Whitehot Magazine

September 2011: September Art Market Report

From L-R: Suzanne McClelland, Mika Rottenberg, Lindsay Pollock, Judy Pfaff, and Marilyn Minter at “The Influentials” panel. The
photo is courtesy of School of Visual Arts.

THE DOUBLE-DIP RECESSION MEANS A LOT AND VERY LITTLE TO THE ART WORLD depending on who is concerned. For established artists, recognized dealers, and other “well-knowns”, the game is still on. However, for up-and-coming professionals the options are limited to low-salaried positions and project-based work, or starting an enterprise ground-up. As a last resort, many opt for the latter i.e. becoming self-employed. Entrepreneurship has finally and fully infiltrated the art world –an “industry” that up until recently rested on its laurels, habitually unwelcoming of pioneering endeavors.

Although many mainstream entities continue to analyze the market through various metrics and confidence indicators, in reality, the market itself is far removed from the actual art world. Speculating collectors, their advisors, dealers, and fund managers all fall victim to the fickle patterns of economics as the rest of the art world engages in other mechanisms of survival. Thus, pop-up think tanks like BMW Guggenheim Lab, collecting sites such as ArtStar and Paddle 8, Dasha Zhukova’s fashion-meets-art publication Garage Magazine, apps like ArtBinder, and all sorts of hybrid startups continue to multiply. It just makes sense.

Even post-secondary institutions are taking note. This fall the De Appel Center in Amsterdam launched their Gallerist Programme, which teaches young hopefuls the rewarding and grueling realities of dealing (only two other schools offer similar programs, namely Sotheby’s Institute of Art and New York University). Galleries too, are forced to think outside the box. According to a recent report conducted by cultural researcher Dr. Clare McAndrews of Arts Economics for CINOA (Confédération Internationale des Négociants en Oeuvres d’Art), the proliferation of art fairs is no coincidence. As the art world becomes increasingly globalized, dealers must extend their programs beyond local milieus into the international arena. Furthermore, online sites and one-off events like VIP art fair and Art.sy provide yet another outlet for galleries to garner more clients.


ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL ART-ORIENTED STARTUPS, COMPANY, has raised over $1.5 Million in seed money since last March. Acting as a social network for emerging art collectors, the site with the slogan “For Collectors By Collectors”, encourages clients to sell their artwork sans intermediaries. Rather, for a flat 9% fee, their clients are freed from the obligatory ho hum of buying and selling vis-à-vis dealers, advisors, and auction houses. COMPANY also plans to set up an online artwork swapping system and (according to its press release), act like “an art rental business modeled on Netflix and AirBNB catering to commercial real estate companies and hotel operators”. COMPANY’S CEO CJ Follini told ArtTactic that they offer “compelling content for its collectors, both on and offline” such as teaming with Blaise & Co.’s The Collector Series for an educational, socializing event. Unfortunately, this business model circumvents the forging of professional, long-term relationships that the art world is entirely based upon to a fault.

THE BMW GUGGENHEIM LAB LAUNCHED AUGUST 3RD in New York. Described as “a mobile laboratory traveling around the world to inspire innovative ideas for urban life”, the temporary space held film screenings, lectures, and workshops related to urbanism and visual culture. In terms of art-related events, the lab screened Celine Danhier’s “Blank City”, a documentary on the shifting art scene of New York in the 1970s heavily influenced by beatnik poetry and punk rock, both of which dominated the city’s sub-cultural scenes in the East Village, Lower East Side, and Soho. The lab remains in New York until mid-October then tours other urban hubs like Berlin and Mumbai to host similar event calendars. This type of traveling program is a quasi extension of the popularity of interdisciplinary programming similar to the TED talks. Case in point: within its first four weeks, the lab attracted over 20,000 people.

launched Grey Area, an online site dedicated to all things beautiful that straddle the “undefined space between art and design”. Both founders come from divergent backgrounds whose partnership represents a seamless fusion of ideas and the next frontier of collaborative efforts in the art world. On September 1st, they partnered with AIGA/NY to present a series of talks on the aesthetic disciplines with artists Sebastian Errazuriz, Orly Genger, and Snarkitecture, held at the Museum of Arts and Design.

