An Extremely Rare, Centuries-Old Italian Violin Hit a High Note at Auction, Selling for a Whopping $9.44 Million

An exceptionally rare Guarneri violin—so fabled that it has its own name, the Baltic—sold for $9.44 million (premium included) at auction on March 16, just shy of its $10 million estimate. The final sale price smashed the $3.6 million auction record for a Guarneri instrument (set in June 2022) to become the third-highest price paid for any musical instrument.

The Baltic was the star lot of the online auction of more than 100 rare and important stringed instruments and bows at auction house Tarisio in New York. A leader in rare violin sales, Tarisio pulled in a total of over $11.1 million in the sale, while 18 new auction records were set for assorted music-making treasures.

“The Baltic is more than an exceptional instrument,” said Carlos Tomé, the director and head of sales at Tarisio. “It is a singular work of art.”

The Baltic was handcrafted around 1731 by master luthier Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù—known as del Gesù—in the small town of Cremona, Italy. His and his family’s stringed instruments are among the most prized in the world, perhaps owing to a deeper sound than other violins, attributed to the wood used, flamed maple wood. Violinists Isaac Stern, Jascha Heifetz, and Itzhak Perlman are among those who’ve performed on stage with Guarneri violins.

The Baltic violin. Courtesy of Tarisio New York.

The scroll and pegs of the Baltic violin. Courtesy of Tarisio.

Before the sale, the Baltic spent 50 years in the collection of the late Sau-Wing Lam, an American businessman and noted collector of rare musical instruments. Since his acquisition of the instrument in 1979, it was exhibited twice at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, once in 1994 in a show of exceptional Guarneri instruments, and again in 2012, when the museum hosted an exhibition and concert series dedicated to Lam’s collection.

Before Sau-Wing Lam, the Baltic belonged to the classical musician Dorotha Powers, who taught violin to baseball legend Mickey Mantle. She traded in two Stradivarius violins to acquire the Guarneri from the Wurlitzer Company, American makers of pianos and jukeboxes. Previously it was owned by a Baltic family, who were the first to refer to it as the Baltic—and the name stuck.

Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù was only 32 when he made the violin in 1731, breaking with practices established by his grandfather, father, and uncle. With its shorter body length, broader wings, and distinct “hatchet-shaped” sound holes, the Baltic is among the first violins to bear the trademarks of del Gesù’s own style.

More famous of the two violin makers, Antonio Stradivari was born in 1644, about a half-century before del Gesù. Both makers practiced their craft in their hometown of Cremona, Italy. But while some 600 Stradivarius violins have survived, only about 150 Guarneri violins remain, making them a much rarer find.


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Adam Lindemann’s Collection Rakes in $32 Million in an Unusual Christie’s Auction

It’s not every day that Christie’s sells Warhol paintings, a Jeff Koons sculpture, a Ducati motorcycle, a Royère sofa, and tribal art in a single sale.

But it did yesterday as part of the sale of works from the collector Adam Lindemann, which brought in a total of $31.5 million for 36 lots, all of which sold (though one lot was withdrawn). The pre-sale estimate was $22 million to $34 million. (Final prices include premiums while estimates do not.)

“I like to mix old and new,” Lindemann told Midnight Publishing Group News after the sale. “It was amazing to have the opportunity to use these works of art to tell a story about myself, my aesthetic, what I like, and how I see the world of design, the world of art.”

Andy Warhol, Little Electric Chair (1964). Image courtesy Christie's.

Andy Warhol, Little Electric Chair (1964). Image courtesy Christie’s.

The highest price achieved at the sale—titled “Adam: The collection of Adam Lindemann”—was $5.5 million for an Alexander Calder mobile, Black Disc with Flags (1939), followed by Warhol’s haunting Little Electric Chair (1964) in a day-glo shade of pink that sold for $4.5 million. Koons’s large, unforgettable sculpture of children with a pig, Ushering in Banality (1988), sold for $3.9 million.

A green “Ours Polar” sofa and pair of armchairs by Jean Royère (circa 1952) sold for $3.4 million, double the high $1.5 million estimate.

