THE ART WORLD HAS OFFICIALLY RESURRECTED into the cultural limelight as evidenced by the ever-expanding art (and art business) sections now located beside the “Classics” section in bookstores like Strand and Barnes & Noble… plus the sheer number of art-related events in New York alone with accompanying snapshots of poised posed attendees filling sites like Patrick McMullan, Guest of a Guest, and Billy Farrell Agency reaffirm the art world’s expansion into mainstream culture. And the recent success of Art Basel and mostly positive reviews of the 54th Venice Biennale further validate art as “au courant” (not that it ever wasn’t).
BUSHWICK OPEN STUDIOS ran for its fifth year June 3-5, packing in hundreds of events into one weekend. Sudden L-train service changes aside, the 2011 edition of BOS drew in thousands of participants and ignited a sense of loyalty to the thriving community of artists and art-based businesses in the area. Several major online blogs and magazines published their own guides to the celebration, which was slightly difficult to navigate given the expansiveness of the Brooklyn neighborhood. Highlights included: English Kills gallery; non-profit Norte Maar’s yearly “Maps ‘N Mimosas” kickoff run by Jason Andrew (who owns Storefront); Marne Lucas’ erotic photography at Rayographix Fine Art Editions; Tatiana Berg at Regina Rex, the artist-run gallery space; and among the many works on display, a few stood out from the pack by artists like Guillermo Creus, Cat Glennon, Julian Lorber (seen above), Anne Arden McDonald, Björn Meyer-Ebrect, and Andrea Wolf Yadlin.
Greenpoint Open Studios (GOS) partnered with Northside Open Studios (NOS) and L magazine the following week, June 16-19. The four days of festivities incorporated a variety of events including Crest Fest, which presented hardware themed art hangings inside an actual tool shop, with deejays spinning rhythmic fun and bakeries offering sweet confections to hipsters and toddlers, prancing around until the wee hours.
JAMES FRANCO RECENTLY CO-LAUNCHED the Museum of Non-Visible Art or MONA –the acronym an obvious parody on MOMA… or MOCA. Franco has partnered with artist duo Praxis (Brainard and Delia Carey) to raise funds on Kickstarter for the conceptual institution “composed entirely of ideas, the Non-Visible Museum redefines the concept of what is real. Although the artworks themselves are not visible, the descriptions open our eyes to a parallel world built of images and words.” Without much guaranteed ROI, one wonders how many people with donate to this potential hoax.
THE POPULAR PBS SERIES ART21 has launched a new project called “New York Close Up”, which follows the first decade of various artists’ professional endeavors living and working in the city. The film portraits feature the talent of Thomas Hartung, Rashid Johnson, Kalup Linzy, and many more. For more information visit: https://www.art21.org/newyorkcloseup/
TOM SACHS RECENTLY EXPANDED ON HIS 2009 STUDIO MANUAL “10 Bullets” to develop a ten-part video series on Youtube titled, “Working to Code”. Created in collaboration with filmmaker Van Neistat of The Neistat Brothers, the series is intended for members of Sachs’ studio team as a code of conduct. For example, the second bullet “Sacred Space”, instructs his team to each handle themselves with care and treat coworkers with consideration; “one should proceed as if in a shaker workshop or monastery”. #8 of the series “Always be Knolling” refers to Sachs’ fascination with organizing objects perpendicular or in parallel to one another, at 90 or 45-degree angles (to knoll), derived from his time working in Frank Gehry's studio. According to Wikipedia the term knoll was “first used in 1987 by Andrew Kromelow, a janitor at Frank Gehry's furniture fabrication shop.” This is must-see for artists longing for better communication with their respective team members.
