Sale

These Six Works Available in the Midnight Publishing Group Auctions Sale ‘ArtNFT: Beginnings’ Are Redefining Generative Art


Generative and Artificial Intelligence art might sound like something straight out of a science fiction film. However, the idea that an artwork can be created by a machine, devoid of the human hand, or created by autonomous and algorithmic systems, isn’t far-fetched at all. For the past six decades, artists have been experimenting with technology, creating computer art, media art, video art, and digital art, and eventually tokenizing artworks on the blockchain.

Now, Midnight Publishing Group’s first NFT auction, “ArtNFT: Beginnings,” is centered on the historical trajectory of digital art and its touch points with the development of NFTs. Read on to learn about seven artists, including Dmitri Cherniak, Vuk Ćosić, and Georg Nees, who have been at the forefront of Generative and A.I. art movements, and whose works are live for bidding through December 21 in “ArtNFT: Beginnings.”

 

Dmitri Cherniak
Ringers #887 (2021)

Dmitri Cherniak, Ringers #887, (2021). Available now in “ArtNFT: Beginnings” on Midnight Publishing Group Auctions. Est.: 70-90 ETH ($272,000-349,000).

“Automation is my artistic medium. Hand coded goods,” Dmitri Cherniak has written. On January 31, 2021 the Canadian artist made a splash with the launch of his “Ringers” project on Artblocks, a program that hosts generative content on the Ethereum blockchain.

The series, which is capped at 1,000 unique NFTs, is based on the premise that there are an almost infinite number of ways to wrap a string around a set of pegs. “Ringers” are a computer-generated algorithmic series, created from Javascript code, and each work has its own unique transaction hash. Minimal in their aesthetics, “Ringers” are valued for qualities such as peg count, sizing, layout, background, wrap orientation, wrap style, scaling, body color, peg style, and extra color. Ringers #887 has a woven wrap style and a solid-filled black body which accentuates its visually striking, angular pattern. Notably, Ringer #109 sold for 2,100 ETH ($6.9 million at the time), making it the most expensive Art Blocks NFT sold to date.

Cherniak got his start in crypto in 2014, and while he has been probing the implications of blockchain-based generative art for years, it was not until 2019 that he began sharing his own work, remaining dedicated to algorithmic diversity in his practice.

 

Vuk Ćosić
Deep ASCII (1998)

Vuk Ćosić, Deep ASCII (1998). Available now in “ArtNFT: Beginnings” on Midnight Publishing Group Auctions. Est.: 12-15 ETH. ($46,600-$58,300).

Slovenian artist Vuk Ćosić is best known for his role as a founding pioneer of net.art, an internet art movement that started in 1994, and for his early application of encoding technology to visual graphics. Ćosić seeks to sidestep the traditional methods of creating art by utilizing the digital sphere, however he emphasizes that the most high-tech technologies need not be applied. This artistic approach drove many of his projects, including the ASCII Art Ensemble, which features various moving images and videos in the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) characteristically formed by numbered coding patterns.

Emblematic of Ćosić’s pioneering spirit, Deep ASCII is an NFT conversion of his 1998 work of the same title, which depicts a scene from the pornographic film Deep Throat rendered in ASCII. 

 

Kevin and Jennifer McCoy
Quantum Leap (Primordial Star 2) (2021)

Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, Quantum Leap (Primordial Star 2) (2021). Available now in “ArtNFT: Beginnings” on Midnight Publishing Group Auctions. Est.: 40-60 ETH ($155,374-233,060).

Quantum Leap by Jennifer and Kevin McCoy is the longest-term generative artwork, evolving over a three year cycle. The code-based NFT is inspired by the artists’ 2014 work Quantum, the first ever artwork to be tokenized on the blockchain. 

Constantly moving through changing states, the NFT draws upon art-historical and scientific theories to evolve and spawn new versions of itself in real time, multiplying in a manner akin to the current ecosystem of social and technological innovation. Fast-paced and unpredictable, the work’s title refers to a physics theory that strives to answer questions about the initial phases of the universe. 

Primordial Star 2 is the second from a series of eight unique tokens which involve layers of code-based systems that interact to produce an expanding mandala-like digital animation, inspired by the consistently shifting life cycle of stars. Over the token’s three-year cycle, it will spawn offspring—new stars and descendant tokens that will possess their own parameters and unique visual rendering software patterns. 

 

Quayola
PP_F_024_2 (2015-21)

Quayola, PP_F_024_2 (2015-21). Available now in “ArtNFT: Beginnings” on Midnight Publishing Group Auctions. Est.: 8-12 ETH ($31,000-$46,600).