Jeff Koons, Ushering in Banality (1988). Image courtesy Christie's.

Jeff Koons, Ushering in Banality (1988). Image courtesy Christie’s.

“I was thrilled to see the record for the Royère sofa set because that to me is the best one that has ever been sold publicly,” he said, “even though it stalled at $900,000 and I almost had a heart attack.” (The bidding, of course, took off again after that brief pause.)

Work by female artists also figured prominently. Karen Kilimnick’s oval portrait painting The 1700s-Dinner Soirée, (2000) sold for a mid-estimate $107,000, while Jamian Juliano-Villani’s painting Welcome to My Booth (2019), sold for $75,600, well above the high $60,000 estimate.

Karen Kilimnick, The 1700s-Dinner Soirée (2000). Image courtesy the artist.

Karen Kilimnick, The 1700s-Dinner Soirée (2000). Image courtesy the artist.

Lindemann, who has promised a seven-figure gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from the proceeds, emphasized that he did not include any artists from the roster of his own gallery, Venus Over Manhattan.

A painting by the sought-after Chicago Imagist Jim Nutt, titled Plume, sold for $478,800, well above its high $200,000 estimate. And a Damien Hirst pill-filled medicine cabinet, The Sleep of Reason, sold for $2.2 million (estimate: $1.5 to 2.5 million).

“This was a good way to tell a story and move on,” Lindemann said. “I redecorated the next day. I love collecting and I love the action of it.”

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Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova Is Curating an Auction of Feminist Works to Benefit Reproductive Healthcare

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, Pussy Riot cofounder Nadya Tolokonnikova is curating “My Body My Business,” a benefit auction of feminist works by women artists at Sotheby’s New York.

There is art by living legends such as Marina Abramović, Cindy Sherman, and Jenny Holzer, as well as younger artists such as Jen Stark and Sarah Meyohas, with estimates ranging from just $1,500 for a 1987 Sherman photograph to as high as $35,000 for Stark’s animated NFT Cosmic Bloom. Proceeds will support Planned Parenthood Federation of America and other organizations that provide sexual and reproductive healthcare, including abortion access.

“I spent two years in jail fighting for feminism in Russia, and it hurts me to see reproductive rights being taken away in the U.S.,” Tolokonnikova said in a statement.

The artist has previously raised money for the Center for Reproductive Rights through an NFT sale with TikTok star Salem Ilese’s viral song “Crypto Boy,” and for her own reproductive rights charity portal, LegalAbortion.Eth, through the Matriarchy Now project with Rolling Stone photographer Ellen von Unwerth. (The latter also has work in “My Body My Business.”)

Ellen von Unwerth, <em>Crash, New York</em> (2004). Photo courtesy of Sotheby's New York.

Ellen von Unwerth, Crash, New York (2004). Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.

The Sotheby’s sale, which kicks off on March 7 and runs through March 14, is a collaboration between the auction house and Unicorn DAO, Tolokonnikova’s initiative to support Web3 art by women-identifying and LGBTQ+ artists, who make up only five percent of digital art sales.

Featuring both physical and digital art, the sale will offer NFTs by pioneering crypto artist Olive Allen and the Rewind Collective, which offered free art historically-inspired NFTs at a 2021 Christie’s sale of work by female Abstract Expressionists. Bridging the divide between the two realms will be a print by Nancy Baker Cahill titled Slipstream Series, Terrortory, which comes with an accompanying NFT.

To help the organization raise money in the crypto space, Planned Parenthood Federation of America has created its own crypto wallet, PPFA.eth, courtesy of the blockchain-based 501(c)(3) charity Endaoment.

Jen Stark, <em>Cosmic Bloom<em>. Courtesy of Sotheby's New York.

Jen Stark, Cosmic Bloom. Courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.

“In these unprecedented times, it’s essential for people to band together in support of sexual and reproductive health and rights—including abortion access,” Dawn Laguens, chief of global strategy and innovation at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement, noting the support the organization has “received from leaders within the tech space.”

Though Pussy Riot is known for their performance art, Tolokonnikova is contributing a new sculptural work, Fragile Masculinity Genesis, of a candle in the shape of an eggplant emoji, to the auction.

