By Shireen Lohrasbe
THE 55TH VENICE BIENNALE (LA BIENNALE DI VENEZIA) launched May 29, curated by Massimiliano Gioni and titled “The Encyclopedic Palace.” Preview events included: Fondazione Prada’s cocktail reception to commemorate the opening of “When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/Venice 2013”—a replica of a 1960’s Swiss Arte Povera exhibit; James Cohan Gallery, Galerie Perrotin, Galleri Nicolai Wallner and the Danish Arts Council hosted a party for Danish Pavilion artist Jesper Just at Nicelli Airport, Lido; the British Pavilion put on a raucous celebration for its representative artist Jeremy Deller on the Isola delle Vignole; Fondazione Nicola Trussardi honored Massimiliano Gioni at a 13th century warehouse, Tese dell'Arsenale; and most lavishly, Francois Pinault threw a party via private water taxi at San Giorgio Monastery (a former Benedectine place of worship) for 1000 guests. Among hundreds of pavilions, the 2013 jury awarded the “Golden Lion for Best National Participation” to Angola, the “Golden Lion for Best Artist” to Tino Sehgal and the “Silver Lion for Promising Young Artist” to Camille Henrot.
EARLY JUNE MARKED RUSSIAN Art Week in London. According to ArtDaily, “Sotheby’s led London’s sales of Russian art this week, achieving over £17 million and attracting an unprecedented number of new buyers to the salerooms, many of them from beyond Russia and the CIS.” Sotheby’s held four sales that achieved the aforementioned £17M total with 36 lots selling for over £100,000 (more than all the other auction houses put together that week). Bidders came from 30 countries, 20% were first-time buyers. The top lot, Nikolai Fechin’s “Mrs. Fechin and Daughter,” was purchased for £1.5M, nearly three times its pre-estimate. Meanwhile at Christie’s, the Russian Art auction achieved £12.4M/ $18.9M. Of 284 lots offered, 211 sold; 85% by value and 74% by lot.
THE CONTEMPORARY SALES IN PARIS proved successful in early June. Christie’s split its “Art Contemporain” auction June 4 and 5, which totaled €25.2 Million/ $32.9 Million. A Francis Bacon painting fetched €3.7M/ $4.8M (the top lot). Sotheby’s followed suit on June 5 and 6, topped by a Jean-Michel Basquiat canvas. The Sotheby’s sales totaled €21.6M/ $28.2M, meeting the high-end of its €15.3–21.6M pre-estimate.
THE 44TH EDITION OF ART BASEL transpired mid-June. This year, AB presented 304 galleries repping 4000+ artists—over $2 Billion worth of art was offered. Considered the world’s foremost contemporary art fair, it attracted 86,000+ visitors over the course of six days. Major sales included: several works by Anish Kapoor and Rudolf Stingel sold at multiple booths; John Curin at Sadie Coles HQ; Robert Ryman, Pierre Soulages and Frank Stella at Dominque Levy; and Alexander Calder and Lucio Fontana at Nahmad Gallery. Other artists that fared well: Vija Celmins (McKee Gallery), Yves Klein and Joan Miro (Galerie Gmurzynska), John Rosenquist (Thaddeus Ropac), Mark Bradford (White Cube), Luc Tuymans (David Zwirner) and Joan Mitchell (Cheim & Reid).
THE SWISS ART MARKET IS SOARING in the names of Cuno Amie, Ferdinand Hodler, Albert Anker and Alberto Giacometti. According to Corinne Gretler and Carolyn Bandel at Bloomberg: “Swiss art sales for Sotheby’s rose to a record 26.8 million francs ($29 million) in 2011, almost a fivefold increase from 2001. Sales for Christie’s more than doubled to $16.8 million in 2012 from $6.8 million in 2004. The number of buyers from outside Switzerland rose to 25 percent last year at Sotheby’s, which holds biannual auctions in Zurich, from 9.7 percent in 2007… Christie’s Zurich office said 20 percent to 25 percent of its sales are to foreign buyers… Millionaire households make up about 12 percent of the total in Switzerland, the second-highest proportion after Qatar.” This concentrated wealth coupled with the success of living artists such as Urs Fischer, Thomas Hirschorn, Pipilotti Rist and Ugo Rondinone bode well for the country’s market.
MID-JUNE MARKED THE IMPRESSIONIST AND MODERN ART sales in London. Christie’s Imp-Mod auction realized £64.1 Million/ $100.4 Million, hitting the middle of its £52.8–75.8M pre-estimate. Of 37 lots, 84% sold by lot and 87% by value; 18 works sold for £1M+/ 22 for $1M+. The post-release read: “The top price was paid for Wassily Kandinsky’s rare Expressionist masterpiece [“Studie zu Improvisation 3”], 1909, which sold for £13,501,875/ $21,157,438… and records were set: for a work by Eugène Boudin and a record for a painting by Constantin Brancusi.”
