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Johann König Thinks You’re Selling Art Online All Wrong. That’s Why His Platform Prices Works Using an Algorithm


With more or less success over the past year and a half, art dealers have been trying to learn a new game. Some have opened pop-ups in holiday towns. Others sent surrogates or holograms to fairs abroad. Others still are trying ticketed art experiences. Johann König, meanwhile, is doing a little bit of everything.

His most recent project, MISA, an online sales platform that debuted last week, might float—or even soar. The Berlin-based dealer, who has outposts in Seoul and London (and online in “Decentraland“), now has plans for an online viewing room, NFT auctions, and opportunities for collectors looking to invest in fractional ownership schemes. Another new idea? A.I.-powered pricing.

That may have left you gasping for air—it’s certainly how I felt when trying to make sense of everything the ambitious dealer told me as he taxied across Berlin between meetings.  

Galerie König at St. Agnes in Berlin. Photo Roman Marz.

Galerie König at St. Agnes in Berlin. Photo Roman Marz.

“We are providing a new entry point into the market,” König told me. “We are giving price information to anyone—we do not mind who. I find art fairs are increasingly inefficient, especially when you factor in the shipping costs, the expenses for staff, and the ecological footprint.”

He’s still attending many, of course. König is a regular at Art Basel, Art Cologne, and Frieze. But now, he said, he has the infrastructure to run some version of such events himself, albeit at a different scale and with a different bent. 

Last year, he tapped Lena Winter from the Ketterer Kunst auction house to help create MISA, which acts as a primary and secondary market platform. And it seems neither of them will let this crisis we’re living through go to waste. “It was an idea formed by these pandemic times,” Winter said.

König initially hired Winter to run MISA as a fair. But under her watch, it has graduated into a multi-stranded sales platform that caters to anyone with a credit card. (König learned from a recent attempt to sell NFTs that some of his non-tech-oriented buyers had no idea how to pay with cryptocurrency.) And as far as the fractional ownership plans go, they’re currently being sorted out by lawyers and representatives from the Frankfurt stock exchange because, technically speaking, they will be financial assets.

MISA 3 view of the NFT sale “booth.” Photo Roman Marz.

Asked what similar platforms already existed, König mentioned Singulart and Saatchi, though he was quick to add that neither had the “quality, institutionally approved art that we do.” He also gave a nod to Pace, which is developing its own NFT platform, and of course there’s David Zwirner’s plainly titled Platform online viewing room, which isn’t yet grappling with NFTs. (MISA’s NFT market is scheduled to open on August 22.)

MISA’s web presence is not only super sleek. It also has a corresponding salesroom in the Kreuzberg neighborhood of Berlin, where viewers can see previews of works to be sold. The gallery is presenting “booths” organized by theme, such as the art-historical Junge Wilde and a grouping of artworks depicting nudes.

For collectors who find even that too refined, there are simpler categories. “Even for a very cultivated buyer, sometimes color is what makes a decision,” Winter said. Accordingly, some artworks are arranged together according to color. Online, Danish artists such as Elmgreen & Dragset, Jeppe Hein, and Per Kirkeby have their own virtual booth. And though many of the artists whose works are for sale are represented by König, there are also unrepresented artists working with the gallery for the first time.

Price transparency is an essential aspect of MISA, and so is A.I.-powered pricing. König and Winter are using Limna, a self-styled digital art advisor that can designate prices for artworks based on data taken from exhibition histories, fair inclusions, press mentions, and auction records. “We want the client to have information from many sources, so they can build up their opinion,” Winter said.

MISA 3 view of the photography “booths” and “works on paper.” Photo Roman Marz.

The technology has its limits. In some cases, Limna has priced works lower than the gallery prefers. An Otto Piene from 1967 with gouache and traces of fire and soot is listed by the gallery at €216,000. Limna’s price, which the gallery shows alongside its final price, was €140,000. “Sometimes, the price makes no sense in our opinion,” Winter said, adding that Limna is still quite new. “But it is learning.”