THE 54th VENICE BIENNALE’S OPENING CELEBRATIONS IN EARLY JUNE did not disappoint with 89 participating countries (including the first year for Haiti and Saudi Arabia, as well as Iraq’s long-awaited return since 1976). This year’s Biennale titled ILLUMInations, elected art historian Bice Curiger as head curator of the four para-pavilions to accompany the over eighty national ones. Known as having a gentle but determined personality, Curiger has a dynamite reputation that has garnered her international notoriety (and a high placement in ArtReview’s “Power 100” ranking of the art market's most dominant figures). Curiger chose to reference the work of Venetian Renaissance painter Tintoretto who’s “presence will establish an artistic, historical and emotional relationship to the local context. The term ‘nations’ in ILLUMInations applies metaphorically to recent developments in the arts all over the world, where overlapping groups form collectives of people representing a wide variety of smaller, more local activities and mentalities.”
Considered the Olympics of the art world, the Biennale awarded its most prized honor, The Golden Lion, went to Germany for “Best National Pavilion” (which featured the work of Christoph Schlingensief. The Golden Lion for “Best Artwork” went to Christian Marclay for “The Clock”). Another pavilion that received critical praise was the Pan-Arab exhibition titled “The Future of a Promise”, which features contemporary works of more than twenty-five artists and commissions from various Arab countries. Curated by Lina Lazaar, produced by Edge of Arabia, and supported by Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives and Abraaj Capital, the show is a juxtaposition of varying mediums, from performance and paintings to video and photography. Lazaar describes her desire “to investigate how artists from this diverse, fragmented region have responded to the often contradictory promises that have defined our history.”
Other pavilions caused political stir. The host country Italy elected an unlikely candidate to represent them, the politician/collector-curator Vittorio Sgarbi. Benjamin Genocchio of Artinfo describes Sgarbi as “the Glenn Beck of the Italian art world, a vehement conservative and ideologue who… has made a disturbing habit of ridiculing artists and insulting curators and even critics who support artists whom he dislikes.” The United States caused controversy too for electing famed artist duo Allora & Calzadilla to represent them at the Biennale. Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla chose to display several works in the American pavilion including an upside down army tank in the entrance area.
Passerby displayed mixed expressions while walking by an actual U.S. Olympian running for fifteen minute intervals on a treadmill atop the flipped over tank’s tracks (a comprehensive video is available for viewing here: HYPERLINK "https://dai.ly/kL0rkc" https://dai.ly/kL0rkc). Conversely, the Egyptian pavilion received praise for its homage to emerging artist Ahmed Basiony, killed during the Egyptian riots Tahrir Square, Cairo. The country showcased the late artist’s film "30 Days of Running in the Place," which shows footage of the uprising in heart-rending detail.
On a lighter note, attendees bounced around from event-to-event, rising early and partying until late. An Artforum contributor wrote that everyone is “palazzo-hopping on a diet of O’s: prosecco, espresso, and gelato.” Biennale highlights included: Marina Abramovic’s breakfast at the Montenegro Pavilion announcing plans to develop a community center in her home country (Marina Abramovic Community Center Obod Cetinje, MACCOC); “The Future Generation Art Prize @ Venice” exhibition by The Victor Pinchuk Foundation, which featured 19 artists from 18 different countries who were short listed in the first global art prize competition; Terence Koh’s “Telling It like It Is” performance at the Palazzo di Malta wherein he lay flat on an elevated plank, head peeking into a water well with its large iron lid hovering over his cranium; The Bruce High Quality Foundation and Vito Schnabel collaboration titled “Argumenta: a dialectical interrogation of the histories of painting, patronage, politics, power, pluralism, pandering, pity, punishment, perversion, pedantry, passion, pedagogy, and pestilence.”; the exhibitions “In Praise of Doubt” at Punta della Dogana, and “The World belongs to You” at Palazzo Grassi –both sites owned by the François Pinault Foundation; the “Commercial Break” party at Venice's Bauer Hotel hosted by three strongly influential socialites-cum-curators Alexander Dellal, Neville Wakefield, and Dasha Zhukova. The party featured video art by famed emerging talent in the likes of Dan Colen and Liz Magic Laser as part of the digital pavilion. Hosted by Garage Projects and POST magazine, the digital pavilion is dedicated to unique short films from 134 cutting-edge contemporary artists such as Richard Phillips’ video of Lindsay Lohan à la tragic heroine in slow motion.
