Viewpoint Spring 2014

Learning about Art

A two-day conference (May 4-6) in Toronto, hosted by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), produced a dynamic program that should be duplicated in other cities at other times.

RICS is the largest interdisciplinary appraisal organization in the world, with members in 149 countries around the globe. Its impact is just being felt in the USA, but it’s our guess that its extraordinarily high standards and professionalism will soon be utilized by clients in the museum, foundation, law, insurance and private sectors.

The Summit Americas 2014 program included one panel of particular interest to OTE members because of our firm’s involvement in cases around that subject.  ART FRAUD – A GLOBAL PROBLEM discussed this continually growing issue and its effects on the marketplace. The moderator was Ronald Spencer, Counsel, Carter Ledyard & Milburn, with panelists including Jo Laird, Counsel, Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler; Steven Schindler, Counsel, Schindler Cohen & Hochman, and John Cahill, Cahill Partners. As is usually the case, the need for protection of expert witnesses came up several times and we learned that there is legislation in the works that would provide indemnification for those acting as experts in art cases. That would certainly lead to greater transparency, a much needed factor in understanding how the art world and the art market functions. Here’s to hope! We know from our non-bill passing Congress that proposed laws can drag on forever, even when they are needed immediately.

Looking at Art

The Great Art Festival is on and with it brings physical exhaustion and mental meltdown. Besides Frieze, the ultimate test of art endurance, there are 12 other satellite shows and, of course, the contemporary art exhibitions at five auction houses in the city. Even for the hardiest of long-distance runners this is a bit much and choices must be made. On the opening day of Frieze I found myself fascinated by the strange media utilized by many of the artists. This seems to be the newest ‘new’ twist in a field where even the most familiar artists seem to be striving for what is fresh and unusual in materials without necessarily coming up with any new ideas. Or perhaps that is the new idea. Dashing past the booths I noted a giant flat fabric rug with figurative imagery, at least two different artist’s works of bleached linen wrapped around board, UV ink on Fischer canvas, used sandpaper sheets applied to canvas, acryl glass convulsed into glowing wall sculpture, and concrete spatter over canvas. And that was just in the first hour of the show. What else in the way of innovative media lurked among the other booths?

I’m off to test my strength against the multitude of art shows around the city and wondering why all this is constricted into four days of frantic searching for art purchases. Why not expand the exhibits into one more leisurely week so there is breathing room to see all the shows, not just have to pick and choose according to time availability? These shows could be paced out, with a different small set every 2-3 days, enabling those who are seriously interested in buying to have the opportunity to actually look at the art.

For every sensible suggestion on how to deal with this avalanche of art shows there are probably just as many opposing it for personal reasons. I don’t care. I still think all this art at once is crazy and not very illuminating. Maybe that’s because I really care about what I am looking at rather than at the gallery signage.