Monday, January 28, 2013


New York Old Master auctions preview: so much to see, so little time
Twelve sales in three days make the season a sprint rather than a stroll—but works by Batoni and Carracci are worth slowing down to see

By Paul Jeromack. Art Market, Issue 242, January 2012
Published online: 21 January 2013

Every year it gets worse. Each January, Sotheby’s and Christie’s New York hold their annual Old Master blowout. And every year, they cram their competing sales into shrinking time periods, making it impossible for anyone to attend a paintings sale without missing a drawings sale and vice versa. Twelve sales (eight at Sotheby’s and four at Christie’s) are, with one exception, shoehorned into three days—30 and 31 January and 1 February. Avoiding the daytime crush is Sotheby’s evening sale of works from the estate of Giancarlo Baroni (29 January, including an early El Greco—The Entombment of Christ, mid-1570s, estimated at $1m to $1.5m). The scheduling is particularly frustrating this year because both houses feature unusually strong offerings. Here are some of the notable lots.


Christie’s big event is the Renaissance sale on 30 January, featuring paintings, drawings, prints and decorative arts. The star lot is a rare earlytondo by Fra Bartolommeo: The Madonna and Child, around 1495, in its original frame (est $10m-$15m). This is followed by not one, but two, Botticellis: the recently identified and very early Madonna and Child with a Pomegranate, painted in the early 1460s, when Botticelli was still in the studio of his teacher, Fra Fillippo Lippi (est $3m-$5m), and the “Rockefeller” Madonna and Child with the Young Saint John the Baptist, around 1493 (est $5m-$7m). More exciting is a later Italian painting—a rediscovered altarpiece of The Annunciation, around 1585, by Annibale Carracci, which until now was only known to the wider public from an old, undated black-and-white photograph.

Excluding the sketchy head studies and genre subjects of varying quality that appear at auction every so often and are attributed to various members of the Carracci family, paintings by Annibale are seldom encountered, and this well-preserved, relatively early work is of the highest quality, melding the influences of his cousin Ludovico, Titian and Correggio. It is the most important work by the artist to come to market since Boy Drinking, around 1582-83, which came from the Peter Jay Sharp collection and sold at Sotheby’s New York in 1994 for $2.2m, and which is now at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Christie’s estimates The Annunciation at $1.5m to $2.5m, which seems cheap. 

In 2007, the New York dealer Otto Naumann streamlined the pictures and decorative arts in his gallery by selling the excess in a special auction at Sotheby’s New York (sale total $2.9m). Now, Christie’s is featuring an additional 22 pictures from his inventory—something Naumann calls a necessary adjustment owing to the sale of his large New York townhouse in favour of a modern apartment that doesn’t have sufficient wall space. There are some terrific and reasonably estimated Dutch pictures here, notably a beautiful Hermit Praying, 1663, by Rembrandt’s pupil Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (est $150,000-$200,000), Paying the Hostess, around 1650-55, by the underrated Ludolf de Jongh (est $120,000-$180,000) and a Madonna and Child with Angels, around 1603-05, by the rarely seen Flemish master Dirck de Quade van Ravesteyn, painted at the court of Rudolph II of Prague (est $80,000-$120,000).


Pompeo Batoni is best known today as the leading 18th-century Roman portraitist of British aristocrats making their “Grand Tour”, but his religious and secular paintings have received little attention. As recently as 1960, John Walker, then the director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, rejected Batoni’s grand Triumph of Venice (his first major non-religious painting, made in 1737 for Marco Foscarini, the Venetian ambassador to the Papal court) when he had first pick of the works being donated by the Kress Foundation, with the rejects distributed among dozens of museums nationwide. Batoni’s masterpiece was sent to the North Carolina Museum of Art.

Now, Sotheby’s features one of Batoni’s most dramatic figural compositions, a large canvas of Susanna and the Elders, which was commissioned in 1751 by Count Ernst Guido von Harrach of Vienna and sent by the Harrach family for sale in London in 1991. It was bought in but was acquired by the present consignor the following year. The work, which measures 99cm by 136cm, has not been seen in public for more than 40 years. Unusually, Batoni de-emphasises the erotic, voyeuristic allure commonly seen in most depictions of the subject and opts instead for intimidating terror as the frightened woman does her best to cover herself while the two leering elders hover over her and paw at her clothes (est $6m-$9m, sale on 31 January).

Of particular interest is Sotheby’s consignment of 16 pictures from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, primarily 15th-century Italian paintings by or from the workshops of Bicci di Lorenzo, Matteo di Giovanni and Bartolomeo Vivarini, to be sold on 31 January. The most surprising discard is a rare double-sided panel of The Adoration of the Magi (recto) with The Throne of Grace (verso), around 1493-95, from the workshop of the Master of the Holy Kinship, a 15th-century Cologne painter not otherwise represented in the Met’s rather small collection of early German paintings. It was bought by the museum in 1926 from A.S. Drey of Munich. Severe condition problems have kept it off display for decades, and it is therefore estimated low at $100,000 to $150,000.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Open it and they will come. You hope…
A number of galleries are making the move in search of the right area

By Charlotte Burns. Focus, Issue 242, January 2012
Published online: 16 January 2013

One of the great truisms about Los Angeles is the huge amount of cheap space available. But, in a city so vast and with such fast-moving cultural centres, finding the best place to establish a space can be complicated, according to galleries and LA real estate agents.

Culver City—cluster central

“When we moved here nine years ago, it cost $1 per sq. ft. Now it’s much more, though still affordable,” says Tim Blum, the co-founder of Blum & Poe. “If you are doing great things in a great space, serious people will show up. But to keep growing with your artists you’ll have to keep up on real estate moves because to be at the top of the heap you must have great space, great programming, great parking and be easy to find,” he adds. 