WILLIAMSBURG EVERY 2:ND FRIDAY gallery crawl launched September 9 in conjunction with Artlog’s Learn to Collect project. Amy Kisch of AKART and Manish Vora of ARTLOG and GREYAREA led tours throughout the Brooklyn neighborhood. According to Marissa Sage, owner of Like the Spice Gallery and crawl co-organizer, "Williamsburg has transformed itself back into the most exciting destination for emerging contemporary art on the East Coast.” Sponsored by AT&T, the biweekly event will surely attract large crowds of art curios to the area.

ON SEPTEMBER 13TH THE SCHOOL OF VISUALS ARTS PRESENTED “THE INFLUENTIALS” panel to accompany the SVA exhibition of the same title, "The Influentials: SVA Women Alumni Invite Artists Who Have Shaped Their Work”. Co-curated by Amy Smith-Stewart and Carrie Lincourt, the show celebrated a number of the school’s alumni artists and their respective influences. The panel revolved around the perspectives of four female artists: two professors at SVA, Marilyn Minter and Judy Pfaff and their former students, alumni Mika Rottenberg and Suzanne McClelland. Moderated by Lindsay Pollock, editor-in-chief at Art in America, each panelist began describing what influences her respective work. McClelland described her influences as a “complex process” of impressions. Rottenberg depicted hers with an apt metaphor –“like a big salad in my head.” Rottenberg’s former teacher and chosen influencer, Marilyn Minter shared how she “pulls out the threads” from her students, who equally shape her evolvement as an artist. Minter later points out that all these interactions are vital to the artistic process and stated, “You can’t make art in a vacuum”. Judy Pfaff, McClelland’s former professor and influencer, talked about the formality of her education in comparison to her students of the “experimental generation”. As such, Pfaff has a detective-like approach to guiding her pupils in their processes. It was clear that all four women believed that influence and confluence are married; teaching and learning are inextricably linked.

The conversation then turned to women and sexuality–the automatic “loadedness” of the two terms–and subsequently the conversation steered to the displacement of power for female dealers navigating the art world. They’re often viewed as too emotional to make wise business decisions but stereotyped as appropriate caretakers for artists. But the art world puts pressure on male dealers too. Minter asserts, “Dealers have to talk to artists and golf with Republicans.” Respect.

HOUSTON FINE ART FAIR LAUNCHED THIS MONTH, September 15-18. Like many smaller but equally important American cities, the fair was created out of necessity to get attention. Featuring 80 exhibitors, the fair attracted over 10,000 visitors from all over the country. Its comprehensive programming included: “Edward Albee Talks About Art”, a conversation with the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and art collector Edward Albee; a dialogue between artist Donald Lipski and private dealer-cum-educator Stephen Rosenberg; and “Meet the Sultans”, a conversation between Donald Sultan and sister Terrie Sultan, the former Blaffer Art Museum director who currently runs the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, NY. Furthermore, the fair’s director Fran Kaufman initiated partnerships with local organizations such as the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston Arts Alliance, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston to further promote the event.

THE SECOND ART MARKET MONITOR ARTELLIGENCE CONFERENCE ran September 21 in NYC. Among the many topics, Michael Plummer and Jeff Rabin of Artvest Partners discussed “The Truth About Art Funds: A Performance Update”. They posited that lack of regulation and transparency in the art world limits art funds. For example: provenance (the history of title for an artwork) is often unknown. There is no directory or database to register acquisitions or to list previous ownership. Therefore, investment portfolios and funds heavily rely on access to insider information, which makes the art market unscrupulously defined by conflict, “conflicts of interest, conflicts of ownership, and conflicts of authenticity”. However, neither conflict nor illiquidity deters new investors from looking at art as collateral against loans (along with collectibles such as antique cars, vintage wine, watches, jewelry and gold). Although most art professionals claim they tell burgeoning collectors to buy what they like, clearly many of them pitch art in terms of pure investment –an opportunistic approach that further contributes to the art world’s opacity. To be fair, Artvest conducts its own quantifiable research, and what they publish isn’t always in their favor or in their interests per se.