Italian artist Davide Quayola sees technology as complementary to classical religious iconography and traditional landscape imagery. Most often referred to as Quayola, the artist works with many mediums, including audiovisual performance, video, sculpture, and works on paper. PP_F_024_2 is an NFT that draws inspiration from Impressionism and suggests a new understanding of the natural world through collaboration with technology. The work is an algorithmic composition that blends opposite realms: nature and technology, representation and abstraction, and, ultimately, the human and machine. 

Inspired by the work of Vincent Van Gogh, Quayola visited the countryside in Provence some 130 years after the Dutch artist to capture some of the same iconic natural compositions. Quayola uses custom software to transform his source videos into algorithmic animations resembling real paint. PP_F_024_2, for example, was generated by the analysis of ultra-high-definition videos. 

 

Pindar Van Arman
Emerging Faces (2020)

Pindar Van Arman, Emerging Faces (2020). Available now in “ArtNFT: Beginnings” on Midnight Publishing Group Auctions. Est.: 60-80 ETH ($233,000-$310,800).

Pindar Van Arman is an American artist, roboticist, and pioneer of digital art. Van Arman has been building robots for use in his artistic practice since 2015, and he has programmed software applications such as CrowdPainter, bitPaintr and CloudPainter. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) software, Van Arman’s robots hold a brush and paint patterns directed by an algorithm. 

 A pioneer of digital art, Pindar Van Arman is an American artist and roboticist. Van Arman has been building robots for use in his artistic practice since 2005 and has programmed CrowdPainter, bitPaintr and CloudPainter. All based on Artificial Intelligence software, Van Arman directs his robots to hold a brush and paint a pattern directed by an algorithm. 

Emerging Faces is the product of a collaboration between Van Arman and Robert “3D” Del Naja, a British street artist and a member of the electronic band Massive Attack. This work—an NFT accompanied by a physical work—combines Del Naja’s signature style with Van Arman’s technical coding abilities. A.I. layered the textures and colors of Del Naja’s paintings to create a composite idea of its dominant characteristics, as an exploration of facial recognition software. 

 

Desmond Paul Henry
#287 (1963)

Desmond Paul Henry, #287 (1963). Available now in “ArtNFT: Beginnings” on Midnight Publishing Group Auctions. Est.: 2.5-3 ETH ($9,700-$11,700).

Desmond Paul Henry is among the greatest pioneers in early computer art, now critically digested as a paramount predecessor of Generative art. In the 1960s, he constructed three mechanical drawing machines, with technology based on the analogue bomb-sight computers used during World War II aircrafts. Inspired by the “peerless parabolas” of the computers’ inner mechanisms, Henry attempted to recreate the mechanical motions using biro pens, tube pens, ink pens to create abstract, curvilinear, repetitive line drawings on paper.

#287 is a physical artwork, created by one of Henry’s drawing machines in multi-colored biros on paper.

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Phillips London Just Set Nearly 20 Auction Records for Emerging Artists in Its $8.8 Million ‘New Now’ Sale


Phillips’s “New Now” contemporary art sale in London on July 13, which featured an eclectic mix of artworks by emerging, buzzed-about artists alongside established blue-chip names like Andy Warhol, Banksy, and KAWS, pulled in a sturdy £6.4 million ($8.8 million), the highest total for a Phillips London sale in the category.

The intermingling of well-established with new names in a single auction tends to lead to a clear split between the top prices, with the more recognizable stars bringing in more cash.

But the Phillips sale was something of an exception: while the top lots of the night were by Warhol and KAWS, much buzzed-about figurative artists like Genieve Figgis also made big splashes, and nearly 20 auction records were set for living artists, including Josh Smith, Ryan Gander, and Oli Epp. 

Andy Warhol Flowers (1964-65). Image courtesy Phillips.

Andy Warhol Flowers (1964-65). Image courtesy Phillips.

Of 224 lots offered, 198, or 86 percent, were sold. By value, the auction was 94 percent sold, a reflection of the number of lots that brought over-estimate prices. 

“The strength of the market was demonstrated through the enthusiasm and depth of bidding from bidders across 48 countries worldwide,” said Simon Tovey, the London-based head of the sale. He noted that six artists made their debut onto the secondary market.

The top lot was Warhol’s Flowers (1964–65), a classic image by the artist, which sold for a mid-estimate £1.35 million ($1.9 million) with premium.

The second-highest, though far lower, price was for an untitled painting by KAWS featuring Star Wars character C3P0 sporting a signature KAWS animated head with X’s for eyes. It sold for £352,800 ($488,804), just a notch over the high £350,000 estimate.

Banksy’s Love Is In The Air screenprint (2003), depicting one of the artist’s best-known images (a masked figure about to launch a bouquet of flowers as though it were a molotov cocktail) sold for £214,200 ($296,774), also meeting its estimate including the premium. (Final prices include buyer’s premium unless otherwise noted; estimates do not.)

