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Antoni Clavé (1913-2005) [09/20/2005]

Antoni Clavé died in Saint-Tropez on 30 August, aged 92. From the age of 14, he was involved in set design, illustrations in children's magazines and drawings for cinema advertisements and posters. In 1930, he enrolled in the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes in his home town of Barcelona, concentrating initially on drawing, advertising and decorative art.
Having fought for the Republican army during the Spanish Civil War, Clavé was forced into exile in France by the Francoists' victory in 1939, becoming friends with Picasso while in Paris. In the mid-1950s, with his reputation on the rise, Clavé suddenly turned his back on a promising career as an illustrator and set designer to dedicate himself to fine art. Influenced by cubism and surrealism, he made collages out of a variety of materials and took up engraving. In 1978, his work was honoured by the City of Paris Museum of Modern Art, which organised a retrospective covering 20 years of his paintings. He represented Spain at the 1984 Venice Biennale, where 125 of his works were displayed in the Spanish pavilion.

Every year, between 200-300 Clavé works come up for auction, 56% of these lithographs. His etchings and carborundum engravings are highly prized, with a print costing on average EUR 500-1,500. The price of his paintings has risen 112% in less than six years, which has meant, of course, an increase in the number of exceptionally high bids. Between 1992 and 1998, none of his works reached EUR 100,000, whereas no fewer than six beat this mark in 2004. Despite this trend, his prices are still a long way short of those achieved in the record year of 1990, when his 1953 Fillette en rouge went for the equivalent of USD 300,000 at Loudmer. Gargantua, for example, sold for GBP 120,000 (EUR 175,000) in February 2004 at Sotheby’s in London, even though the 117 cm-wide canvas had fetched GBP 178,000 (EUR 266,000) on 30 November 1989.

London is where the artist's major works are sold – it accounts for 34% of turnover, but only 10% of transaction volumes – whereas the vast majority of Clavé prints – 68% of transactions – come up for auction in France and Spain.

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