Equally engaging conference topics included: “Inside the Modern Market” with Helly Nahmad of Helly Nahmad Gallery, Guy Bennett of Marshall Holdings, Nick Maclean of Eykyn Maclean, and Nicolas Acquavella of Acquavella Gallery. The discussion centered on the limited supply of modern works that leads to an inevitable increase in demand. For example, Nahmad highlighted the value of famed artists Joan Miro, Fernand Léger, and Wassily Kandinsky whose particular markets still achieve new records. Maclean discussed the “two R’s”, the late Robert Rauschenberg and Gerhard Richter, whose values continue to ripen, while Acquavella mentioned Neue Gallery’s purchase of Gustav Klimt’s “Adele Bloch-Bauer I”, which greatly impacted the artist’s value. Even Picasso and Van Gogh have highly fluctuating markets based on periods and other factors du jour. And within each artist’s oeuvre, different periods mark different valuations, continually redefined and perhaps reinvented by tastemakers like the panelists (two of whom alluded to their ability to sway buyer behavior).

At the inaugural Artelligence Conference last May, the featured speakers were collector-critic Adam Lindemann along with his wife Amalia Dayan of Art Partners. Described by Art Market Monitor as “remarkably frank about the art market”, Lindemann has launched an online forum to answer questions about all things "art markety" in his characteristically blunt manner. Visit the following link for more information: http://www.adamlindemann.com/q-a/

THE 2011 BLOUIN CREATIVE LEADERSHIP SUMMIT was held September 19-20. Organized by Blouin Media (under Louise Blouin, owner of Art+Auction, Modern Painters, and ARTINFO), the conference brought together a high caliber of experts from a variety of fields. There were two art-related talks. The “Art and Design: Being in the World” panel consisted of Benjamin Genocchio of Art + Auction, Modern Painters and ARTINFO.com; Bruce Mau of Bruce Mau Design; Mickey McManus of MAYA Design; Dr. John Maeda of Rhode Island School of Design; and the artist Richard Tuttle. The panelists discussed the contributions of creative disciplines in greater cultural context. The second art-oriented discussion, “Culture Beyond Borders”, provided perspectives on visual culture shaping society as instigators of economic development beyond aesthetics. It brought together the expertise of: Benjamin Genocchio of Art + Auction, Modern Painters, ARTINFO.com; Adrian Ellis of Jazz at Lincoln Center; Kathleen Doyle of Doyle Auction House; Willis Hartshorn of the International Center of Photography; Lisa Dennison of Sotheby’s North/South America; Juan Ignacio Vidarte of Guggenheim Bilbao; Colonel Matthew Bogdanos of U.S. Marine Corps/ Assistant District Attorney (and author of “Thieves of Baghdad”); Oussama Rifahi of The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture; and Axel Vervoordt of Axel Vervoordt Foundation.

THE FALL EDITION OF AFFORDABLE ART FAIR (AAF) New York took place September 21-25. Initially launched in London 12 years ago, the New York version has grown over the past few years. Judith Pineiro, Director of Affordable Art Fair NYC and LA told the Wall Street Journal, "We cannot wait for our fall fair to open as it is looking to be even better than our spring edition, which was amazing." Although attendance records have yet to be released, the fair’s extensive program likely drew impressive numbers. Last May, 10,500 attended the fair, which accumulated $2.2 million in sales.

In terms of programming, Art Dossier held free artist-led tours for attendees; the founders of Zatista, Pete Borowsky and Randy Engler, shared their expertise on collecting; and Artstar organized “Collecting Talk: How Experts Advise to Select, Purchase and Care for your Growing Collection” with AAF’s director Chrissy Crawford, Andrew Gristina from the Fine Art Department of Travelers Insurance, Curator of Gawkers artists Liz Dimmitt, and Director of Von Lintel Gallery, Nick Lamina. The Affordable Art Fair also set precedence this season with a new policy, “showing 31 new galleries and no repeat artists."

THE LAUNCH OF WASHINGTON D.C.’S ART FAIR (E)MERGE took place September 22-25. As an important outpost of contemporary art, the city hasn’t had a fair since the demise of ArtDC in 2007. (e)merge featured 80 international exhibitors and a variety of talks: “Young and emerging artists”, organized by Deutsche Bank Collection curator Liz Christensen; and “Collecting for the Future” in discussion with the Director of The Phillips Collection Dorothy Kosinski, and collectors Tony Podesta and Mera Rubell (of The Rubell Family Collection). Rubell also served on the fair’s 2011 Selection Committee with White Columns’ Matthew Higgs and Art Production Fund’s Yvonne Force Villareal.