A new record was set for Josh Smith, an artist who works with collage, sculpture, and printmaking in a style that mixes abstraction and figuration. Though he first became recognized for canvases that depicted his own name in expressive loops and swirls, many of the recent works are of Expressionist-style palm trees against sunset backdrops.

Oli Epp Whistleblower (2017). Image courtesy Phillips.

Oli Epp Whistleblower (2017). Image courtesy Phillips.

An untitled example of this subject matter from 2014 sold for a record £214,200 ($297,000) today, clearing the high £150,000 estimate by a wide margin. The previous record of $262,500 was set in May 2019, at Sotheby’s New York, also for a palm tree and sunset image.

Whistleblower (2017), a painting by Oli Epp, a London-based artist known for his deformed and quirky figures, shattered its modest estimate of £10,0000 to £15,000 to sell for £144,900 ($200,800), and was the seventh-highest price of the night.

The sale featured a number of African artists and artists of the African diaspora, some of whose works were sold to benefit the Africa First Artist Residency Program, with almost £220,000 ($305,000) raised in total. 

As part of this group, a record was set for Simphiwe Ndzube, who is originally from Cape Town and is based in Los Angeles. Figure With a Whip Leg (2019) sold for £37,800 ($52,372).

Ndzube’s work is inspired by the South African working-class Black men’s tradition of swenking, informal competitions that are part fashion show and part dance-off. He appeared on Midnight Publishing Group News’ 2018 list of Armory Show artists to watch.

Zimbabwean artist Moffat Takadiwa’s Land of Money and Honey (2017), an assemblage of metal bottle caps and plastic on plastic cord, sold for a record £12,600 ($17,457). 

Outside of that group, there were a number of works by African artists painting in the last half decade that were sold from galleries on the primary market not long ago.

Josh Smith Untitled (2014). Image courtesy Phillips.

Josh Smith Untitled (2014). Image courtesy Phillips.

These included a painting by Zimbabwe-born, South African artist Kudzanai-Violet Hwami, KWEKWE x HARARE x CAPETOWN WHEREVER YOU’RE FROM (2015), which sold for £81,900 ($113,000), far above the high £50,000 estimate. Meanwhile, Lady in Orange (2020) by Nigerian artist Chiderah Bosah, which was acquired directly from the artist by the consigner, sold for a double estimate £17,460 ($24,000).

The sale also featured a special charitable component organized by fashion designer Stella McCartney, who, during lockdown, reached out to 26 artists, colleagues, and friends to select and visualize letters from the alphabet to create a “McCartney A to Z Manifesto.”

Each artist was given absolute freedom to reimagine their own letter and to select their own charitable cause. Hajime Sorayama selected Médecins Sans Frontières Japan and Cindy Sherman supported Planned Parenthood.

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Christie’s Sets Records for Georges de la Tour and Six Other Artists at Its Healthy $52.8 Million London Old Masters Sale


The Old Master market came to life for two hours at Christie’s London on Thursday evening, whipping up a respectable £45.3 million ($52.8 million) and sparking occasions of broad bidding.

The sale was a faithful antidote to Sotheby’s anemic £17.2 million ($23.8 million) outing on Wednesday evening in London, where 21 of the 49 lots failed to find buyers, resulting in a dismal sell-through rate of 57 percent.

Experts attributed the week’s unevenness in part to the field’s conservative penchant for viewing works in person, especially the 500-year-old Dutch pictures prevalent at Sotheby’s, in light of the fact that international travel still hamstrung by the pandemic. Christie’s also had a leg up with more long-held works coming to market.

While Sotheby’s £17.2 million ($23.9 million) sale came in at the low end of its £16.9 million-to-£24.8 million estimate, Christie’s 59-lot offering came in toward the top end of its £36.7 million-to-£56.1 million range. Forty-six of its offerings sold for a decent sell-through rate of 78 percent.

Artemisia Gentileschi, <i>Venus and Cupid</i>. Courtesy Christie's Images Ltd. 2021.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Venus and Cupid. Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2021.

Seven artist records were set, including standout paintings by Georges de La Tour, Bernardo Bellotto, and Adriaen van de Velde. Five works were backed by financial guarantees, assuring their sale ahead of the auction. (By contrast, Sotheby’s sale earlier this week boasted zero guarantees.)

The London Old Master sales marked a return for the summer events after they were cancelled last year. (In lieu of these standalone sales, auction houses experimented last year with cross-category efforts, which had the added bonus of enabling them to build a sale with whatever available works were strongest.)

