Art Fairs, From the Bottom to the Top

 OTE President Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald at  TEFAF in   Maastrict, Holland

OTE President Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald at TEFAF in Maastrict, Holland

From Maastrict to the PierShow with little time between – that’s the way the art world can spin. My first exposure to the European Fine Art Fair in Maastrict Holland, the most beautiful and civilized art scene I’ve ever attended. There were crowds of course, but nicely mannered and for the most part smartly dressed; the food was good to taste and elegantly presented, and the dealers in the booth eager to explain the history of their wares – for three quarters of the booths presented  Old Master work and the remainder was Modern, not Contemporary.  It was an oddly smoothly experience after all the razzmatazz of the earlier weeks in Manhattan and the hustle of the latest, the newest, the most provocative.

One fascinating fact: at the Weiss Gallery booth I was drawn in by the 16th portrait of Marie de Huelstre by Frans Pourbus the Younger and got into conversation with the dealer from whom I learned that a great source of these early portraits was from the United States! Apparently when the colonists came to America the most affluent of them were accompanied by ancestor portraits (or perhaps they weren’t yet ancestors at the time). Now there is a sort of restitution – those Europe originated paintings are being brought back across the Atlantic by English dealers and finding closer connections within England and the European Union. All I could wonder was who could possibly have wanted to part with any of these portraits, even if not a sentimentalist?

 TEFAF

TEFAF

On the other hand there was literally nothing in the way of jewelry and collectibles you couldn’t find at the Pier Show last weekend. Visiting that vast space on the windy water site is like landing in the middle of a thousand attics and jewel boxes spilled higgely piggely out onto the stadium floor. No Old Masterpieces to be found here, but it’s lots of fun, especially if you enjoy bargaining a bit. As noted in the nearby photos, some booths sell well, while others look as packed at the end as they were at the beginning. Most of the dealers only show at these events and hold day jobs, so for a number this is a hobby, not a profession. You may know as much as they do, so not much chance for intimidation. For the new collector, and for those who are shy about asking prices, this may be the perfect start for dabbling your toe in that swirling pond we call the Art Market.

Written by Elin Lake-Ewald

 

Best in Show: Auction House Previews

 Vintage Diamond Ring tried on at a Christie's jewelry preview

Vintage Diamond Ring tried on at a Christie's jewelry preview

Auction previews happen all the time in New York City, but who goes? Well intrepid collectors, obviously, looking for their next big purchase and art world insiders. At any time the top auction houses: Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Phillip’s and Bonham’s, have a rotation of artwork, furniture or jewelry (just to name a few) on view. What is not widely known is that these previews are open free to the public. What is so exciting about this is that much of what is on view will go from private collections back into private collections. For some of these artworks and objects this is the only time they will be viewed by the public.

Not to mention, if you are a jewelry lover like me and want to try on $100,000+ rings, necklaces and earrings this is your chance! All one has to do is walk in and ask what floor the preview is and then you are good to go. But this is not the only reason you should go to a preview. Much like a museum or gallery these exhibitions are often curated and will offer a different perspective on the work at hand. An upcoming auction at Sotheby’s, The New York Sale, looks like a good prospect. According to Sotheby’s this is a curated auction of “items from, inspired by and celebrating New York City.”  This inaugural New York Sale includes Print, Photographs, Paintings, Sculpture, Silver, Books, Jewelry and iconic New York Memorabilia.

Auctions are often themed and scheduled to coincide with other events in New York. Right now Bonhams has an exhibition called Dogs in Show and Field for an auction featuring only canine focused fine art, a perfect match for the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, also in New York. The auction is happening tomorrow February 18th in New York beginning at 10am, so don’t worry dog lovers you still have time to hit both events.

Seeing auction previews and the auctions themselves is a great way to get a feel for what’s in the market at the moment, the prices and conditions of what is available. Plus, it can be a great way to spend an afternoon.

Here are some interesting auction previews and exhibitions that are coming up:

·         Rockefeller Center and the Rise of Modernism in the Metropolis, Christie’s Private Selling Exhibition, New York

    • On view: 17 January – 25 February 2015

·         Dogs in Show and Field, Bonham’s New York

    • On view: Today, February 17th 10AM-6PM
    • Auction: February 18th 10AM

·         Under the Influence, Phillips New York

    • 23 February – 3 March, 10am-6pm (Sundays 12pm-6pm)
    • Auction: March 4th 11am

·         The New York Sale, Sotheby’s New York

    • On view: 26 March - 31 March, 10AM - 01PM
    • Auction: April 1st, 7PM 

 

 

Estates & Attorneys: OTE at Heckerling 2015

OTE’s first year at the Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning was full of talk of Art Leasing and Fractional Discounting. That we offered these services seemed to surprise attendees who tended to be more familiar with business valuation.

It was probably the first time that any of the attorneys or financial planners discovered that an art appraisal firm was capable of complex valuations outside of the usual insurance, resale or donation practice.

One conference highlight for OTE representatives was the chance to speak with some of the attorneys involved in the recent Elkins case. When the Fifth Circuit awarded the Elkins family a $14.4 million estate tax refund and allowed for the use of fractional interest discounts for artworks, it was a great thing for collectors and OTE.  This was exciting for us as, more than twenty years ago, OTE was the first firm to successfully win a substantial discount for our client in an estate that contained works of art.

This was also the first time the OTE unveiled our new brand image and we were proud to have a clean new aesthetic to bring with us to Heckerling.

We were extremely happy with the positive response we received from the people we met at the conference and we are excited about participating again in 2016. See you there!

Opening Night at the IFPDA Print Fair 2014

Opening night at the Print Fair brought crushing crowds and some amazing power on paper!

 A growing market for early 20th century British printmakers seemed to grow exponentially as several dealer booths focused on displays by Sybil Andrews, CRW Nevinson, Claude Flight, Margaret Barnard, Cyril Edward Power, and Lill Tschude, much admired but scarcely known in the US. Prices ranged from the low $30,000s to over $100,000, so it’s clear that there is as strong market for these vigorously colored linocuts. Kempner Gallery appeared to have the largest selection.