After the gallery bought and renovated a building in the area, others followed, and Culver City remains one of the few real gallery hubs in Los Angeles. Nonetheless, real estate agent Martin McDermott of Avison Young says that while galleries in the area “got close to pulling off a solid location, it lacks parking and amenities—and things works best when restaurants and bars join in with the galleries”. 

Hollywood—up and coming

Regen Projects became a major lynchpin in the area after buying and renovating a large new space, which opened in September. “The most promising area of development in terms of available space and affordable price is Hollywood. It’s easy to reach from both the west and east, and there are storefronts and warehouse spaces available. Parts of Hollywood have fallen into disrepair, but others have already been redeveloped,” says the longstanding LA gallerist Michael Kohn, who has bought a building on Highland Avenue. His new space is scheduled to open next year. 

More space is now available because old Hollywood industries are dying out, says Hannah Hoffman, who also plans to open a new gallery in the area next year. “It’s an old manufacturing part of town, and as the Hollywood industry becomes increasingly digitised, its need for physical space decreases—I’ve seen a few film archives cleared into dumpsters as the building gets turned into retail space.” 

“What makes this area work is that it is closer than the downtown areas, such as the Arts District, Chinatown, Echo Park, etc, to where the money is for art—Hancock Park, Beverly Hills, West LA, but it still has edge,” adds Martin McDermott. 

West Hollywood and Beverly Hills—ker-ching!

“Cheap is relative. West Hollywood galleries are moving to Hollywood, for example,” says McDermott. While major-brand gallery Gagosian remains in the area, many others have been priced out. “The highbrow parts of LA are quite expensive: Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, and parts of Santa Monica cost around $10 to $30 per sq. ft, per month,” says Michael Kohn. 

Downtown—wait and see

The “Grand Avenue Project”, which was born a decade ago during a real-estate boom, finally seems to be gathering momentum, mainly thanks to the efforts of billionaire art collector Eli Broad. He plans to open the Broad Museum there in 2014, near the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, which he supports financially, and close to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which Broad oversaw fundraising for. Nonetheless, the galleries are not necessarily following suit because, while rents are cheap, few collectors want to travel there. “The area is an institutional cultural hub, not an organic one. It’s a complete non-event if one is discussing ‘cool areas’,” says real estate agent Chuck Cowley of Cowley Real Estate Partners. Nonetheless, Peter Goulds, the director of LA Louver, believes that “eventually it will all be downtown—even though people in LA might think I’m not in my right mind to say so.” 

Chinatown—once hot, now not

Chinatown had a real moment in the early 2000s when galleries flocked to the area, but lost ground in the latter part of the decade when major galleries including Peres Projects (which now operates only from Berlin) and David Kordansky migrated to Culver City. “Chinatown was cool [be]cause it was exotic and cheap, but it inevitably had to change—it’s just too far,” says Tim Blum. 

Nonetheless, some notable galleries remain in the area, including The Box, a project space run by Mary McCarthy, the daughter of the artist Paul McCarthy, and the Thomas Solomon Gallery, which previously existed as the influential space Thomas Solomon’s Garage between 1987 and 1996. 

Where are all the artists?

Silver Lake “was cool about 15 years ago”, says Tim Blum, adding that Highland Park is a major hub for artists and musicians, and that the far southeast area of downtown is becoming a spot for large cheap studios with artists such as Sterling Ruby and Sam Durant there. 

The young gallerist Thomas Duncan says that “a good deal of the studio visits I have done have been in Eagle Rock or Highland Park,” though adds that he visits artists “all over the city, from Venice to East LA.

Real estate agent Chuck Cowley advises artists to “look south of Silver Lake to Echo Park, Westlake or south of the 10 freeway. Alternatively, north of Silver Lake, roughly running along the southeast 5, beginning in Atwater Village to Glassell Park, to the area of Glendale along the LA River, to Chinatown, to the Arts District and into Vernon.”

Gallerist Hannah Hoffman, new to LA, votes for “Topanga Canyon. It is beautiful if a little secluded, with lots of land—and not too bad of a drive to the beach.”

To read more from the Los Angeles focus in our January issue, pick up a copy on newsstands or subscribe to our digital or print editions.


Keeping it strictly old school
LA teaching is still top for next generation of artists

By Charlotte Burns and Helen Stoilas. Focus, Issue 242, January 2012
Published online: 16 January 2013

Los Angeles’ art schools are the stuff of legend. Since the 1960s, students have flocked to the city to study under the likes of Allan Kaprow, Chris Burden, John Baldessari and Paul McCarthy. The system of artists teaching artists has made the city into a mecca for creative talent, although the local art market has struggled to establish itself as a major hub, and the city’s museums have yet to attract the visitors and patronage enjoyed by other centres such as New York or London. Such is the schools’ wealth and reputation that the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (LA MoCA), recently embarked on discussions to create a partnership with the University of Southern California (USC), which is in the middle of an aggressive $6bn fundraising drive.

“LA is first and foremost a city where the schools dominate,” says Paul Schimmel, the former chief curator at LA MoCA. “The best and the brightest apply to LA because the schools have unprecedented success—if you get in, then you’re one step closer.” 

“The MFA programmes attract a lot of talented young artists, but also established artists, fostering an intergenerational conversation. It is very Californian—the casual absence of hierarchy,” says Mieke Marple, the co-director of the Night Gallery. 