THE 42ND EDITION OF ART BASEL showcased over 300 galleries from 35 countries and over 2,500 artists, attracting more than 65,000 attendees including artists John Baldessari, Maurizio Cattelan, Tino Sehgal, and Christian Marclay; celebrities Brad Pitt, Naomi Campbell, Val Kilmer, Linda Evangelista and Will Ferrell; and collectors like “The Rubell Family”, industrialist Peter Brant, Russian Billionaire (and Chelsea soccer team owner) Roman Abramovich and his partner Dasha Zhukova, hedge fund mogul Steve Cohen, advisor and investor Adam Lindemann, philanthropist Jean Pigozzi, and Rupert Murdoch’s wife Wendi Deng Murdoch –many of whom showed up for the launch of Art.sy, the Pandora-like online platform backed by Zhukova, Murdoch, and Larry Gagosian.
ArtTactic recently conducted a “Post-Art Basel talk with Scott Reyburn”, art market columnist at Bloomberg News. Among Reyburn’s many observations, he noticed a sense of “urgency and buoyancy” far removed from economic woes and considerably more enthusiastic than last month’s TEFAF fair (equally international in scope). But impulse purchasing has a “glass ceiling” at fairs, especially when compared with sales at auction where there’s more pressure to buy amidst the frenzy. At fairs like Basel, people do run around and grab artworks but the atmosphere is generally mellower, and price points follow suit –“the sweet spot is between $250,000 and 2.5 Million.” As for the rumor that Gagosian Gallery cleared over $45 Million worth of art in the first hour, Reyburn believes this might be true considering that big-name galleries don’t do presale negotiations, thus reenacting the sense of urgency usually found in auction bidding rooms.
Spending habits aside, there were several spectacular sales that took place for over $2 Million including: Gerhard Richter’s “Kleine Strasse” painting, obtained for nearly $8 M; David Smith’s “Vertical Pistol Structure” sold for slightly under $6 M; a Mark Rothko painting bought for $5.5 M; Bridget Riley’s “Streak 2” snapped for $3 M; Paul McCarthy’s “White Snow Dwarf 7” fetched for just under $3 M; and the late Louise Bourgeois’ “Eye” was purchased for $2 M. Furthermore, there were numerous sales of established contemporary artists like Maurizio Cattelan and Anish Kapoor as well as popular emergent talents such as Sterling Ruby, Matthew Day Jackson, Simon Fujiwara, and Jacob Kassay scribbled on every collector’s shopping list. Sarah Thornton, sociologist and contemporary art columnist for The Economist recently wrote, “The economic crisis and the ensuing instability have encouraged more rich people to think of art as a form of wealth management. As one collector put it, ‘Art is so good partly because the euro is so bad.’” And so, Art Basel’s progression over the past 42 years has been on steady incline without a “recessionary year”. Furthermore, there is enough money circulating around to sustain these types of gatherings. Reyburn adds, “The Mei/Moses [Fine Art Index] just released that there are 103,000 people [globally] with over $43 Million in discretionary income. Even if 1% have an interest in the contemporary art market, this is enough to sustain the art market.”
UNFORTUNATELY ART FORUM BERLIN, the city’s foremost international art fair, didn’t bode so well this year. It was cancelled last minute due to mismanagement and comes as a surprise given the steady growth of Berlin’s vibrant creative community. Established in 1996, the 2010 edition included more than 100 galleries representing over twenty countries, and attracted over 40,000 attendees. The fair’s director, Eva-Maria Häusler expressed her concern, “A lot of galleries have been moving to Berlin in the last few years - not just from Germany but also from abroad" and its failure to organize itself or at least merge with art berlin contemporary (abc) is very unfortunate.