 Equally striking, but in the most subtle of ways, was an unusual series of eight silkscreens by Fred Sandbeck priced at $25,000. Famed for his string sculptures, these prints showed the varied configurations of a structure of strings as if it were in motion. At Diane Villani, publisher.

 At Barbara Krakow was another series of nine geometric black and white silkscreens from a set of ten (I still can’t figure that out), by Sol Lewitt, from 1982, and also priced at $25,000.

 So much to see and so much to remember, but two prints whose images remain with me: an engraving by William Black of Chaucer’s Canterbury Pilgrimage for $60,000 at the Fine Art Society of London, and at Hill-Stone an etching of Death and the Knight, a beautiful impression, for $225,000.

 This year may have brought in the largest group of non-American dealers that I can remember, and certainly a great number of non-New York dealers, a good many from Chicago. Definitely a sense of energy and excitement prevailed, but the increase in prices for prints was discernible. Perhaps, at any price, prints can be made to seem like near giveaways in the light of the  prices at the auction sales currently going on.

Written by Elin Lake-Ewald, Ph.D, ASA, FRICS


What to Look for When Collecting Photographs (part I)

"A True Photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words" - Ansel Adams

While this holds true in the visual appreciation of a photo, when purchasing at auction you may want to be a little more loquacious. At a lecture in conjunction with Heritage’s October photography auction in New York City, OTE staff picked up some tips for collecting photographs. Rachel Peart, Heritage Director of Photography and Alice Sachs, the President of Art + Business Partners and an avid collector of photography, stressed a number of elements important for buyers to evaluate, whether purchasing from an auction or private sale.

The market for photography has remained relative stable over the last couple of years and as of June of this year ArtTactic reported the overall confidence in the market increased by 9 percent. Sales at auction have also increased. The Modern Photography market saw a 22 percent increase and the Vintage photography market had a particularly large increase of 125 percent, while the market for Contemporary photography remained the same from 2012 to 2013 (ArtTactic Photography Market Report January 2014). However, it is the Contemporary market that continues to drive sales at the top end. Prices for iconic photographers (i.e. Man Ray and Alfred Stieglitz) can get into the hundreds of thousands of dollars while a large percentage of sales are affordable, under $10,000.

The photography market is a tricky one. Collecting is often motivated by rarity and personal aesthetics, which makes paying attention to a photograph’s catalog description key.  This may seem basic, but interpreting how a photograph’s print date and the print type relate to an artist’s market is more confusing than it looks.  In a typical description of a photographic lot at auction there is the artist’s name followed by the italicized title and a date (in red in the example). This represents the 'negative date' – the date when the photographer took the image. 

 Example of a catalog description from the Heritage October 16, 2014 Photographic Auction

Example of a catalog description from the Heritage October 16, 2014 Photographic Auction

  Example of a catalog description from the Heritage October 16, 2014 Photographic Auction

Example of a catalog description from the Heritage October 16, 2014 Photographic Auction

The actual date when the photography was printed is usually found either next to or as a part of the type of print (gold star above). For the Bernice Abbott photograph above “Vintage” is the only indication of when the photograph was printed. Some photographs, like the Cindy Sherman photograph on the right, are accompanied by the exact printing date (also in red). The print date informs a collector about how the specific photograph fits into the timeline of an artist’s body of work. The context of a photograph produced significantly later than the negative date is different than one printed close to when the photograph was originally taken and is a variable to be taken into account when purchasing.

Here is a guide to non-specific print date references:

  • Vintage Print: printed within five years of the negative.
  • Early Print: printed within ten years of the negative.
  • Later Print: printed at least ten years after the negative.
  • Modern Print- printed many years after the negative.
  • Posthumous Print: printed after the death of the artist.
  • Contemporary Print: currently being printed.

How much the date of printing matters in the valuation of a photograph depends on the artist. Bill Brandt’s (British, 1904-1983) later prints are darker and are valued differently than his early prints. Some descriptions will specify the person who printed them. If someone other than the artist printed the photograph it can have a strong impact on value; positive or negative, depending on their relationship with the artist. Photographs by Ed Weston (American, 1886-1958) printed by his sons are considered valuable because they were trained by him and followed his methods, but if the photographs were printed by another party this would likely not be the case. The type of photograph (the process used to create the print) is a variable that should not be overlooked.

The most common types of photographs seen at auction are:

  • Gelatin Silver: a black and white print made from 1870s to the 20th century.
  • Chromogenic prints: (also referred to as C-prints) color prints made since 1940.
  • Dye Transfer: color prints made since 1928.
  • Digital prints: (also called Digital Inkjet prints) a printing process developed recently.

In looking at the type of print it is helpful to know an artist’s typical practice. While rarity is often a positive attribute, this is not true in all instances. Ansel Adams is well known for his gelatin silver photographs in black and white and though his color photographs are rarer they are not as well received at auction. Aesthetic considerations aside, successful purchasing decisions are often based on understanding what specifically to pay attention to for an individual artist.

This blog referenced information from:

 

Appraisal or Estimate? Why Free Is Not Always Better

I spoke with someone recently who told me how they got all their appraisals for “free” at auction houses. What they got were not really appraisals but estimates of value.

An estimate by an auction house will likely only reflect what the auction house believes the seller will receive at auction. These sorts of “appraisals” are not good for insurance purposes and are not viable in court. Most art insurance policies rely on the retail replacement value, meaning the compensation would be for the retail value  of an artwork, as opposed to the price at auction (which is usually lower than a retail value).

This article is by no means knocking auction houses, which have amazing experts and specialists, but it is important to understand that an auction house’s primary job is to sell art, and offering a free estimate is one way to draw in business.

If you go to an auction house and are not serious about selling with them but merely attaining a value this is probably not the best option for you. Although auction houses have a considerable amount of information at their disposal, they rarely have time to conduct extensive research into an artwork that is not being consigned to them. A free estimate is not necessarily giving your artwork the time and attention it deserves.

The case of Ravenna v. Christie's in 2001 is a good example of relying too heavily on a free estimate. Guido Ravenna sued Christie’s as a result of his wife’s meeting with an Old Master Specialist at Christie’s in New York after she was given mistaken information about the provenance of the painting. The Old Master’s specialist, after only seeing photographs of the work during their short meeting, valued it at between $10,000 to $15,000, as he thought it appeared to be the work of minor 17th Century Italian painter, Nuvolone. Ravenna, then sold the work for $40,000 to a dealer who only months later consigned the work to Christie’s. 