The artist has also made a video, titled Nadya Means Hope, in which she wears a white balaclava and lights the candle. London’s Cultural Institute of Radical Contemporary Arts will screen the work on digital billboards in London, New York, and Los Angeles from March 8 through April 5.

Pussy Riot (Nadya Tolokonnikova), <em>Nadya Means Hope</em>. Photo courtesy of CIRCA, London.

Pussy Riot (Nadya Tolokonnikova), Nadya Means Hope. Photo courtesy of CIRCA, London.

The Sotheby’s auction takes its name from a neon pink light work by activist artist Michele Pred. She coined the titular phrase at former President Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, carrying a police body shield emblazoned with the words “My Body My Business.”

“We are in a state of emergency for bodily autonomy in this country,” Pred said in a statement. “It is urgent that everybody gets involved in reproductive justice by voting, donating their time (or money), and marching on the streets!”

Michele Pred, <em>My Pussy My Riot</em>. Photo courtesy of Sotheby's New York.

Michele Pred, My Pussy My Riot. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.

Pred and Tolokonnikova will be in conversation at a launch event for the sale Sotheby’s on Tuesday, March 7. And on International Women’s Day, Pred will be staging one of her participatory feminist art parades at the U.N. with Tolokonnikova and other activist artists.

They will also be launching a 48-hour Instagram auction for a collaborative work, My Pussy My Riot, one of Pred’s signature neon-illuminated handbags, with the light-up title phrase courtesy of Tolokonnikova. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the National Network of Abortion Funds.

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A Painting by a One-Eared Dog Named Van Gogh Just Sold for $10,000 at an Animal Rescue Benefit Auction

Van Gogh is soaring to new heights at auction—and no, we don’t mean the famed Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. We’re talking about Van Gogh, the one-eared rescue dog who painted his way into the internet’s hearts last year with his colorful canvases and heartwarming adoption story.

The canine artist is once again lending his talents to the Happily Furever After Rescue in Bethel, Connecticut, which helped find him a loving home.

At an online benefit auction that kicked off today, Van Gogh the dog’s birthday, the pet food company Pedigree paid $10,000 for the dog’s rendition of Vincent Van Gogh’s masterpiece Starry Night. (The auction runs through March 30, which is Van Gogh the artist’s 170th birthday.)

All the proceeds of Van Gogh the dog’s auction will benefit the rescue efforts of Happily Furever After, which specializes in dogs like pit bulls, who can sometimes have a hard time finding homes due to the breed’s frequent abuse in dog fighting.

Van Gogh the dog painting <em>Sunflowers</em>. Photo courtesy of Happily Furever After Rescue.

Van Gogh the dog painting Sunflowers. Photo courtesy of Happily Furever After Rescue.

Van Gogh the dog himself lost his ear to the cruel world of dog fighting, when he was used as a bait dog in the ring. The paintings in the current auction, titled “Van Gogh Reimagined,” are all based off of compositions by the original Van Gogh. (Unlike a painting by the Dutch master, the dog’s art starts the bidding at just $25 a piece.)

“Having Van Gogh create some of history’s most famous paintings felt like big shoes to fill,” founder Jaclyn Gartner told Midnight Publishing Group News in an email. “There was a lot more attention to detail this time around to make sure to incorporate all the colors and try to recreate the pieces as closely as possible.”

Van Gogh the dog, <em>Starry Night</em>. Photo courtesy of Happily Furever After Rescue.

Van Gogh the dog, Starry Night. Photo courtesy of Happily Furever After Rescue.

So did Van Gogh set a new record for a dog artist? Unfortunately, the Midnight Publishing Group Price Database doesn’t track dog data, but a 2016 listicle on canine art prices—including one by a pet nicknamed DogVinci—couldn’t find any sales results over $1,700.

Though the canine Van Gogh’s paintings have become a surprise fundraising hit, helping the one-eared pup discover his artistic talents was originally a tactic Gartner devised to help him find a new owner.