For the moment, what matters to the gallery are other numbers: it said that while only 3,000 people visited the in-person MISA viewing room, 29,500 went to its website.

MISA 3 view of the East German art “booth.” Photo Roman Marz.

König is also pleased with sales. A 2021 cubic sculpture by Chiharu Shiota has sold for €42,000. An acrylic painting by Katharina Grosse went for €170,000. Among secondary-market works, a 1969 painting by German Pop artist Fritz Köthe sold for €27,000. And a still-unrepresented young artist from Munich, Ludwig Stalla, sold a moody cloud painting for €1,400.

Some in the art trade might snub it all of, but König said his methods are working for now, introducing new artists to new audiences, and new audiences to the market. The rollout continues for its fractional ownership and NTF platforms in the coming weeks, and there are plans to stage several selling solo shows around Cologne next spring. What stays and goes remains to be seen. The best measure for the platform will be the test of time. And nowadays, time moves fast.

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Christie’s Top Brass Just Broke Down the Auction House’s Earnings. Here’s How Lucrative the First Half of 2021 Was


Christie’s pulled out all the stops today, July 13, with a high-profile line-up of far-flung executives for a virtual call to announce the results of its wide-ranging business activities in the first half of 2021.

The total sales for the first six months of the year amounted to $3.5 billion, making it the auction house’s second-best half-year total in the past six years, and exceeding the 2019 equivalent by 13 percent.

Executives noted the significance of an influx of buyers and intense demand from Asia (which accounted for 39 percent of the value of auction sales worldwide), as well as the auction house’s plunge into sales of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) this year. They also highlighted how a recent spate of marathon hybrid sales have helped provide solutions for challenges ranging from Brexit to international coronavirus restrictions.

“After a year of COVID-related disruption and change, Christie’s strong results in the first half of 2021 show the resilience of the art market and Christie’s ability to adapt and to innovate in a challenging context,” CEO Guillaume Cerutti said on the call. 

Auctioneer Adrien Meyer fields bids during Christie's 20th Century evening sale in New York in May 2021. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2021.

Auctioneer Adrien Meyer fields bids during Christie’s 20th Century evening sale in New York in May 2021. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd. 2021.

The house said private sales for the first half were just north of $850 million, an increase of 41 percent as compared with 2020, with a 30 percent increase in private sales of works above $5 million as compared with first half of 2020.

Global head of private sales Adrien Meyer said the strength was somewhat surprising given that the strong uptick last year—238 percent over first half of 2019—was clearly connected with the lack of physical auctions.

“It’s quite reassuring that the trend has continued as auctions have picked up,” he noted.

Asia has played a major role in the robust performance, as reflected by the reported $1.04 billion “in live and online purchases” made in the first half, which Christie’s said is the highest spending from the region in at least five years. And Hong Kong auctions at Christie’s Asia for the first six months achieved $495 million, up 40 percent over the first half of 2019.

Christie’s also reported a total of about $93 million in NFT sales, while conceding that the lion’s share, $69 million, was paid for the offering of Beeple’s The First 5,000 Days in March.

Beeple, Everydays – The First 5000 Days NFT, 21,069 pixels x 21,069 pixels (316,939,910 bytes). Image courtesy the artist and Christie's.

Beeple, Everydays – The First 5000 Days NFT, 21,069 pixels x 21,069 pixels (316,939,910 bytes). Image courtesy the artist and Christie’s.

Asked about where NFT buyers are emerging from, Marcus Fox, global managing director of postwar and contemporary art, said the Beeple auction “brought over 400 new clients to Christie’s from a wide cross-section of the globe,” he said, citing bidders from Asia, Europe, and the U.S.

While subsequent NFT sales have varied as far as participation rates, Fox said, they have tended to draw more new than existing clients, but with a similar geographic breakdown: a third each from Asia, the Americas, and Europe.

Christie’s COO Ben Gore added that roughly 85 percent of the payments for the NFT totals had come in the form of cryptocurrency. Christie’s initially began by accepting Ethereum at the time it offered the Beeple work, but is now accepting Bitcoin for some lots.

