawings and watercolors and some paintings are included in catalogues often smaller than the more specialized sales of yesteryear. This, and the new competition from the auction houses as retailers, has made it extremely difficult for dealers to operate. If you catch any dealer in a relaxed moment and ask her or him what their biggest business challenge is, they will surely say, “finding good drawings we can sell.” In the 1970s a private dealer could organize a themed exhibition from stock, with perhaps a loan or two from a colleague or a client. By this I mean something like “Roman Drawings, 1560 to 1640” or the like. It has been a long time since we’ve seen such a focused show from even the largest galleries. In gallery shows and fairs like the Salon, you will find a broad selection of drawings, extending well into the twentieth century with dealers who were once more specialized. This is not a bad thing, necessarily, unless you happen to have quite specific interests or have made the decision to collect only in a narrow field. It is virtually impossible for a collector, starting out in the past twenty years, to assemble a collection like Ian Woodner’s, which was rich in early German and Italian sheets, going on with impressive depth and quality to Picasso and Matisse, but it is still worthwhile to collect in other ways, if one has taste, resources, the ability to define one’s goals…and the willingness to listen to the advice of experts.
While initiatives like Master Drawings New York and Master Drawings London—in which dealers from various cities come together in a concerted program of exhibitions— have considerably brightened up Old Master Week in those two centers, Le Salon du Dessin has become the premier event in the field—part of a deliberate campaign to make Paris the center of the world of drawings. This has succeeded brilliantly, mostly because of the excellence of the Louvre as a study center (Much of the best research in the field over the past generation has been accomplished there.), but also because of changes in the way business is conducted in Paris. Until less than twenty years ago, it was difficult for foreign enterprises to work there, in view of government regulations, taxes, and cartellism. When the first Salon du Dessin took place in 1991, before the world had recovered from the 1989 recession, it included only seventeen Parisian dealers. After 1995, reorganized after an interruption, it welcomed a few dealers from outside France and made a first step towards the international gathering of dealers and buyers we enjoy today. In its earlier days the Salon had a reputation for being heavily weighted towards French taste, that is, towards finished sheets, towards the eighteenth century, and, ultimately, towards, French artists who produced work of that ilk. Lovers of Italian drawings, especially working drawings, came back disappointed. Although one is more likely to encounter such a drawing at the Salon today, it must be admitted that large finished drawings are still in the majority. The most energetic path of expansion has been into the twentieth century, not only with artists working in Paris, but with German, Austrian, and Russian artists as well.
Apart from the dealers’ displays, the centerpieces of the Salon du Dessin are an exhibition of some less familiar collection of drawings, either a private collection or a selection from a regional museum. In 2010 it was a selection of drawings from the collection of the film actor, Alain Delon. This year it will come from the Mont-de-Piété Museum in Bergues, which is only a few miles from Dunkirk, but far enough from art lovers’ beaten track. The museum acquired this fine collection, comprising over 1500 drawings, in 1877, from the bequest of Pierre-Antoine Verlinde (1801-1877), a painter, restorer, and art dealer. Two-thirds of the collection include the classic range of Italian, French, German, Flemish and Dutch artists from the 15th through the 19th century. The rest are academic studies and nudes from the Antwerp Academy, where Verlinde was an assistant professor of drawing. Visitors can look forward to some superb sheets in the exhibition, including a head study by Sebastiano del Piombo and a drapery study by Simon Vouët, as well as drawings by Poussin, Le Brun, Van Dyck, Mengs, Canuti, and Domenico Tiepolo.
Another important component of the Salon, is the Drawing Prize offered by the Daniel and Florence Guerlain Foundation, now in its fifth year. The competition is open to artists of every nationality, but it is required that they have some special tie to French culture. Each year, a committee including the founders as well as a distinguished array of figures from the worlds of drawing and contemporary art selects the finalists, and a second panel, which varies from year to year, picks the three finalists, one of whom will receive the first prize. The winners were announced in December 2011 and will receive their prizes in a ceremony to be held on March 29th at 7pm at the Salon. This year the finalists are Marc Bauer, Marcel Ozama, and Jorinde Voigt.
Jorinde Voigt has in fact won the Contemporary Drawing Prize of the Daniel & Florence Guerlain Art Foundation. She is a German artist born in 1977 in Frankfurt. She first studied philosophy and literature before studying the plastic arts at the University of Berlin, the city where she lives and works today. In 2011, she was shown at the Von der Heydt Museum, in Wuppertal, Germany, and at the Teckningsmuseet, in Laholm, Sweden. In 2004, she had a solo show in France at the Cité Internationale des Arts, “EPM – émotion per minute” and at Public with “Public Relations VoL.1″. In 2010, she participated in a group show”Emporte moi” at the MAC/VAL, Vitry sur SeineShe is represented by the galleries David Nolan, New York, Christian Lethert, Cologne and Regina, London and Moscow.
The eight annual symposium, the Rencontres Internationales du Salon du Dessin, Dessiner pour graver, graver pour dessiner: le dessin dans la révolution de l’estampe, will concern the relation between drawing and printmaking. As prints in various media became an ever-larger part of European visual culture, specialized methods of drawing were invented to solve the unique problems of producing multiples, as well as to take advantage of the inherent virtues of printmaking. After introductory talks by Pierre Rosenberg and Dominique Cordellier, the following talks will explore the symbiosis of drawing and printmaking in the 16th and 17th Centuries.