This week also saw a reversal of fortunes compared to the most recent equivalent sales in July 2019, when Sotheby’s achieved a £56 million total for its evening sale, one of its best results ever, and Christie’s scored a paltry £14.9 million. (Final prices include the buyer’s premium; estimates do not.)

Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli, <i>View of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, from the entrance of the Grand Canal</i>. Courtesy Christie's Images Ltd. 2021.

Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli, View of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, from the entrance of the Grand Canal. Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2021.

A Buoyant Start

The usual maxim for the Old Master market applied to both evening sales: supply was the name of the game.

“The two results were kind of reflective of the quality of the two sales,” said Anthony Crichton Stuart, director of Agnews London. “I don’t think there were any big surprises. The market as we know is still very selective so in that sense, the Christie’s sale was something of a triumph and the results were commensurate.”

The sale got off to a buoyant start with the wildly surreal oil on panel by a follower of Hieronymus Bosch, Temptation of Saint Anthony, which fetched £262,500 ($361,463), more than double its high estimate of £100,000.

The top lot of the evening was Bernardo Bellotto’s sweeping and super large-scale View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi (1745–47). Acquired by the seller at Christie’s London in 1971 for £300,000, it has been on long-term loan to the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh ever since. Though it took top honors, it came in below the heady estimate at a record £10.6 million ($14.6 million) (estimate: £12 million to £18 million).

Another virtuoso work, groaning with epicurean foodstuffs, was Jan Davidsz. De Heem’s A Banquet Still Life, with the artist’s signature deftly placed on a sheet of music resting under a lute. It sold for a mid-estimate £3.1 million ($4.3 million). The work was restituted in 2019 to the heirs of Jacob Lierens, whose villa and art collection were confiscated by the Nazis and the banquet “acquired” in 1941 for the unrealized Fuhrermuseum in Linz.

Also a top lot of the evening was Gaspar van Wittel’s View of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, from the entrance of the Grand Canal, which floated past its  £1 million high estimate to fetch £1.6 million ($2.3 million).

Bernardo Bellotto, <i>View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi</i>. Courtesy Christie's Images Ltd. 2021.

Bernardo Bellotto, View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi. Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2021.

A trio of women artists stuck out in a sale otherwise dominated by male names. Angelica Kauffman’s striking, elaborately costumed portrait of Lady Elizabeth Smith Stanley, her infant son Edward, and her half sister Lady Augusta brought £562,50 ($774,563) (estimate: £500,000–800,000). This outstanding neoclassical portrait painter, who developed a strong reputation in Rome and London during her lifetime, suffered through the ages from misogynist allegations of her romantic liaisons with famous male artists such as Joshua Reynolds and, as a result, paled next to her male colleagues.

Later in the sale, Artemisia Gentileschi’s evocative composition, Venus and Cupid, featuring a reclining and mostly nude mythic beauty embraced by the winged cherub, sold for an estimate-busting £2.4 million ($3.3 million), double its £1.2 million high estimate.

The painting—now the second highest auction price notched for the artist—was acquired by the seller privately in Switzerland in 1959 and cuts a long trail of ownership begun in the 17th century by Cardinal Antonio Barberini, a nephew of Pope Urban VIII and collector of such masterpieces as Caravaggio’s Cardsharps and The Lute Player.

But the sleeper in that small female group was the 17th century Southern Netherlands painter Michaelina Wautier’s Head of a Boy, executed in oil on canvas and measuring just 16 7/8 by 13 1/3 inches. It ignited a bidding war and finally sold for £400,000 ($550,800), a whopping five times its high estimate. The modest painting last sold at Christie’s London in December 2008 for £30,000, when it was misidentified as Circle of the Le Nain Brothers.

Jan Davidsz. de Heem, <i>A banquet still life</i>. Courtesy Christie's Images Ltd. 2021.

Jan Davidsz. de Heem, A banquet still life. Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2021.

It has been only in the past 20 years or so that Wautier’s Baroque style has been properly acknowledged after generations of misattributions, including those of her painter brother Charles, brought to light by art historian Katlijne der Stighelen.

Also in the 17th century vein, a rare and late oil on canvas by Georges de La Tour, Saint Andrew, capturing the intense spirituality of one of the 12 apostles, realized a record £4.3 million ($6.1 million) (estimate: £4 million–6 million). The success of another nocturne, which sold last year for $5 million to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, may have helped pry this one from its owner’s hands; there are few others, if any, known to be left in private collections.

Ferdinand Bol, <i>Portrait of a lady at a casement</i>. Courtesy Christie's Images Ltd. 2021.

Ferdinand Bol, Portrait of a lady at a casement. Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2021.

