Flash News: Munch at the Bristish Museum – Claude Lalanne – Lee Ufan


Edvard Munch at the British Museum

With The Scream (a series of 5 works made between 1893 and 1917), Norwegian artist Edvard MUNCH created one of art history’s most iconic images, an image that has been copied many times and appropriated through the generations. In 2012, his pastel version of The Scream – beautifully capturing mankind’s existential anxiety – made headline news when it temporarily became the most expensive artwork ever acquired at auction at nearly $120 million (The scream, Sotheby’s, 2 May 2012).

Considered a major forerunner of Expressionist painting along with Van Gogh, Munch advocated “an art that arrests and engages”, a subversive art without fear of emotional intensity. Indeed, in his personal life, anxiety and illness were the motors and ‘rudder’ of his creativity. The British Museum has decided to lift the veil on the life of this extraordinary artist by mounting the largest exhibition of his prints in the UK for 45 years, with the collaboration of the Munch Museum in Oslo (Edvard Munch, Love and Angst, 11 April – 21 July 2019).

During the first decade of his career, Munch focused on painting. Around 1894, he began producing prints with innovative techniques, a bold use of color and a choice of non-conventional subjects. His printmaking work revealed him as one of the first truly Modern artists.

Nearly 3,000 prints by the artist have been sold publicly over the past 30 years and some are worth a fortune. The hammer has fallen 19 times above the million-dollar threshold for these prints, with a peak in 2013 for a 1896 dry-point and aquatint – Young Woman on the Beach – depicting a young woman from behind looking out to sea. The work fetched a hefty $3.2 million (Christie’s New York, 20 March 2013). Somewhat disconnected from the ground, the floating silhouette of the young woman reflects Munch’s characteristic undulating lines, which, as he said in his writings “corresponded to my perception of waves of ether – a feeling of contact existing between bodies […] at a time when wireless communication was not yet discovered”. While the best lithographs of The Scream, The Madonna, The Vampire and On the Bridge can easily fetch over $2 million at auction, a number of less sought-after plates are still available for under $10,000.

Claude Lalanne (1925-2019)

Claude LALANNE, a famous French sculptor known for her dream-inspired furniture, has died in Fontainebleau at the age of 93. Having sought throughout her career to ‘enrich life’ by injecting art into everyday existence, Claude Lalanne leaves behind an impressive body of highly personal sculpture and furniture.

After studying architecture at the Paris Beaux Arts and subsequently at the city’s Decorative Arts School, she married François-Xavier Lalanne with whom she worked as a duo from the 1960s. Known as “Les Lalannes” the couple created animal-inspired works where sheep became seats or benches, where hippopotamuses opened up as bathtubs, baboons turned into fireplaces, and rhinoceroses became desks. To these Surrealist associations of form and function, Claude added molds of bodies, leaves, apples, cabbages… Although sharply contrasting with the abstract art that dominated the art world at the time, their approach was highly successful, both in duo and solo.

Claude was greatly appreciated by a number of top collectors, including Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. In 2009, her Miroirs aux branchages made for one of the YSL/Bergé homes fetched more than $2.3 million when offered at Christie’s in Paris. More recently, Christian Dior commissioned her to design a jewelry collection for their 2017 Spring-Summer fashion show. The same year, her magnificent Bureau Crocodile in patinated bronze went on sale at Sotheby’s where it fetched over two million dollars… Indeed, Claude Lalanne’s material poetry has always been valued as a unique body of work that marries sculpture and functionality like no other.

Lee Ufan. Habiter le Temps

The Centre Pompidou in Metz has taken up the challenge of organising a first French retrospective celebrating the work of South Korean artist Lee UFAN, plunging visitors into his meditative and poetic universe with some 35 works.

Having studied in Japan, Ufan LEE became part of the “Mono-Ha” (the School of Things) movement, allowing matter, space and time to express itself. The Metz exhibition allows visitors to appreciate the successive and/or concomitant phases of his work, from the initial creations in the late 1960s to his most recent works. Silent and contemplative, his works come across as metaphysical experiences, playing with opposites and contrasts (appearance / disappearance, solid / fragile, smooth / rough, etc…). The exhibition includes his most famous series – From Points, Line, Winds, Correspondence, Relatum – along with a number of rarely-shown works and the contemplative experience is enhanced by a soundtrack created by Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto which fills the various spaces with sounds of water drops, glass and metal.

Consecrated by major museums around the world and represented by influential galleries including Kamel Mennour in Paris and Pace in New York, Lee Ufan has earned broad international recognition, especially since his first exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2007. The inspired collectors who acquired his work at the time will not be disappointed: $100 invested in his work in 2007 is worth an average of $579 today, since his price index has risen +479% in a dozen or so years. Nowadays, his secondary market is mainly focused on South Korea and Hong Kong (80% of his auction turnover), but the few works that come up for auction in France are very popular… and this exhibition will no doubt add to that demand.