 The Lamentation, by Ludovico Carracci

The Lamentation, by Ludovico Carracci

This is where it gets a little sticky. After the painting was examined again, it was determined to be a work not by Nuvolone but rather by Italian Baroque painter Ludovico Carracci, who is far more significant. The Lamentation, as it was renamed, was sold at auction in 2000 for $5,227,500 to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where it now resides. Ouch.

Heritage Auctions does a good job of explaining how auction house appraisals/estimates work:

“Usually, the request for an "appraisal" actually refers just to an evaluation for the potential value of an item through auction or private sale… Heritage regularly provides quick and free evaluations of the current market value of art or collectibles. This is in the form of a verbal or written auction estimate — the range of value that one would expect to see the item sell for in today's auction market. This valuation is not intended for use as a formal appraisal or for any purposes of establishing a value for insurance, tax, estate planning, collateral or third party transactions.” (Heritage Auctions - Defining Appraisals)

If you want to divest an artwork quickly, auction houses are the way to go. But if you are serious about finding out about the value of something you own, make sure you get an authentic written appraisal from a USPAP certified appraiser.

 

Why It Is Important To Insure Your Art

In New York City Hurricane Sandy was a wake-up call for many art enthusiasts to insure their art but there is still a lot of uninsured or underinsured art out there. According to Kathryn Tully in 2012 article for Forbes “the premium value of insured art globally was somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion. If those estimates are right, there’s a lot of uninsured art out there.”

Many people have collections of art, or perhaps just one valuable piece but rarely know exactly what they are worth.  It is surprisingly easy for a painting, sculpture or even a more experimental piece of art to be damaged due to some unforeseen event, which is why it is important to be aware of its value. This summer alone there has been a significant amount of flooding in the tri-state area, and this has resulted in thousands of dollars in damages. 

To protect your investment obtaining an appraisal of the retail replacement value means that you will be sure you have the right insurance coverage. The majority of standard home-owners insurance policies have limitations in regards to what can be reimbursed in the event of damage or loss to art and antiques.  So it is a good idea to look closely at your policy if you are not exactly sure what your insurance covers. 

If you are a serious collector you will probably need a more specialized policy tailored specifically to your collection. Insurance companies that are particularly qualified for this are: AXA, Chubb, and AIG.  However, it is still important to be aware of your art’s value as the years progress.

The art market is continually fluctuating which is why it is a good idea to update these appraisals every couple of years. The value of your art will probably change with the shifting market. Unlike other luxury goods, such as a Chanel handbag or a BMW, a work of art is unique and difficult to replace.  This is why using an appraiser who is USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) certified and a member of the ASA, RICS, or ISA, is essential.  An appraisal by a qualified appraiser will be fully researched and legally sound. And always make certain, no matter who the appraiser is, that he or she has the right experience to evaluate the specific piece you own.

Appraisers’ Chatroom July 2014

Art fairs: just when everyone was saying there were too many of them, even in the summertime they won’t give us a rest. Received three invitations in one week to attend fairs in different European countries. How do they have the strength? Spoke to a young woman who’d been to a huge fair in Dubai and she says it was better organized than any she’d been to in US or Europe. I’ll take her word for it.

 Stuart Davis, Untitled, ca. 1922, cat. no. 1480 © Estate of Stuart Davis, Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Stuart Davis, Untitled, ca. 1922, cat. no. 1480 © Estate of Stuart Davis, Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY


OTE is not inviting you to an art fair. We don’t give them, just attend to check the pulse of the market. But for somewhat lighter entertainment we are going to share the link to our new website – no, not today – but soon. This is like a trailer before the show begins. It took a little extra time to receive permission from our artist clients or their estates to use their images. I hope you’ll find it was worth the wait.

July 2013 Chelsea Gallery Tour

Not easy on the feet to make the rounds of Chelsea in July as heat waves radiate from the hard cement streets. You want to linger longer in the air conditioning of the galleries, but that’s no way to make the rounds if you’re aiming for about 20 stops before you succumb to rising temperatures and your endurance flags.

I’ve waited a few days to recount my visit and in the interim have forgotten most of the exhibitions I saw – attributable to either lapsed memory or lapsed interest. What stuck in my head?

Wolf Kahn at Ameringer/McEnery/Yohe for one. At 85 he’s more than had his chance to get it right, and in many ways he does. One of the best pastelists practicing today, Kahn’s lushly vivid scenes literally grab the viewer’s attention and holds it by its decorative color. Not great, but good art by a serious artist.

Kind of interesting, although slightly dated in it depictions of very old, proudly wrinkled survivors of the Cuban Revolution superimposed on the antiqued walls of that city. Shown in Cuba, as well as across America, the paintings combine the images with writings and evokes a sense of intimacy shared with people the viewer will never know. The show is at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery.

Not going to say where, but saw two identically themed exhibitions that were take off by younger artists on famous images of Modern Masters. But in these cases, why?

Leslie Tonkonow always has interesting shows. This one, of 20 color photo images depicting men, women and children in the middle of absolutely nowhere at night in the glare of a pinpointed light source, in this case a powerful flashlight. The effect is slightly weird, strangely riveting, rather scary.

The kind of show that always gets me – amateur photos of “The Flight Attendant Years: 1978-1986,” at Lombard Freid Gallery. It’s exactly as described. A male flight attendant photographs his friends and fellow flyers in various combinations (not pornographic but friendly), and somehow allows the viewer to for the moment step into the past when flying was fun, both for the attendants and for the passengers.

A most satisfying visit was to Paula Cooper Gallery to see an exhibition of that very fine photographer, Eliot Porter’s vintage prints, both black and white and color – dye-tranfers. I’ve always thought of Porter as a naturalist who loved to photograph trees, but this show is much more and much greater. Much to be admired.

At Klemens Gasser and Tanja Grunert (about to move to the Lower East Side) a show called “October 18, 1977” caught my eye. Based on Gerhard Richter’s 15-painting cycle about the imprisonment and finally the end of the Baader-Meinhof West German terrorist gang from the 1970s, the commissioned artists riff on the master’s version. This goes back to what I was writing about young artists utilizing directly the work of their predecessors. It’s always been done, but does it have to be so literal? Where are the original ideas? It’s not possible that in the artworld we’ve used them all up, is it?