Reassuring Depth

The market showed reassuring depth for first-rate offerings, as evidenced by Ferdinand Bol’s riveting Portrait of a Lady at a Casement (1652), featuring the bride resting her arm on a pillow, which soared to £1.2 million ($1.7 million) (estimate: £400,000–600,000). The detached pendant (of her husband) resides at the Museum of Fine Arts in Leipzig.

On a lighter and decidedly musical note, Frans van Mieris, the Elder’s intimate and detailed 12-by-9.5-inch The Music Lesson attracted a posse of bidders and hauled in £3.5 million ($4.8 million), more than triple its £1 million high estimate.

Of the British entries, Edward Coley Burne-Jones’s Pre-Raphaelite stunner and retelling on canvas the tale of Sleeping Beauty, The Prince Entering the Briar Wood (1869), spun to £2.4 million ($3.4 million).

“Tonight was a tremendous confidence boost to the Old Master market,” said Henry Pettifer, Christie’s London head of the Old Master paintings department.

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NFT Collective Whines Over Cryptopunks Sale, Coveted Young Artist Joins Hauser & Wirth, & More Art-World Gossip


Every week, Midnight Publishing Group News Pro brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops reported and written by Nate Freeman. If you have a tip, email Nate at [email protected]

 

REVENGE OF THE CRYPTO NERDS

Love them or hate them—and believe you me, people do hate them!—NFTs have done one thing that unites disparate parts of the art market: make people rich. Sources said Christie’s owner François Pinault, even as he’s busy opening his new $200 million museum in Paris, has been keeping a watchful eye on the record-breaking sales of tokens, sending his son, Kering C.E.O. François-Henri Pinault, to watch the no-audience sale in person as the only soul in the skybox. (The billionaire’s son is oddly the perfect emissary to check out an NFT sale—he’s a secret tech nerd who decades ago taught himself to code in FORTRAN and COBOL.) 

But there have been some growing pains on both sides as the centuries-old auction house embraces the medium of the future. The house’s lawyers have to grapple with a new kind of rambunctious and uncouth clientele that isn’t used to the old-world mores of the company founded by James Christie in 1766, and currently owned by a luxury goods billionaire.  

Christie's at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Courtesy of Christie's.

Christie’s at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Courtesy of Christie’s.

Most of the time, when someone bids on art at auction, there is a human being on the other end of the telephone. Not so with NFTs—the entities that were registering to bid on a lot like Cryptopunks were often Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, or D.A.O.s, very unofficially organized groups of investors who pool money to buy digital artworks.

Christie’s lawyers were allegedly baffled by the prospect of giving a paddle to an unknowable cohort of ether hoarders. Hypothetically, such investors could be criminals, terrorists, members of military dictatorships, etc. Sources said that, even when a paddle is given to someone potentially shady—say, a member of the Saudi royal family standing in for the crown prince—the auction house can avoid legal issues if the lawyers can vet their identity. Not so with a D.A.O., which gives no information about the numbers or makeup of its membership. 

The Flamingo DAO logo. Courtesy the Flamingo DAO.

But Christie’s made an exception for the Flamingo D.A.O. The legit-looking contingent was incorporated in October 2020, and has since focused solely on buying NFTs—the crew’s Twitter bio calls itself the “Medicis of NFT,” which, I mean, sure. But Flamingo’s air of exclusivity passed muster with the Christie’s council: The D.A.O. limited its number of members to 100 not to run afoul of the S.E.C., and made sure everyone was accredited, meaning they had at least a million bucks in the bank. Members also had to provide their passports and S.S.N.s, meaning—presumably!—no warlords or criminals allowed. 

Not only did Christie’s allow them to bid, but the old-world auction house literally let the barbarians into the gates. Sources said the auction house extended an invitation to a Flamingo D.A.O. member who goes by G Money to take a tour of the sale preview the day before Cryptopunks hit the block. Noah Davis, the Christie’s specialist who became an art-world star overnight by orchestrating the $69 million Beeple sale, personally showed G Money around, hoping to convince the mysterious D.A.O. to bid the lot higher and higher. The anonymous Mr. Money is a known fan of the work—in January, he paid 140 ETH, or $176,000, for a single punk. And as far as we know, he was treated with the utmost respect—he said at the time that the Christie’s brass even referred to him exclusively by his absurd nom de crypto.

Noah Davis. Photo courtesy Christie’s.

But the Ether-rich collector of intangible things later changed his mind. In an unhinged Twitter rant called “How Christies Fucked Up the Punks Auction,” he lashed out at the house for what he saw was an insufficient amount of attention given to the punks in the showrooms. While you can hang a Basquiat or a Haring, you can’t hang a Cryptopunk because… it doesn’t exist. And so the house came up with the idea of installing reproductions of the Punks in semi-hidden high-up places around the rooms, in a sort of reference to the street artist Invader

This did not go over well with our man G Money.

