By Adrian Darmon
1999 was really a mad year for many Contemporary, Modern or Impressionist artists whose works were auctioned at astronomical prices in New York or in London.
The art market thus tended to become a “dollart” market under the impulse of new buyers who have become rich thanks to their fast-growing activities in the fields of finance and new technologies like the Internet.
One can gladly accept the fact that Cézanne, Monet or Seurat have become more expensive especially as most of their best works are now hanging in many famous museums. One can also conceive that certain Modern artists like Picasso or Matisse are now increasingly sought by amateurs who also go mad for some Contemporary painters now deceased, like Warhol, Basquiat or Haring, who transformed art into a visual message or distracted it to conjugate it with the achievements of society.
Still it seems hard to admit that the works of some provocative artists who are only talented to promote themselves are being bought by new buyers for the simple reason that they are mainly attracted by some of the symbols of the last third of the 20th Century.
The world of art was rather insulted when Jeff Koons' Cicciolina clasping the Pink Panther in her arms sold for almost $ 2 millions at Christie's in November 1999 thus becoming another mythical Contemporary work of art.
Such recuperation of a funny cartoon character coupled with a porno movie star appeared somewhat crazy and supernatural even though one can be led to admit that such strange duo fits perfectly with the virtual aspect of the Internet.
In fact Jeff Koons' success marks a rupture with the traditional image of the art market and also constitutes a leap into the unknown. Since the death of Picasso, the world of art has been eagerly looking for a new giant but has so far only managed to find transitional artists to fill the gap. Still Warhol played a significant role in the transformation of art though he was rather the promoter of a new movement instead of being a true artist when he mixed strong symbols of the last third of the 20th Century in works that picked concepts in the advertising sector from which he was issued.