The Back Room

The Back Room: Waiting on the Future


Despite the many tragedies COVID-19 caused last year, the silver lining to the once-in-a-century upheaval was supposed to be that it would spark a radical rethinking of life, politics, culture, and business. But to paraphrase funk legend Rick James in the Chappelle’s Show sketch that defined an era of comedy for old millennials, inertia has turned out to be a hell of a drug in the art market.

With our third year under the shadow of COVID just a few months away, I argued in this week’s Gray Market that it’s time to stop pretending the industry has responded to the epic challenge of the pandemic with sufficient creativity and vision for the long term.

Even the best-resourced players seem most interested in re-establishing the status quo with bare-minimum tweaks.

  • Major auction houses have fixated on improving their live-streaming capabilities and “disrupting the traditional calendar” by holding the maximum number of sales that consignments will allow.
  • Dealers and art fairs have concentrated on online viewing rooms that lightly refine the same grid-based, click-to-buy template used in every other form of e-commerce.
  • NFTs are largely being treated by art sellers as just another item to flog in more or less the same ways as every other work in their respective holdings.

I had to ask: Is this really the best we can do?

It shouldn’t be. As I learned from futurist Doug Stephens’s latest bookResurrecting Retail: The Future of Business in a Post-Pandemic World, a vanguard of forward-thinking brands is putting art-market innovation to shame with their big moves toward transformational change.

His case studies reveal a grand irony: Art sellers have largely been pirouetting away from showmanship and engagement toward mechanized, repeatable, low-friction transactions at exactly the moment future-conscious retailers are doing the exact opposite.

For example, consider…

CAMP, a toy store where toys take up only about 20 percent of the space in each brick-and-mortar location.

  • The rest houses a “black-box theater of experience for kids and their families,” hosting rotating productions built inside out from currently featured toys by a team of Broadway veterans.
  • Camp sells tickets to all performances and sponsorships for each production, turning the toys into buyable souvenirs of an unforgettable day.
  • The ethos echoes what could (and sometimes does) drive great for-profit gallery exhibitions, fair booths, and (to some degree) museum shows, like the beloved John Baldessari-designed “Magritte and Contemporary Art” at LACMA.

B & H PHOTO VIDEO, meanwhile, is an A/V superstore whose sales staff consists entirely of expert photographers uniquely fit to guide buyers through costly, often-confusing specialty purchases.

  • The business thrives by offering elite customer service—something even more lacking in online viewing rooms than in physical galleries, many collectors say.

MORPHE, a next-wave cosmetics venture, has re-engineered each of its stores to double as an accessible content-production house for customers.

  • Studio time, equipment, and onsite specialists can all be booked for users’ shoots.
  • This creates (and monetizes) a reciprocal relationship between the brand and buyers who were already crafting DIY social media content in its spaces anyway. (Sound familiar?)

The Back Room: Once Upon a Time in the West


Every Friday, Midnight Publishing Group News Pro members get exclusive access to the Back Room, our lively recap funneling only the week’s must-know intel into a nimble read you’ll actually enjoy. 

This week in the Back Room: A former LA textile mill churns out art stars, the law catches up to a scandalous SoCal dealer, Gagosian goes big online (again), and much more—all in a 6-minute read (1,824 words).

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Top of the Market

LA, LA, Big City of Dreams

Canyon Castator, courtesy of the artist.

Canyon Castator, courtesy of the artist.

The international art market’s next step out of the COVID riptide landed in Los Angeles this week, as the city hosts its first gallery weekend (organized by Gallery Association Los Angeles), the third edition of the Felix art fair, and a beach bag overflowing with associated art happenings. You can even scroll through Frieze’s LA-focused OVR while you crawl along the freeway from event to event!

But one of the city’s most exciting new art hubs will impact the industry well after the limelight turns to the next destination on the events calendar. Welcome to Mohilef Studios, a former downtown LA textiles factory now housing four stories of workspaces for an ensemble cast of rising art stars.

As Katya Kazakina reports, the driving force behind Mohilef Studios is the buzzy transplanted New York painter Canyon Castator. Six years after renting an 800 square-foot space to share with his sculptor father in what was then an arts-bereft building, Castator has grown into a hybrid curator, community builder, and entrepreneur tending what tastemakers increasingly feel is a can’t-miss hive of emerging talent.

Those tastemakers include local dealer and artists’ manager Niels Kantor, Hollywood producer and veteran collector Neal Moritz, and K-Pop supernova T.O.P. (Choi Seung-hyun). Among the fans on the gallery side are Bill Brady (who maintains spaces in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles) and Carl Kostyál (London, Stockholm), both of whom have now exhibited works by multiple current and former Mohilef tenants.

Who are some of those tenants, you ask?

  • Simphiwe Ndzube, now boasting a solo show at the Denver Art Museum and representation by Nicodim and Stevenson galleries.
  • Jess Valice, whose one-person exhibitions at Brady’s New York and Miami spaces sold out in January at prices ranging from $5,000 to $18,000.
  • Austyn Weiner, a Mohilef alum whose works have soared as high as $90,000 at auction and anchored shows at the JournalKohn Gallery, and Carl Kostyál.

Yet these successes have been refreshingly organic. Castator says the vision was always for Mohilef to be an affordable resource for artists, with a sense of community and a self-made spirit. The reality is living up to his expectations.

The two Castators have personally renovated every space and selected every new resident. Each floor has a different layout fit for different career stages, from smaller open-plan studios to about 3,200-square-foot private spaces. Prices are around $1.25 per square foot. Since neither Castator nor several of the tenants went to art school, the studio also doubles as a homegrown support network.

It has paid off for everyone, including Castator himself. His paintings now sell for $25,000 to $35,000 to buyers including KAWS. And as the buzz around Mohilef keeps mounting, his clout will only increase as an artist, talent scout, and maybe even a new SoCal cultural kingmaker.

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The Bottom Line

From the market’s perspective, Mohilef Studios is the right thing in the right place at the right time.

The COVID financial boom continues to send upside-minded buyers hunting for promising young artists, drastically juicing prices and opportunities for exactly the types of talent Mohilef welcomes. Merge this dynamic with the larger cultural and financial push toward Los Angeles in recent years, and its surging profile makes perfect sense.