The not-so-secret ingredient to the success of LA’s art schools is that the teachers are working artists themselves. “When you had people like Robert Irwin and Ed Moses teaching at UC Irvine in the 1960s, it demonstrated to the other schools that bringing in strong personalities creates a fulcrum around which you can build a programme,” says the director of the LA Louver gallery, Peter Goulds, who came to the West Coast as a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) visiting lecturer in 1972. 

Most teaching artists were then struggling, so the school salary was “the fundamental resource which gave artists the means to become the artists they became,” Schimmel says. “For many of the artists we think of as celebrities today, teaching was essential.” 

Students learn a lot from working with practising artists. “People who are teaching in the schools are very much showing, there’s that aspect of non-direct teaching. The students see what it’s like to be under the pressure of a deadline, the various kinds of production issues,” says Thomas Lawson, the dean of CalArts. 

The artist Paul Sietsema exemplifies the system. Now a visiting lecturer at USC’s Roski School of Fine Arts, he studied at UCLA under Chris Burden, Charles Ray and Paul McCarthy. “They were all showing an awful lot and they were still in a formative stage in their careers, which I think is very important for people who are learning,” he says. “For me, part of it was just seeing someone do it.”

But what was once a relatively small art school community is now big business. “One of the dangers of some art programmes is that they’re now treated more like professional finishing schools,” Sietsema says. A big concern, says Schimmel, is “dealers and collectors coming into graduate studios and recruiting [artists] like football coaches. It wasn’t like that 20 years ago.” 

Perhaps in reaction, the schools are gearing themselves towards different kinds of teaching. “I’m very sceptical of the personality-driven model,” Lawson says. He says that the most successful schools push for the development of individual voices: “The implication behind the question of who is the great teacher is who is going to be creating a bunch of little clones.” 

Smaller programmes and collaborative faculties are favoured. USC has emerged as one of the leaders in the past few years, overtaking CalArts and UCLA, which previously led the pack. “I feel as though I had several ‘mentors’. It was not the kind of experience where one person takes you under their wing and shows you the ropes,” says Sean Townley, a recent USC graduate (see p18). “I like USC because of how intense it is, and how small it is,” Sietsema says.

The cycle continues. “The older guard is retiring but many mid-career artists who don’t have such huge names but are top artists are taking their places,” says the art adviser Lisa Schiff. CalArts is searching to fill two teaching positions this year, which will result in “some significant changes”, Lawson says. The Mountain School of Arts is on the move after the closure of the bar where it held classes. While Los Angeles might be evolving, says the critic Andrew Berardini, “the schools still are still where most legends begin.”

To read more from the Los Angeles focus in our January issue, pick up a copy on newsstands or subscribe to our digital or print editions


Munich to get its own Fourth Plinth
Scandinavian artists Elmgreen and Dragset are organising temporary art commissions in Germany

By Clemens Bomsdorf. Web only
Published online: 15 January 2013

Elmgreen and Dragset plan to bring their sculpture for Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth to Germany. A replica of the artists’ boy on a hobbyhorse work, currently on view in London until April, is to be placed on Wittelsbacherplatz, a square in downtown Munich, as part of a €1.2m project to bring art in public spaces, organised by the Scandinavian artists. “For ages the Fourth Plinth was a problem for London. It just stood there, empty. Then it became one of the most fantastic art projects. Sometimes you need problems to get great ideas. Maybe Munich does not have enough problems, so we are bringing them one,” says Michael Elmgreen.

Elmgreen and Dragset have been commissioned by the German city to organise the temporary art project titled “A Space Called Public/Hoffentlich Öffentlich” (Hopefully public) starting 29 January and running until September. “We chose the two because they question public space with very unconventional projects and also have a good track record as curators,” says Hans-Georg Küppers, the director of Munich’s department of arts and culture. 

The pair have invited other artists to participate, and the first work to go on view is Phantom by the British artist Stephen Hall, a reproduction of the empty Fourth Plinth itself. Other artists contributing to “A Space Called Public” include Kirsten Pieroth, Ragnar Kjartansson, Ivan Argote, Henrik Olesen, Han Chong and Peter Weibel. 

“Public spaces often gets packed with art, which then is soon forgotten. Temporary projects can create more change,” says Küppers. “I do not want to sound like the old guy complaining about the youth, but I think public space is not used anymore for meeting people and for feeling that you are part of a group, belonging together. More and more nowadays this is happening on the internet. But you can only really be a citizen by sharing in a public space, it should be reclaimed”, says Elmgreen. 


Artist interview, Walid Raad: a mediator between worlds
The artist challenges historical narratives in his Islamic-inspired show at the Louvre this month

By Louisa Buck. Features, Issue 242, January 2012
Published online: 15 January 2013

The art of Walid Raad uses the language and procedures of museums and academia—the archive, the slide show, the PowerPoint presentation, the wall-mounted information panel, the documentary photograph—to exude an air of informative authority. In his illustrated lectures and his multimedia installations this month at the Louvre, and, among other places, at the 2002 Whitney Biennial, the 2003 Venice Biennale, Documentas 11 and 13 and London’s Whitechapel Gallery, the 45-year-old artist comes across as a scholarly researcher-historian, examining the recent history of his native Lebanon and, over the past five years, the forging of art history in the context of the new art institutions proliferating in the Arab world.

