Rare, Remarkable Chinese Porcelains From a Prominent Collecting Couple Go Up for Auction in New York

Bonhams New York is offering a host of delicate treasures in its “Cohen & Cohen: 50 Years of Chinese Export Porcelain live auction on January 24.

On view January 18–23, the 155 lots feature an array of mostly 18th-century Chinese porcelains, including famille rose vase garnitures, rare ‘European subject dishes and figures, and large Kangxi-period famille verte and blue and white dishes, a popular style for porcelain cabinets of the time.

Vying for highest sale price is a figure of a European lady from the Qianlong period, ca. 1740, estimated to fetch between $80,000–$100,000. The famille rose standing lady appears to have been modeled after a print by Dutch artist Casper Luyken, ca. 1703. The pattern illustrates figures in 17th-century Jewish costume, allegedly worn by women in Frankfurt’s Jewish community.

“One lovely aspect of the European lady figure is that the Chinese potter,” Michael C. Hughes, Vice President & Head of Department for Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art at Bonhams, told Midnight Publishing Group News, “is after having copied the sculptural form and style of dress from the original Western print, he did not know the decoration to be found on the lady’s clothing. So he had simply added an entirely Chinese decoration, as you see in the cloud scrolls on the apron and the dragon roundels to the blue cape.”

A garniture of five famille rose ‘parrot-on-a-swing’ vases, Qianlong period, ca. 1740. Courtesy of Bonhams New York.

Among the highest estimates is a pair of large famille rose ‘torch bearer’ candle sconces for the European market, ca. 1740, estimated at $80,000–$120,000. The brightly colored, ornamental pieces have an enameled center with a standing figure holding a flaming torch overhead and an unlit torch lowered at the right side. It’s all within a cheerfully hued frame displaying latticework, scrolling leaf forms, and other baroque motifs, as well as open-winged parrots for extra splash, all enameled and featuring gilt highlights. 

Pair of famille rose ‘torch-bearer’ rococo candle sconces for the European market,
early Qianlong period, ca. 1740. Courtesy of Bonhams New York.

Bonhams has enjoyed a long relationship with Michael and Ewa Cohen. The Cohens count clients all over the world, from the Hong Kong Maritime Museum in Hong Kong to the British Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, among many others, noted Hughes. “Michael and Ewa’s philosophy was to buy as collectors rather than dealers—only buying pieces that excited them,” he said. “They had standards to what they collected and sought out exceptional quality, rarity, and historic interest…We’re honored to be a part of their story.”

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

Inside the Epic Auction-House Battle to Win Divorcing Couple Harry and Linda Macklowe’s Peerless $700 Million Art Collection

It feels like déjà vu. The art world’s most closely watched collection of postwar treasures, amassed over decades by Linda and Harry Macklowe, is inching toward the auction block. Again.

The couple’s acrimonious split has fueled gossip columns and tantalized art sellers ever since Linda Macklowe filed for divorce from her billionaire real-estate developer husband five years ago. At stake is their trove of prized Picassos, Warhols, and Twomblys, which has been estimated to be worth more than $700 million. A court ordered dozens of works to be sold at auction after the warring spouses were unable to agree on valuations for their priciest pieces. A judge brought in an outside expert to oversee the dispersal on a three-year deadline. 

Following many months of anticipation, top works from the collection are now expected to hit the auction block in November, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because the court hadn’t given its rubber stamp yet. (Sources also cautioned that further legal or public health challenges could push that date back further.) Of the 165 works in the couple’s holdings, 64 will be sold, with an estimated value of $625.6 million to $788.7 million. 

The sale will be the biggest test of the 20th century masterpiece market since the pandemic struck. Supply has been scarce in this top tier, with sellers reluctant to consign major works to auction in a moment of global uncertainty. Billionaire Ron Perelman sold much of his prized art privately last year, generating about $500 million. 

Brice Marden, Red Rocks (5) (2000–02). Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery.