Please don’t answer that.

June 2013 Chelsea Gallery Tour

The season may be winding down according to the calendar, but there’s still a lot of life left on the art scene.

It may be because there are so many artists and so little room in which to fit them. That is why group shows were invented. I saw so many on Saturday that I no longer remember where they were as I wandered the crowded streets of Chelsea, packed with tourists (I always figure if they are overweight and in shorts they are tourists) and art students. The buyers were probably in the Hamptons which accounted for the absence of directors in situ.

I take that back about not remembering group shows – there was “5 Rooms” at Robert Miller Gallery that included Yayoi Kusama with a paint decorated upright piano in red with her overall obsessively repeated decorations in black and white.

This is in no way a sequential tour since I just dumped the press releases for the shows in my MZWallace (designer married to David Zwirner) bag and they were scrambled when taken out this morning.

There were a few surprises, at least to me, at the Luhring Augustine exhibition of works by Philip Taaffe who used to be such a straight lines and bold dark color guy just a few years back. Now he is into gestural painting with hand-drawn relief plates, linocut printings, gold leaf and marbeling, with sources from around the globe which he has traveled a lot. Almost as much a jolt as when Stella went from minimalist work into phantasmagorical. There was a lot more fantasy at the Pace show of Tim Hawkinson, but the gallery wasn’t handing out handouts so I can’t give you the names of the pieces.

Leila Heller always has something interesting to see. This time it was something called “The Consumption” by Negar Ahkami, which is basically a bunch of scared figures being consumed by whirling blue tsunami waves of destructive force. She also showed twisted rugs by Faig Ahmed, oddly disturbing weavings of distorted carpets that at first seem standard but after a second look you realize there’s something crazy about them.

What made the tedious cross town journey to Chelsea totally worthwhile was my visit to Galerie Lelong where there was an extraordinary exhibition of the late works (1981-85) of Ana Medieta that included a segment from a documentary film currently in post-production about the artist’s fellowship and residency at the American Academy in Rome. There was also a film depicting earthen silhouettes of the artist’s body in a landscape in which gunpowder is ignited and which are related to her floor sculptures, similar to those she created in the landscapes of Cuba, Iowa and Mexico. This was the 9th solo exhibition of Medieta’s work at Lelong. I wondered that there was such a trove to show since the artist’s death was so untimely.

There was a beautiful exhibition of Linda Stojack’s paintings – the operative word being “beautiful” because the artist’s evocative images latch on to your imagination with their lush palettes, half formed images and striking lines. It’s old fashioned expressionistic painting with a contemporary twist. At the same gallery was the powerful work of Bruno Romeda, an Italian artist who deals with simple forms in a complex way.

Maybe I was tired by then, or maybe it was hard to get out of the way, but the rope sculpture of Specer Finch at James Cohan Gallery almost got me. This site-specific installation called “Fathom” (a measure six feet in length used to measure to depth of water) is composed of a very, very long (120 feet) twisted heavy rope to which are attached paper tags and swatches of color that the press release says may “best be considered a drawing of Walden Pond.”

At Andrea Rosen Gallery there was more conventional unconventional art in the form of Wolfgang Tillmans’ 11th one person show that consists of works selected from a four-year project begun in 2008 and includes a wall of 128 pages from Tillmans’ newest book Fespa digital/Fruit Logistica.

At Bruce Silverstein’s was Rosalind Solomon’s exhibition that drew crowds – “Portraits in the Time of AIDS, 1988, which brought in groups led by lecturers. It was too crowded to wait and figure out how the talks were conducted but it might be worthwhile to return on a quieter day to review this award winning photographer’s third gallery show.

There were multiple other exhibitions to remember from last Saturday, but it’s not possible to skip three – “Landscape Painting in the Civil War Era” at Driscoll Babcock, New York’s oldest art gallery, taken from the gallery’s holdings of Hudson River School paintings. Refreshing to see these old friends like Blakelock, Durand, Inness, Kensett and Fitz Henry Lane (gave his name in full because just writing ‘Lane’ won’t do it).

At Friedman Benda the first solo gallery exhibit in the United States starred the Campana Brothers’ “Concepts,” a really unusual body of cowhides that include a wall-mounted bookshelf, table, and standing shelf; a “Racketz’ collection of chairs and a screen in vent brass with nylon stitched base and hand-stitched motif made from remnant Thonet chair backings, A cabinet made out of tanned and leathered skin of the world’s largest fresh water fish and a sofa and chari created out of a series of life-like stuffed alligators. Naturally the brothers are from Brazil. The editioned alligator sofa is $90,000.

Really tired now so I’ll wind up with a visit to Gagosian Gallery where I took in two outsized Venus sculptures in polished stainless steel, polychromed Hulk statues, a black granite Gorilla, a humongous balloon swan, rabbit and monkey of monumental scale, standing huge and gleaming in a light filled huge cavern at the rear of the gallery. Koons sculptures are always flawlessly executed and shiny. One tiny finger print would throw the whole show out of kilter. There will have to guards galore at the Whitney Museum when it presents a major retrospective of his work in 2014.

Okay, quickly, what else did I see? “Chasing the Light,” Deborah Dancy’s oils on canvas at Sears-Peyton Gallery Jannis Kounellis’ classically composed installations of coal, wool, iron, glass and stone, mixed with personal articles like overcoats, shoes and hats at Cheim & Read; small dreamlike paintings by John Lees at Betty Cunningham Gallery, and finally, Christopher Evans’ clearly delineated landscapes at Fishbach Gallery.

Whew! I had no idea I had gotten around so much in just a few hours, and still had time and shoes enough to get uptown and shop. It just proves that even though those who pass for fashionable in this city absent themselves (or never leave their air-conditioned apartments) on weekends it doesn’t mean the city dies. Museums are still open, galleries still operate, artists still work, dealers still sell. So much art, so little time.

