samedi 26 mai 2012


Artaud, Self Portrait, December 17, 1946 (detail),
"The story of Pierre Loeb," 1979.

A Self-Portrait of Antonin Artaud, dated December 17, 1946, was sold by Sotheby's on April 5 for the wondrous sum of 2,136,750 euros. I will not dwell on the vagaries of the art market: I know too (for having directly experienced in the 1980s) how it was difficult to recognize the importance of drawings of the poet. Assuming that the state of the art market reflects something other than mere monetary value (fluctuating) of a work is now done ...

What matters to me here is the singular MATERIAL destiny of this drawing of Antonin Artaud. In a previous blog (see link below), I insisted on restorations undergone by other drawings in the same Sotheby's sale: Untitled or Figures.

This Self-Portrait in December 1946 (now classified as National Treasury by the State French) has ALSO been sold restored. Cleaned. "Bleached". An important spot, located at the corners of the mouth of Momo, followed by a long vertical sagging and several large spots, located at the base of the neck, were carefully washed. The drawing is now "nickel." Clean and white. The cleanliness of the current drawing and printing "clinic" that results seemed to me curious in 2006 (when I visited the exhibition "Artaud" at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France). This state does not match my memories of previous work.

This self-portrait of 1946 was exposed in 1979 by the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris, during the exhibition devoted to "The adventure of Pierre Loeb :"this is where I saw it. Reproduction of the drawing is in the catalog of this exhibition (Fig. 12, p. 57). These spots are clearly visible (cf. fragment reproduced here). The signature itself is tainted with some traces.

A year later, in 1980, in the catalog of the Abbaye Sainte-Croix (Antonin Artaud, No. 37), this self-portrait is reproduced even "clean", without we knows if this is the design itself has been cleaned or if this operation took place at the production of the catalog (for "cleaning" of the photographic medium used for printing).

The presence of these spots of origin is still attested and corroborated by a photograph of Denise Colomb (sister of Pierre Loeb) showing a drawing hung in the vicinity of works of primitive art in Pierre Loeb apartment. This photograph (which shows what could fairly be the "material" of this self portrait is included in the exhibition catalog of 1979 ("The Adventure of Pierre Loeb," p. 45: "a wall at Pierre").

This same photograph is reproduced on p. 62 catalog of the Sotheby's sale (Florence Loeb Collection, Sources and Affinities, Paris, April 5, 2012). No one has probably paid attention to the "spots", always present, however, on this same block. The same design appears a few pages away, washed and clean : as featured in the exhibition of the sale of 5 April 2012 (Sotheby's, No. 48 p. 59).

Two documents undeniable, from two those oh so close to the poet (remember that this is Pierre Loeb, who exhibited for the first time in July 1947 Artaud's drawings in his gallery and we are indebted to Denise Colomb an extensive series of photographs of the poet), attest So the presence of these spots "original" Self-Portrait on the issue, drawing that was featured in the exhibition of 1947. The current time Sotheby's catalog photography by Denise Colomb of the same year 1947.

Everything I've mentioned in the previous paper (see attached link) Dimension "hygienic" treatment of the production of authors can be cursed and be resumed. Hardware load design, the support function (material) of the paper are here erased. Remains only the "design", the blueprint of the Self-Portrait of Momo. What we have now is an "art without matter."

In addition to the "magic" and material (fetish charms) that these spots to confer self-portrait of Artaud, the sag and these spots were in the drawing and the whole composition, function "pendulum". These elements constitute a "weight" and balances. - Can we then imagine that these spots were not intentional, willed by Artaud ? They were not to keep ?

What is the nature of these traces from now permanently (and irreversibly) missing the picture ? Is it blood ? Or corporeal matter ? This would suggest is that the testimony cited by Jacques Prevel (see attached link). As well as Momo's comments: "All painters show their anatomy, their physiology, their saliva, their flesh, blood, sperm, their vices, their slime, their pathology, their prudishness, their health, their character, personality or their madness on their canvases. " (Antonin Artaud, on Balthus)

Author of a Material and « immaterial » History of modern art (Bordas, 1994, Larousse 2008), I remain highly sensitive to the issue of this hardware support original drawings of Artaud and am more circumspect against the "cleansing" of his drawings.

No doubt it is necessary to treat papers, double and "rub" very fragile media. But was it up to relieve them of their original material ? All this we would have said Duchamp, has nothing to do with the creation and art. It is indeed entered the world of the art market and Gris-gris sanitized.

Another question arises : how much would have been charged the same design with these spots ? Would it be mounted higher? Its price would have dropped it ?

The question is not small. It primarily concerns the history and sociology of art: what kind perhaps the ratio of companies and collectors in relation to a work (known as "art") ? Should we clean and wash a work ? To conform to a "taste" itself fluctuating, some preferring perhaps a clean and clinical work, whilst others favor a work preserved in its "juice" and presented as close its original state (I belong to this second category).

The debate is open ... The frequency of visits to my previous paper (on this blog) and reactions (private) some have shown me how the issue was sensitive ...

This additional information: In 1996, the same self-portrait is reproduced on page 95 of the book by Camille Dumoulié (Antonin Artaud, Editions du Seuil). The drawing is reproduced WITH his spots - clearly visible. The Photo credits (page 166) for this shot give the following information: "Florence Loeb, A. Artaud © ADAGP, Paris, 1996, p. 95." New evidence of that the design has been a "cleansing" of his spots.

Artaud Sotheby's sale

* On this dimension « matiériste » and "excremental" drawings of Momo, cf. "autophagy creative" in Florence de Mèredieu, Antonin Artaud, portraits et Gris- gris (Blusson, 1984-2008).

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