In his latest project, Raad, who divides his time between Beirut and New York, where he is associate professor of art at the Cooper Union, continues to assume the role of a documenter and assembler of information and artefacts. “Walid Raad:Preface to the First Edition”, his new show in the Louvre’s Salle de la Maquette (19 January-8 April), consists of a video, a sculptural installation and a publication. They each take as their starting point the museum’s new department of Islamic art and its collection of 18,000 objects, some of which are destined to be loaned to the new Louvre in Abu Dhabi

“These works are part of a larger, ongoing project that proceeds from the acceleration in the building of this new infrastructure for the arts in the Gulf, particularly in Abu Dhabi and Qatar,” Raad says, speaking on the telephone from his studio in New York. “I don’t know that much about Islamic art. All this is very new to me, but some of these objects I see in the display in the Louvre and at the Met—their lines, their forms and their colours—have been very productive for me. I saw the opening for a new kind of concept, a new creative act.” 

This new concept manifests itself in Raad’s video, which features 28 Islamic artefacts from the Louvre that have been earmarked for its Jean Nouvel-designed sister museum on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. The video revolves around Raad’s notion that, “when these objects travel overseas, they will change in ways that are more insidious than the curators, conservators or museum directors could have predicted”. It is the story of these altered objects—how they have changed and why—that comprises Raad’s documentary film and the accompanying book, Preface to the Third Edition. “One person will be convinced that the objects themselves have changed and that change will only appear in certain photographs that this person will make,” he says.

These shape-shifting artefacts make up just one among many peculiar narratives that, for more than a decade, have run through Raad’s seemingly sober archival displays. For while the overarching political events and circumstances that shape and inform Raad’s work are very real, the narratives and episodes he recounts in his photographs, videos and wall displays are predominantly his own. 

“I use the conventions of display or the modes of address associated with an authoritative curatorial voice not so much to destabilise as to delay a challenge and to open a space to perform another kind of narrative,” he says. “I choose to lean on and play with these modes at the same time.”

Walid Raad was born in Chbanieh in Lebanon in 1967 and raised in predominantly Christian East Beirut. After the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon, he fled the country in 1983 for the US, first to study medicine at Boston University before transferring to the Rochester Institute of Technology to study photography. He then went on to the University of Rochester, where he earned a doctorate in visual and cultural studies. Although Raad does not elaborate on his ethnic or religious origins, or take a political position, in his writings, lectures or interviews, his personal experiences of growing up in a war-torn city have fed directly into his work. “You have to become expert in things you never thought you needed,” he says, remembering how, when he arrived in America, “I found myself moving to the other side of the street every time I encountered a white Mercedes-Benz in the corner of my eye… and trying to avoid glass façades.” 

Between 1999 and 2004, Raad exhibited his work under the aegis of the anonymous-sounding Atlas Group, which described itself as a team of researchers whose aim was “to research and document the contemporary history of Lebanon, with particular emphasis on the wars of 1975-90”. So convincing was this archive of assembled documents and testimonials—from such characters as Dr Faol Fakhouri, “foremost historian of the Lebanese civil wars”, whose 226 notebooks included cut-out photographs of cars corresponding to the make, model and colour of every vehicle used as a car bomb during the war years; or the hostage Souheil Bachar, whose video account of being held captive by a Lebanese militia was shown at Documenta 11—that despite Raad making no secret of the fact that the Atlas Group was a fictitious foundation, it was hard for many viewers to believe that its output was created by one man. 

The fictions of history

In its meticulous archiving and presentation of such bafflingly bizarre material as the footage shot by Operator #17, a Lebanese army intelligence officer who, instead of monitoring Beirut’s seaside Corniche every day, “decided to videotape the sunset instead”, or the little-known “avid gambling” by major historians of the Lebanese wars, who bet not on the horses at Beirut’s race track but on their distance in newspaper photographs from the finishing line, the Atlas Group subversively—and often very wittily—questioned notions of truth, authority and documentation and the veracity of so-called historical accounts. “It is important for us to note that the truth of the documents we research/ collect does not depend for us on their factual accuracy,” declared Raad in an interview in 2002. “One of the questions we find ourselves asking is, ‘how do we approach facts not in their crude facticity but through the complicated mediations by which they acquire their immediacy?’ Traditional history is written as a chronology of events or a biography of participants. We are not saying history should not include this; we are certainly saying history cannot be reduced to this.” 

Ten years on, Walid Raad is still preoccupied by “complicated mediations” and the “other kinds of narrative” that emanate from them. But now the main focus of his attention has extended beyond the specific situation in Lebanon to the formation of a history of art in today’s Arab world. Although he admits that he will still “attribute a document to the Atlas Group if it shares the logic of violence and trauma that the Atlas Group was operating under”, he has, since 2007, been involved in an ongoing project entitled Scratching on Things I Could Disavow: a History of Art in the Arab World. The Preface to the Third Edition at the Louvre is its latest strand. 

This new line of enquiry both draws on and departs from the work of the Atlas Group. It still plays with, and off, fact and fiction but is underpinned more by absence and withdrawal. Physical infrastructures may be springing up to house today’s Arab culture, but, according to this incisive new body of work, the art itself is perhaps more elusive. Whereas Raad describes the Atlas Group’s artefacts as “hysterical documents… based on fantasies erected from the material of collective memories”, in the various manifestations of Scratching, which had its first extensive airing at Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, in 2011, and at Documenta 13 last summer, he shifts his attention from issues of truth and falsehood to more profound and complex explorations around fellow Lebanese author and film-maker Jalal Toufic’s theory of “surpassing disasters”—calamities so great that their impact goes beyond destructive psychological and material outcomes to make the very stuff of culture withdraw and disappear and change form. 

“I became sensitive to how a history of violence affects a work in more insidious ways than I ever thought,” Raad says, “and that one of the effects might be manifest in the fact that a work will shrink, or that it will act like the mirror in vampire films, revealing the withdrawal of what we think is still there.” 