Brice Marden, Red Rocks (5) (2000–2). Brice Marden, Red Rocks (5) (2000–2). Assessed at $12 million, it’s the most valuable painting that may remain in Linda Macklowe’s possession, according to court papers. Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery.

The process to sell the Macklowe collection was well underway early last year, with Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips all clamoring for the prize. But then the pandemic hit and the collection’s court-appointed receiver Michael Findlay put the plans on ice

Earlier this summer, as the art market rebounded and the vaccination rate accelerated, Sotheby’s and Christie’s were asked to submit their proposals again, according to people familiar with the process. The market has been abuzz ever since. Did Christie’s get it? Did Sotheby’s?

There has been no official word yet—but the expectation among people familiar with the matter is that the collection will go to Sotheby’s. (Representatives for Sotheby’s and Christie’s had no comment. Findlay didn’t respond to requests to comment.) “I can’t wait to scream that from the rooftops,” one Sotheby’s staff member said. 

Any screaming will have to wait, however, until the legal decision is made by the court—or, as one dealer put it, “until this deal is signed in concrete.”  

Michael Findlay. Photo: Victoria Findlay Wolfe.

The court is likely to make its determination of how to proceed based on the recommendation of the receiver, according to Thomas Danziger, an attorney who is not involved in the case but has represented divorcing spouses with valuable art collections.

The receiver’s presentation to the court is expected to be followed by a hearing, during which both parties will have a chance to voice their questions and concerns, opposition and support. After that, the court will make a decision about the sales strategy, Danziger said. 

There may be delays. Linda Macklowe filed several appeals since the court’s initial order to sell the art in 2018, objecting to the sale itself and the appointment of the receiver, according to court documents. So far, those motions have been denied.

Attorneys for Linda Macklowe didn’t respond to requests to comment. Harry Macklowe’s attorney Josh Schiller, a partner at Boies Schiller Flexner, declined to comment.

Time is of essence for many reasons. Both Harry and Linda Macklowe are in their 80s. The court’s three-year deadline to sell off the collection is due to expire next year. And if the sales are indeed to start in November, the winning auction house would need to get a jump on its marketing campaign and start lining up financial backers to reduce its risk. (The three-year deadline may be extended if the receiver asks for more time, which he may, since a collection of this size and value is likely to be offered over multiple seasons.)

The winning bid is expected to come down to financials such as the guarantee offered by the auction houses and the split of the upside granted to the sellers.   

“The question becomes if the auction house is giving all the money to the consignor or makes a return,” Danziger said, speaking broadly about top-end deals. “At the most aggressive levels, the consignor is effectively renting the hall from the auction house and is taking all the revenue.”

At the peak of the auction wars in the mid-2010s, the houses would often forgo profit for the privilege of selling a masterpiece. There may be more emphasis on dollars and cents during the pandemic, as Christie’s and Sotheby’s had to cut staff and adjust to reduced revenues. 

Patrick Drahi, Sotheby's new owner, in 2016. (Photo by Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images)

Patrick Drahi, Sotheby’s new owner, in 2016. (Photo by Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images)

Sotheby’s—and its new billionaire owner Patrick Drahi—has more to prove. The company had been trailing Christie’s for more than a decade until last year. It has also recently seen an exodus of key executives in postwar and contemporary art, including the head of its global art Amy Cappellazzo.

The market’s response to the collection—which includes such treasures as Andy Warhol’s Marilyn (9 Times) [Nine Marilyns] (1962), estimated to be worth around $50 million—is another unknown. Taste has begun to change as new buyers pour into the market. In May, the postwar collection of Texas philanthropist Anne Marion didn’t spark major fireworks, while paintings by artists of color including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Colescott, and Matthew Wong ignited heated bidding wars.  

Andy Warhol, <i>Marilyn (9 Times) [Nine Marilyns<i> (1962). Photo: Richard Gray Gallery.