“I wonder why someone might not think a tiny 4″ x 4″ piece tucked randomly in obscure corners is worth anything? You literally had ONE job: Find buyers,” he wrote on Twitter. “If I had no idea what a CryptoPunk was walking into the gallery beforehand, I sure as hell had no clue when I walked out.”

Davis—who’s become quite active on the Punks’ Discord chat channel, despite the self-acknowledged fact that he’s an outsider (his name on Discord is @NoahThePoseur)—wrote back with an thorough apology, explaining the reference to Invader and said he “devised the Easter Egg-stye Punk Hunt as a way to playfully present the Punks as sneaking into Christie’s.

“I know I’m technically a Christie’s suit, but I hope you know how hard I’m trying to be a kind of Punks evangelist from within this 300-year-old corporation,” he said on Discord. 

The whole saga was eventually moot—the winner who paid $17 million in Ether for Cryptopunks was a contingent led by Haralabos Voulgaris, who has since tried to shit-talk your Wet Paint scribe on the internet, with varying degree of success—but it shows that the auction houses will need to bend over backwards to convince the new guard of crypto collectors to buy from them. In his rant, G Money threatened at one point to tell his D.A.O. to buy and sell works through online vendors, where the commission is a fraction of what Christie’s takes. He even threatened to do the worst thing possible: take his business to Sotheby’s

Christie’s declined to comment. G Money did not respond to a DM. 

 

CHRISTINA QUARLES GOES MEGA WITH HAUSER & WIRTH 

Christina Quarles. Courtesy Pilar Corrias, London. Photo: Ilona Szwarc

In late 2019, around the time that a strange virus started making the rounds in the industrial city of Wuhan, the mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth went on a representation tear. Avery Singer, George Condo, Nicole Eisenman, and Henry Taylor all joined the gallery in quick succession in the last few months of 2019 and early 2020. And while new artist announcements, along with everything else, kind of went on pause there for a while in 2020, the Swiss-born mega-gallery is once again adding some of the world’s most illustrious art-makers to its roster. Last fall Frank Bowling came on board, and this spring Hauser added Cindy Sherman and Gary Simmons, two artists who left Metro Pictures, which will close later this year. 

Now, Hauser has another new addition to the stacked roster: Christina Quarles, the 36-year-old phenom who currently has a blockbuster solo show at the MCA Chicago. They’ll rep her alongside her longtime London gallery Pilar Corrias, and the first show is at the New York Hauser space in the Fall of 2022. 

“She is a very strong young painter doing something completely on her own,” Hauser partner Marc Payot said when reached on the phone by Wet Paint to confirm the rumor. “The way she paints the body, with today’s digital tools, between abstraction and figuration, it reminds me of Maria Lassnig, but I also think of Louise Bourgeois. Louise would say, ‘My body is a sculpture,’ and in Cristina’s world that resonates quite a bit.”

Christina Quarles, Casually Cruel. (2018). Photo: Damian Griffiths. © Christina Quarles. Photo courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

The mega-gallery will also represent the artist in Los Angeles, meaning that she’s parting ways with Regen Projects, which added Quarles to the roster in 2018, giving her a show the next year.

(According to Quarles’s CV on the Pilar Corrias site, there is a solo show forthcoming at Regan in 2021, but that may not be happening—Quarles is no longer on the Regan Projects artists roster on its website.)

Christina Quarles, Forced Perspective (And I Kno It’s Rigged, But It’s tha Only Game in Town) (2018). Photo: Brian Forres. © Christina Quarles. Photo courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

And broadly, it means big things for Quarles, one of the few artists who maintained her star-making trajectory throughout the pandemic. At auction she’s broken records again and again, and in December a painting sold for $655,200, nearly six times its high estimate. Her not-that-prolific output means that, on the primary market, only the world’s top collectors get a sniff of the waiting list. Last December, when your Wet Paint scribe was in Miami, we visited the de la Cruz Collection, and upon entering, Rosa de la Cruz lead us straight to a gallery upstairs to show us her most prized new possession: Quarles’s Don’t They Know? it’s the End of tha World (2020). It’s now hanging on the walls of the MCA Chicago. Expect that sort of thing to happen a lot. 

 

POP QUIZ

Last week was too easy! A lot of people knew that the clue was a Josh Smith painting at the awesome Manhattan nightclub Paul’s Baby Grand. People like those paintings so much that someone tried to steal one once.