Founded in 2008, abc will replace its predecessor as Berlin’s main art fair. Sadly, the fair is invite-only devoid of an application process, which limits its international outreach, inadvertently affecting the dynamics of Berlin’s art scene. As Häusler asserts, "It is a big opportunity that has been lost. The failure of the merger is hard for many to understand" especially given the fair’s international reputability.
FOLLOWING THE SUCCESS OF ARTHK, ASIA CONTINUES TO DOMINATE the art market. The two main auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s Hong Kong, yielded strong sales soon after the success of ArtHK. Christie’s reached a total of USD$515 Million during the spring season (The 20th Century and Contemporary Asian sales brought in $63 Million alone). To deal with potential unpaid loans, Christie’s instituted a mandatory deposit to ensure payment from collectors (seemingly discriminatory but essential given the track record of forfeited loans among Chinese buyers). And Sotheby’s topped Christie’s by $25 Million. According to Bloomberg their “auction sales doubled in the first half to reach HK$4.3 Billion ($540 Million) from the same period a year ago as demand rises.” Highlights included the sale of 25 works by Zhang Daqian. Southeast Asian art sales were impressive as well, fetching a total of $13.8 Million (another record). The top two works were Hendra Gunawan’s "Snake Dancer"(sold for $2.1 Million) and I Nyoman Masriadi’s "Juling (Cross-Eyed)" (at $496,000).
Magnus Renfrew of Art HK points out, “the art market tends to follow wealth and the greatest wealth is being created in Asia." This trend is reaching other countries within the continent like Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. However, most of the demand is speculative in nature, lending some time for emerging Asian submarkets to grow before being thoroughly exploited.
THE CHINESE ART MARKET IS WORTH USD$26 BILLION according to a report commissioned by TEFAF titled “The Global Art Market in 2010: Crisis and Recovery”. Conducted by Dr. Clare McAndrew (author of “Fine Art & High Finance”) the report states that in 2010 “China continued to boom, with its strongest year ever, emerging as the second largest market worldwide over taking the UK for this first time… with a 23 percent share of the global art business.” In addition, Anders Petterson, ArtTactic’s managing director asserts that “the worrying aspect of the current boom in Chinese art was that it was not a ‘result of people turning into passionate collectors overnight, but to new investment money flowing into the market… Sales of Chinese art grew to $200 Million last year, compared to a mere $1 Million in 2002.”
In the 2010 spring season, Beijing’s auction houses trumped the records reached by Christie’s and Sotheby’s Hong Kong the previous week –repeated again this year. As Artinfo reports, “in spring of 2011, Beijing again asserted its dominance. Poly totted up sales of RMB 6.13 billion (an extraordinary $947.86 million) this season, almost doubling Christie's figure. China Guardian, China's oldest auction house and Poly's main rival, came in second in Beijing but still beat Christie's Hong Kong with sales of RMB 5.323 billion ($823.038 million).” It is no surprise then that Chinese auction houses are beginning to take hold of their own market share.
The Conseil des Ventes Volontaires (France ‘s National Public Auctions Advisory), revealed in their newest annual study that while Christie’s and Sotheby’s remained the two premier auction houses, Beijing Poly and China Guardian were ahead of Bonhams and Phillips de Pury in terms of total worldwide sales, with smaller auction houses like Beijing Hanhai, Beijing Council, and Beijing Red Sun also made the top ten list (Xiling, Beijing Highest, Beijing JiuGe, Shanghai Tianheng, and Beijing RongBao, soon follow with global sales in excess of €100m ($150,000)). While the biggest names in Chinese art are Zhang Xiaogang, Zeng Fengzhi and Ai Weiwei, hundreds of other artists are making bank at auction. Alistair Hicks, senior advisor at Deutsche Bank exclaimed, “The speed of everything is quite frightening.”