Andy Warhol, Marilyn (9 Times) [Nine Marilyns] (1962) from the Macklowe Collection. Photo: Richard Gray Gallery.

“The gap between the prices of blue-chip (largely white, largely male) artists and hot newcomers has definitely narrowed since the onset of the pandemic,” said Natasha Degen, chair of art market studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. “This apparent shift in taste seems connected to the broader zeitgeist—a questioning of the canon and a desire to promote fresh voices representing a more diverse art world.”

Nevertheless, experts note, there remains a strong appetite for the very best postwar treasures. “Even with the post-COVID universe of NFTs and super-contemporary, there’s still vital global interest in masterpieces of 20th century art,” said Andrew Terner, a New York private art dealer.

Will the Macklowe works fit the bill? While the quality is stellar and most have spent decades off the market, the collection is also a known entity because of the legal drama and the trail of public documents outlining the works and their valuations.

“The question is whether it’s perceived as fresh or not,” said one auction executive. “It hasn’t been available and yet everyone knows what it is.”

Take a closer look at some of the collection’s highlights below.

Magnifying Glass

Alberto Giacometti, Le Nez (1949)

The bronze sculpture ‘Le nez’ by Alberto Giacometti throwing a shadow at Schirn art hall in Frankfurt/Main, Germany. (Photo by Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

This sculpture drew the most divergent estimates from Harry and Linda Macklowe’s experts, with one valuing it at $35 million and another at $65 million, according to court papers. This piece depicts a head suspended inside a hollow rectangular cage. Its outrageously long nose extends beyond the confines of the prison-like structure. The Guggenheim Museum published the image of the work on the cover of its Giacometti exhibition catalogue in 2018.


Mark Rothko, No. 7 (1951)

The eight-foot-tall canvas features three horizontal bands of pink, yellow, and orange. Prices for the Abstract Expressionist peaked in 2012, when his painting from the collection of David Pincus fetched $86.9 million. In recent years, more somber works came to market and have been met with muted interest. In May, a blue Rothko sold for $38 million at Christie’s, falling short of the $39.9 million it fetched in 2014 when it was sold as part of Bunny Mellon’s estate at Sotheby’s. 


Jeff Koons, Vest With Aqualung (1985)

Jeff Koons, Aqualung (1985). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

Jeff Koons, Aqualung (1985). Courtesy of Christie’s Images, Ltd.

One of 12 works by Koons in the couple’s collection, this bronze had been estimated at $10 million by Harry’s art expert and $11 million by Linda’s. Although Koons’s stainless steel bunny sold for $91 million in 2019, making him the most expensive living artist at auction, his market has cooled off substantially since then. At a recent Phillips sale, a sculpture from his “Gazing Ball” series estimated at $400,000 to $600,000 was offered without a reserve, which means it could hypothetically have sold for as little as $1 (it went on to fetch $1 million). The Macklowe collection also includes a “Gazing Ball” work, estimated at $1.8 million

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

Sotheby’s Is Suing a Miami Couple for Consigning Millions of Dollars Worth of Allegedly Fake Diego Giacometti Works

Sotheby’s is suing two Florida consignors and an auction house they own for nearly $7 million after several pieces of furniture and decorative art purported to be by Diego Giacometti allegedly turned out to be fake.

The seven works were sold in separate sales over the course of 2016 and 2017. A handwriting expert determined that the provenance documents the consignors submitted with the lots were forged, according to the lawsuit.

Having canceled the sales and refunded the money to the respective buyers, Sotheby’s now wants the consignors—Frederic Thut, his wife Bettina Von Marnitz Thut, and their business, Fine Art Auctions of Miami (FAAM) —to return their proceeds as well.

The Thuts could not be immediately reached for comment and emails to the Miami auction house did not receive a reply.

As part of a “brazen fraudulent scheme,” according to Sotheby’s, Frederic Thut claimed to have purchased a large trove of works, supposedly by Diego Giacometti, brother of the world-renowned sculptor Alberto Giacometti.