The first responders were many repeat Pop Quiz winners: Brussels-based curator Louis-Philippe Van Eeckhoutte; collector and patron Scott Lorinsky; Dan Desmond, executive director of the Blue Rider Group at Morgan Stanley; William Leach, a former trusts, estates, and valuations coordinator at Phillips; Sarah Goulet, the owner of Sarah Goulet Communications; Cyprien David, exhibition coordinator at Gagosian Zurich; Krause Co. founder Molly Krause; Darrow Contemporary founder Meredith Darrow; See/Saw founder Ellen Swieskowski; and Andrew Reed, online sales associate at David Zwirner. There were more who got it right, but only the first ten responders get their name in print! Them’s the breaks!

Here’s another chance at Pop Quiz glory: Name the artwork here, its owner, and where it is installed! 

Send guesses to [email protected]. You know the drill. 

 

WE HEAR…

Ignacio Mattos is in talks to run Estela-like restaurants at the forthcoming hotel in the Jarmulowsky Bank Building, the construction project that’s been happening in Dimes Square for nearly a decade … Downs and Ross is opening a project space in Tribeca, not in a storefront but in an honest-to-goodness apartment, on 65 Reade Street … The Los Angeles gallery shared by Mexico City’s House of Gaga and New York’s Reena Spaulings is leaving its longtime MacArthur Park space, which had dreamy views of one of the east side’s cooler lakes … 

Lily Collins, Jeremy O. Harris and Ashley Park on set in Paris. Photo courtesy Instagram stories.

Jeremy O. Harris will be on the new season of Emily in ParisWhite Cube now represents the South African artist Cinga Samson … One of the Andy Warhol NFTs sold at Christie’s for $1.17 million, with bidding coming in at the final seconds Thursday afternoon … Gary Simmons will curate a group survey at Rebecca Camacho Presents, the dealer’s eponymous gallery in San FranciscoThe Bioscleave House, a wild East Hampton estate built by artists Madeline Gins and Arakawa, is back on the market for $975,000 …  Anna Gray, Franklin Parrasch, and Carolyn Ramo are opening a gallery called Airfield at 26 Downs Street in downtown Kingston, New York—it opens Sunday, and it’s around the corner from epically delicious local eatery Lunch Nightly …  The Estate of John Baldessari is now repped globally by Sprüth Magers, along with Mai 36 in Zurich and Galerie Greta Meert in Brussels—but no longer the artist’s longtime dealer during his lifetime, Marian Goodman Gallery in New York … 

Derek Blasberg and his partner, Nick Brown, are now parents to newborn twins, mazel tov! … The next run of the Oscars have been pushed back to March 27, 2022, which means that Larry Gagosian will have to push back his annual Oscars exhibition at the Beverly Hills space (always followed by dinner at Mr. Chow and an after-party at Gago’s Holmby Hills pad) to the Thursday when the art world is halfway around the world in Hong Kong for Art Basel, sigh, the whole circuit’s gonna be screwed up for years … The Instagram account for the HBO Max reboot of Gossip Girl has been placing select members of the media and art community on its Close Friends list in meta-experiment that will mirror the show’s anonymous dish-spreader, but so far the only content they’ve posted is a black screen informing their few Close Friend followers that they’ll read receipts—nice try GG, but you know there’s just one and only source into the scandalous lives of the art world’s elite, you know you love me, XOXO … 

Hey Upper East Siders… Photo courtesy a tipster.

 

SPOTTED

*** A smattering of heavy hitting artists and curators at the opening of Nicola Vassel’s new gallery in Chelsea, including Hank Willis Thomas, David Byrne, Rashid Johnson, Sheree Hovsepian, Fred Eversley, Ming Smith (who has the show at the gallery), Hall Chase, Tschabalala Self, Arthur Jafa, as well as collectors Jeanne Greenberg and Peter Soros *** The downtown scene decamping to Long Island City to celebrate Alex Eagleton’s show at The Journal Gallery with a dinner at Mina’s, the beloved restaurant at MoMA PS1—artists present included Leelee Kimmel, Chloe Wise, Louie Eisner (with his girlfriend, designer Ashley Olsen), Rachel Rossin, all eating delicious food from the master Mina Stone ***

*** Lucien Smith at Casa Cipriani to premiere a new short film made to launch a shoe he designed for Adidas Originals, keep your eyes peeled for a cameo by yours truly *** Takeshi 6ix9ine on Broadway and Broome, just sort of hanging out on a stoop in SoHo, what a town! *** Joan Didion being wheeled around Central Park on a sunny Thursday afternoon *** Collector and rapper Mike D at Atla *** A selection of art and fashion bold names at the rooftop cocktail bar Happy Be, now open high above Tribeca *** D.C. dealer Todd von Ammon, in town for his Catharine Czudej pop up that ran during Frieze, checking out Chinatown hotspot Dr. Clark’s, where writer and publicist Kaitlin Phillips was, intriguingly, carrying around a small painting by Pablo Barba *** The Drunken Canal crew celebrating their new issue with a raucous karaoke night at Winnie’s Saturday ***

Chloe on the jumbotron. Photo courtesy a tipster.

*** Chloë Sevigny and her husband, Karma director Sinisa Mackovic, at the Knicks playoff game Wednesday at the Garden, go New York go New York go! *** Devin Troy Strother celebrating his new show at Broadway gallery with a dinner Saturday at Wu’s Wonton King, which my oenophile friends say is low-key the best BYOB setup in Manhattan—you pick up some dope pét-nat at People’s and enjoy whole giant crabs and suckling pigs, what could be better *** Iwan Wirth in a kilt at his birthday party *** 

PARTING SHOT

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Sotheby’s $221.3 Million Impressionist and Modern Sale Was Solid, But Proves the True Market Fireworks Are Elsewhere


Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern art evening sale capped off a marathon night that saw collectors welcomed back to its New York salesroom for the first time in over a year.

The offering of 33 lots (one was withdrawn just prior to the sale) pulled in a solid total of $221.3 million, just under the original high estimate of $222.8 million. (The estimate was revised downward after the withdrawal, to $166.9 million–219.3 million.) Of the lots offered, 31, or 94 percent, found buyers.

These final results belied uneven appetites. Aside from intense competition for a handful of star lots, particularly from Asian buyers, the action was unpredictable. Certain works sold far below their estimates, suggesting some reserves had been lowered in the lead-up to the sale due to lackluster interest. (Unless otherwise stated, final prices include auction-house premiums; presale estimates do not.) 

The top lot of the evening, Claude Monet’s Le Bassin aux nymphéas (1917–19), sold for $70.3 million, well over its estimate of around $40 million. That’s more than four times the $16.8 million price it made at Sotheby’s in May 2004. This time around, the work went to a client of specialist Gregoire Billault in New York after fierce competition from Hong Kong. It is now the fifth priciest Monet ever sold at auction.

Art law specialist Thomas Danziger represented clients from the estate of Philadelphia philanthropist Tristram Colket, an heir to the Campbell’s soup fortune, who consigned four major works to the sale

Danziger summed up the mood, telling Midnight Publishing Group News: “Generally good sale results, but hard to square the selling price of a spectacular Cézanne with the price achieved by a Bitcoin Banksy.” (He was referencing a $12.9 million Banksy in the contemporary sale that evening, which more than doubled its $5 million high estimate and marked the first time that Sotheby’s said it would accept cryptocurrency as a form of payment for a physical work.)

Paul Cezanne, Nature morte pommes et poires (Circa 1888-90). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Paul Cézanne, Nature morte pommes et poires (Circa 1888–90). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Two of Colket’s works, which did not carry guarantees, hammered below or near their low estimates. A Cézanne still life, Nature morte: pommes et poires (circa 1888-1890), sold for $19.9 million with premium, far short of its published $25 million to $35 million estimate.

The muted reception was similar for Colket’s Degas dancer, Danseuse (circa 1880–87), which sold for a hammer price of $10 million—exactly the low estimate—to a Sotheby’s specialist in London. Of the final two Colket works (both Monets), a landscape failed to sell and a floral still life sailed past its $6 million high estimate to fetch $10 million.

One of the rare works that sparked protracted bidding was Picasso’s Femme assise en costume vert (1953), a portrait of the artist’s lover and mother of two of his children, Françoise Gilot. Sotheby’s Asia chairman Patty Wong won it on behalf of a client for $20.9 million with premium. 

Amedeo Modigliani, <i>Jeune fille assise, les cheveux dénoués (Jeune fille en bleu)</i> (1919). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Amedeo Modigliani, Jeune fille assise, les cheveux dénoués (Jeune fille en bleu) (1919). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Toward the end of the sale, the intensity picked up again for a painting by Diego Rivera, Retrato de Columba Dominguez de Fernandez (1950). The final price with premium was $7.4 million, far above the $2 million to $3 million estimate.

Another notable element of the evening was the structure of guarantees—including the volume that Sotheby’s fronted itself and then farmed out to third parties to offload some of the risk. A week prior to the sale, just one of 10 guaranteed lots was backed by an outside bidder. That figure rose to 11 out of a total of 14 guaranteed lots by the time the sale kicked off on Wednesday.

Pablo Picasso, <i>Femme assise en costume vert</i> (1953). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Pablo Picasso, Femme assise en costume vert (1953). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

One of the works that secured a guarantee in the run-up to the sale was Amedeo Modigliani’s Jeune fille assise, les cheveux dénoués (Jeune fille en blue), which carried an estimate of $15 million to $20 million. It hammered for $14 million after protracted competition between two specialists, including Helena Newman in London, for whom it was almost breakfast time as the sale came to a close.  

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