Van Gogh the dog, <em>Almond Blossoms</em>. Photo courtesy of Happily Furever After Rescue.

Van Gogh the dog, Almond Blossoms. Photo courtesy of Happily Furever After Rescue.

She staged the dog’s first “gallery show” as an adoption event in October. When Happily Furever posted on Facebook decrying the lack of visitors, the story went viral. Commissions for Van Gogh paintings came rolling in, and foster volunteer Jessica Starowitz adopted him.

Since finding his new home, Van Gogh has painted more than 150 new works of art. To make each work, a person applies blobs of colors of paint to a canvas placed inside a plastic bag. The dog then completes the artwork by licking off a coating of peanut butter or other dog-friendly treats from the outside of the bag.

Van Gogh the dog, <em>Wheat Field With Cypresses</em>. Photo courtesy of Happily Furever After Rescue.

Van Gogh the dog, Wheat Field With Cypresses. Photo courtesy of Happily Furever After Rescue.

“The most exciting part about Van Gogh painting is never really knowing what it’s going to come out to look like as it depends on how his tongue slides across the peanut butter coated bag,” Gartner said.

“Since we did the art gallery in October, Van Gogh has explored more tasty toppings,” she added. “We have begun incorporating other things like ground up liverwurst, pumpkin puree, and goat whip. Painting has become an even more delicious hobby for Van Gogh! “

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Christie’s Pulled In $202 Million at Its 20th/21st-Century Sales in London—But Not Many Buyers Went Big

Despite a tumultuous economic environment and the onset of yet another winter flu taking many people out of commission, Christie’s energetically kicked off London’s auction week today with two back-to-back evening sales bringing in £167.8 million ($202.2 million).

The sales total falls within the house’s presale expectations of £128–190.3 million ($154.3–229.3 million), though not quite as handily when you account for the fact that final sales figures reported by the house are inflated by auction house fees, whereas the presale estimates are not. The final hammer price of the night, £137.9 million ($166.2 million), conveys a more accurate picture of how things went—an unspectacular but still not entirely discouraging result. (We will stick with hammer prices tonight, unless otherwise noted.)

To offer a direct sale-to-sale comparison, Christie’s equivalent sale last year—a 20th and 21st-century relay sale between Shanghai and London, also with its The Art of the Surreal sale as a coda—brought in just over £249 million ($334 million) after fees. This year’s takings are down 32.6 percent on that. 

The saleroom at Christie's 20th/21st century evening sale on February 28. Courtesy Christie's Images Limited 2023.

The sale room at Christie’s 20th/21st century evening sale on February 28. Photo courtesy Christie’s Images Limited 2023.

As is now fairly typical, the “evening” sale was timed at 2 p.m. in order to take advantage of London’s situation as a central nexus of timezones, and be convenient for buyers in New York and Asia. As is now commonplace as well, there were plenty of cameras conveying the action to those unable to be in the room. 

The atmosphere going into the sale was a little manic, as specialists crowded around the phone banks on both sides, though the sale room was also buzzing and fuller than we have seen in London for a while. One of the attendees smirked at the theater of it all, remarking “it all happens on the phones anyway,” but was swiftly proven wrong as there was bidding action from the auction house floor throughout the sales (and indeed the final lot of both sales landed to bidders present in the room).

The attendance was not surprising as this week in London represents the first public market test of the year in an increasingly rocky financial environment. The war in Ukraine has now passed the one-year mark and China’s Covid policies are still wreaking havoc further east. It feels longer than ever since the New York auctions last fall, and while the $1.5 billion sale of the collection of the late Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen in November left specialists in a mood of tentative optimism that the event would inspire confidence in the market, many market watchers anticipated that the Allen sale would be a sort of final hurrah. Meanwhile, London has so far managed to stave off a recession, but the consensus is that it, along with the rest of the global economy, is still sputtering towards one. 

All told, 106 lots were offered across both sales after three lots were withdrawn, wiping between £4.6 million and £7.8 million ($5.5 million and $9.4 million) off the slate. Specialists grafted extra hard ahead of the sale to secure a whopping 27 guarantees, three of which were made by the house, 24 by third parties. Six records were set; 12 works failed to find buyers, of which 10 were within the main sale, two in the Surrealist portion of the evening, making for a sell-through rate of 89 percent by lot, 91 percent by value across both sales. 

Alberto Giacometti, Chandelier for Peter Watson. Photo courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd. 2023.

Alberto Giacometti, Chandelier for Peter Watson. Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd 2023.

It was fairly obvious that material had been a challenge heading into the 20th/21st century sale, despite the fact that the house worked hard to find fresh-to-market works that would excite-to-buy; 66 percent of the 20th/21st century evening sale had never been offered for public sale before. Speaking to Midnight Publishing Group News ahead of the sale, one London art advisor remarked that the material the house was able to cobble together was a reflection of the recession climate the market is navigating: “It’s all very safe and just exciting enough,” she said, adding snarkily that she expected it will “do well with the interior designers!”

To wit, there was an unusual amount of sculpture in this sale (nine lots), including a remarkable Giacometti chandelier being sold by relatives of the artist John Craxton, whose eyes nearly popped out of his head when he spotted it for sale for just £250 ($700) in an antiques shop in Marylebone during the 1960s. The lot paid dividends for the house, bringing in a whopping £2.4 million.

Another notable sculpture was a primitive Baseltiz carving from the Hess Art Collection in Switzerland, the 1994 Frau Paganismus (Mrs Paganism). It was likely consigned in response to the market, as another Baselitz sculpture achieved the $11.2 million record price for the artist at Sotheby’s New York last May. This one came in below its £4 million ($4.8 million) low estimate to hammer at £3.8 million ($4.5 million).

Pablo Picasso, Femme dans un rocking-chair (Jacqueline) (1956). Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd 2023.

Marking the 50th anniversary of Pablo Picasso’s death, the top lot of the evening was the artist’s large-format late portrait Femme dans un rocking-chair (Jacqueline) (1956, estimate: £15–20 million, $18–24 million). In a sign of the times, it hammered below estimate at £14.5 million ($17.4 million) on just one bid to Impressionist and Modern specialist Giovanna Bertazzoni, who was very possibly bidding on behalf of its third-party guarantor.

Those watching London for insights on what’s to come as the season progresses to Hong Kong and New York might be curious to see if the market for ultra-contemporary artists has withstood the economic downturn. The speculative segment has been cooling down as buyers fly to artists whose markets are more tried and tested. After rocketing 500 percent in sales in five years, the category’s growth slowed and by the end of last year, total sales had declined 10 percent year-over-year, per data from the Midnight Publishing Group Price Database.

The sale was front-loaded with ultra-contemporary lots, opening on Michaela Yearwood Dan’s Love me nots (2021, estimate: £40,000–60,000, $48,092–$72,138). The artist’s prices soared to $388,798 at Phillips in December, and a new record was set in the sale room today when the work hammered at £580,000 ($753,800)—buoyed with fees to £730,800 ($879,956), and landing with a bidder on the phone with Tessa Lord.

Continued frenzy was also exhibited for Caroline Walker, whose works are hitting the block at all three of the main houses this week, with 10 telephone bidders chomping at the bit and a cluster of bids raising the hammer price to £550,000 ($661,265), easily beating her £200,000 ($240,460) high estimate.

But erstwhile market stars whose estimates have caught up with their hammer prices didn’t do as astonishingly well as they have in the past couple of years. A Louise Bonnet and Robert Nava hammered within estimate without fireworks. An Adrian Ghenie “pie fight” study hammered below the £280,000 ($336,644) estimate, on a single bid.

NFTs were represented in the sale with the auction debut of Tyler Hobbs, who was a breakout in the NFT mania in 2021, and whose market has also survived the crash (he is opening a solo exhibition at Unit London next week before a solo outing at Pace in New York next month). Hobbs was represented by one of his best known “Fidenza” works, a series of 999 algorithmically produced and randomized grids of color that find predecessors in Mondrian and Agnes Martin as much as in the early computer-plotter art of generative pioneers such as Vera Molnár. The floor price for “Fidenza” works this morning was 72 ETH, or £96,587 ($116,752), and the lot hammered well above that, though still within estimate at £290,000 ($348,667). 