Thut then consigned the works to his own auction houses “with no disclosure concerning his own ownership interest in the works.” The lots were then purchased by Thut’s wife, who soon thereafter consigned them to Sotheby’s at far higher estimates than their sales prices at FAAM, according to the complaint.

Sotheby’s said it discovered the works were counterfeit in 2018 after one of the buyers enlisted an expert, Denis Vincenot, who works closely with the artist’s estate and deemed the purported Giacometti works inauthentic. The auction house claims that Von Marnitz Thut was required to return any proceeds paid to her in connection with the sale once it was canceled.

By its own admission, Sotheby’s initially pushed back on the findings, citing the “strength” of the provenance documents the Thuts had provided. Those included letters from the legendary New York dealer Pierre Matisse and from Serge Matta, brother of Surrealist painter Roberto Matta, as well as a certificate of authenticity by James Lord, author of a book about Alberto Giacometti.

But Sotheby’s employees changed their minds after hiring a handwriting expert. The consultant concluded that the documents purportedly written by Matisse were inconsistent with samples sourced from his archives in the Morgan Library. It was also found that the Matisse, Matta, and Lord documents were all written by the same hand. Finally, the presence of counterfeit protection system coding in the letterhead was introduced to all printers in the 1990s, and therefore could not have appeared in 1982, when the letters were dated.

“Sotheby’s had engaged the handwriting expert to convince Vincenot of the authenticity of defendants’ consignments,” reads the complaint, “only to learn that the documents supposedly proving the provenance were themselves forgeries.”

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook:

The Artist Whose Work a Young Couple Accidentally Defaced in a Mall Isn’t Mad Upset at the Pair. He’d Even Like to Join Them for Tea

The internet was captivated by the story of the bumbling couple in Seoul who accidentally defaced a canvas said to be worth $500,000 out of a mistaken belief that it was a participatory art installation. Now, we know what the artist whose work they defaced thinks about the headline-making incident.

“With just three brush strokes on my canvas, they have managed to cause a planetary buzz?!? There is strength in that,” JonOne told Vice.

The 57-year-old American street artist, who was born John Andrew Perello, has carved out a niche for himself by painting Abstract Expressionist-style graffiti. But now JonOne, who lives in France, has a newfound fame because of his uninvited collaborators and the widespread attention their gaffe caused.

Some have speculated that all the attention could increase the value of the piece, originally painted at a graffiti art show at the Seoul Arts Center in 2016. The work includes an array of painting supplies that JonOne had used in its creation scattered at the foot of the canvas.

JonOne's vandalized painting is now helping advertise the "Street Noise" exhibition at P/O/S/T gallery at Seoul's Lotte World Mall. Courtesy of P/O/S/T.

JonOne’s vandalized painting is now helping advertise the “Street Noise” exhibition at P/O/S/T gallery at Seoul’s Lotte World Mall. Courtesy of P/O/S/T.

It was those paints and brushes that inspired the couple to make their own mark on the canvas, an unwitting act of vandalism that was captured by security cameras at the exhibition “Street Noise,” on view through February at P/O/S/T, a gallery at Seoul’s Lotte Street Mall.

When JonOne first learned of the damage, his reaction was “what is this shit?” But then, “it made me think about how in today’s world we’re all so closely linked,” he told Vice, admitting that he might even thank the couple: “I hope someday to have the opportunity to drink tea with them in Korea.”

The artist is still deciding whether or not to restore the painting to its original condition—and it’s unclear who would be responsible for covering restoration costs. In the meantime, P/O/S/T is using the work’s sudden infamy to help promote the show, which remains on view through mid June.

“Street Noise” is on view at P/O/S/T, Lotte World Mall, B1, 300 Olympic-ro, Songpa-gu, Seoul, February 26–June 13, 2021. 

Follow Midnight Publishing Group News on Facebook: