Our selection: Hantaï… and friends


Coinciding with a major retrospective marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Simon Hantaï at the Louis Vuitton Foundation (Paris), Artmarket by Artprice has picked out a selection of works by some of France’s most interesting abstract artists in the second half of the 20th century. In the spotlight this week, a 1955 painting by Hantaï heads a selection of works by artists like Jean Degottex, Hans Hartung, Olivier Debré, Gérard Schneider and Georges Mathieu, all available on Artprice’s marketplace, alongside a total of 72,000 other artworks.

Revaluation of abstraction

Over recent years, there has been a substantial revaluation of 20th century abstract artists, starting with the Americans like Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell and Helen Frankenthaler – whose records were all revised in 2019 (to $69 million, $12.7 million and $3 million respectively) – and then spreading to Europe’s major abstract artists.

Clearly contributing to their growing popularity, major galleries are committing more and more firmly to these signatures, and their market prices have continued to inflate. Examples are the French gallery Emmanuel Perrotin recently taking over management of Georges Mathieu’s estate, after signing France’s most expensive living artist, Pierre Soulages. Meanwhile, the American Larry Gagosian – considered the world’s most influential art dealer – has been managing Simon Hantaï’s estate since 2019.

Known as “the gold maker”, Larry Gagosian hosted a six-month exhibition (October 2019 – March 2020) of works by Hantaï in his 1,600m2 gallery at Le Bourget near Paris. Under the title Blacks from whites, whites from black, the exhibition focused on canvases and serigraphs produced between 1969 and 1997 with prices ranging from $200,000 to $1 million. On the auction market, Hantaï’s best works – from the Mariales series in the 1960s or the Whites series in the 1970s – reach well beyond the million-dollar threshold. In December 2016 Sotheby’s Paris sold his MA4 (Mariale) (1960) for $4.7 million, no less than eight times the price paid at Christie’s in 2005. If the market were to throw up a major monumental museum-quality work, on the scale of the largest Pollocks or Rothko’s colorfields, his record $4.7 million could well be revised.

Hantaï in the spotlight at the Louis Vuitton Foundation

The Vuitton Foundation’s current Simon Hantaï retrospective is a major event with more than 130 masterpieces displayed over nearly 2,700m2. It includes his sublime and meditative foldings and a “blind” painting where foldings, chance and colors determine shapes and rhythms. Hantaï’s dialogue with other artists is also brought to light via a series of collages by Henri Matisse and works by Jackson Pollock (who generated Hantaï hisfirst profound artistic inspiration in 1948 in Venice) and a special work by Daniel Buren created specifically for the show.

In the Parisian art world of the 1940s and 50s, Hantaï was at the heart of the often stormy debates which opposed realism to abstraction, lyrical abstraction to geometric abstraction and Surrealism to revolution. His first paintings were ‘incorporated’ into Surrealism by André Breton, but Hantaï quickly detached himself from the movement, preferring the style and mystical taste of Georges Mathieu.

Simon Hantaï created an œuvre of exceptional originality and fruitfulness that earned him first prize from the Maeght Foundation in 1967, then the National Grand Prize for Visual Arts in 1980, and representation of France at the 40th Venice Biennale in 1982. According to an authorized biography penned in 1998, having achieved international notoriety, he “left the stage without saying a word”. He was 60 years old at the time and refused almost all proposals for exhibitions, notably from the Pompidou Center.

The canvas presented by Alon Zakaim Fine Art predates his foldings as it was created in 1955, Hantaï’s last year of participation in the activities of the Surrealists. At that time, Hantaï started using what he called a “wake-up tool” to scrape off the last coat of black industrial paint in repeated gestures thereby revealing the underlying colors.


Untitled, 1955
Oil on canvas, 154 x 215 cm

> Contact the seller

Composition, 1965
Mixt technique on paper, 65 x 50 cm

> Contact the seller

Olivier DEBRÉ
Rouge coulé, taches roses et rouges, 1988
Oil on canvas, 185 x 185 cm

> Contact the seller

P1957-76, 1957
Pastel, 50 x 65 cm

> Contact the seller

Opus E.8, 1967
Gouache, 52 x 74,5 cm

> Contact the seller

Bonheur retrouvé, 2005
Technique mixte/papier, 57 x 77 cm

> Contact the seller