Lawrence van Hagen's Pop-Up & What to See in Chelsea

One of the most refreshing exhibitions in Chelsea right now is Whats Up New York the Pop Up three story show at 132 10th Avenue, curated by Lawrence van Hagen. Unfortunately I only learned of it a week before its upcoming closing on Thursday the 25th. Amazing stuff, with work shared between Americans and Europeans, most of the latter group unknown to me previously, but who made me glad to have come. For instance, the Larry Bell painting seen in the photo that includes van Hagen, is mirrored by two works by Martini Basher while the Daniel Turner reflects similarly paint slashes by Johnny Abrahams. There’s a really unusually configured Kenneth Noland and a super small John Chamberlain that appears to be in an argument with a crushed metal work by Ernesto Burgos. All in all, an exhibition worth visiting.

Another amazing show at Friedman Benda, a leading design gallery, combines cleanly carved work by Wendell Castle and wildly inventive furniture by Ron Arad, Humberto & Fernando Campana and a host of other designers that make a trip to this site fanciful fun. And at David Zwirner there is the never ending shock of the late conceptual artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres with a huge room bordered by wrapped candies and two small electric clocks as the only display on the opposing wall. At Lisson Gallery paintings by the centenarian Carmen Herrara show work from the last six years and at Matthew Marks the last work by the late Ellsworth Kelly document that he was still engaged in his work until the end.

Saw lots of other not always so interesting shows, but did want to mention Charlie Ahearn at P-P-O-W. Ahearn combines film and wall art, documenting street culture and the rise of hip hop in New York City, with videos like Bongo Barbershop and Dancing industry. There’s life in these works and he makes the most of it creatively. Just one last scene – at Allan Stone Projects there is a one man show of James Havard that is quite amazing. Without describing it I suggest you pay a visit. Havard hasn’t been seen in quite a while and I wonder why now that I’ve seen this exhibition.

There’s a lot going on in Chelsea that you will never see at the big fairs.

Curator of  Whats Up New York , Lawrence van Hagen adjacent to a Larry Bell painting

Curator of Whats Up New York, Lawrence van Hagen adjacent to a Larry Bell painting

Ellsworth and Asia Week

2015’s Asia Week has proved itself to be one of the most lucrative and exciting art events of the year. A barrage of gallery and museum shows, lectures, and auctions litter the art scene in celebration of artwork from multiple nations. High predictions of sales were reported to be around the $250 million dollar range, in large part owing to the excitement over the Robert Hatfield Ellsworth sale at Christies.

Auction catalogs from four of the Ellsworth auctions via Christie's

Auction catalogs from four of the Ellsworth auctions via Christie's

Ellsworth’s prestigious collection contained Indian, Himalayan, Southeast Asian, Chinese, and Japanese art and is one of the largest of estates Asian art ever to come to auction. Considering that all 57 lots sold in Part I, it appears that this estimate may have been correct - including buyer’s premium this part of the collection totaled $61,107,500.

Gilt Bronze figure of a Seated Bear from China created in the Western Han Dynasty (200 BC – 8 AD)   courtesy of Christie's

Gilt Bronze figure of a Seated Bear from China created in the Western Han Dynasty (200 BC – 8 AD)  courtesy of Christie's

Part I – Masterworks Including Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Works of Art, Chinese & Japanese Works of Art, had the highest selling works of the entire collection. The most expensive of which was the set of four 17th Century Huanghulai Horseshoe-back arm chairs that sold for over $9 million (estimate of $800,000 – $1.2 million). Another work which defied its estimate was the Gilt Bronze figure of a Seated Bear from China created in the Western Han Dynasty (200 BC – 8 AD) which was estimated to sell for between $200,000 to $300,000 and sold for $2.8 million. According to our Asian art specialist collectors were enamored by this small totem - its rare pose and subtle characterization.

However, it was not just Chinese art that did well in the sale. The second highest price was for a large gilt bronze sculpture of Avalokiteshvara from 13th Century Nepal which sold for $8.2 million (estimate of $2-3 million). A “rare and important” bronze figure of a seated Yogi, possibly Padampa Sangye sold for $4.8 million, a little more than $3 million over the high estimate.

Part II, which included Chinese furniture, scholar’s objects, and Chinese paintings, still reached high prices and totaled $39,137,625. Part III – Chinese Works of Art: Qing Ceramics, Glass & Jade totaled $8,189,875, Part IV – Chinese Works of Art: Metal, Sculpture & Early Ceramics $15,840,625, Part V – European Decorative Arts, Carpets, Old Master Paintings & Asian Works of Art $6,207,688 and Part VI – The Library $1,176,875. The extraordinary results of these sales pay tribute to Ellsworth’s genius in the field of Asian art - something for which OTE can attest, as over the years he advised our firms president on the Asian market and, in particular, the estate of C.C. Wang.

The Ellsworth sale has amounted $132 million at auction, no doubt in large part because of the incredible provenance of his collection. As the Asian art market is becoming more overheated and frenzied, provenance is becoming increasingly more important in legitimizing extraordinarily high prices for classical Chinese art.

Although they were arguable overshadowed by the Ellsworth sale at Christie’s, Sotheby’s Asia week sales also did well. Their most successful sale appears to be Fine Classical Chinese Paintings & Calligraphy which netted them $41,441,375.

However Asia week is not just about big sales, it is also an amazing time to learn more about the art history and development of countries throughout Asia. A lecture I attended at the Korean Society, ‘Adoption, Assimilation, Transformation,’ with Robert D. Mowry discussed some of the most important developments in Korea’s art history and its relationship with China.