Growth in the Art Market

Something strange is happening all over the art world and I’m trying to figure it out. Maybe I hadn’t been noticing all that much, but I started thinking about it a couple of weeks ago when I attended an American Art auction at Sotheby’s and a small Norman Rockwell nostalgic painting sold for $2.2 million, of course a record and a wake up call to start looking at a few other sales that weren’t Contemporary Art.

What I’ve discovered is a consistently rising market for many kinds of art that normally don’t attract the mass market, causing me to think that money is being invested in work that is not exactly affordable for the ordinary Joe, but could be a bargain for serious collectors if they are comparing it to what is going on at the evening sales at the auction houses.

 

Just this morning I was looking at the results of the Antiquities sale at Sotheby’s:

Marble torso of a young satyr estimated at $50,000-80,000, sold for $329,000

Egyptian bronze figure of Harpocrates-Somtous estimated at $30,000-50,000, sold for $137,000

Hellenistic marble head of a woman estimated at $20,000-30,000, sold for $112,500

Two small Egyptian polychrome figures estimated at $7,000-10,000, sold for $53,125

 

At the Sotheby’s Old Master sale:

Antwerp Mannerist School painting estimated at $100,000-150,000, sold for $257,000

Gillis Mostraert painting estimated at $4,000-6,000, sold for $43,750

Circle of Jan Wellens de Cock painting estimated at $30,000-50,000, sold for $106,250

Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s small painting estimated at $700,000-900,000, sold for $2,285,000

 

These were not aberrational sales, but a reflection of the overall sales, and I am finding this repeated in the sales of other categories of art, i.e., paintings, sculpture, objects of art. I’ll be checking out the other areas now that I’m alerted to the rush towards obtaining physical proof of where someone’s money has gone rather than investing in the more ephemeral ink on paper representing stocks, bonds, gold and whatever.

The other day when someone told me her son was so interested in art I remarked that so was everyone else. It probably  wasn’t until the 1970s and Scull auction sales that the general public was alerted to the fact that paintings could fetch a good deal of money. Then the world seemed to sit up to look a little more closely at the art market. Interest gradually rose, but the wild prices of the late 1980s and the 1990s really caught their attention.  And as I told the lady, everyone today is interested in art. But it is because of a growing appreciation of it or the prices it brings?

May 2013 Summary of NYC Art Events

‘tis the season of semi-hysterical hyperbole regarding the art market. Christie’s with its all-time all-star contemporary sale, the plethora of exhibitions, the panting over-the-moon prices for rectangles of canvas and sticks of synthetics. It’s exhausting and not altogether fun. The promoters say it’s fun, the publications say it’s an other worldly experience. The eye says it’s tired.

Frieze was noisy and crowded with expensive foods and nothing extraordinary in the booths. Maybe the artists are tired too. They’ve been at it day and night to produce enough saleable stuff for all these fairs, 200 thus far and counting. We played “what four works do you remember from the show?” during dinner that evening with collectors and professionals. They were hard-pressed. Maybe they were tired too.

For some reason, instead of recalling marvelous contemporary work I still see the Rauschenberg cardboard construction soaring on the wall at Gagosian’s. And the two Dennis Oppenheim drawings in a London booth. Why can’t I remember the more recent items? Great art holds up. Doesn’t mean the emerging artists don’t have some chance at immortality, or at least a mention in the art history books, and perhaps walking through the show with others isn’t the way to take the work seriously. And maybe that’s the problem with these big shows that are proliferating like dandelions in May. Perhaps the sheer size doesn’t allow us the opportunity to engage with the art in these 100 plus exhibitions where we tend to rush through, looking for that “wow” piece or the one we can chuckle over with our companions. And then there are always those satellite shows, some of them interesting but too many boring or bad.

Now there are design shows as well as art shows. One recently at the  pier on 15th Street (never been there before) was filled with chairs and tables and desks that required discussion, but there was relatively few people with whom to discuss anything- at least on opening day. The displays begged for signage, explanations, some sign that the sellers were interested in the pieces they were showing.

But on the weekend, at the conference on Initiatives in Art & Culture I remembered why I had enjoyed the art world so much once. Put together by Lisa Koenigsberg, the two-day conference on American Art was filled with intelligent talks on a part of the art world that has been shamefully neglected for the past several years – art made in America from the 1700s into the mid 20th century. Perhaps if we called it “international art made in America” it might have a better chance. Much of the great art from our older American artists is in museums or important private collections, but there is a wealth of overlooked artists from the past. We may see a resurgence of interest in the discovery of these now obscure painters and sculptors of the past. But will collectors whose eyes seem blind to all but the one-stop shopping artist’s in your face creations find any excitement in the moderately priced homespun heroes of yesterday? And will their hearts beat faster at the prospect of not competing with the $50 million trophy? And does the $7.2 billion spent on art in 2012 have much to do with art?

Review of the 2013 AIPAD Photography Show and Affordable Art Fair

What struck me about the most recent AIPAD photography show last week was how black and white it was. I mean that all those oversize contemporary color photos that had so dominated past shows seem to have been kept in the closet this time ‘round. There has been so much to see since then that the illustrated cards I picked up and kept on my desk between then and now may or may not have been what I thought were  the most interesting exhibits or just the ones that offered attractive cards.

The naked Asian lady stretched out on a divan reading a book is a C-print by Gao Yuan from Throckmorton Fine Art, New York. Then there’s a famous photo of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald on November 24, 1963 at Daniel Blau Gallery, Munich and London.

Staley Wise Gallery in Soho was billing Bert Stern as the “Original Mad Man,” with a snap of the photographer sitting on a sofa next to a posed shot of Marilyn Monroe, hair askew, empty wine bottles and overturned shoes and cigarettes strewn about the floor. A sort of inside joke I suppose, made sad by what we know now.

I know why I picked up the brochure from Scheinbaum & Russek Ltd, Exclusive reps of the Eliot Porter Estate, and that was the Eliot Porter images from the Great Smoky Mountains, Concord River, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. If you are into color photography Porter says it all.

And then there were the black and white frontal face portraits by John Kenny of African tribal members shown by Capital Culture, London. The intensity of expression in those otherwise still faces is both riveting and just a little scary.