No wonder Castator just rented 4,000 square feet on the top floor of an industrial building on Washington Boulevard to convert into more artist studios. You know LA loves a sequel…

 

[Read More]

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Paint Drippings

The Henderson, Hong Kong by Zaha Hadid Architects for Henderson Land. Rendering by Arqui9, courtesy of Christie's.

Visualization of the Henderson, Hong Kong by Zaha Hadid Architects for Henderson Land, where Christie’s will move in 2024. Rendering by Arqui9, courtesy of Christie’s.

Wet Paint is on hiatus this week, but here’s what else made a mark around the industry.

 

Art Fairs

  • Volta will debut in downtown Miami during Miami Art Week, replacing Pulse. (Both events are now owned by Ramsay Fairs.)

  • The Seattle Art Fair will return next summer, from July 21–July 24 at the Lumen Field Event Center.

 

Auction Houses

  • Christie’s Hong Kong will be an anchor tenant in the Henderson, a new Zaha Hadid Architects-designed tower in Central. The move (slated for 2024) quadruples the house’s showroom space, enabling it to hold a yearlong sales program in HK for the first time.

 

Galleries

  • Mike Egan, founder of the tastemaking Ramiken gallery, has teamed with respected Upper East Side dealer Meredith Rosen on a joint venture called (what else?) Egan and Rosen. The new business opened its inaugural show, “Otto Dix / Andra Ursuţa,” last night in its home at 11 East 78th St. (Both dealers will also continue running their pre-existing galleries separately.)

  • Andrew Kreps announced the representation of Hong Kong-based painter Henry Shum (in collaboration with Empty Gallery). Kreps will stage Shum’s first solo show in North America in fall 2022.

  • Nara Roesler added painter André Griffo to its stable (in alliance with Rio’s Galeria Athena); his first one-person exhibition with the dealer will bow in São Paulo next year.

  • Multidisciplinary artist Nicholas Hlobo has joined Goodman Gallery. (He will also continue to be repped by Lehmann Maupin.)

  • König Galerie expanded its artist ranks with painter Conny Maier, a recipient of Deutsche Bank’s 2020 Artist of the Year Award.

  • JTT added James Yaya Hough, whose work is currently on view in a solo show at the gallery (and was also featured in MoMA PS1’s “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration” last year).

  • New York’s Tina Kim Gallery now reps installation artist Mire Lee, a nominee for the PinchukArtCentre’s Future Generations Art Prize.

  • Angela Cuadra and Laura F. Gibellini became the latest artists to join Madrid’s NF/Nieves Fernández gallery.

 

Institutions

  • Starting October 1, the next director of the Centre Pompidou will be 39-year-old Xavier Rey, who has helmed the Musées de Marseille for the past four years.

  • The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum named Ty Woodfolk its first ever chief culture and inclusion officer; it also promoted Trish Jeffers to deputy director of human resources.

  • New York’s Museum of Arts and Design chose Timothy R. Rodgers, formerly of the Phoenix Art Museum, to be its 11th director in eight years.

  • Tate Liverpool will host the fall exhibition of artists shortlisted for the 2022 Turner Prize. The artists will be selected next May, and the winner will be announced in December.

  • The Institute of Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University selected Sarah Rifky to be its senior curator and director of programs. It also promoted Amber Esseiva from associate curator to full curator.

  • The Seoul Museum of Art accepted a gift of 141 works from the heirs of late Korean sculptor Kwon Jin-kyu.

  • MoMA PS1 announced the 47 artists in its upcoming “Greater New York” exhibition, set to debut on October 7. ARTnews has the full list.

 

NFTs and Misc.

  • The Whitworth gallery in Manchester is partnering with versatile online art platform Vastari Labs to auction a William Blake NFT whose proceeds will fund “socially beneficial projects.”

  • A New York Supreme Court judge tossed out collector Michael Steinhardt’s lawsuit against Hirschl and Adler gallery and its president, Stuart Feld, over the sale of a $12 million portrait of another president, George Washington.

  • Jeremy Stowe, who had previously taken a leave of absence from his role as leader of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, has stepped down.

 

CORRECTION: Last week’s edition included a rumor that Blum & Poe’s Los Angeles headquarters would show collaborative works by Mark Grotjahn and Jonas Wood in September. In reality, the gallery will be presenting a solo show of works by Grotjahn, his first at the space since 2016. 

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Data Dip

Asia Outbuilds Everybody

Graph from AEA Consulting’s Cultural Infrastructure Index 2020.

Auction sales weren’t the only metric where the Eastern art industry fought off the pandemic more ably than the West in 2020. For the first time ever, Asia completed more cultural infrastructure projects above $10 million than any other region, finishing 34 to North America’s 32 per a new report from AEA Consulting.

The study covers new builds, renovations, and expansions of museums, galleries, performing arts centers, multifunction arts venues, and cultural hubs or districts. Like Asia, Australia/New Zealand, the Middle East, and Africa all saw either flat or increased numbers of new institutions open in 2020. Equivalent figures in North America and Europe both declined in a big way.

Still, this could be more anomaly than trend. North America announced 53 new cultural infrastructure projects last year—almost twice as many as anywhere else. But only time will tell whether the West will win the construction race, or just win the initial press conferences.

For more takeaways from the AEA report, click through below.

 

[Read More]

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“We try everything. Since NFTs exist, we need to try them.”

Mikhail Piotrovsky, general director of Russia’s State Hermitage Museum, on its imminent fundraising auction of NFTs linked to works by Giorgione, Kandinsky, Leonardo, Monet, and van Gogh.

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Express Checkout

The Feds Wage War on Chrismas + Three More Market Morsels

 

The FBI arrested notorious LA dealer Douglas Chrismas on charges of embezzling upwards of $260,000 from the bankruptcy estate of the now-shuttered Ace Gallery, which he founded in 1967 and lost ownership of in 2013. (The Los Angeles Times)

  • Chrismas, age 77, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted on all counts. He pleaded not guilty, with his trial scheduled to begin in September.

