By SAM CROSS
Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro’s “The Meadow with the Grey Horse, Eragny, 1893” will grace Israel’s art scene as the featured lot at the international auction set to take place Wednesday at the capital’s King David Hotel.The arrival of this $2 million masterpiece is a sign of Jerusalem’s rapidly-growing presence as an international marketplace for high-quality art.“Before now we didn’t have serious impressionist work... only a few minor works,” said Uri Rosenbach, director of Matsart Auctioneers and Appraisers.Pissarro’s work is originally from Japan and comes to Israel by way of North America. The auction will host potential buyers from around the world, most of them bidding by telephone, according to Rosenbach.A surge in the art market has meant Jerusalem has seen a dramatic improvement in the quality of artwork coming via Matsart, Israel’s only international auction house. Besides this impressionist work, Wednesday’s event, which includes 42 percent international art, will auction off paintings from such mammoth artists as Pierre- Auguste Renoir, Marc Chagall and Reuven Rubin.While the rest of the world struggles through tough economic times, Rosenbach said business was booming. The auction will continue the company’s upward trend.“Every auction, our sales keep increasing,” Rosenbach said.Although Matsart hosted a $1m. auction last November and received approximately $12m. in sales last year, such sizable returns pale in comparison to the $8.5m. in sales that the auction house predicts to see at Wednesday’s auction.“We’re not setting the trend,” he said, “But we’re moving with it.”The trend in question is the Renaissance in art investment, according to Yoram Breier, CEO of Gemolab, an appraisal company that consults with Jerusalem auction houses. Breier said the fact that the art market has escaped the worldwide economic crisis unscathed has led many high-end customers to view art not only as eye-candy, but also as a valuable asset.“People who buy art don’t think about art in terms of investment like you invest in stock market – it’s not like you hang your stock in your living room,” Breier said. “But people found out that it’s a very strong market.”Matsart’s recent international success has come after years of strategy planning, according to Breier. The company – which started as a local, family-style Israeli art gallery – has catapulted itself into the international art scene by raising the average value of their paintings.“Matsart tried to increase the average of art they were offering,” Breier said. “They have been aiming at a much higher market than they used to 10 years back.
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