Geumgang Jeondo (금강전도 金剛全圖) by Jeong Seon

Geumgang Jeondo (금강전도 金剛全圖) by Jeong Seon

During the lecture Mr. Mowry spoke about the distinctly Korean style of landscape paintings typified by the painter Jeong Seon 정선 / 鄭敾 (1676–1759), whose pen name Gyeomjae meant humble study. He lived during the Joseon Dynasty and is one of the few known Korean painters to move away from traditional Chinese styles. Another, Shin Yun-bok (1758-early 19th C), paintings of people reveal a humor that is also uniquely Korean. Their paintings present a contextual history for some of Korea’s modern painters such as An Jung-sik (안중식, 1861-1919).

Scenery on Dano day (단오풍정 端午風情) by Shin Yun-bok , in the Gansong Art Museum in Seoul, South Korea

Scenery on Dano day (단오풍정 端午風情) by Shin Yun-bok , in the Gansong Art Museum in Seoul, South Korea

Overall it was a great week to experience some of the world’s most beautiful art and culture.



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 

 

 

A Night at Blumka Gallery

The cocktail reception at Blumka Gallery, hosted by Anthony Blumka and Florian Eitle-Böhler on January 27. The night most of Manhattan closed down for the snow blizzard that never happened. Fortunately, that did not keep the die-hard art connoisseurs of Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque fine and decorative arts at home.

Open only by appointment, even with a room filled with the art patrons, museum donors, curators, educators, and in this case an appraiser, the gallery space still had a calm and serene museum cathedral-like environment. Just take a look inside one of their vitrines, which could have been as well inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the British Museum.

The Blumka gallery is one of the most important galleries that cater to private clients who collect these centuries old master works. Seen were curators and educators from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick Collection. The appraiser’s former professors were there who also work at these museums. These art professionals appreciate the well edited works of art that Blumka provides to its patrons, who often donate these works to art museums and institutions.

It was a very enriching and entertaining night even if most of the city was hunkered down at home. At least, we learned something about what the highest aspirations of Western cultural heritage can offer. At Blumka Gallery, you will be rewarded many times over.

What to Look for When Collecting Photography (Part II)

On the most basic level, starting a collection in photography requires thought about the type of photography you actually like. Possible categories could include black and white, color, landscapes, nudes, living, vintage, documentary etc. Movements in photography are also good ways to define what you are looking for (Modernism, Pictorialism, War Photography etc). This seems simple but knowing how to define what you like is the first step to making successful purchasing decisions. Each of these different categories or movements will have specific knowledge associated with each.

Deepening your knowledge in these areas will help one develop an “eye.” Having an eye for art can come naturally for some but usually it requires years to perfect and is often difficult to obtain and maintain, even for appraisers.  For this reason seeing accurate documentation on anything you purchase, and keeping accurate documentation yourself - how you obtained it and when, should be a priority. Building a written inventory will ultimately save you a lot of headaches later on should you want to sell, or the work is stolen or damaged.

As art experts for the Public Administrator of New York, who handles estates without a will, we experienced just such an issue. Two senior appraisers from OTE were going through piles of mixed objects removed from the apartments, which included jumbles of furniture, framed artworks, collectibles, libraries and miscellaneous materials. Spread across several work tables, was a huge mass of what appeared to be old Kodak film boxes.

Looking through the meticulously maintained photographs, an anomaly considering the rest of the disheveled apartment, they had inadvertently stumbled upon the work of a real artist. Without OTE the collection of photographs by Harry Shunk and Janos Kender, great documentarians of the Paris/New York art scene in the second half of the 20th century, might never have been discovered.  The director of a major French museum and those of American museums and film societies arrived to review and the Public Administrator was persuaded to set up an auction for the photographs to be sold as one gigantic lot rather than dispersing them overtime. 

Excitingly The Lichtenstein Foundation, thanks to Dorothy Lichtenstein and Jack Cowart, acquired the massive collection at auction for $2 million.   After this the foundation began the collating the collection and set up a system to allocate segments of the collection to many museums worldwide.  The photographs are now considered invaluable in recording the history of major artists of the second half of the 20th century. A triumphant conclusion to what had almost become a treasure lost forever.

 

Walking Off Art, Just Off Madison

On Wednesday night, in the now arctic Manhattan, during an art walk entitled “Just Off Madison,” American Art dealers opened their doors to give art lovers who actually work during the day an opportunity to view some pretty good art that art journalists seldom report about these days. Seduced by All Contemporary Art All the Time, they would have missed the fabulous “Bal Martinique,” a 1928 oil by William Glackens of an exuberant and wildly colorful dance hall, traveling to the Barnes Foundation. The coy response by the Kraushaar Gallery assistant when the price was asked was “above $500,000.” I had guessed closer to a million. Why the secrecy?

Pamphlets from participating galleries

Pamphlets from participating galleries

 Graham Gallery was showing two Norman Bluhms, vividly colored and exciting paintings at $150,000 for the 72 x 48 inch, and $65,000 for the 30 x 22 inch from 1961. The Remington “Bronco Buster” from 1895, 23 x 20 inches, was priced at $285,000. There was a room filled with rather wonderful sculpture, definitely worth a visit – or two. Debra Force showed Wyeth, Conner Rosenkranz displayed pieces that included Paul Jennewein, and Menconi + Schoelkopf had a really beautiful “Little Girl in Large Red Hat,” circa 1881, sitting opposite the entrance of their space, as if waiting patiently for some kind visitor to take her by the hand and out of the madding crowd. 

Cold weather may have kept many away, but the good thing about this art is that it is still there and right off Madison Avenue.

Written by Elin Lake-Ewald