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Marian Goodman gallery became the latest blue-chip gallery to announce a robust new leadership structure without mentioning the phrase “succession plan”; the headline moves include its namesake moving to CEO, and Philipp Kaiser becoming president and partner. (Press release)

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The Artists Pension Trust, once seen as a promising new vehicle to stabilize artists’ finances, has provoked accusations of mismanagement, an official complaint to British regulators, and at least one lawsuit from its members. (The New York Times)

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An insider’s look at the ascendant dealers and agents making Accra an art-market hotspot. (Midnight Publishing Group News Pro)

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Work of the Week

Chris Burden’s The Hidden Force

Chris Burden, <i>The Hidden Force</i> (1995). © 2021 Chris Burden / licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Courtesy Gagosian

Chris Burden, The Hidden Force (1995). © 2021 Chris Burden / licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Courtesy Gagosian

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Date:                      1995

Seller:                    Gagosian

Price:                     $2.25 million

Selling at:              Frieze Viewing Room, Los Angeles

Sale Date:              Through Sunday, August 1

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Still believe a savvy dealer would only post modestly priced, easy-to-sell works in an online viewing room? Gagosian is challenging that myth yet again in its Frieze Los Angeles OVR dedicated to the late California visionary Chris Burden. Standing out amid an ambitious array of genre-crossing works is The Hidden Force, an outdoor sculpture consisting of three partially in-ground concrete pools  that function as monumental compasses. Thanks to one magnetized end, the elliptical object floating in each pool always bobs back to due north, giving viewers both literal and metaphorical guidance on their life’s journey.

Originally commissioned for the McNeil Island Corrections Center via the Washington State Arts CommissionThe Hidden Force was decommissioned when the prison closed in 2011. The Burden estate recently secured the right to recreate the piece and will consult with an acquiring collector or institution to ensure it integrates with its new home in a site-specific, site-responsive way true to the artist’s intent.

So why offer it here and now? “2021 would have been Burden’s 75th milestone year,” said Yayoi Shionoiri, the estate’s executive director. “While Burden created The Hidden Force in the 1990s, this work feels as timely as ever, and serves to remind us all of the power of art.” That it’s being made available in this context should also remind us that both west-coast collectors and the OVR are stronger than ever.

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Thanks for joining us in the Back Room. See you next Friday.

The post The Back Room: Once Upon a Time in the West appeared first on Midnight Publishing Group News.

The Back Room: Go Figure


Every Friday, Midnight Publishing Group News Pro members get exclusive access to the Back Room, our lively recap funneling only the week’s must-know intel into a nimble read you’ll actually enjoy. 

This week in the Back Room: The flagging(?) market for figurative art, Hunter Biden as artist’s rights case study, Christie’s private-sales surge, and much more—all in an 8-minute read (2,133 words).

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Top of the Market

Figuration Fatigue?

Emily Mae Smith, Revenge of the Flowers (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin Gallery.

Emily Mae Smith, Revenge of the Flowers (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Simone Subal Gallery, Perrotin Gallery, Galerie Rodolphe Janssen, and Contemporary Fine Arts Berlin.

During the mid-2010s dominance of Zombie Formalism, more than a few art-world citizens would have descended into the underworld like mythical heroes for the chance to bring back figurative painting.

But the two genres have fully swapped positions in the years since—and now some market players are asking whether the industry has nearly burnt itself out on figuration, writes Katya Kazakina.

All sectors of the industry were already saturated with imagery of the body before the pandemic, yet the genre’s presence has only become harder to escape since March 2020. Human figures appeared in all but three of the top 30 contemporary and ultra-contemporary artworks sold at auction in the first half of 2021, according to Midnight Publishing Group Analytics, as Asian collectors chased works by artists like Amoako BoafoEmily Mae Smith, Dana Schutz, and Amy Sherald.

 

What Caused the Figurative Flare-up?

  • Museums and private collectors’ rush to fill gaps in their holdings of works by women artists and artists of color (especially Black artists).
  • Portraiture’s tendency to depict the overlooked identity groups said artists belong to (“proving” to viewers that the owners are rebalancing the scales).
  • The art audience’s longing for human connection during a year (or more) of isolation.
  • Figuration’s perfect fit with the visual strengths of Instagram.

But now there are signs that at least two non-figurative genres are on the rise as in-person exhibition-hopping returns—and major galleries in Chelsea are championing both via works by artists of color.

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Installation Work 

Major must-see-IRL installations can currently be found at…

  • Lisson, where Hugh Hayden has created three chapel-like spaces filled with meticulously sculpted, sawed, and woven object (see: reclaimed church pews, basketball hoops, school desks).
  • Gagosian, where the Antwaun Sargent-curated “Social Works” focuses on community engagement in Black art practices via monumental sculptures (see: 5,000 records by 1980s House music legend Frankie Knuckles, assembled by Theaster Gates), video installations, and even a functional farm.

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Landscape

While pure abstraction still mostly remains out of fashion, landscape could be a natural bridge between it and the figurative works the market has been flocking to, as can be seen in…

  • Marianne Boesky’s group show “A Thought Sublime”
  • Lisa Schiff’s group show “Ridiculous Sublime” (in Tribeca, but still!)
  • Matthew Marks’s solo show of 31-year-old Julien Nguyen, whose works fusing portraiture and allegorical scenery sold out at prices from $30,000 to $50,000.
  • Cheim and Read’s solo show of Matthew Wong’s ink drawings depicting lone figures in mystical environments. (“Several” sold, at prices from $275,000 to $450,000.)

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The Bottom Line

Figuration won’t fade out overnight, experts agree. There is simply still too much demand on the buy side, as results from Phillips’s New Now sale in London reminded us this week.

But whether the change is led by the return of live viewing, a hunger among audiences for deeper (or at least different) discourse, or artists’ inevitable attraction to other means of communicating, nothing lasts forever… no matter how much it sometimes feels like it.

 

[Read More]

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The Week in Gavels

Hunter Biden’s Art Ethics Oddity

Hunter Biden. (Kris Connor/WireImage)

Hunter Biden (duh). (Kris Connor/WireImage)

The only thing in the art market less avoidable than figuration this week was news of the ethics agreement finalized between the White House and Georges Bergès Gallery, the dealership managing Hunter Biden’s blossoming art career.

But while the conversation so far has fixated on how the pact could harm the Biden administration politically, it also raises questions about artist’s rights that every studio should consider.

Here are the two key dynamics relayed by the Washington Post‘s Matt Viser, who spoke to two officials familiar with the agreement.

__________________________________________________________________________________1. “Purchases of Hunter Biden’s artwork… will be kept confidential from even the artist himself,” and the gallery “will withhold all records” from him, “including potential bidders and final buyers.”

The Idea: 

What Hunter doesn’t know about his collectors can’t hurt his family. No one can buy influence through the artwork if the Bidens stay blind, deaf, and dumb to who is doing the buying—and for how much.

