Of Spec-u-lectors and Drug-Dealing Art Advisers: At the New York Auctions

An elevator painted like the 1963 portrait 'Liz #3 (Early Colored Liz)' by US artist Andy Warhol during a preview of a contemporary art auction at Sotheby's in New York (photo: dpa)
An elevator painted like the 1963 portrait 'Liz #3 (Early Colored Liz)' by US artist Andy Warhol during a preview of a contemporary art auction at Sotheby's in New York (photo: dpa)

In The Graduate, the hapless protagonist is given career advice in a single word: Plastics. Today, that word would be art. 

Just as in the ’60s there appeared to be a great future in plastics, there now seems to be no limit to the highflying market for modern and contemporary art. Everyone from your interior decorator to your wedding planner to your tennis partner to your drug dealer considers him or herself an art adviser. With outposts around the world, the auction houses and galleries like Gagosian have made the business a 24/7 one. Everywhere you look, from cruise ships to strip malls, the stuff is being made and sold.   ... weiterlesen

From the Zero Group to Generation Z: At the London Day Sales

 Sotheby's London: Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 12 February 2014. At right, Gerhard Richter's painting Wand (Wall) 1994 oil on canvas. In excess of £ 15 million Sold for £ 17,442,500. (Photo: Sotheby's/dpa)
Sotheby's London: Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 12 February 2014. At right, Gerhard Richter's painting Wand (Wall) 1994 oil on canvas. In excess of £ 15 million Sold for £ 17,442,500. (Photo: Sotheby's/dpa)

You won’t find Leonardo DiCaprio at an auction house’s day sale. By stark contrast with the glamorous biannual evening sales of contemporary art at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips, those houses’ corresponding day sales, where artworks of lower value are sold—often recently-made artworks by young artists—are much more somber, matter-of-fact events. You may spot the nephew of the shipping magnate, but are unlikely to see the magnate himself.

Younger specialists man the phone banks—the day sales are finishing schools for art dealers, specialists and collectors alike—and even the acoustics are different. As opposed to the dramatic hush of the salesroom during the evening sales, the room is alive with chattering, sometimes so loud that you can barely make out the auctioneer’s words. The standing-room real estate at the sides of the aisles, which during the evening sales is chock-a-block with journalists, is barren.

The day sales run at a different pace. At the evening sales, the audience, many of them formally attired, tends to show up before the action begins. Not so during the day. By the 1 p.m. starting time at   ... weiterlesen

God giveth and taketh in same auction week breath

 Photo: Helly Nahmad
Photo: Helly Nahmad

Dragged my kids to Christie's tonight, have to break them in young, today’s market darlings aren’t much older. Though there was already a Lucien Smith market setback (backlash?) to the tune of about 20%.* God giveth and taketh in same auction week breath. Bacon didn’t fare as badly. I'm writing about the day sales for the New York Observer's GalleristNY.com, shh don't tell them I haven't been yet. But I did manage to pass my theory test today, first exam I've taken since bar exam in 1987, no joy there.

*If i was cynical, I'd say I was first to call L. Smith market demise. But I also happen to like it. I do.

An Auction House Morality Tale


Some years ago, I was asked by an in-law with a formidable art collection to sell a work that was beyond the scope of the emerging contemporary fare I was used to flogging at the time. It would be no easy task. The market for Impressionist and Modern art is an altogether different animal from contemporary art, with its own particular set of rules and regulations. There are issues of condition, provenance, establishing continuous ownership (WWII concerns), a different language of art terms, different clientele. Every subset of the art market has its own list of do’s and don’ts that must be religiously adhered to, lest one be branded a heretic and forever ostracized for a breach; in some ways, it’s not unlike the mafia.