March 28th, from 3.00 pm:
Introduction by Pierre Rosenberg & Dominique Cordellier
Intagliato col disegno et invenzione : drawing for engraving according to Vasari
Léonard Thiry, from the print to the drawing and from the drawing to the print. Creative methods in an artist of the First School of Fontainebleau
Francesco Vanni ‘inventor’ : drawings for prints
On several drawings for prints in sixteenth century France
Between painting and drawing; observations on several drawings by Jacob Matham
March 29th, from 2.30 pm:
The drawings for prints by Wenceslaus Hollar
Stefano della Bella, between preparatory drawing and intermediary drawing
Sébastien Leclerc and Louis XIV’s battles
Sébastien Leclerc et and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
Barbara Brejon de Lavergnée
The Prince et the Princesse de Conti, two drawings by Nicolas Habert ?
Louis Richer, inventor of satirical prints in the mid-17th century
The center of attention will remain, as always, the dealers, who will be showing in the main halls of the Palais de la Bourse. There will be thirty-nine of them, of whom twenty-one come from abroad, in particular, England, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, the United States, and, of course, France.
Didier Aaron & Cie Jean-Luc Baroni LTD Galerie Coatalem Day & Faber Galerie Patrick Derom Les Enluminures Galerie de France Galería Guillermo de Osma
Artur Ramon Art
Galerie Jean-François Baroni
Galerie Katrin Bellinger
W.M. Brady & Co
Galerie Brame & Lorenceau
Galerie De Bayser
Didier Aaron & Cie
Jean-Luc Baroni LTD
Day & Faber
Galerie Patrick Derom
Galerie de France
Galería Guillermo de Osma
Galerie Karsten Greve Damiano Lapiccirella e Francesca Antonacci Fine Art Martin Moeller & Cie. Jill Newhouse Stephen Ongpin Fine Art Pandora Old Masters Inc. Richard Nagy Ltd. Galerie Talabardon & Gautier Kunsthandel Wienerroither & Kohlbacher GmbH Galerie Zlotowski
Galerie Antoine Laurentin
Le Claire Kunst
Galerie Vincent Lécuyer
David Nolan Gallery
Galerie de la Présidence
Galerie Paul Prouté S.A.
Galerie Karsten Greve
Damiano Lapiccirella e Francesca Antonacci Fine Art
Martin Moeller & Cie.
Stephen Ongpin Fine Art
Pandora Old Masters Inc.
Richard Nagy Ltd.
Galerie Talabardon & Gautier
Kunsthandel Wienerroither & Kohlbacher GmbH
While the largest proportion of dealers and works on the walls will favor art before 1900, if not the old masters, the representation of modern and contemporary drawings becomes ever stronger, as a quick survey of the offerings shown in the Salon’s materials suggest. The earliest work is an illumination, an anonymous Noli me Tangere of 1434 with Les Enluminures. This is followed by Fra Bartolomeo’s sheet of keenly observed red chalk studies of the faces of his fellow Domenicans, shown by Jean-Luc Baroni. Day and Faber have a group of double-sided modelli by Baldassare Peruzzi for the Labors of Hercules. The Galerie De Bayser will show an astonishing St. Andrew, executed almost entirely in wash by Parmigianino. From the seventeenth century, there is a handsome Visitation by Tanzio da Varallo. The Galerie Coatelem, to give an idea of the extreme range of the contemporary dealer in master drawings, will have both a study for a ceiling by Michel Dorigny and one of an Italian column by Ben Nicholson. Artur Ramon of Barcelona will show a fine Supper at Emmaus by Baciccio, and the Galerie Terrades a study by Michel-Ange Corneille II of Jesus in the house of Martha and Mary. Didier Aaron will show a vivid study of a young boy by Étienne Jeaurat and Katrin Bellinger of Munich a highly developed Holy Family by Gaetano Gandolfi.
There will be a fine Carmontelle portrait at Agnew’s stand and an intense and economical self-portrait by Delacroix with the Galerie Normand. Mark Brady of New York will have an impressive Menzel and Stephen Ognpin of London a haunting Khnopff portrait of a young girl. There will be a melancholy beach scene by Spilliaert at Derom. Klimt and Schiele will be represented at Wienerroither & Kohlbacher of Vienna as well as Richard Nagy from London. Arnoldi-Livie will show a strong study of the Brandenburg Gate by Lovis Corinth. You will also find outstanding examples of Schwitters (De Osma, Madrid). Freundlich (Applicat-Prazan, Paris), Bonnard (Jill Newhouse, New York), and Léger’s “Les Cyclistes” (Zlotowski, Paris).
The draughtsmanship of the past fifty years will be represented by Brame et Lorenceau’s Sam Francis gouache, a lively Estève with Arturo Cuellar, a work by one of this year’s Guerlain prize winners, Jorinde Voigt, and most recent of all, watercolors by Pavel Pepperstein from as recently as 2011.
Of the works previewed by the Salon, these struck me as especially interesting. There is sure to be much more first-rate material.
The exhibitions and activities do not stop at the doors of the Bourse. There will be numerous exhibitions in the museums of Paris and the region, which will offer private visits for attendees of the Salon (advance reservations essential: click here for the program).
One should not neglect Dessin au Quartier Drouot, where many dealers, both local and from abroad will show drawings, mostly old masters. There will be other exhibitors even farther afield. Alas, one of the most exciting exhibitions I saw in 2010 was Jane Roberts’ and Lutz Riester’s exhibition in her gallery on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Herr Riester came from Freiburg-im-Breibgau with a collection of German 17th and 18th century works, many of the highest quality and interest, by rare and little-known artists. Alas, he will not be exhibiting this year.