Flash News: Superb Morozov Collection – Praemium Imperiale for James Turrell


Superb Morozov Collection: icons of Modern art

Vincent Van Gogh: Café de nuit (1888), oil on canvas, 72 x 92 cm.

This masterpiece by Van Gogh was purchased by Ivan Morozov for 3,000 rubles ($35,000 in today’s money) at the 1908 La Toison d’or exhibition. It would probably fetch over 100 million dollars today.


Four years after the exhibition of the Shchukin collection at the Louis Vuitton Foundation – which attracted 1.3 million visitors – the Morozov collection constitutes the Foundation’s second major show dedicated to the great Russian collectors of the early 20th century. It brings together 200 masterpieces of Modern art from the extraordinary collection assembled by Mikhail (1870-1903) and Ivan (1871-1921) Abramovich Morozov.

With the advice and guidance of the principal Parisian dealers of the time (Paul Durand-Ruel, Ambroise Vollard, Georges Bernheim, Eugène Druet and Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler), the two Muscovite brothers constituted one of the most important collections in the world of Impressionist and Modern art, bringing together nearly 400 works of Russian Modern art and some 250 French works.

The collection has masterpieces by Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, Bonnard, Denis, Matisse, Derain and Picasso alongside emblematic artists of the Russian avant-garde including Malevich, Répine, Gontcharova and Larionov.

Coupled with the Shchukin legacy, the Morozov collection served as the basis for Russia’s State Museum of New Western Art. The paintings were then distributed between the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg and the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, which together with the help of the Trétiakov Gallery (Moscow) have made this superb exhibition possible at the Louis Vuitton Foundation until 22 February 2022.

Paul Cézanne, Madame Cézanne dans le parc (1891), oil on canvas (72 x 92 cm).

One of the best portraits of Madame Cézanne, Ivan Morozov’s favorite painter, this painting was acquired for 40,000 French francs in 1911 ($150,000 in today’s money). It would almost certainly fetch over $50 million today at auction.


Praemium Imperiale for James Turrell

The American artist James Turrell has been awarded the 32nd Praemium Imperiale, considered the ‘’Nobel Prize of the arts’ in the field of sculpture. For each of its laureates – which this year include the Brazilian photographer Sebastiao SALGADO and cellist Yo-Yo Ma – this prestigious prize (created in 1988 by the Japan Art Association) is worth 15 million yen (approximately $137,000).

James TURRELL is known for his “perceptual environments” created using light, space, time and colour. After training in perceptual psychology, he studied mathematics, geology, astronomy and Fine Art. He had his first solo exhibition in 1967 at the Pasadena Art Museum. A sculptor of light, Turrell has designed hundreds of Skyspaces around the world, inspiring visitors to experience the sky light through architectural apertures.

About his Roden Crater Project, Turrel has said “I am just creating my own little paradise on earth”.

Now 78, Turrell is still working on his most ambitious project – Roden Crater – started in 1979 and due to be completed in 2026. This underground work is dedicated, paradoxically, to a total immersion in the activities of the cosmos and to contemplation of the space between the earth and the sky. Roden Crater is being built in a 400,000-year-old crater with a 4.8 kilometer circumference in northern Arizona, near land inhabited by the Navajo Indians. Upon completion, visitors will be able to enjoy new experiences of light contemplation in the middle of the desert, “isolating and intensifying the light of the sun, the moon, the stars and the planets” through the tunnels and rooms created in the former volcano. To produce the conditions for these unparalleled experiments and to manage the Roden Crater, Turrell established the Skystone Foundation. In 2019, rap-singer Kanye West injected $10 million into the project. In return, he was invited to visit the site and shoot a video-film (directed by Nick Knight) for his album Jesus Is King. In 2020, American billionaire Mark Pincus contributed $3 million to the project.

As James Turrell’s works are inherently intangible, there are few traditional works available on the market. However there are some prints (with prices between $1,000 and $10,000), some photographs and some rare installations, the most sought-after being, of course, those that employing light.

Works by this immense artist are extremely rare on the auction market. Here are a few figures:

  • Only between 7 and 13 Turrell works are sold at auction each year
  • Over the last three years 49% of his auction turnover has been generated in London (rather than New York)
  • 50% of Turrell’s works sold at auction are prints (2000 – 2021)
  • The artist’s current auction record is $441,270 since 2007 for a light installation titled Ondoe Blue (1968) (Sotheby’s, London).