There is a provocative elusiveness to many of the works within Raad’s Scratching project. Take Index XXV1 ‘Artists’, 2010, a barely visible but official-looking list of Lebanese artists from the past century written in white vinyl letters on a white wall, which, according to Raad, were sent by “artists from the future… by way of telepathy and/or thought insertion and/or using a future technology”. Playful wit is spliced with serious concerns about a culture in long-term trauma and the works it produces, with Raad suggesting that “colours, lines, shapes and forms… deploy defensive measures, hide, take refuge, camouflage and dissimulate”, or, as he suggests in his video at the Louvre, historical artefacts can transform in transit. 

Guggenheim boycott

Although he emphasises that it is “one consequential but small part of my interest”, another aspect of Raad’s engagement with the Arab world’s emerging new cultural infrastructure has taken a more direct form. As a member of GulfLabor, a group of international artists that also includes Hans Haacke, Sam Durant and Tania Bruguera, Raad has been instrumental in petitioning the director of the Guggenheim, Richard Armstrong, “to protect the rights of workers employed in the construction and maintenance of [the Guggenheim’s] new branch museum in Abu Dhabi”. In March last year, he was one of 130 art-world figures to sign up to a boycott of the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim “over the exploitation of foreign migrant workers building the museum on Saadiyat Island”. 

At the time of writing, the Guggenheim boycott still stands, subject to GulfLabor’s scrutiny of a monitoring report by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Raad is diplomatically upbeat, declaring the PwC report to be “frankly surprising” in its transparency. “If the Gulf is interested in building the most progressive, the most fantastic infrastructure for the arts, then it must not just include the most amazing building, the most amazing works, curators and engineers, but also the most amazing and progressive laws on the basis of which these buildings are being built,” he says. “This is an extraordinary opportunity to do something that is unlike anything else—and we want to help them. The Guggenheim had a collection to build and was inviting us to participate, and when that dialogue started I felt, OK, I’m being given a voice here, and is it simply a voice in the sense of ‘which works do I want to sell?’ or is it ‘how do we build a fantastic infrastructure for the arts that is sensitive to the historical, aesthetic, formal, critical and labour issues’? And it seems as if the Guggenheim is interested in this conversation.”

In the final reckoning, Raad is committed to expressing his political, historical and theoretical concerns in a medium that is emphatically visual. “I’m working with line, colour, shape and form,” he says. “Whether it’s a war or this massive infrastructure, you confront an event like this emotionally, aesthetically, historically, conceptually, and you see an opening for a new form, a gesture that must do justice to the complexity of this experience. Physical universes are being built all the time. How do you build one that doesn’t collapse in a few seconds? That’s a challenge.”

Walid Raad:Preface to the First Edition, Louvre, Paris, 19 January-8 April


Aristocrat’s Impressionist collection to be sold
Paintings by Monet, Sisley, Pissarro and Gauguin, estimated at more than £8m and assembled by ninth Earl of Jersey, to be auctioned at Sotheby’s next month

By Martin Bailey. Web only
Published online: 15 January 2013

Impressionist pictures owned by the Earl of Jersey are to be sold in London on 5-6 February. “They represent the best collection of Impressionism assembled by a British aristocrat,” according to Philip Hook, a senior specialist at Sotheby’s.

The ninth Earl of Jersey (1910-98) began to collect before the Second World War, initially under the influence of his second wife, the Hollywood actress Virginia Cherrill (she had been earlier married to actor Cary Grant). Most pictures were bought in the 1940s, initially for their house in Mayfair, in central London

The two most important paintings coming up for sale are Monet’s snowscape Le Givre à Giverny, 1885, (est £4m-£6m) and Sisley’s La Tamise avec Hampton Church, 1874, (est £900,000-£1.2m). The Sisley, which has been recently cleaned, was done during one of the Paris-born artist’s visits to England

Other works in the evening sale are Pissarro’s La Seine à Port-Marly, 1872, Monet’s Un moulin à Zaandam, 1871, Boudin’s Scène de plage à Trouville, 1868, and Gauguin’s La maison blanche, 1885, (est £800,000-£1.2m). The Gauguin appears to have been exhibited in the final Impressionist exhibition as “The Château of the English Lady”, which raises the intriguing question of who was owner of the house near Varengeville.

Sotheby’s day sale will have 15 more Jersey pictures, with works by Boudin, Corot, Dufy, Dyf, Jongkind, Lépine, Pissarro and Utrillo. The Pissarro, Usine à Saint-Ouen, is being sold under a settlement agreement with the heirs of the 1930s owner, Tilla Durieux, the actress and widow of the dealer Paul Cassirer. The total estimate for the Jersey pictures is £8m-£11.8m. 

The collection, which was moved to Radier Manor on the island of Jersey, has never been shown together, although a small group of works was exhibited at the Jersey Art Gallery in 1952. The ninth Earl’s third wife, Bianca, died in 2005 and the paintings are now owned by several heirs. William Villiers, the grandson of the ninth Earl and a film producer, is the tenth and current earl.


Art Basel Hong Kong embraces Asian identity
Organisers announce the roll call for the first edition under new ownership

By Melanie Gerlis. Web only
Published online: 15 January 2013

Art Basel Hong Kong has announced the dealers who will be showing in what is officially its first edition (23-26 May). This is, in reality, a continuation of five years of growth of what was ArtHK, in which Art Basel acquired a controlling share nearly two years ago.