The Problems: 

Setting aside the bizarre verbiage (“potential bidders” in a gallery-sector context?)…

  • By law, Bergès cannot withhold all records of sales, because every artist must know when their works have been sold by their dealer, and at what price, to ensure accurate compensation and tax reporting.

So the gallery must only be blockading the identities of buyers and of parties who make sales inquiries (the latter being those “potential bidders”). But even if so…

  • Hunter could lose his works’ provenance forever, as when a living artist’s work is sold at auction (where neither the house nor buyer is required to disclose the latter’s identity).
  • The void hurts young artists down the line if they need to locate pieces for important later-career CV milestones such as museum exhibitions or a catalogue raisonné.

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2. Bergès has “agreed to reject any offer that he deems suspicious or that comes in over the asking price.”

The Idea: 

The gallery will short-circuit any attempts at impropriety by sticking to a clear price list, from $75,000 for works on paper to $500,000 for large paintings.

The Problems: 

Forget coming in over the asking price. By traditional industry standards, those prices are so high for a first show that market players and ethics watchdogs alike have suggested it would be “suspicious” for buyers just to meet them as listed. However…

  • I think this concern is exaggerated, because artists with no pedigree in the art establishment now regularly sell for prices in this range based purely on pop cultural awareness.
  • Just look at the gonzo results for Edward SnowdenParis Hilton, and a slew of crypto-native talents in the NFT market.

Instead, my worry is the gallery-sector standard that an artist’s prices must rise at every subsequent show of new works. Even if Hunter can secure half a million dollars for a large painting this fall, will he be able to get, say, $700,000 in 2024 or $1 million in 2028, especially when his father is just another ex-president?

Maybe so… but lofty initial prices create major pressure that most rising talent fails to overcome.

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The Bottom Line

Much of the pandemonium around Hunter’s ethics agreement hinges on the assumption that the art market is uniquely susceptible to grifters and dark dealings. As you know all too well, dear Pro reader, artwork has no fundamentals and thus no quantitative basis for its pricing, and the industry built around it is notoriously arcane to outsiders.

Yet any good or service is ultimately worth whatever a buyer will pay for it. Even fundamentals are only ever a guide—and one that is often disregarded. This means every business can be gamed by bad actors seeking financial gain or presidential influence, from finance and tech, to food and beverage, to (ahem) real estate and apparel.

What the art world should focus on in Hunter Biden’s ethics agreement is the way it disadvantages an aspiring artist within an industry that is unforgiving at even the best of times. No matter what happens with his career, we can learn from its strange beginning.

 

[Read More]

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Data Dip

Christie’s Private Sales Explosion

© Artnet News.

© Midnight Publishing Group News.

Amid the selection of first half results Christie’s reported this week, one of the standouts was the continued, propulsive growth of private transactions. The house raked in more than $850 million in private sales in the opening six months of the year—a 41 percent increase on the equivalent period in 2020, and an almost 240 percent gain compared to the first half of 2019.

The chart above reverse-engineers the gains into U.S. dollars. (Christie’s declined to confirm my calculations, but I got straight A’s in algebra so I think we’re good.)

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that H1 private sales at the house last year walloped their predecessors in 2019. After all, public selling events across the auction sector had to be put on ice from mid-March through June of 2020 due to, you know, that whole epochal plague situation.

The real news is that between January 1 and June 30 of this year, Christie’s stacked roughly another $243 million in private deals on top of the $607+ million worth it generated during the six months when private sales were the only game in town.That’s an impressive feat regardless of the circumstances.

Click through below for Eileen Kinsella’s full rundown of the earnings call.

 

[Read More]

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“As an art dealer, I was never aware of the diversity. There are collectors in Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tokyo. It’s coming from so many places that it’s hard to make a comparison to New York in the ‘80s or whatever. It’s its own thing, and maybe it’s a new paradigm that is going to drive the global market. But again, what do I know?”

Joel Mesler on what he’s learned about the Asian collecting circuit since becoming a full-time artist, during an expansive interview with Henri Neuendorf.

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Express Checkout

Is Noah Horowitz Going for the Gavel? + Three More Market Morsels

 

Rumors are that the next gig for outgoing Art Basel director of the Americas Noah Horowitz will be at an auction house, according to Melanie Gerlis. (Financial Times)

  • Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips declined to comment; Horowitz stayed respectfully mum.

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Lehmann Maupin signed an exclusive partnership allowing it to accept 40+ cryptocurrencies via Gemini, the crypto exchange founded by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. (Midnight Publishing Group News Pro)

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When Jeff KoonsMaurizio Cattelan, or Vanessa Beecroft wants a sculpture honed from Carrara marble, they now call an Italian robot. (The New York Times)

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Here’s why Friedrich Petzel, whose expansion simply swaps one Chelsea space for a larger, more versatile one, “[doesn’t] need to have a global empire.” (ARTnews)

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Paint Drippings

Here’s what else made a mark in the latest Wet Paint (and elsewhere).

Art Fairs

  • This fall’s FIAC (October 21–24) will once again be an in-person affair, with 160+ galleries showing at the Grand Palais Ephémère and another 50 exhibitors strictly online.

Auction Houses

  • Christopher Wool’s If You (1992), bought by Larry Gagosian (with a phone pressed to his ear) for $23.7 million in 2014, recently appeared on the wall of Steve Cohen’s East Hampton home in an Instagram post by his daughter Sophia.
  • YiXiao Ding, the Shanghai-based collector who recently spent $1.4 million on an Emily Mae Smith canvas at Phillips, snapped up Salman Toor’s Visitation (2016) at Christie’s this month.
  • American collector Thomas Kaplan consigned the Leonardo study of a bear’s head sold for £8.8 million with fees at Christie’s Exceptional Sale last week, per The Art Newspaper.

Galleries

  • Anton Kern now reps multidisciplinary artist Yuli Yamagata alongside Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel (São Paulo) and Galeria Madragoa (Lisbon); her first solo show with Kern will debut in September, simultaneous with a presentation in Art Basel’s Parcours section.
  • Eva Presenhuber expanded its roster by adding painter Amy Feldman, whose gray-on-gray abstractions resonate with this writer for obvious reasons.
  • Almine Rech announced it represents painter Scott Kahn.
  • Pace named Jessie Washburne-Harris, a former executive director of Marian Goodman, vice president of its NY headquarters.
  • Postmasters is looking to hire a new associate director as Manan Ter-GrIgoryan moves into a role as strategic advisor at large.