CREATIVE TIME HELD ITS YEARLY SUMMIT, September 23. This year’s name, Living as Form, offered “an unprecedented, international project exploring over twenty years of cultural works that blur the forms of art and everyday life, emphasizing participation, dialogue, and community engagement…The project brings together twenty-five curators, documents over 100 artists' projects in a large-scale survey exhibition inside the historic Essex Street Market building, features nine new commissions in the surrounding neighborhood, provides a dynamic online archive of over 350 socially engaged projects, culminates with a book, published by Creative Time Books and distributed by MIT Press.” Following the Summit, guests were encouraged to participate in the Living as Form exhibitions running September 24-October 16 in various locations close to the historic Essex Street Market area.

ON SEPTEMBER 26TH, POWARTS ORGANIZED “Behind the Scenes: A Dynamic Conversation with Leading Women in the Corporate Art World”, held at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. The panel, moderated by Madelyn Miller, Vice President and Financial Advisor at Alliance Bernstein included: Christiane Fischer, President and CEO at AXA Art, North America; Judith A. Bressler, of Council at Withers Bergman LLP; and Nancy Harrison, Fine Art Specialist at Emigrant Bank Fine Art Finance/Fine Art Asset Management. Miller asked each panelist about her career mentors to which all three replied that they lacked female role models. Moreover, their male mentors challenged them immensely, almost to an extreme. Not allowed to join the “boys club”, they were expected to outperform many of their male counterparts for the same wages. But they succeeded. In terms of career advice, Fischer stressed the importance of flexibility as an employee, while Bressler exclaimed that importance of “determination and luck.” Harrison encouraged people to be generalists rather than specialists, and take every opportunity to strengthen ones expertise in many areas of their field, which acts as “personal arsenal against the competition”.

Christiane Fischer also spoke with Art Tactic last month on a range of topics related to AXA Art. Fischer explained that art insurance is relatively inexpensive and much cheaper than most other specialty insurances but remains the most neglected form of coverage. She goes on to explain that AXA Art offers a range of products for museums, galleries, artists, exhibitions, as well as conservators, and private collectors. AXA’s ideal client is a collector “who has a great eye and passion for their works. AXA’s “collection management perspective” means they insure established as well as emerging collectors to foster relationships ground-up. When asked about the impact of global expansion on AXA, Fischer explained that they’ve built outposts in Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America accordingly. Furthermore, they employ an in-house team of specialists to provide reliable expertise and stabilize their policies against market fluctuations, especially in times of high volatility. According to Fischer, “Our biggest competitor is the uninsured collector… Education is our biggest challenge.”

AS PART OF THE NEW YORKER CONFERENCE “IN CONVERSATION” SERIES, famed actor and avid collector Steve Martin sat down with highly respected art critic Peter Schjeldahl for a bit of fun. Held at the SVA Theatre, the two gentlemen engaged in witty banter and moments of reflection. At one point Schjeldahl declared, “You learn a lot more from bad art than good” initiated by naming their favorite “B-grade” artists. Martin pointed out the advantages of seeing art in private collections over museums, the former more welcoming than the high-traffic, pack mentality of public institutions. To watch a clip visit: http://fora.tv/2011/09/30/Peter_Schjeldahl_Talks_with_Steve_Martin


ARTNET ANNOUNCED ITS FIRST ONLINE AUCTION OF MIDDLE EASTERN ART, August 11-18. Organized by Nazy Nazhand of ART MIDDLE EAST, the online sale offered a “unique collection of artworks by both emerging and established artists… including outstanding photographs, sculptures and paintings by sought-after artists from Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.” The auction ran for seven days and featured works by Shirin Neshat, Ahmed Mater, Sadegh Tirafkan, Vahid Sharifian, and Parviz Kalantari.

The Middle East region encompasses seventeen plus countries in West Asia and Northern Africa. It is an oil region with a correspondingly high economic growth rate (at 5.1% in 2011 according to Wikipedia). Major wealth and unmarked territory make many parts of the Middle East an adult playground. And the art world has taken notice. Major institutions such as the Guggenheim are setting up satellite museums in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Art Island. Today’s fervor is partly due to Christie’s auction house, which held the first Middle Eastern specific sale back in 2006. Robin Roche, the director of artnet auctions explains, “The addition of a Middle Eastern auction confirms the strength and growth of the art market in the region and the continued international interest in the works. We hope this is the beginning of many more sales in this category.”