Part of the freneticism is due to a lack of options; there simply aren’t enough investment opportunities for wealthy Chinese. Anthony Lin, former chairman of Christie’s Asia and former chairman of Christie’s Hong Kong explains, “In China, they don’t have open money markets or commodity markets. For the amount of wealth that has been generated, there aren’t many options for investment. The art market is one of the few areas where there is quite a strong investment position being taken.” Moreover, speculation isn’t considered frowned upon in Chinese society. As Dr. Clare McAndrew concedes, China is “quite undeveloped for the amount of cash floating around… Chinese are more interested in the investment angle of buying and selling art than other countries,” she said. Apart from how speculation directly affects the artists whose values are determined by their supply and demand at auction, the influx of speculative Chinese collectors skews the global figures to appear more robust than in actuality.
LONDON’S RECENT AUCTION SALES show strength in the global art market exemplified by last week’s contemporary auctions. Sotheby’s tallies totaled $206 Million, Christie's brought in $146.8 M, and Phillips de Pury & Company fetched $26.7 M. Artnet reports “the top lot of the London post-war and contemporary sales was Francis Bacon's rather battered-looking Study for a Portrait, 1953, which sold for $28.6 Million -- about $10 Million above its presale estimate -- at Christie's evening auction on June 28, 2011.” Other highlights included a slew of German artists garnering major prices in the likes of Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz, Blinky Palermo, and Sigmar Polke and a number of emerging artists reached new records such as Ugo Rondinone, Beatriz Milhazes, and Ron Mueck.
Sotheby’s held a sale at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, a new exhibition space in London. Of 46 lots, 44 were sold, accumulating a total of $7.3 Million with first place going to artist John Currin’s painting “Edwardian”, obtained for $1.1 M. Art Daily reported that the Serpentine’s Director Hans Ulrich Obrist was very pleased, announcing that “the auction was an overwhelming success. We are incredibly grateful to the artists and Sotheby’s and couldn’t be more delighted with the outcome.” Sotheby’s also held its “Impressionist & Modern Art” sale of the season which brought in over $18 Million, mainly from a sudden upsurge of collectors, mostly new investors looking to diversify their portfolios.
The Financial News reports that art investments are part of a new asset class, an alternative “hedge against inflation and wider currency fluctuation”. The Fine Art Group and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management have reported the same trend, a sudden incline of “passion” investments going into art. Passion investments target unconventional assets like fine art, wine, antique cars, coins, and other collectable items typically associated with pure pleasure, now involving fiscal strategy –the next frontier of investment.
THE LONDON ARTS CLUB HAS NEW OWNERS. Actor Gwyneth Paltrow, venture capitalist Arjun Waney, and investor Gary Landesberg have joined forces to resurrect The Arts Club, co-founded by Charles Dickens in 1863. The team of three plans to install an entirely new collection of works into the space, from a bevy of internationally renown artists. The private member-only establishment has attracted a phenomenal selection of patrons over the past one and a half centuries such as Whistler, Monet, Rodin, and Degas. More recently, it counts Sir Peter Blake and Kim Catrall as members, surely expanding its horizons over the next year, joining forces with other like-minded associations such as Cercle de l'Union Interalliée in Paris and the prestigious HYPERLINK https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Arts_Club"National Arts Club in New York.
QATAR HAS BEEN PINPOINTED AS THE BIGGEST COLLECTOR per capita of contemporary art. The small peninsula is an Arab emirate (not part of the United Emirates) located in the Middle East partially surrounded by the Persian Gulf, and holds the largest oil and natural gas reserves in the world (also, per capita).
According to The Art Newspaper, the Sheikha of Qatar is “behind most of the major modern and contemporary art deals over the past six years… working through a number of advisors, as well as buying directly from dealers and at auction.” The woman performing most of these acquisitions is the daughter of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani (shortened to Sheikha Al Mayassa). At 27, she has led her family to build an impressive collection. She recently announced as the “driving force behind the country’s art buying that Christie’s chairman, Edward Dolman, will become executive director of her office.” Furthermore, “her relative Sheikh Saud Bin Muhammad Bin Ali Al-Thani has always been a passionate art buyer, and was recently named as one of the world’s top ten collectors by Artnews.” It has also been revealed that the family’s main advisor is none other than famed French consultant Philippe Ségalot.