There are signs of some influence of the new parent company: the number of exhibitors is being “tightened”, says the Asian fair’s director, Magnus Renfrew (down from a total of 266 in 2012 to 245 this year), partly because dealers want larger booths in which to show their wares. There is also more emphasis on older works—in keeping with both the market’s trend away from contemporary art and Art Basel’s more historic presentation—but with a distinctly Asian feel. For example, says Renfrew, one newcomer this year is Tina Keng gallery, from Taiwan, a specialist in Asian modern masters; another is the Delhi Art Gallery, which will show work by modern Indian artists. Post-war Japanese work will be on view at the Los Angeles gallery Blum & Poe and New York’s McCaffrey Fine Art (both showing in the Hong Kong fair for the third year running). “There is a different aesthetic that can be difficult to understand, having more historical work should address that,” says Renfrew.

Organisers are keen to emphasise just how Asian this fair is; it had previously been criticised for neglecting its regional roots before its collector base was ready for the gloss (and prices) of the international art market. This year, organisers say that over 50% of galleries are from Asia and the Asia Pacific region—although this includes Western galleries that have set up shop in Asia, such as Gagosian and White Cube, both of whom recently opened in Hong Kong. The numbers are further swelled by the fair’s subsection Insights, which is dedicated to 47 galleries from Asia and the Asia Pacific region (including Turkey and the Middle East). But of the 171 galleries in the main section (and still using the criteria as above), the percentage of Asian galleries is still up, from 40% last year to 43% in 2013, considerably higher than at other international fairs.

Western newcomers this year include New York’s 303 and Peter Blum galleries, and Wentrup and Johnen Galerie from Berlin. Those not coming back include London’s Maureen Paley and New York’s Eleven Rivington, who both only exhibited at the fair last year, as well as art fair stalwart Cheim & Read (which has shown at the fair for the past two years and whose staff had Mandarin lessons prior to ArtHK’s 2011 edition). A spokesman for the gallery says they have decided to “take a year off”. 

The fair also announced that its 2014 edition will be held 15-18 May, so there will be little relief from the jam-packed May-to-June art fair calendar (although there will be four weeks between the Hong Kong and Basel editions in 2014, rather than the two weeks—with the Venice Biennale squeezed in between—this year). “It’s not a simple topic; if it were, it would have been solved a while ago,” says Marc Spiegler, Art Basel’s director.

A full list of exhibitors is due to be on today


Picasso murals under threat
Government contemplates tearing down buildings damaged during terrorist attack in Oslo

By Clemens Bomsdorf. Conservation, Issue 242, January 2012
Published online: 14 January 2013

The Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage fears that Picasso’s first monumental concrete murals, which were made between the late 1950s and the early 1970s for two government buildings in Oslo, may be destroyed. The buildings were severely damaged during the deadly terrorist attack in the Norwegian capital in July 2011. The government is now considering whether to demolish the Modernist buildings that form the regjeringskvartal or government quarter.

“If the buildings were demolished and the murals integrated into new ones or brought to another site, they would no longer be the works Picasso intended,” says Jørn Holme, the head of the Directorate for Cultural Heritage.

After the attack on 22 July, Rigmor Aasrud, the minister for government administration, reform and church affairs, publicly asked whether it would be better to demolish the buildings. Holme and others think Aasrud’s question suggests that she wants to tear down the buildings, although a spokesman for the ministry declined to comment when approached by The Art Newspaper last month. A few months before the attack, the government and the directorate agreed that the buildings (known as Y- and H-block) should be listed, but moves to protect them were not followed up after the bombing.

The ministry has asked several architects to propose suggestions for the regjeringskvartal, providing options to both retain and demolish the buildings. The architects will present their proposals this summer. A report by the Directorate for Cultural Heritage concluded that, despite the bombing, the buildings are not unsafe and can still be used. “We still think that listing is appropriate. The buildings [are not only important] because of the works of art [that were] made especially for them, they are also a cornerstone in Norwegian architectural history and stand for the country’s development as a welfare state after the Second World War,” Holme says. The structu­res were built in the 1950s and 1960s with breccia—a building technique using natural concrete—which was popular in Norway after the war. 

Picasso made sketches for five murals to be executed on the buildings’ interiors and exteriors. The largest, The Fisherman, 1970, is installed on the façade of Y-block. The Norwegian artists Inger Sitter, Kai Fjell and Carl Nesjar, among others, also made works for the buildings. 

According to Holme, these decorative elements are also worth preserving. It was Nesjar who was responsible for applying Picasso’s sketches to the building. “It was the first time Picasso worked with breccia. Without [the project in] Oslo, he would probably not have realised similar works in Barcelona and Stockholm,” says Leif Anker from Holme’s directorate. It is also important to Nesjar that the buildings be kept. “The works of art in concrete were made and designed for very particular spaces [such as] the stairwell walls and lobby,” the artist says. “[The art, the architecture and the materials used] make the whole complex a unique and original work of art. It is important to keep the whole assembly of buildings as a unit.”

Statsbygg, a company that advises the Norwegian government on construction and property, agreed before the attack that the buildings should be listed. Representatives declined, however, to comment on the future of the buildings.


Writer’s shrine to get epic treatment
International team of artists and designers to create park dedicated to author of Master and Margarita

By Sophia Kishkovsky. Museums, Issue 242, January 2012
Published online: 14 January 2013

The Italian architect Gabriele Filippini and his Russian wife, Olga Moskvina, who won a competition run by the Moscow city government to transform a small writer’s museum into a multimedia “literary park”, plan to involve international artists and designers to realise their ambitious vision.

The Mikhail Bulgakov State Museum, one of two institutions in Moscow dedicated to the life of the writer and playwright Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940), is housed in a former communal apartment in which the author lived during the 1920s. The architects want to involve other museums and the nearby Patriarch’s Pond neighbourhood, the setting of Bulgakov’s masterpiece, The Master and Margarita. 