“We are, to a degree, directed by our clients,” he said. “Whether they wish to accept crypto will influence how [we] think about bringing this form of payment into the rest of our business.” 

Even as executives talk about a return to IRL auction salerooms, they praised the flexibility of the hybrid auction model. Christie’s vice chairman Giovanna Bertazzoni noted that it allowed the auction house to place a major Ernst Ludwig Kirchner painting in the Paris leg of a marathon sale that would otherwise have never made it to London because of Brexit restrictions.

Further, specialists from countries such as Italy who could not go to London because of COVID restrictions could still get to Paris and bid on behalf of their clients there.

“This collaboration with Paris and all the fluidity with the other selling sites in Europe has been vital for us gathering and selling the sales throughout the first six months,” Bertazzoni added.

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11 Events for Your Art Calendar This Week, From Katie Bell’s Joyful Ode to the Past to Young Space’s Latest Online Show


Each week, we search for the most exciting and thought-provoking shows, screenings, and events. In light of the global health crisis, we are currently highlighting events in person and digitally, as well as in-person exhibitions open in the New York area. See our picks from around the world below. (Times are all EST unless otherwise noted.)

 

Monday, May 31

Lee Blalock, <i>Ev3ryd4y Cyb0rg (Season 1, Episode 3: L0:F1 loop)</i> (2019).

Lee Blalock, Ev3ryd4y Cyb0rg (Season 1, Episode 3: L0:F1 loop) (2019).

1. “Navigating Digital Identities: Translation, Bodies, and Paratexts” at the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery

Lee Blalock, a Chicago-based artist known for his techno-mediated explorations of post-human anatomies, will sit down with professor Dima Ayoub, director of the Middle East Studies Program at Middlebury College, for a conversation about digital bodies. The dialogue accompanies “Not in, of, Along, or Relating to a Line,” NYU Abu Dhabi’s ambitious exhibition of artists and collectives who “employ technology for self-expression and self-fashioning.”

Price: Free
Time: 7:30 p.m.

—Taylor Dafoe

 

Thursday, June 3

Installation view of "Jose Dávila: The Circularity of Desire" at Sean Kelly, New York. Photo by Jason Wyche, courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York.

Installation view of “Jose Dávila: The Circularity of Desire” at Sean Kelly, New York. Photo by Jason Wyche, courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York.

2. “Curator Conversation: Jose Dávila and Pedro H. Alonzo” at Sean Kelly Gallery, New York

In conjunction with Jose Dávila’s exhibition, “The Circularity of Desire” (though June 19), Sean Kelly Gallery will host a virtual conversation with the artist and Pedro H. Alonzo, adjunct curator at Dallas Contemporary, about the works on view. Made during the pandemic, these paintings, sculptures, and silkscreens on cardboard grew out of Dávila’s research into the iconography of the circle in 20th- and 21st-century art history.

Price: Free with RSVP
Time: 3 p.m.

—Tanner West

 

Thursday, June 3–Friday, July 2

Dana James, <em>Homecoming</em> (2021). Courtesy of Hollis Taggart.

Dana James, Homecoming (2021). Courtesy of Hollis Taggart.

3. “Dana James: Something I Meant to Say” at Hollis Taggart, New York

In her first show at Hollis Taggart, Dana James presents abstract oil-and-acrylic paintings “The strips [of canvas] act as a panorama of linear time; they serve as a reminder that we are small and predictable creatures, incessantly creating and shedding beautiful accounts of the earth and its elements. Upon completion, they are visual diaries that speak to contradiction,” the artist said in a statement.

Location: Hollis Taggart, 521 West 26th Street, New York
Time: Opening reception, 5:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. with RSVP; Tuesday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Appointments recommended.

—Sarah Cascone

 

Thursday, June 3–October

Grada Kilomba, Creon</em> (2020), from the series "Heroines, Birds and Monsters". Photo courtesy of the artist, the Amant Foundation, and Goodman Gallery, ©Grada Kilomba.