Institutions

  • A coalition of nearly 50 art industry pros signed a petition condemning Francesco Bonami, director of Hangzhou’s By Art Matters museum, for responding to his inclusion in an Art Newspaper piece on white Western males winning top positions at Chinese institutions by Instagramming that he sometimes feels like “a 35-year-old Iranian lesbian.”
  • Ann Demeester will depart the Frans Hals Museum’s directorship to helm the Kunsthaus Zürich in January 2023, replacing long-serving director Christopher Becker.
  • The MCA Chicago elected philanthropist and longtime trustee Cari Sacks as its new board chair.
  • Socrates Sculpture Park appointed Suzy Delvalle, ex-president and executive director of Creative Capital, as its interim executive director.
  • Collectors Nancy Dorman and Stanley Mazaroff are gifting 90 works and $5 million to the Baltimore Museum of Art, which will open a center for prints, drawings, and photos named in their honor this December.
  • The Louvre Abu Dhabi partnered with luxury watchmaker Richard Mille on an annual prize that will award one emerging artist a solo exhibition and $50,000.
  • The Pérez Art Museum Miami acquired Gisela McDaniels’s Speaking Seeds (2020) from Pilar Corrias.
  • Glenstone is adding a new building dedicated to a recent work by Richard Serra, set to open in spring/summer 2022.
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Work of the Week

Oli Epp’s Whistleblower

Oli Epp Whistleblower (2017). Image courtesy Phillips.

Oli Epp Whistleblower (2017). Image courtesy Phillips.

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Date:                      2017

Seller:                    Private Collection

Estimate:               £10,000 to 15,000 ($13,900 to $20,800)

Sale Price:             £144,900 ($200,800)

Sold at:                 Phillips’s New Now (London)

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Prior to this spring, the only works by 27-years-young Oli Epp to reach the auction block were 41 separate prints that each sold for under $4,500 with fees. Then his painting The Magician (2018) more than quintupled its high estimate at Christie’s Hong Kong on May 25, selling for a premium-inclusive HK $1,000,000 (roughly $129,000).

That record lasted all of about seven weeks. When bidding closed on Whistleblower—a canvas fielding another of Epp’s blobby, faux-naive human figures (this time, a referee)—it had surpassed the most optimistic estimate roughly 10 times over, resetting the artist’s hammer high at £144,900 ($200,800).

Simon Tovey, head of Phillips’s New Now in London, said of the competition for the piece, “There has been strong demand on the primary gallery level for Oli Epp’s work, and clearly the subject of Whistleblower chimed with recent football fever,” a nod to the Euro 2021 tournament that ended Sunday with Italy triumphing over England on penalty kicks. Hopefully the painting’s breakaway success helped soothe the sports heartbreak surely suffered by at least a few of the house’s homegrown footie fans just a few days earlier.

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Thanks for joining us in the Back Room. See you next Friday.

The post The Back Room: Go Figure appeared first on Midnight Publishing Group News.

The Back Room: London Calling


Every Friday, Midnight Publishing Group News Pro members get exclusive access to the Back Room, our lively recap funneling only the week’s must-know intel into a nimble read you’ll actually enjoy. This week, Midnight Publishing Group News executive editor Julia Halperin steps in for your usual scribe, Tim Schneider, who is on vacation and forbidden from reading this (put the phone down, Tim!).

This week in the Back Room: The biggest sellers in next week’s London auctions, the Basquiat estate in play, a design market bonanza, and much more—all in a 7-minute read (1,869 words).

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Top of the Market

Across the Pond

Peter Doig, Blue Mountain (1996). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Peter Doig, Blue Mountain (1996). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

You still have to quarantine when you visit London (thanks for nothing, Boris Johnson), but that hasn’t stopped a number of high-profile international collectors from sending high-priced art to Sotheby’s and Christie’s marquee summer sales in the city next week.

The auctions will be a major test for the fully Brexited U.K. market after strong post-lockdown outings in Hong Kong and New York. The two houses have put together 10 sales of some 1,000 works with a combined pre-sale estimate of £281 million to £406 million ($392.4 million to $567 million). Here’s what to keep in mind heading into next week.

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1. Billionaires (and other market players) seem to think it’s a good time to sell.

You can tell a lot about the state of the market by who is trying to sell and who is trying to buy. Colin Gleadell unmasked a few of the highest-profile consignors at next week’s sales. They include:

  • Charitable trusts associated with the family of real-estate billionaire and former Museum of Modern Art chairman Jerry Speyer. Although a spokesman told us that Speyer—who rarely, if ever, trades at auction—is not selling any art personally, the trove appears to contain works that he bought in earlier chapters of his collecting career. All told, the trusts are funneling 22 lots estimated to be worth a combined £20 million to £33.3 million (all of which are guaranteed) through Sotheby’s. Among them:
    • Elizabeth Peyton, Prince Harry (with Flowers), from 1997 (estimate: £500,000 to £700,000)
    • Two works by Peter Doig from the 1990s (£3 million to £7 million each)
    • Jeff KoonsTwo Ball 50/50 Tank, from 1985 (£2.5 million to £3.5 million)
    • Fernand LégerÉtude pour les constructeurs, from 1950 (£3 million to £4 million)
  • member of the family of London dealer and collector Daniel Katz is selling British artist Edward Burra’s War in the Sun (1938), which carries a record-busting £1.8 million-to-£2.5 million estimate at Sotheby’s.
  • Swiss entrepreneur and wine producer Donald Hess is parting with a 1992 gray mirrored work by Gerhard Richter at Sotheby’s for an estimate of £1.2 million to £1.8 million.
  • The family of late German collector Frieder Burda is offloading several late Picassos at Christie’s, including L’Etreinte (Embrace) (1969), which carries an £11 million-to-£16 million estimate.

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2. Don’t expect Hong Kong-style fireworks. 

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3. Keep an eye out for the few young guns.

The market’s current youth obsession has sent specialists searching up and down Madison Avenue (and Ocean RoadWorth Avenue, and Avenue Matignon) for collectors with Matthew Wongs and Avery Singers on their walls. So far, there seems to be enough demand to keep pushing prices upward, but some wonder whether the continued exposure at auction could cause these markets to overheat. (We’ve seen that cycle before.) It’s worth keeping an eye on the following lots to see how they perform after others by the same artists went on a bull run in recent months.