ARTRIO LAUNCHED SEPTEMBER 8-10 TO COMMEMORATE the city’s thriving art community. Often sidelined by São Paulo, the fair acts as a catalyst to bring the city’s contemporary art scene into the international spotlight. Co-founders Brenda Valansi Osorio and Elisangela Valadares told the Rio Times about their inspiration from Art Basel Miami. They explained that “There’s a similarity between the cities, with the tropical theme and tourism…you can see that Miami Basel really benefits the city culturally and economically which is something we want for Rio too.” The inaugural fair featured 50 galleries, mostly from Brazil and others from South America and Europe. Although the Brazilian art market is still in its infancy, fairs like ArtRio help bring worldwide attention to the country.

TWO OF CHINA’S PREMIERE ART FAIRS, SH CONTEMPORARY AND SHANGHAI ART FAIR, transpired last month. SH Contemporary ran September 8-10, bringing in modest sales. Although the fair is rumored to have lost money again this year, revisions in leadership have set the tone for future success. Massimo Torrigiani was appointment the new director this year to replace Lorenzo Rudolf who founded the fair back in 2007, after leaving his post at Art Basel. Evidently, there is sufficient demand for Asian art, however Art HK has taken over share-wise. On the other hand, the 15th edition of Shanghai Art Fair yielded better overall sales, passing the 100 Million Chinese RMB (Yuan) mark with over 1,100 participating galleries. Since the majority of fair frequenters are American and Chinese buyers, Shanghai Art Fair fittingly held the first screening of "West Encounters East" at the American Pavilion. The PBS documentary investigates the West’s fascination with the East, a sort of “Asian art fetishism”.

RUSSIA’S FOREMOST ART FAIR, ART MOSCOW took place this year September 21-25, at the Central House of Artists. The annual event in its 15th edition made some changes, offering each gallery equal rather than proportionate real estate “to stand out for the quality of their expositions but not for their size.” Furthermore, the fair embarked on a traveling media circus pre-fair, holding key events in Berlin, Cologne, London, Madrid and Basel. This helped attract additional exhibitors and boost press coverage. Forty galleries participated this year from Cuba, Japan, Austria, Italy, Spain, Latvia, Romanian, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Estonia, the Ukraine, the United States, and of course, Russia. This diverse roster emphasizes the need for art fairs to specialize. In representing lesser-known regions in Eastern Europe, Art Moscow has a competitive edge.
William MacDougall of MacDougall’s Auction House runs the London-based bidding room specializing in Russian art. In a recent interview with ArtTactic, he explained that contemporary Russian art’s “relatively thin market with relatively few buyers” was growing steadily until the 2008 financial meltdown. As an emergent market with minor global presence, it remains vulnerable to economics, however MacDougall remains optimistic about their upcoming auctions in Kiev and Moscow. Luckily, part of contemporary Russian culture includes Dasha Zhukova of Moscow’s Garage Center for Contemporary Culture and Garage Magazine, and her billionaire partner Roman Abramovich who’s amidst building his own art-island off the coast of St. Petersburg. In the past few years, both have risen to international notoriety with their spending, collecting, and political power in the art world and elsewhere.

Traditionally galleries and auction houses accounted equally for worldwide sales, 50:50. Private negotiations used to be confined to the gallery model but now auction houses too can close deals behind closed doors. Dealers were the specialists of the art world, experts in certain market segments. Today, auction houses hire specialists and if need be, create their own in-house specialist departments. Auction houses have gained traction over galleries forcing dealers to align themselves or expand elsewhere. They are led to look for alternatives in the form of partnerships or online endeavors (generally limited to inexpensive works). Auction houses are branching out as well with specialty sales, regionally focused or theme-based. Charity auctions such as David Zwirner Gallery’s “Artists for Haiti” created major buzz –they raised a whooping $13.7m in sales by offering a well-edited selection of primary works rather than secondary pieces.

According to the McAndrews for CINAO report, “the competitive landscape of the art market has seen many changes in the past 50 years as power has been redistributed geographically and between market players.” Now a global industry, the art world is still ruled by congregated pools of wealth and small niches that make up the whole. However, emergent markets continue to build steam forcing everyone to step up their game.

Shireen Lohrasbe

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.

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