SOTHEBY’S IMP-MOD AUCTION (WITH DOUBLE THE LOTS) realized £105.9 Million/ $165.9 Million (just surpassing its £74-104M pre-estimate). Of 71 lots, 81.7% sold. Monet’s “Le Palais Contarini” (1908) was the top lot at £19.7M/ $30.8M. Bidder participation came from 33 countries, with strong interest from Asia at 22%. Marion Maneker at Art Market Monitor explained: “Quietly, the long hoped-for influx of Asian buyers to the Western art market seems to be finally taking place. Volumes are shrinking in the Impressionist and Modern market even as global buyers are showing an increasing interest in 19th and 20th Century European art.”
HEFFEL SPRING 2013 AUCTION made $11.5 Million. The sale offered 185 lots “led by great Canadian artists such as Emily Carr, Jean-Paul Riopelle, the Group of Seven and more, featured exceptional works representing the best in Canadian Post-War & Contemporary Art and Fine Canadian Art.” As Canada’s leading auction house, Heffel has maintained 60% market share since 2004.
AFTER 45 YEARS SOTHEBY’S CANADA ANNOUNCED its departure from conducting auctions in the country. April Fong at The Vancouver Sun wrote “The departure of Sotheby's, which held auctions in Canada for 45 years, followed a period of weaker results. The new York-based auctioneer's fall sale in November 2012 grossed $5.5-million, below the pre-sale estimate of $8-million to $11-million, while Heffel's auction totalled $11.5-million and Joyner's was $2.51-million. The effect of the exit on Heffel Fine Art remains to be seen, but the news has made waves in the art world.”
AXA ART IS OPENING A CANADIAN BRANCH in Toronto. The new branch will offer customized products and risk prevention regulation such as: “establishing best practices for art storage facilities and art shippers and offering security checks and facility surveys to museums… instrumental in advancing our long-term commitment to support collectors and stewards of the art communities throughout the Canadian provinces.”
LATE JUNE MARKED THE CONTEMPORARY SALES in London. According to Scott Reyburn at Bloomberg: “Evening sales of contemporary art at Phillips, Sotheby’s and Christie’s International in the U.K. capital raised a total of 158.2 million pounds ($241 million), a 29.8 percent decline on the 225.4 million pounds achieved by the equivalent events last year. The auction houses are having problems feeding all-year-round demand for quality works by the market’s 50 or so investment-grade favorites.” Luckily, new artists and collectors continually enter the market, alleviating some of the pressure on auctioneers.
CHRISTIE’S POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY evening sale attained £70.3 Million/ $108.5 Million; 90% of lots sold by value and 80% by volume. Of 51 lots, 14 lots sold for £1M+ and 25 for $1M+. The top lot was Basquiat’s large-scale double portrait “Untitled” (1982), which sold for £18.8M/ $29M. Combined with the PwC day sale, six new auction records were set for artists: Ali Banisadr, Enrico Castellani, Eduardo Chillida, Juan Genovés, Tauba Auerbach and Oscar Murillo.
SOTHEBY’S EQUIVOCAL CONTEMPORARY sale achieved a slightly higher tally of £75.8 Million/ $116.9 Million, with an average lot value of £1.43 Million. Furthermore, the auction house attracted bidders from an unprecedented 38 countries and 10% came from new markets. Works by Francis Bacon led the sale including a triptych portrait of his muse Isabel Rawsthorne, which sold for £11.3M. New records were set for French painter Pierre Soulages, German photographer Thomas Ruth and British painter Hurvin Anderson.
PHILLIPS LONDON’S CONTEMPORARY sale reached £12.3 Million/$18.8 Million; 92% sold by lot, 89% by value. “Top lot of the Evening Sale, a 12ft work by British artist Glenn Brown, Oscillate Wildly (after ‘Autumnal Cannibalism’ 1936 by Salvador Dalí), sold for a solid £2,882,500 / $4,410,225 / €3,372,525 and an auction record was achieved for a self portrait by Rudolf Stingel, selling for £782,500 / $1,197,225 / €915,525. Strong bidding, including fierce competition for Untitled Film Still #36, 1979 by Cindy Sherman selling for £302,500 / $462,825 / €353,925 on an estimate of £60,000 – 80,000 and an impressive result for a work by South American artist, Oscar Murillo at £146,500 / $224,145 / €171,405, demonstrated demand for both young and established artists.”
Shireen holds a BBA in Design & Management from Parsons The New School for Design and an MA in Art Business from Sotheby's Institute of Art, New York. She has contributed to several online publications including Art Observed, Quintessentially Art, and Whitewall Magazine. Shireen is a regular art market contributor at Whitehot Magazine.view all articles from this author