  • Jadé FadojutimiI’m pirouetting the night away (2019) at Sotheby’s (estimate: £80,000 to £120,000)
  • Salman ToorUntitled (2017) at Christie’s (£100,000 to £150,000)
  • Julie CurtissNo Place Like Home (2017) at Sotheby’s (£180,000 to £250,000)

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The Bottom Line

The market is in the midst of a shift in taste, and London is the next stage to watch this evolution play out. We’ll also get a health check on the state of the U.K. market at a time when London is increasingly isolated from the rest of Europe. The results of next week’s sales could help shape business decisions for a long time to come.

[Read More]

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Wet Paint

Is the Basquiat Estate in Play?

Jean-Michel paints in 1983 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. (Photo by Lee Jaffe/Getty Images)

Jean-Michel Basquiat paints in 1983 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. (Photo by Lee Jaffe/Getty Images)

Basquiat die-hards were thrilled to hear the news earlier this month that the late artist’s family was planning first-of-its-kind exhibition of largely unseen work. But many art-world insiders are much more interested in who is co-producing the show: Superbluethe immersive experiential art factory founded by Pace CEO Marc Glimcher. The show, titled “Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure,” will open at the Starrett-Lehigh building in Chelsea in spring 2022.

Although reps for the family note that none of the work in the show is officially for sale, Wet Paint’s sources suggest that the event could double as a bid for Pace to cozy up to the Basquiat family, which controls the artist’s estate and has for decades resisted signing up for official gallery representation. (One of the family’s few primary-market alliances was with Pace Prints in 2016, when the two joined forces to release an 85-print run.)

Pace maintains it is an entirely separate business from Superblue, so there couldn’t possibly be overlapping agendas—but it’s worth noting the crossover in their executive ranks and artist lists as well as the fact that Superblue’s New York team worked out of Pace’s former Upper East Side gallery before going remote in March 2020.

A spokesperson for Superblue reiterated that the company would be providing support for operations, ticketing, and marketing, but that Basquiat’s family remains in control of the content.

Another sponsor of the show, meanwhile, is Phillips—a house that has also cultivated a relationship with the Basquiat estate through Scott Nussbaum, a specialist who began working with the late artist’s sisters, Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, years ago and has maintained a close relationship with them ever since. (If you’ve noticed that the Basquiat estate tends to strategically offload works at Phillips in lieu of the Big Two houses, now you know why.)

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The Bottom Line

Fashionable formats like “immersive exhibitions” still rely on old-school relationships. And the relationship between Superblue, Pace, and the Basquiat family could be worth a whole lot more than the (already substantial) ticket revenue likely to be generated by the 2022 show.

[Read More]

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Data Dip

Design Ascendant

© Artnet Price Database and Artnet Analytics 2021.

© Midnight Publishing Group Price Database and Midnight Publishing Group Analytics 2021.

There’s been a lot of talk (from, er, us) about how the marquee fine-art sales last month stacked up to pre-pandemic totals. But we were sleeping on an even faster growing segment of the auction market: design. (Insert joke here about how you actually can sleep on design—because it’s functional sculpture, get it?)

Decorative art sales generated a total of $814 million at auction last month, up roughly 25 percent from the equivalent total in May 2019. (For comparison, fine-art sales shrunk 1.8 percent over the same two-year period.) Sotheby’s May design sales in New York and Paris both eclipsed their high estimates, and now Christie’s is doubling down, launching a joint pop-up in the Hamptons with tony design dealer Carpenters Workshop.

Maybe there really was something to all that talk about wealthy people paying more attention to their homes after being stuck inside for over a year.

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“Florida used to be known as ‘God’s waiting room.’ Given the number of our clients who are considering a permanent move there, God must be a very busy Florida C.P.A.” 

—art-law specialist Thomas Danziger on the migration of finance titans to South Florida, the land of low, low taxes. (For more, read this week’s Gray Market.)

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Express Checkout

Jay Chou’s Dazzling Auction Debut + Four More Market Morsels

Hong Kong’s market hot streak continued with a white-glove Sotheby’s auction last week curated by Taiwanese pop star and passionate art collector Jay Chou. (ARTnewsArt Asia Pacific)

  • The sale totaled HK$846 million ($109 million), eclipsing its low estimate of HKD$290 million ($37.3 million).
  • The evening was the swan song of Sotheby’s rainmaker Yuki Terase, who is stepping down this month after building the Hong Kong division into a powerhouse.
  • While the top lot, a 1985 Basquiat, hammered under its HK$255 million ($32.8 million) low estimate, new records were set for American artists Loie HollowellFrank Stella, and Richard Prince.

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There seems to be a growing consensus that the social art whirl will be back in force in Miami Beach this winter. Untitled has revealed its plans for this year’s fair. (Press release)

  • Dates: Wednesday, December 1–Sunday, December 5, 2021 (VIP preview, November 30)
  • Guest curators include Fine Art Museums of San Francisco curator Natasha Becker and curator, collector, and Met trustee Estrellita Brodsky

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A report on James Murdoch’s fundraising plans reveals just how much his firm invested in Art Basel’s parent company MCH Group$160 million. (Bloomberg)

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Nate Freeman visited elusive market darling Cady Noland’s first show of new work in years, installed without fanfare at New York’s Galerie Buchholz. (Midnight Publishing Group News)

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As the NFT market continues to mature, collectors are reckoning with a conundrum: What do you do when an artist releases a new NFT that looks very similar to one you own? (Slate)

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Work of the Week

Jeff Koons’s Gazing Ball (Demeter)

Jeff Koons, <i>Gazing Ball (Demeter)</i> (2014). Photo courtesy of Phillips.

Jeff Koons, Gazing Ball (Demeter) (2014). Photo courtesy of Phillips.

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Date:                      2014

Estimate:               $400,000 to $600,000

Sale Price:             $998,000

Sold at:                 Phillips New York

Sale Date:             June 23, 2021

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It’s not every day that you see a blue-chip work in an evening sale advertised as having no reserve price—and it’s even rarer that the work in question is by priciest-living-artist-at-auction Jeff Koons. But this sculpture—the final lot of Phillips New York’s evening sale on Wednesday—is a testament to the wildly uneven state of the Koons market.

Asked why it was offered without a reserve, Phillips specialist and Zurich regional director Lori Specter was uncharacteristically candid. “The no reserve came about because of the volatility in the Koons market as of late and is designed to enable the market to find its healthy level for the piece and to democratize bidding,” she told us.