From famous photographers to the unknown emerging artists at the Affordable Art Fair held this year at the Metropolitan Pavilion on West 18th Street. Not much to say about that show since I apparently failed to pick up postcards, or perhaps they weren’t being offered (to cut down costs), but I do remember that that the 2013 version of how to fill the walls of your apartment without robbing your kid’s college fund was a major improvement over the 2012 offerings. The usual “looks just like” and “what’s affordable in this show?” struck me as I wondered through. I kept thinking of how many people want to be artists whether they have significant talent or not, and how easy it is to evade an answer with derivative creations. I was looking for crude but innovative or not-quite-there-but promising. Didn’t find it, but there seemed to be a lot of enthusiasm among the viewers and works to go were being wrapped up, so maybe I’ve seen too much over too many years and see the often dead famous artist in all those emerging artists, or maybe there are just too darn many art shows and we’re all getting tired.

Review of the 2013 Armory Show and the ADAA Art Show

Last week disappeared in an art tsunami that left show-goers dazed and glassy eyed. Started with a private showing by Paul Morris, one of the Armory (revisited) founders who set up an exhibition of contemporary superworks in a gutted 1882  bank building on Beekman Street downtown. All the names the big collectors want to own given its own separate peeling walls space in a one-off (42 works)  exhibition to reel in the biggie buyers. It’s Morris’ contention that the 200 per year art fairs have run their course and sellers must conceive a new direction. This is his. We must agree about people being weary of art fair crowds who appear more and more to party, while fewer come for the art. El Anatsui, Anish Kapoor, Ai Weiwei, Basquiat, Calder, Cindy Sherman, Dan Flavin, Yves Klein, etc. – they were all there in great form. The artworks I mean.

And to speak of crowds – the lines at the Armory Pier Show Sunday were an hour long – to get in, to get from Pier 94 to 92, to get a taxi. The only quiet spot was the VIP Lounge where bottles of water cost $4 and a small tea was $3.50.  At least it didn’t cost $80,000 for a (looks like styrofoam) melting 6-foot snowman artwork who stood guard outside one booth.  I could see its amusement appeal if situated in the atrium of a Miami villa during a Basel Miami week party. Pier 92 was filled with first rate examples of art that revisited the 70s, the original Armory Show, the established names, and was a comforting and familiar sight for serious collectors. Probably more exciting than the ADAA exhibition at the 68th Street Armory, which had some really fine one-person sightings.

Mitchell-Inness & Nash displayed a wonderful group of Arp sculpture, drawings and reliefs; “political pop” shouted from the walls of Mary Ryan Gallery with the Big Daddy portraits of grotesque men in various guises; Galerie Lelong surprised with the early paintings and works on paper (1975-1980) of Sean Scully, the kind of show that lets you see where an artist is coming from before he got here; another kind of surprise by Kiki Smith with her flat metal dogs, birds and flowers bolted to the wall; and the leaves of ore of Tam Van Tran whose fluttery leaves adhered to panels occasionally flutter off the backing (as the artist intended), but did he intend an endless departure? Mystery to me.

At Sean Kelly Gallery a Mapplethorpe photo of Roy Lichtenstein, from an edition of 3, was available for $40,000, and at James Goodman Gallery  a large classic  pencil drawing of a woman  by John Graham was available for $250,000 while a large painting of two men by the artist dominated another booth at $3.5 million.  A small “Elegy” painting by Motherwell looked inviting at $750,000 at Lillian Heidenberg Fine Art, and at Pace Prints a Barnett Newman silkscreen on plexi on wood, from an edition of 125 from 1966, was yours for $60,000. Probably an excellent purchase if you’re looking into the future.

All right, we could go on and on and on. There was so much art to be seen around New York this past week it was overload for those whose livelihood derives from that source, which to others may be pure viewing pleasure. It makes for a very overcrowded eye, if there is such a term. If not, we invented it today.

Art Fairs on Both Coasts

Last weekend Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald visited the Los Angeles Art Show:

The LA Art Show brought in so many unexpected visitors that there weren’t any brochures or catalogs to purchase by 1 on Sunday, January 27th. The place was mobbed, primarily with an under 50 crowd of eager-to-look, not so quick to buy visitors. Or so it seemed. It was disappointing to those who were seeking to see familiar names or big gallery artists. This was a show for emerging artists, or artists who had been around a while but never could make it out of their home territory.

One of my fellow travelers, a young woman who knew little about art (or so I thought) mentioned in a mild tone that the works seemed a lot like those of famous artists, but not quite. She meant derivative, and so right she was. Yet their prices matched those of artists in NY who had had a showing or two: $2,500 - $10,000.

I came away impressed with how many more people have been exposed to art and who wanted to live with art than has probably ever been the case in this country. And it’s wonderful to see how many different nations and states participated in the fair, from Georgia to Germany to Nubia and numerous countries in between.

Funny thing about art shows away from your home base…when you bump into an a professional acquaintance it’s like coming across your best friend unexpectedly in a foreign country. You can’t stop talking. Bump into the same person when you’re both in New York and it’s “hi” and pass by.

Well, I’m delighted I went. I did bump into an old friend and came away with a ticket to the Maastrict Fair in March. So it was worth the traffic on the 101.

Meanwhile in New York, Julia Plotkin made the rounds at the Old Masters auction previews and the annual Winter Antiques Show at the Park Avenue Armory:

At Christie’s, upon entering the exhibition I was offered an iPad loaded with short video clips of Christie’s specialists explaining the art historical significance of many sale highlights. Hearing the dialogue while standing face-to-face with the works tremendously enriched the preview, and I hope both auction houses expand on this practice.

One of the stars of the Old Master sales at Christie’s was a rare, tiny canvas by Chardin, The Embroiderer, measuring only about 7 x 6 inches but worthy of its $3 - $5 million estimate (realized $4 million). Another gem-like painting displayed beside it was Watteau’s La Déclaration, about 8 x 7 inches, estimated between $500,000 and $700,000 (realized $600,000). Both are precious in size but powerful in execution.

At the Winter Antiques Show, at least two strong examples of paintings by George Bellows from private collections were spotted. It looks like collectors and dealers hope the market for Bellows will heat up in tandem with his retrospective currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum. Asking prices reach into the nine digits.

December 2012 Review

What’s a weekend in New York’s art world like these days?