Grada Kilomba, Creon (2020), from the series “Heroines, Birds and Monsters”. Photo courtesy of the artist, the Amant Foundation, and Goodman Gallery, ©Grada Kilomba.

4. “Grada Kilomba: Heroines, Birds, and Monsters” at Amant, Brooklyn

The Italian art nonprofit Amant from the Tuscan village of Chiusure is inaugurating its East Williamsburg campus with the first U.S. show of Berlin-based artist, psychologist, and theorist Grada Kilomba. A cafe and performance space will follow in June, with an international residency program kicking off in the fall.

Location: Amant, 315 Maujer Street, Brooklyn
Price:
Free
Time: Tuesday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone

 

Friday, June 4

Siah Armahani's work at Waterfront Plaza outside Brookfield Place in New York City. Photo courtesy of the Battery Park City Authority.

Siah Armahani’s work at Waterfront Plaza outside Brookfield Place in New York City. Photo courtesy of the Battery Park City Authority.

5. “Curator Walking Tour: Public Art in Lower Manhattan” from the Museum of the City of New York

Museum of the City of New York curator Lilly Tuttle will lead this walking tour exploring the ways in which public art and architecture helped transform Lower Manhattan from an industrial, maritime port neighborhood to the bustling waterfront business district of the 21st century.

Location: Lower Manhattan (starting point TBD)
Price:
$25
Time: 4 p.m.–5:30 p.m.

—Nan Stewert

 

Saturday, June 5–Friday, July 2

Gabriel Mills, Our Last Night Together, (2021). Image courtesy the artist and Lyles & King

Gabriel Mills, Our Last Night Together, (2021).
Image courtesy the artist and Lyles & King

6. “In Praise of Shadows” at Lyles and King Gallery, New York

This group show curated by Ebony L. Haynes, now a director at David Zwirner gallery, is an iteration of the Yale MFA painting and printmaking 2021 exhibition that was installed in New Haven at the start of the year. It features works by Vamba Bility, Brianna Rose Brooks, David Craig, Danielle De Jesus, Nathaniel Donnett, and Leyla Faye, among others.

Location: Lyles and King Gallery, 21 Catherine Street, New York
Price: Free
Time: Opening 2 p.m.–6 p.m.; Tuesday—Saturday 11 a.m.—6 p.m.

—Eileen Kinsella

 

Through Sunday, June 20

Hawazin Al Otaibi, Softboii (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Young Space.

Hawazin Al Otaibi, Softboii (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Young Space.

7. “Strange Paradigm” at Young Space 

Young Space presents its 10th online exhibition, “Strange Paradigm,” a group show that explores the psychological experience of jamais vu. The inverse of déjà vu, jamais vu describes the sensation of the familiar seeming eerily unfamiliar—an experience many of us may be having as life returns trepidatiously to normal (at least in the U.S.). In this show, 16 artists take a closer look at the relationships between our emotional and physical experiences through the lens of cultural identity. Particularly intriguing are artist Hawazin Al Otaibi’s softened, almost fuzzy portraits that question depictions of gender and masculinity, as are Iranian-born artists Morteza Khakshoor’s winkingly humorous portraits in which figures appear in a variety of curious tableaux.

Price: Free
Time: On view daily at all times

—Katie White 

 

An installation view of Katie Bell: Arena" at Spencer Brownstone. Photo courtesy of Spencer Brownstone Gallery.

An installation view of Katie Bell: Arena” at Spencer Brownstone. Photo courtesy of Spencer Brownstone Gallery.

8. “Katie Bell: Arena” at Spencer Brownstone, New York

Katie Bell’s can’t-miss first solo show at Spencer Brownstone gallery looks like it’s still being installed—or maybe deinstalled—and that’s exactly the point. The works on view, many of them made from materials the artist scavenged around New York, reference Classical antiquity (columns in particular are a recurring theme), but without being burdened by any awkward historical weight. Instead, these brightly colorful works, which are strewn about the gallery in the manner of Robert Morris’s Scatter Piece, suggest that heavy old things like the past can actually be colorful, joyful curios.