The gambit worked: the sculpture—part of Jeff Koons’s “Gazing Ball” series, which debuted at David Zwirner in 2013—sold for nearly $1 million. It’s an artist’s proof accompanying an edition of three, and was purchased by the seller directly from Koons’s studio. The same version failed to sell at Christie’s in 2017 with an estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million.

Still, it’s unclear whether the market gods were really on the side of the seller, since the price may still represent a loss. Another work from the same series was reportedly sold by Zwirner for $2 million in 2014.

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Thanks for joining us in the Back Room. See you next Friday.

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The Back Room: Billions and Billions Served


Every Friday, Midnight Publishing Group News Pro members get exclusive access to the Back Room, our lively recap funneling only the week’s must-know intel into a nimble read you’ll actually enjoy.

 

This week in the Back Room: Billionaires give and take, Banksy prints go berserk, bidders chase youth, and much more—all in a 7-minute read (1,913 words).

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Top of the Market

The Billionaire Dilemma

MacKenzie Bezos attends the SEAN PENN J/P HRO GALA: A Gala Dinner to Benefit J/P Haitian Relief Organization and a Coalition of Disaster Relief Organizations at Milk Studios on January 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Greg Doherty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images.

MacKenzie Bezos attends the SEAN PENN J/P HRO GALA: A Gala Dinner to Benefit J/P Haitian Relief Organization and a Coalition of Disaster Relief Organizations at Milk Studios on January 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Greg Doherty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images.

Today, most people tend to view every fortune of a billion dollars or more like telepathy or the ability to fly: whether its owner is a superhero or supervillain all depends on how they use it.

This is especially true in the U.S. (and increasingly, U.K. and E.U.)  art industries, where a steady decline in public funding has handed mega-philanthropy a vital role in sustaining nonprofit institutions.

This principle was reinforced on Wednesday, when MacKenzie Scott, the novelist and philanthropist formerly known as Ms. Jeff Bezosannounced she was doling out $2.7 billion in unrestricted donations to 286 organizations across the country—including many affiliated with the arts, such as the Studio Museum in Harlem, the New England Foundation for the Arts, and United States Artists.

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But is the promise of “Good Billionaires” like Scott actually hurting art and culture?

That’s the question I worked through thanks to journalist and author Anand Giridharadas’s incineration of beloved plutocrat Warren Buffett last weekend. And I think the answer is yes, on both the nonprofit and for-profit sides.

What provoked Giridharadas was a bombshell ProPublica investigation showing that America’s very wealthiest—even mega-philanthropists like Buffett, Michael Bloomberg, and Bill Gates—have been legally exploiting the tax code in a unique way to pay next to (and sometimes literally!) nothing to Uncle Sam.

Mega-philanthropy has been the best camouflage for the damage, Giridharadas argues. What makes donations from “supposed Good Billionaires” more insidious than donations made by “the crooks and the scoundrels and the people manifestly looking for quick P.R. highs” is that they give so much more—and their public images are so much cleaner.

For instance, the late mega-collector/mega-donor Eli Broad wasn’t always the philanthropic angel he was often portrayed as. Carolina Miranda of the L.A. Times noted that he may have stuck LACMA with $5.5 million in additional construction costs on a building he otherwise financed on its campus (a Broad spox denied it), refused to endow that building for upkeep, and of course ultimately kept his collection to open his own museum.

The grand irony is that mega-donations from the Broads and Scotts of the world have become so important to art institutions partly because the U.S. is sacrificing trillions of dollars in tax revenue (see: potential public funding) to enrich the billionaires signing those fat philanthropic checks.

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The Good Billionaire myth is hurting the art market, too. Why have the middle-class collectors who once sustained a more equitable version of the industry become an endangered species? Partly because the costs of simply getting by, let alone getting far enough ahead to acquire artwork, have risen so much.

According to Bloomberg, the cost of college and the median home price in the U.S. are each about 50 percent higher for millennials than they were for boomers, yet millennial wages are up only 20 percent. Full-time employment and robust benefits (pensions, healthcare, paid family leave) have become vanishingly rare too. Public programs are not well funded enough to pick up the slack.

And part of this has been enabled by the narrative that the superrich will take care of the rest of us, including when it comes to art and cultural spending. Even though some deserving folks occasionally win the Good Billionaire lottery, it’s a losing trade most of the time.

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The Bottom Line

I sincerely think MacKenzie Scott is trying to help nonprofits with her wealth. But her would-be remedy is only treating a symptom, not the illness—namely, the tax system that enabled her ex and his billionaire peers to build their fortunes. Until or unless that system is reformed, prepare for the institutional sector and the art market to become even more grossly polarized than they already are.

[Read More]

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Market Moment

Banksy Prints Are Printing Money

Banksy, White Idiots, or maybe it’s called Idiots (White), who can really say these days. Courtesy Burnt Banksy’s Twitter account.

You can get the god’s eye view of Banksy’s prints market in three annual auction-sales totals:

  • 2011: $1.7 million
  • 2020: $10.3 million
  • 2021 (to date): $33.6 million.

Whether that growth qualifies as robust or cancerous depends on your perspective. What’s undeniable from Eileen Kinsella’s deep dive is that the street-art legend’s editions market has transformed in multiple ways over the past 10 years.

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How It Started

Around 2002, Banksy released his first commercial prints through multiple print galleries: primarily Tom Tom (which later became Art Republic) and Pictures on Walls, run by Banksy’s longtime right-hand man Steve Lazarides. (The two have since split. Sources say it wasn’t pretty.)

Prices were around £200 to £300 each. Editions rarely came with certificates of authenticity (COA). Sometimes buyers didn’t even get a receipt!

Fun Fact: “Some dealers would pay 50 students £50 each to be in the queue with a bonus if they got something.” —Brian Balfour-Oatts of London dealership Archeus/Post-Modern.

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The Turning Point

In 2007, total auction sales of Banksy prints leaped 10x year-over-year, from about $127,000 in 2006 to $1.3 million.

The next year Banksy launched Pest Control to authenticate his works and police fakes. After 2009, every genuine Banksy came with a Pest Control COA. The outfit can retroactively issue certificates for works made before its founding too.