If we can start with Thursday evening by getting a head start on the three days, there was a panel presentation by Herrick Law Firm on Holocaust Restitution and its current status as regards collectors and museums. In my opinion, nothing new, but apparently the UN has decided that enough is enough as far as pursuing Holocaust claims. We’ll check on exact reading of the statute and report back.

Friday afternoon was spent with a former OTE appraiser who is now Curator of Feminist Art at the BrooklynMuseum where we saw the Mickalene Thomas exhibition of glittery evocations of the world of African-Americans, as well as the fantastical glass sculpture of Othoniel. For those with an eye for the intellectual in the art world there was an extraordinary exhibition of conceptual art from the collection of art critic Lucy Lippard, a show organized by Catherine Morris. We saw it in the company of the widow of the late Dennis Oppenheim, a major figure of this era and those following, giving us insights into the work from a very personal viewpoint. There is no question that the BrooklynMuseum is neglected by Manhattanites. Just get off the #6 train at Nevins and hop across the platform for a train that takes you directly to the site.

The following morning we met with about 30 members of ArtTable at the NewMuseum on the Bowery, where an exhibition of the Cosmos of Rosemarie Trockel, an important German artist, was laid out on three floors. Her myriad works in a great variety of media was clarified in a talk  by co-curator for the exhibition, Lynne Cooke, who had been with the DIA and is now Mellon Research Fellow at the National Gallery in D.C. What was most fascinating was that, included among the works on display, were those by other artists whose work has impacted on that of Trockel. We were particularly drawn to the miniature collaged books by Manuel Montalvo and the hand-wrapped wool pieces by Ousider artist Judith  Scott. We should at least mention the nicely mounted triptych by an the orangutan Tilda, a very serious practitioner with a paint brush.

Because of the location, we decided to do some exploring among the recently minted galleries on the Lower East Side and found Mickalene Thomas again at an offshoot of Lehman Maupin Gallery where all the paintings had been spoken for – small wonder.

Traveling without a compass on the streets of the area led us into any number of quite well done up galleries that echoed the interior spaces of smaller Chelsea galleries and should be taken seriously. Of course it had its derivative examples, but you can also find those in plenty in tonier neighborhoods, even as far as 57th Street and certainly in the 20s. But it’s certainly worth exploring. Just pick up “LesGalleriesNYC” or find it online, check your Google Map and pick a day when the winter wind isn’t having tantrums.

We managed to get in the new Matisse exhibition at the Met, along with the final days of Bernini, and an easily missed mini-exhibition in the African wing of early 20th century artists influenced by African sculpture. There’s always some wonderful shows at the Met that you have to stumble across because they are rarely advertised. We also made it to MOMA where 20th century Japanese artists are newly exhibited, and since we were there we had to peek in at “The Scream” which wasn’t drawing half as many onlookers as “Wintery Night” by van Gogh, a longtime favorite. The more I see “The Scream” in all its variations the more I wonder how it remains such an iconic image. I believe the reproductions, particularly when oversized, do more for the work than seeing it in the flesh, so to speak.

I think I’m missing another stop or two, but that’s all I can recall at the moment. It seems like a lot of art-going, but to be quite honest, I am feeling guilty on Monday morning because I didn’t get around some more. This is the season for the art-serious to be in Manhattan. In between museum and gallery shows the spectacle of commerce at its best – the displays in the windows and glittering on the buildings of the city – is itself a form of popular art.

Visiting the Chelsea and Lower East Side Galleries

In the past couple of weeks I visited a number of Chelsea and Lower East Side galleries.  I was pleasantly surprised to see more red dots than usual on artwork by emerging artists; something I haven’t seen since the downturn of the art market at the end of 2008.  The art market appears to be thriving in both Chelsea and the Lower East Side.  David Zwirner and Pace are opening galleries in London.  Pace closed the 22nd Street space and has opened a new gallery space next door to their second gallery on West 25th Street.  Marlborough is opening a new gallery space in the Lower East Side.

The last time I visited the galleries in the Lower East Side there were a mere 10 galleries.  Now there are close to 100.  This neighborhood has really turned around.  I remember riding down Chrystie Street with my father and being told never to walk down this street.  It was far too dangerous.  You will find that the Lower East Side galleries are very spread out.  From north to south they border between East 1st Street to Canal Street and east to west from Mott Street to Avenue B.  It is very doubtful you could visit them all in one day.

The gallery spaces are reminiscent of the EastVillage galleries of the 1980s.  On the one hand the spaces are extremely small intimate storefronts.  Walking from storefront to storefront you feel like you are in a real neighborhood as opposed to an industrial area.  On the other hand there are architectural masterpieces, such as the Sperone Westwater gallery on Bowery.  It was designed by the same architect who designed OneWorldTradeCenter and has three floors.  There is a hydraulic freight elevator that artists can choose to show work in as part of the exhibition.  From the second floor you can view the work on the first floor.  Right now there is an incredible nine panel work by Chinese artist Liu Ye depicting a subtle interpretation of bamboo in celadon.  The work is breathtaking particularly when viewed from above.

One of the noteworthy galleries showing emerging artists is the Dacia Gallery on Stanton Street.  The owner immediately engaged me in conversation about the artist as I entered.  Leah Yerpe’s charcoal and pencil drawings on paper are some of the most impressive works I have ever seen.  Her realistic compositions of groups of people falling are exquisitely executed with attention to every detail.  Her prices ranged from $800 for small pencil drawings 8 x 10 to $14,000 for her largest sized charcoal drawings 80 x 100.  Only two works in the exhibition remain unsold.

Most of the Lower East Side galleries are not listed in Gallery Guide.  If you visit www.lesgalleriesnyc.com you will find a majority of the galleries listed.