The novel, written between 1928 and 1940, was banned until the 1960s and censored for decades afterwards. It is a satirical portrait of life under Stalin that includes a mystical interpretation of philosophical questions. The main characters include the devil, in the guise of a mysterious visitor named Woland, and Begemot, a huge talking black cat. (A magnificent furry black cat holds court in the city-funded Bulgakov museum. He also spends time in the privately funded Bulgakov museum, which is in the same building, and is happy to be petted by visitors to both.) Christ, Pontius Pilate and Judas also feature in the novel, which is one reason why it was banned. 

Ambitious vision

Filippini and Moskvina were due to present a final version of the scheme as we went to press, having won the competition to expand the museum in October. Their plan includes holding performances on a floating stage on the pond. In a round-table discussion in November, Filippini said that two to three years are needed to “realise our concept”. Moskvina told the RIA Novosti news agency that the designer, Maurizio Morini, is working with the British artist and film director Peter Greenaway to develop special effects for the project. A member of the competition jury, the cultural critic Grigory Revzin, said that Filippini’s project aims to raise the museum to an “international level”. He is keen to involve the US theatre designer Robert Wilson, “whose very presence [will] become an additional virtue of the museum”. The budget and exact timescale are yet to be announced.

The project is part of a sweeping upgrade of cultural institutions being overseen by Sergei Kapkov, the associate of the billionaire Roman Abramovich who was appointed to run Moscow’s culture department in 2011.

The city-run museum opened in 2007. It displays photographs, furniture, books and objects related to Bulgakov and recreates the atmosphere and conditions of communal life among the intelligentsia during the Great Terror of the Stalin era. 

The privately funded Bulgakov museum is slightly older, having opened in 2004. It is housed in another apartment in the same building. Tension between rival groups laying claim to Bulgakov’s territory and heritage recalls scenes from The Master and Margarita. A similar dispute is brewing over Moscow’s plans to revamp a museum devoted to the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. 

Since the 1970s, hippies and fans of Bulgakov have settled in various parts of the building, which is also known for a graffiti-covered stairwell inspired by Bulgakov’s life and his most famous novel. 

Monday, January 7, 2013


Serra’s ‘threat’ to Broad collection
Curator argues artists’ law can place “moral rights” above historical accuracy

By Laura Gilbert. News, Issue 242, January 2012
Published online: 10 January 2013

An independent curator has claimed that Richard Serra threatened to withdraw one of his works from the collection of Eli and Edythe Broad if he was not allowed to rework the drawing. Magdalena Dabrowski, speaking to an audience of lawyers and art appraisers in New Yorkrecently, argued that historical accuracy is being compromised as a result of the Visual Artists Rights Act (Vara), which gives artists “moral rights” to disclaim their works and prevent their alteration by third parties.

Dabrowski organised an exhibition of drawings by Serra at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011. The artist reworked some of his earlier pieces for the show, which closed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in January 2012. 

Some of the drawings that Serra reworked had been damaged or destroyed, and the artist recreated them specifically for the show. The Met hinted at this by labelling the works with two dates: that of the original and that of the reworked version. Serra says it is not important whether audiences know which version they are seeing. “There’s no aura of originality because it’s an anonymous surface. It’s a difference without a value. I try to keep surfaces as anonymous as possible,” he tells The Art Newspaper. He says he owned the drawings he recreated, and destroyed the works they replaced.

Broad brushstrokes

Serra also reworked The United States Government Destroys Art, a drawing owned by the collectors Eli and Edythe Broad. He gave it a new surface shortly before the exhibition opened and insisted on dating the work 1989, when it was first made. “Serra felt that 1989 was the inception and therefore the drawing was only a 1989 work. Moral rights gave him the right to that date as opposed to historical accuracy,” Dabrowski says.

“The drawing was abraded,” she adds. “Serra felt it was a conservation issue. I asked him, ‘Should we double-date it because of the new surface?’ He said no because the concept has not been reworked.” She says that Serra threatened to “remove the work from the exhibit and withdraw it from the [owners’] collection” if he was not allowed to restore the work in the way he wanted. Serra denies saying he would withdraw the work from the Broad collection. “If a work is damaged and the surface is anonymous and the client agrees, I restore it,” he says. Asked if he would have disclaimed the drawing if the Broads had not agreed, Serra would only say: “That’s hypothetical.” 

As to whether he has ever disowned a work, Serra says: “I never disclaimed. I don’t recall. That may have been the case. Let me put it this way: usually…if a work is destroyed or damaged and there is the possibility of recovering it, then if it can be saved, I try to save it… I think it’s my responsibility to make sure the work exists in the way I want it to exist.” A spokeswoman for the Broad Foundations said: "The Broads consider US Government Destroys Art one of the most important works on paper in their collection and Richard among the most important artists working today." 

“The art historian tracks down the facts and integrates them,” says one former employee of a major museum, but sometimes decisions are made between trustees, curators and artists, and “art historians will never hear about it”. The question remains: how far does an artist have the right to go to control his or her work?

This article includes a response from the Broad Foundations, which was not received in time for the print edition.


What’s in store for the market?
The growing numbers of the super-rich should keep the auction houses happy in 2013, but there are tougher times ahead for some

By Georgina Adam. Comment, Issue 242, January 2012
Published online: 10 January 2013

In January 2012, the outlook for the art market was bleak, with turmoil in the eurozone and recession in many of the world’s major economies. Nothing changed—at the macro level, at least—throughout the year, so art dealers finished 2012 surprised that, for many, trade was not as bad as expected. If anything, the results at the top end of the market have never been better; more than $1bn was spent on art during last November’s sales in New York, with Christie’s racking up an all-time record for a contemporary art sale, at $412m. But will we witness similar success next year?