The artist also took more control of his primary-market sales, sometimes offering works through random lotteries. Fun Fact: In 2010, Banksy directly offered a now-popular print, Choose Your Weapon, showing a figure in a hooded sweatshirt walking a Keith Haring-style dog. After the hours-long line got hooligan-ish, he released a supplemental “queue jumping” edition for the fans who were boxed out.

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How It’s Going

It’s wild! Mainly for three reasons:

  • Speculation
  • Major auction houses’ influence
  • Overseas buyers piling in (particularly in Japan and Korea)

Since Banksy has not run a random lottery for some time, demand can only be fulfilled through auctions and resale dealers. Christie’s and Sotheby’s now each hold two dedicated Banksy print sales per year, “many of which have been 100 percent sold,” Eileen writes.  

Balfour-Oatts relays that “some of the mega-galleries handle Banksy works quite often, but are very coy about saying so.”

No wonder Pest Control is inundated with requests—and sometimes slow-walks COA issuance for recent prints to combat flippers. This has led some Banksy collectors (and even smaller auction houses) to trade prints with the promise of a COA to follow—which is not normal! (Other evidence of authenticity, such as emails trails, are often substituted, but still…)

Fun Fact: This March, one of the queue jumping editions of Choose Your Weapon sold at Sotheby’s for £201,600. So don’t expect this rocket ship to run out of fuel anytime soon.

[Read More]

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Data Dip

Follow the Money to Youth

© Artnet Analytics 2021.

© Midnight Publishing Group Analytics 2021.

If you’ve ever laid awake at night wondering how genre-by-genre auction sales in May fared before, during, and after COVID, today is your lucky day. (Also, may I recommend considering a spa vacation, or at least switching to herbal tea after lunch?)

With the return of the traditional slate of premier May auctions in New York, it’s no surprise this year’s biggest resurgences were in the Impressionist-Modern and postwar-contemporary categories. (We define these by artist’s birthdates: Imp-Mod covers artists born from 1821 through 1910, and P.W.C. covers artists born from 1911 through 1974.)

But the most interesting story in the data is the pronounced shift toward youth over the past two years. While Imp-Mod sales came in more than $322 million lower (about 25 percent) this May compared to the same month in 2019, postwar and contemporary sales were down a mere $76 million (roughly six percent) in the same face-off.

P.W.C. works also outsold Imp-Mod works by more than $162 million this May, flipping the script from the 2019 May sales. Sales of ultra-contemporary works (made by artists born in 1975 or later) ascended almost 250 percent over this two-year span, from $35.7 million to $86.2 million last month.

Look for the push toward present-day talent to continue as the market keeps gathering strength in the months ahead.

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“What does every rich and famous person want more than anything? Relevancy… You have a Warhol Marilyn? Cool, we know you’re rich. But if you have, say, Christina Quarles, you’re of our time.”
—Anonymous dealer on the allure of the young artists being added by mega-galleries. (For details, check Nate Freeman on Gagosian’s farm team.)

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Express Checkout

Anonymous Online Sales Aren’t Just for Crypto + Three More Market Morsels

 

LiveArt Market, ex-Sotheby’s dealmaker Adam Chinn’s peer-to-peer platform enabling buyers and sellers to transact anonymously, went live by invitation. Anna Brady unpacked how it works. (The Art Newspaper)

  • The platform reported $5 million in sales during the early days of its soft opening.
  • Works by Amoako Boafo and Ed Clark went for six figures each.

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Can Paris unseat London as the top Euro art market? Melanie Gerlis dons a beret to investigate. (ARTnews)

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London Gallery Weekend was a “smashing success” but will it kill off art fairs? (Midnight Publishing Group News Pro)

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The Robert Indiana estate reached a settlement with its biggest backer after three years of legal hell. (Midnight Publishing Group News)

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Paint Drippings

Here’s what made a mark in the latest Wet Paint (and elsewhere).

  • Skarstedt will open a Paris gallery (and poached Maria Cifuentes from Phillips Paris to run it.)

  • Cady Noland secretly installed her first new work in decades at Galerie Buchholz in NYC.

  • The Nasher Museum at Duke University acquired a painting by Korakrit Arunanondchai.

  • Julian Schnabel will be the subject of the Brant Foundation’s September show.

  • McArthur Binion is now represented by Xavier Hufkens, with his first solo exhibition at the gallery set for fall 2022. (Binion will also continue working with Lehmann MaupinMassimo De Carlo, and Richard Gray.)

  • Ashley Bickerton joined the stable of Various Small Fires.

  • Blum & Poe added ceramicist Kazunori Hamana to its roster and will solo-show him in L.A. this September.

  • NYC’s Company Gallery now reps the Women’s History Museum collective founded by Mattie Barringer and Amanda McGowan.

  • Christie’s will open pop-up spaces in Southampton (this month) and Aspen (July 3).

  • König debuts its showroom in Monaco (at the Villa Nuvola) today.

 

[Read More]

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Artwork of the Week

Gio Swaby’s Love Letter 5

Gio Swaby, Love Letter 5 (2021). Photo courtesy of Claire Oliver Gallery, New York.

Gio Swaby, Love Letter 5 (2021). Photo courtesy of Claire Oliver Gallery, New York.

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Date:                     2021

Seller:                   Claire Oliver Gallery

Price Range:         $25,000 to $50,000

Acquired By:         The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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Gio Swaby is on a trajectory unimaginable to the art market a generation ago. A 29 year-old interdisciplinary artist hailing from the Bahamas, she is still in the midst of her M.F.A. studies at Toronto’s Ontario College of Art and Design University. Yet she joined the roster of Harlem’s Claire Oliver Gallery last year without ever meeting the dealer—after curator Danielle Krysa brokered an introduction via Instagram. Her inaugural solo exhibition at Oliver’s space was arranged remotely during the shutdown.

That exhibition, “Gio Swaby: Both Sides of the Sun,” celebrated Black womanhood through threaded-line portraits and silhouettes where textile patterns echoed the models’ natural curves. It also sold out before the end of its run on June 5. Private buyers included author Roxane Gay and actor Hill Harper, and Swaby’s waiting list now swells beyond 100 names.

More impressively, eight institutions acquired work (pending final board approval). A gallery spokesperson confirmed that one of those eight, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, even reworked its upcoming exhibition “Fabric of A Nation” to include Love Letter 5, which it officially acquired this week. Just imagine what Swaby can do now that she can meet people in person again.

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Thanks for joining us in the Back Room. See you next Friday.

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