Liu Ye, The Goddess (2018). Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Limited 2023.

Choruses of applause came a few times during the sale: First, when a flurry of interest, mostly from Asia-Pacific region specialists, ignited a protracted bidding war for Liu Ye’s 2018 painting, Goddess. When one bidder failed to secure it against Hong Kong-based specialist Elaine Holt’s £2.6 million ($3.1 million) winning hammer bid, he was heard sulkingly consoling himself with the fact that he may soon have another opportunity when David Zwirner (he heard) brings one to Frieze.

More claps erupted on the sale of an early Van Gogh painting of one of his few named sitters, Gordina de Groot, which has been in the same collection for 420 years. The work attracted some fiery competition and ended up hammering at at £4 million ($4.8 million), double its high estimate, to an irascible bidder in the room who we can identify as London collector and dealer Danny Katz. He implored auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen, who was milking the sale, to “put the bloody hammer down!”

Mixed results came in for German Modern and Impressionists. Two Ernst Ludwig Kirchner paintings with a combined low estimate of £4 million ($4.8 million) failed to find buyers, as did an Erich Heckel painting, and Edgar Degas’s Trois Danseuses (est. £3–5 million, $3.6–6 million).

Someone scored a deal on a provocative Otto Dix watercolor, which hammered at £200,000 ($240,460), less than half its £500,000 ($601,150) low estimate. It was sad day, too, for Chaim Soutine, whose Expressionist painting, Femme assise dans un fauteil, was also a pass, eaten up by the house, which had guaranteed it. 

René Magritte, Souvenir de voyage (1958). Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Limited 2023.

After a short break, the main evening sale was succeeded by the house’s Art of the Surreal evening sale. Of the 32 lots, everything sold except for a Dalí painting on board and a Hans Arp sculpture, which carried a combined low estimate of £2.8 million ($3.3 million). The higher, 94 percent sell-through rate is unsurprising given Surrealism is riding off the interest rekindled by its role in the 2022 Venice Biennale.

Strong results came in for works by René Magritte. His Souvenir de voyage, part of a grouping of 25 works anonymously consigned by collectors Gary and Kathie Heidenreich (who were identified by Midnight Publishing Group News). Their Surrealist collection focused on exiled and women artists began after having lunch with Leonora Carrington in Mexico with their advisor Wendi Norris. The work, which last sold publicly in 2009 for $1 million at Sotheby’s, blew past its £3.5 million ($4.2 million) upper bound to hammer at £4.6 million ($5.5 million).

London has proven itself to be a good place to bring a Magritte—not least since Sotheby’s decamped its own Surrealism sale to Paris. This time last year, the rival house netted a £59.4 million ($79.8 million) record for a Magritte masterpiece. To wit, another Magritte—not part of the Heidenreich consignment but a dreamy skybird motif backed by a third-party guarantee—hammered within estimate at £5.1 million ($6.1 million).

Leonora Carrington, Lepidoptera (1968). Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Limited 2023.

A flurry of bids came too for Leonora Carrington’s colorful orange Lepidoptera, one of her few overtly political works, driving it to £460,000 ($553,058), nearly double its high estimate. Carrington’s market has been on the rise, riding off the 2022 Venice Biennale and a new $3.25 million auction record set in Sotheby’s last May.

Anyone who sat through to the end of this 4.5-hour sale marathon was rewarded with a bit of light entertainment, as the second auctioneer, Impressionist and Modern art specialist Veronica Scarpati, desperately worked to secure a £560,000 ($673,288) bid from billionaire collector David Nahmad, sat in the front row, for an Yves Tanguy painting that had been estimated to fetch £900,000–1.5 million ($1–1.2 million), but had failed to excite the room. 

The sale closed on a £280,000 ($336,644) Joan Miró painting, which hammered to a bidder in the room, and auctioneer Pylkkänen’s proclamation that “the art market is alive and well.” If this sale is anything to go by, he’s not wrong. While the market may be sputtering a little, no one is turning their engines off just yet.

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