The 1% of the 1%

I believe the top end of the art market will continue to perform strongly, particularly in the contemporary, Impressionist and Modern art sectors. There are a number of reasons for this. First, the building of so many museums across the world will sustain buying. Although the reported “1,000 museums” in China may prove an exaggeration, many are under construction and are being stocked with works of art. Elsewhere, the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim is back on track (or at least the authorities in the emirate are anxious to tell us that this is the case). The Middle East, with its huge resources, wants to establish itself as a cultural hub on a par with other, more established centres. And billionaires’ “vanity museums”—sometimes an unfair criticism—need to buy top works of art as well. 

In this context, a recent book by Chrystia Freeland, Plutocrats: the Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, 2012 (Penguin Press), offers a fascinating analysis of the new global super-rich. She sees today’s incredible wealth as the result of two transformations: technological revolution and globalisation in the West, coupled with an Industrial Revolution-sized burst of growth in much of the rest of the world, leading to the convergence of two “gilded ages”.

The wealthiest 0.1% have accumulated dizzying amounts of money. The Mexican telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim is worth a mind-boggling $69bn (read that again: $69bn. It’s not a mistake). The Russian businessman Roman Abramovich spent around $1bn on his yacht Eclipse in 2010, and he has four other such floating palaces. The Indian businessman Mukesh Ambani (worth $23.5bn, according to Forbes) has a 27-floor home in Mumbai that has been valued at more than $1bn. So what are a few million dollars spent on art, beside these fortunes? 

Most of today’s super-rich do not come from art-collecting backgrounds, so they have not inherited collections; Forbes says that 840 of the 1,226 people in its 2012 billionaire rankings are self-made. When someone reaches this level of wealth, it is very probable that they will start buying art to hang on the walls of the multiple homes they own, if not for their private museum. 

Art is among the ultimate purchases, after houses, cars, yachts and private islands. It gives its owner bragging rights, as well as making him or her (rightly or wrongly) feel that it is a secure investment. You can always buy another yacht. You will find it hard to buy another prime Cézanne.

So although there has been a rising chorus of negative comment about the huge prices achieved at the top end of the market, there is no reason to predict a slump any time soon. And as other investments become less attractive—yields on bonds are minimal, and equities are volatile—it will remain tempting to put at least some of a portfolio into something solid.

Can the same be said of the middle and lower ends of the market? Here, the economic climate will have an impact. If the outlook becomes sunnier, then wallets may come out too, but if the various threatened tax hikes and government spending cuts hit incomes across Europe and the US, then these parts of the market will suffer too. 

Turf wars

Art dealers are fretting, and rightly so, about the growing encroachment of auction houses on their turf. Under pressure because of competition to get the best consignments, the auction houses have been successfully growing their private treaty sales and private selling exhibitions, which give them more flexibility. Christie’s says that the number of clients buying through private treaty has doubled in three years, leading to the interesting question: is that from, say, one to two, or from 100 to 200? Of course, the company won’t say, but the trade suspects that the Middle East (read: Qatar) accounts for a big chunk of this revenue. 

For dealers, particularly in the secondary market, competition from the auction houses will remain a major worry, and one that they are ill-equipped to resist.

Fair competition

New art fairs mushroomed throughout the world last year; Frieze added two major new events, while smaller operators plugged gaps in other countries. But dealers are beginning to kick against the art-fair treadmill. Those in the middle market are finding business tough, and the fair calendar is now jam-packed—and too concentrated in spring and autumn. Starting in May this year, there is a run of events—the main New York sales, followed by Frieze New York, Art Basel, Art Basel Hong Kong and the Venice Biennale (a sort of art fair as well, and certainly a must-visit event)—all taking place in less than five weeks. I predict that dealers will cut back heavily on the number of fairs they attend, and that Art Basel Hong Kong will announce a change of dates after this year’s edition (23-26 May).

What, meanwhile, will happen to the Merchandise Mart Property Inc fairs, which, according to the New York Observer, have indeed—as The Art Newspaper predicted—been sold to Louise Blouin, the owner of Artinfo? The leading fair in the group is the Armory Show (the others are Art Platform Los Angeles and Volta), which now has heightened competition in its backyard after the birth of Frieze New York. The arrival of a new owner is always unsettling, and there are likely to be changes in these fairs’ management structures.

Following the money

It is a truism in the market that art follows the money. Last year, oil-rich Azerbaijan threw itself behind a campaign to gain a place on the art map. The country’s ruling family arranged meetings across Europe and in the US with leading figures in the art world to promote the country’s plans to build museums and produce new art events. 

Christie’s was quick to recognise an opportunity and organised a shindig in Baku to show off some of the things the newly rich Azeris could buy. A travelling exhibition of Azeri artists, “Fly to Baku”, sponsored by the foundation of the president’s wife, will go on to Moscow and Rome this year after stops in London, Paris and Berlin

Sotheby’s, meanwhile, is holding a selling show of art from Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and the “Stans”—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan—in London in March. If you don’t know much about these regions, you will before 2013 is out.

Faithful no more?

Last year saw a list of big-name artists demolish the traditional rules of artist representation by holding shows at rival galleries: Peter Doig at Michael Werner (under the nose of his long-time dealer Victoria Miro), Gagosian artist Jeff Koons at David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth’s Thomas Houseago at Gagosian. This trend is likely to continue, as more artists turn to agents to look after their business interests.

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