Gallery Night on 57th Street, October 2012

In what has quickly become a New York tradition, yesterday dozens of galleries stayed open late for the biannual Gallery Night on 57th Street walk. Whereas this gallery-goer noticed eerily empty corridors during the last couple of rounds, the fall 2012 event seemed to have all the markers of success: sardine-can packed elevators, side-step-only passing through select exhibitions, and lots of people everywhere carrying little gray maps. Measuring by the yardstick of personal taste, a few artists and shows really stood out:

- D. Wigmore Fine Art, Charming Observations: Modernism of the 1930s and 1940s: including several canvases by the American painter Doris Lee, at once deeply contemplative in their monochromatic abstraction and delightfully charming in their subject matter

- Pace Prints, Santi Moix: silkscreen monotypes with hand-coloring; bursting with spontaneity, a dynamic and visually striking series with infinite layers of line, shape, and color

- Nohra Haime Gallery, Olga de Amaral: Places: large fabric compositions seductively dancing with light from afar and shimmering glamorously up close; metaphorically, like evening jewelry for the wall

- Bonni Benrubi Gallery, Abelardo Morell: Rock Paper Scissors: featuring “tent camera” landscapes photographed simultaneously with the grassy patches of ground beneath the camera itself, seamlessly combining two views into one deliberately confusing but beautiful experiment in texture and context

An Art Investment Council Panel Review: Is the Art Market in a Bubble?

 Last week the Art Investment Council (AIC) presented a private panel: Is the Art Market in a Bubble?

Moderated by Stephen Brodie, partner at Herrick, Feinstein LLP, the panelists consisted of Benjamin Mandel, Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Michael Moses, Co-Founder of Beautiful Asset Advisors, Michael Plummer, Co Founder & Principal at Artvest Partners LLC and Barrett White, Senior Vice President, Christie’s, Post War & Contemporary Art.

Michael Moses described a market bubble in terms of return:  a bubble means annual growth of at least 25% per year, for at least five years in a row.  A few obvious examples include Japan during the 1980’s and the U.S. from 1995 to 2000.   

During discussion, all panelists confirmed what experienced professionals working in the field know well, and that which makes it such a unique beast –more than any other, the art market is driven by emotion, collector psychology and confidence (or lack there of) in the market.  Following the 2008 economic collapse, the market experienced the shortest contraction in history (3 years) due largely to consumer confidence in art as an asset class.  Those who stayed away from the sales in 2009 began to feel they were missing out on some favorable prices, and those who had refrained from selling saw sales jump.

Other topics of discussion throughout the evening included art funds (15-20 years in the future), online price databases (collectors love them while dealers feel they can betray their own purchase prices to clients) and regulations and commission transparency along the lines of the real estate market (it will happen when the scale of the art market demands it).

The final verdict?  The general consensus among all was that the art market is not in a bubble – yet.  What leads to a bubble?  Panelists cited troubles in China, which constitutes 40% of the auction market, and the struggling Euro.  Perhaps the most insightful explanation (or warning) of a bubble is the ignoring of connoisseurship in one’s field.  This in turns leads to inflated prices being paid for inferior works, a phenomenon seen in the early to mid 2000’s.

October 2012 Summary of Art Exhibits

There’s just too much art around if you’re a professional in the field; it’s hard on the eyes, feet, brain and calendar, leaving little time for anything other than visiting art exhibitions, attending art panels, going to galleries, attempting all those Art Nights on 57th, Chelsea, Lower East Side, Williamsburg, Lower Batavia, etc.

What’s hardest of all is trying to distinguish one artist from another, or which gallery showed which artist, or trying to remember what you actually thought of any of those artists whose work you can’t sort out anyway.

Clutching a sheaf of papers, invitations, announcement cards and print-outs as I hobbled into the office this morning, I’m trying to recap just a few, a very few, of the shows I attended over the weekend – this is not to include the two or three museum visits I made as I skittered around and through The Korean Day Parade, The Polish Day Parade and the Columbus Day Parade – the parade trifecta. Never let it be said again that New York is the easiest city in the world to get around in – no, no, no, not if there’s a parade going on.

Not in sequence of either time nor area:

Driscoll-Babcock Galleries is celebrating its 160th year in the business by moving to Chelsea and opening its initial exhibition with both 19th century and contemporary artists. There’s a 5.5 million dollar Hartley in one room and a Jeff Koons polka dot painting in the next. A John F. Kensett show is coming up next, but like so many other American Art galleries it is allowing space for what really brings collectors inside their doors – new art.

I’ve been following the work of Louise Fishman for many years and her new work at Cheim & Reid somewhat startled me this time. After 50 years of presenting a wide range of themes, the art has exploded into a blue thunderclap with red slashes. After five decades that’s quite an energetic viewpoiont.

Andrea Zittel at Andrea Rosen, continues to explore the relationship of art to consumable art objects, choosing in her own words to work at the intersection between textiles and painting, working with a group of weavers and artisans to create hanging textiles, some based on Navaho designs, and a giant rug, 144 x 192 inches. One of three, it is $85,000.

Robert Miller Gallery showed some marvelous vintage photos, primarily from the 1930s – Walker Evans, Dorothea Lang, and the usuaal suspects, but I made special note of the newer photos by Jorn Lehr. These offered a contrast to the otherwise very good photos I’d seen the night before at The Affordable Art Fair, held this year on 11th Avenue. Yes, it was affordable – in fact one of the best things I saw in the show was a $375 work by an artist in the Under $500 booth, but the difference between what is affordable and what is gallery worthy leaves some growth room in between.

At Pace the Richard Tuttle exhibition is of free-standing works that expands the space of his smaller creations. Couldn’t help but think of these when the next day I attended “Eyes Closes/Eyes Open,” the recent acquisition of drawings at MoMA. There was displayed the work of German artist Franz Erhard Walther from the decade of the 60s, a suite of interactive sculptural objects, shown for the first time since its original presentation in 1969.

There was tons more to speak of, but I’m not going to be the one to report it. I ended my afternoon in Chelsea on the highest of high notes, at Luhring Augustine where I sat through a performance in 12 parts by Guido Van Der Werve, an extraordinary visual video with a full orchestra that intertwined homage to Chopin with the history of Alexander the Great and the artist as guide, swimming, biking and running from Warsaw to Paris – 1,000 miles - dressed always in black. I lost count of the time for the music alone held me bound to the folding chair on which I sat, not knowing if I was comfortable or not and wishing it would go on for even a little while longer. I don’t usually react that way to art videos, but this time was different. When Chopin died in Paris, his sister promised to bring his heart back to Warsaw to be buried there, smuggling it out and having it was interred in the Church of the Holy Cross. The last scene showed the artist laying a gift at the foot of the artist’s monument in the Pierre Lachaise cemetery.