Location: 170-A Suffolk St, New York
Price:
Free
Time: Wednesday–Sunday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.

—Pac Pobric

 

Through Friday, June 25

Jennifer Bartlett, <i>Wedding</i> (2000-02). Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery.

Jennifer Bartlett, Wedding (2000-02). Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery.

9. “Jennifer Bartlett” at Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

In Jennifer Bartlett’s current show at Paula Cooper, maps take the role of medium and subject. The grid structure of maps have long held appeal to the artist, but in these works, many of the maps are completely unrecognizable, transformed into dot-covered abstractions, transforming border lines into undulating forms and large countries into skewed forms. “By shifting these geographical markers… Bartlett questions the presumed objectivity of her source materials, in particular those that claim to depict disputed terrains,” the gallery said in a statement.

Location: Paula Cooper Gallery, 524 West 26th Street, New York
Price:
 Free
Time: Tuesday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

—Nan Stewart

 

Through Saturday, June 26

Installation view of “Jason Fox: 5 Seasons” at Canada, New York. Photo courtesy of Canada, New York.

Installation view of “Jason Fox: 5 Seasons” at Canada, New York. Photo courtesy of Canada, New York.

10. “Jason Fox: 5 Seasons” at Canada, New York

Currently on view at Canada gallery is “5 Seasons,” the gallery’s third solo exhibition of American artist Jason Fox’s work. The show features seven large paintings of an assortment of pop culture icons including George Harrison, Jennifer Lawrence, Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell, and Puff the Magic Dragon. Using Ab-Ex styles and tin foil, Fox adds texture to the surface of these acrylic, oil, and graphite paintings.

Location: Canada, 60 Lispenard Street
Price: Free
Time: Tuesday–Saturday: 11 a.m.–6 p.m.

—Cristina Cruz

 

Through Friday, July 23

Nick Irzyk, <em>Baroque Promise</em> (2020). Photo courtesy of the artist.

Nick Irzyk, Baroque Promise (2020). Photo courtesy of the artist.

11. “44 Signs of the Times” at Mana Contemporary, Jersey City

Curated by Owen Duffy, director of the Yeh Art Gallery at St. John’s University in Queens, this exhibition brings together 44 works that illuminate the weirdness of recent times, made before the pandemic, during lockdown, and since restrictions have eased. “This exhibition does not aspire to offer a diagnosis of what ails the times or a prescriptive cure,” Duffy said in a statement. “Rather it is a document, an incomplete picture of our world from within.” Featured artists include Trevor Paglen, Savannah Knoop, and Cynthia Talmadge.

Location: Mana Contemporary, 888 Newark Avenue, Jersey City
Price:
Free
Time: By appointment

—Sarah Cascone

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Artists Are Selling $140 Photographs Online to Support India’s Depleted Hospitals as It Battles a Coronavirus Surge


India, the world’s second most populous nation, is in the throes of a deadly coronavirus surge that has claimed the lives of more than 4,000 people in just the past 24 hours. And according to reports from the health ministry, the number of daily infections has exceeded 300,000 every day for the past two weeks.

Now, the arts community is rallying to support overwhelmed hospitals facing dire oxygen shortages.

Art for India, which launched earlier this week and runs through May 9, is a grassroots project selling photographic prints for $140 each by 11 artists from India and its diaspora to raise money for the coronavirus relief group Mission Oxygen.

The project, founded by the London-based Heta Fell, Vivek Vadoliya, and Danielle Pender, will donate 100 percent of its proceeds to the relief organization, a group of more than 250 entrepreneurs in India working to import oxygen concentrators for the hardest-hit hospitals in the country.

In an email to Midnight Publishing Group News, Fell said she was “absolutely distraught” watching the death toll rise, and was “compelled to create something to support people living through this nightmare.”

Fell then reached out to Pender, founder of Riposte magazine, and Vadoliya, a photographer and filmmaker, for help. The trio organized the initiative in just three days.