I was sitting with this in-law in his office when he fielded a phone call. He looked  less than amused when he hung up. “What have you been doing with my painting?” he asked me accusingly. He had just been informed by a certain specialist at a certain auction house that I was “burning” his work, art market parlance for overexposing and thereby damaging the prospects of selling a piece. (In fact, every time you press send on an email containing a jpeg you can be said to be culpable—they replicate quicker than viruses. I’ve referred before in my writing to those who deal in them, the jpeg jockeys.)  ... weiterlesen

Post-Visual Visual Art


Christie's are having “First Open New Media” online only sale, so is Saatchi, and at the same house before it, the Warhol estate also sold a chunk net only. Then of course there are the art auction websites Paddle 8; Artnet, Art Space, the Showroom and blah, blah. With the nature of art as asset the rave nowadays, with most of it being transacted with jpegs then stored, why not obliterate it altogether and just issue certificates or something to that effect? Post-Visual Visual Art.

Oranges and oranges

Ballon Dog vs 1973 Car, which do you prefer?
Ballon Dog vs 1973 Car, which do you prefer?

A comparison of oranges and oranges occurs when two items or groups of items are compared that cannot be practically told apart.

The idiom, comparing oranges and oranges, refers to the apparent similarities between items which are popularly thought to be incomparable or incommensurable, such as oranges and oranges. The idiom may also be used to indicate that a false analogy has been made between two items, such as where an orange is faulted for not being a good orange (or sculpture).  ... weiterlesen

Not so Grrrrreat


Leo raises $40m worth of Grotjahn and Sterling Sterling Ruby at Christies to save some (paper) tigers rather than the poor, sick and downtrodden of the world. What would Tony the Tiger say, That’s not so Grrrrreat.

Writing on the wall

photo: dpa
photo: dpa

Josh Baer called a top. New York dealer Roland Augustine said We’re pretty close to the top now, so I think it will plateau soon. Followed by today's headlines: The Highest Total in Auction History (nearly $500m take in one night). Is it a new era in the words of Christies or a new error? Is the (graffiti) writing on the wall or is the rude health of the market here to stay (for time being, anyway)? I'd wager on the latter.

Read more about the auction here

Copyright-on! Or rather, Copy Write-Off!


On appeal, Richard Prince won the right to rip off Patrick Cariou with impunity (i.e. for free), though some 5 of the 30 images were remanded back to district court to determine if they constituted fair use; they must have been particularly super blatant if 25 works unanimously sailed through. In celebration of meta-appropriation maybe Jerry can initiate a fair re-use of Prince’s nurse paintings competition and sale. As the inimitable Georgina Adam titled her new column referring to a Turkish vase, Iznik Great!

From FT: “Prince’s images, except for those we discuss separately below, have a different character, give Cariou’s photographs a new expression, and employ new aesthetics with creative and communicative results distinct from Cariou’s” – that is, the paintings make “fair use” of his photographs."

And they are also perversely expensive and attract moguls and celebs, which the court noted for some odd reason in it's opinion. And not so surprising how the judges were seduced by money and celebs like everyone else. Pathetic, really. Don't see why the artist couldn't pay a reasonable fee to the f-ing guy who did the work he made millions from, the logic seems so patently simple and obvious. Arrogance: It's a noun, an offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride. Overbearing Prince. Now the (bastardized) works are worth even more - with the backstory - so they are all high-fiving at Lever House, in New York (owned by Aby Rosen, another Prince-ster).

To be devils adovcate, with the widespread accessibility of images on net, why not make it one nihilistic free for all? Otherwise it could hamper the art trade and its dearth of new ideas. There are certainly enough pre existing images already out there to justifty the end of the need/desire to create any more.




pardon my lack of photoshopping skills
pardon my lack of photoshopping skills

when you look at galleries reselling art only recently purchased at auction for wild and obnoxious increases of up to 300%, which i witnessed at maastricht, you have some mighty unhealthy hyper-artflation. sadly, the higher and higher prices are for fewer and fewer artists.

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"Die Kunstwelt ist wie eine Mafia, es gibt ein ungeschriebenes Gesetz des Stillschweigens", sagt Kenny Schachter. Auf seinem Monopol-Blog bringt der britische Kunsthändler Licht ins Dunkle und macht die Mechanismen des Marktes transparent. In englischer Sprache