INDIA’S ART MARKET IS ON A NEGATIVE TREND. ArtTactic reports that the top auction houses “lowered the estimates to try to re-ignite buyer interest… The combined total for the three sales (Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Saffronart) came in at $11,660,579 which was almost 21% below the lower pre-sale estimate of $14,886,165 to $21,257,498.” This is partially due to Indian artists flooding the market –there is simply too much supply and not enough demand. John Elliot, a journalist based in Delhi discussed the difficulties concerning India’s declining market referencing the unknown future of MF Husain (who recently passed away) and Francis Newton Souza, both with established ‘brands’. The argument is that Indian artists are simply out of favor. Elliot stresses that artists like Subodh Gupta who “leapt to the forefront of Indian contemporary artists in the mid 2000s… has not done well [recently]… This is not a market for investors looking for quick profits, but it is good for committed collectors, newcomers and established buyers.” However, there is hope. These artists have prospective staying power for other reasons such as the actual size and enduring quality of their work. Dinesh Vazirani, CEO of Saffronart explains, “For an investor, quality matters. The small format works of modern artists like Raza and Hussain, or good works by mid-level modern artists like Arpita Singh and Jogen Chowdhury who have shown in the past that their works do appreciate in value, are good areas to look into.” Like fashion trends, styles that have already made the cut often reappear.
THE GALA-SALVADOR DALI FOUNDATION HELD A CONFERENCE on international forgery June 19-21 in London. The seminar was led by several international experts in the field of authentification and certification against forgery and fake artworks. Artlyst reports, “In addition to the expertise involved in authenticating or cataloguing requisite artistic and forensic rigour, the Seminar… engag[es] in issues that have received relatively little attention in the specialist literature to date.” Topics included: “The authentication process in the major auction houses and galleries: authenticity, connoisseurship and the art market” presented by Michael Findlay, Director of Acquavella Galleries and former International Director of Fine Arts at Christie’s Inc.; “The process of authentication by foundations and other legal entities” presented in part by Christine Pinault, Assistant to Claude Picasso at the Picasso Administration; “Counterfeits, forgeries and the authentication of sculptures” presented by-Veronique Wiesinger, Director of the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti and member of the Authentication Committee; and “The authentication of editioned art” presented by Judith Goldman, member of the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, Inc. and former Curator of Prints at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
AXA ART INSURANCE OWN BY PARISIAN-BASED AXA GROUP recently announced “property & casualty and life Insurance businesses to the Canadian insurance company Intact Financial Corporation.” Although AXA continues to service its Canadian clients, the decision to pull their assets out of the country raises some concern. AXA has yet to explain the reasoning behind their buy-out, apart from financial incentive.
REUTERS REPORTS THAT ART MARKET RESEARCH (AMR) based in London, is expanding its services and outreach to Russian clients. AMR has produced over 500 art indexes since 1985 counting Christie's, Sotheby's, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as clients and their findings are published by The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Businessweek, The Art Newspaper and other reputable news sources. In terms of AMR’s expansion into new territory, its director Robin Duthy affirms, “Russia is a country of vast opportunities… [with] great potential of its art market as well as in the swift development of the Russian banking system." By 2012, the firm plans to partner with the Moscow-based company Kollection to pursue new Russian collectors and investors.
THE FINANCIAL TIMES RECENTLY INTERVIEWED CHRISTIE’S AUCTIONEER Emmanuelle Vidal-Delagneau. As an art world veteran, she has helped organized several high profile auctions including the Nathaniel and Albert von Rothschild sale in 1999 and the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge collection sale in 2009. She shares some candid advice pertaining to the mechanics of the art world and general career insight, deserving of a quick read-through at the following link: https://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/1f300996-90fd-11e0-acfd-00144feab49a.html#axzz1R7bIFckB
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