Artists including Bharat Sikka, Prarthna Singh, Ashish Shah, and Kalpesh Lathigra are contributing to the project. So far, Fell said, they have raised over $27,800, with orders coming in from around the world.

When hot spots in the United States and Europe had similar surges, the art world mobilized with initiatives like Pictures for Elmhurst, which raised $1.38 million for the New York hospital. A similar fundraiser in Italy raised nearly $800,000 to benefit the Pope Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo.

“We are all united around the urgent need to raise funds for India,” Fell said. “It’s also been beautiful to see the sense of community among the artists involved.”

See some of the works for sale below.

Artwork by Avani Rai. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Avani Rai. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Kuba Ryniewicz. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Kuba Ryniewicz. Courtesy of Art for India.

Ashish Shah, <i>Life and Death by the Ganges</i>. Courtesy of Art for India.

Ashish Shah, Life and Death by the Ganges. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Bharat Sikka. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Bharat Sikka. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Devashish Gaur. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Devashish Gaur. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Kalpesh Lathigra. Courtesy of Art for India.

Artwork by Kalpesh Lathigra. Courtesy of Art for India.

Kalpesh Lathigra, <i>Dinosaurs and Cameras</i>. Courtesy of Art for India.

Kalpesh Lathigra, Dinosaurs and Cameras. Courtesy of Art for India.


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Longing for the Louvre? The Museum Just Put Over 75 Percent of Its Collection Online in a New Database


The Musée du Louvre remains closed to the public, as it has been since October under French President Emmanuel Macron’s aggressive efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic. But now, art lovers around the world can feast their eyes on the museum’s famed offerings thanks to a new online database.

Last week, the Louvre launched a new website where digitized, high-resolution versions of more than 482,000 artworks can be viewed—including many that are in storage. That’s 75 percent of the Louvre’s entire collection, per a representative from the museum. A host of details accompanies each listing: materials and techniques, date and place of production, and object history, as well as an interactive map.

Even after more than a year’s worth of Zoom meetings and virtual art fairs, there seems to be a hungry audience for such a resource. The Louvre’s website received a record 21 million visits in 2020—a 50 percent increase from the previous high mark of 14 million in 2019, which was credited to its wildly popular Leonardo da Vinci exhibition. (Before that, the site averaged roughly 11 million visits per year.)

Though the process of digitizing the collection began “several decades ago,” according to a representative, the online collection database has been in the works since 2019.

Caravaggio's <i>La Mort de la Vierge</i> (1604–16) on the Louvre's new online collections database. Courtesy of the Courtesy of the Musée du Louvre.

Caravaggio’s La Mort de la Vierge (1604–16) on the Louvre’s new online collections database. Courtesy of the Courtesy of the Musée du Louvre.

 

“The Louvre is dusting off its treasures, even the least-known,” Jean-Luc Martinez, president-director of the Louvre, said in a statement. “For the first time, anyone can access the entire collection of works from a computer or smartphone for free, whether they are on display in the museum, on loan, even long-term, or in storage.” 

Also featured in the database are roughly 1,700 looted objects recovered from Germany since the end of World War II in 1945, which the Louvre will house until they can be properly restituted to the families of the original owners. 

Paolo Veronese's<i>Les Noces de Cana</i> on the Louvre's new online collections database. Courtesy of the Courtesy of the Musée du Louvre.

Paolo Veronese’sLes Noces de Cana on the Louvre’s new online collections database. Courtesy of the Courtesy of the Musée du Louvre.

The museum is currently in the process of analyzing some 13,900 objects acquired between 1933 and 1945—the results of which may soon be included in the database, according to the Art Newspaper. Following that effort, which is expected to take five years, the institution will turn its attention to objects that entered the collection after 1945.  

“The Louvre has nothing to hide, and the reputational risk is enormous,” Martinez, who will seek a new three-year contract after his current deal expires in April, told the Associated Press. “When the next generations want to know where these collections came from, how do we react? By doing the historical work and establishing the facts.”

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