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Displaying items by tag: Art Market

Thursday, 18 October 2012 13:16

$8 Million Miro Sells at FIAC

The International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC) starts today in Paris and runs through Sunday, October 21. One of the largest forums for contemporary artists, galleries, and dealers, the FIAC encompasses a number of events across the city at the Grand Palais, the Louvre Museum, the Tuileries Gardens, and various other locations.

The Grand Palais portion of the FIAC is held on two floors and features 182 dealers of modern and contemporary art from around the world. Last night’s preview, which is considered a litmus test of the art market’s strength, hosted a number of notable sales. Joan Miro’s Surrealist abstract Peinture (Le Cheval de Cirque) (1927) was sold by Helly Nahmad Gallery (New York) for $8 million and Lucio Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale, Attese (1967–68) was sold by Paris’ Tornabuoni Arte for $2.36 million.

A number of high-profile collectors were in attendance including French billionaires Francois Pinault and Bernard Arnault, U.S. collector Alberto Mugrabi, and Turkish collector, Omer Koc. If the preview is any indication of the how the fair will proceed, it should be any exciting next few days in Paris.

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The Museum of Craft and Folk Art (MOCFA) will be closing its doors on December 1, 2012, the date marking the institution’s thirtieth anniversary. Founded in 1982 by craft artist and well-known sculptor, Gertrud Parker, MOCFA is the only folk art museum in Northern California.

After three decades, the Museum’s overseers felt that their mission, to bring recognition and legitimacy to craft and folk art in the contemporary art arena, had been achieved. The poor climate for smaller art institutions was undoubtedly a contributing factor.

Although the art market and leading museums now embraces contemporary artists who borrow from craft traditions, the innovative and daring venues that helped these artists get there are suffering. For instance, this past summer amid financial troubles, the American Folk Art Museum in New York was forced to sell its building on 53rd Street to the Museum of Modern Art and move to a smaller venue.

The MOCFA has exhibited hundreds of artists and significant local and national craft and folk art collections over the years. The Museum is devoted to collaborating with artists on commissions of new work as well as promoting artist-led projects and public programs. MOCFA has worked ardently to provide a place for makers and artists to come together and create, discuss, and learn. The Museum’s final exhibition, Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers, will be on view from now until December 1.

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Friday, 21 September 2012 13:34

Sotheby’s Signs Deal with Beijing Art Company

Sotheby’s has decided to get in on China’s art market boom and has signed a 10-year-joint-venture agreement to form the first international auction house in China. Until now, international auction houses have not been permitted in China outside of Hong Kong. The agreement is with Beijing GeHua Art Company, a state-owned enterprise that is part of the Beijing GeHua Cultural Development Group. Sotheby’s will be investing $1.2 million to take an 80% stake in the undertaking.

The venture, called Sotheby’s (Beijing) Auction Co. Ltd., comes at a time when Beijing is attempting to legitimize their reputation as the auction industry has recently been burdened with rampant fakes, smuggling, and non-payments.

Sotheby’s is looking to tap into China’s growing collector base and also plans to take advantage of the new Tianzhu Free Trade Zone being developed by GeHua in Beijing. The Free Trade Zone will give Sotheby’s clients access to tax-advantage storage facilities. An inaugural auction will take place at the Millennium Hall of the Beijing World Art Museum on September 27.

Last year, China overtook the United States to become the world’s largest art and antiques market so it’s no wonder that other companies are looking to get in on the action. For example, Christie’ International has licensed its trademark to Beijing-based auction house, Forever, although they do not hold sales in China itself. In addition, two of China’s biggest auction houses, China Guardian Auctions Co. Ltd. and Poly International, are looking to attract wealthy international clients. China Guardian opened a New York office this past December and plans to establish a strong presence in London as well.

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Wednesday, 12 September 2012 17:30

The Paradoxical State of the Art Market

Art fairs like the Paris Biennale, opening Friday, bring out the two salient features of the new art market: Prices are nearly all beyond the reach of average budgets, and most of the youngest dealers are already in their 40s or 50s.

World records tumbled during the past season, prompting lyrical celebrations in the news media. Auction houses love it. Should we too, seeing the records as homage paid by growing numbers of art lovers? Hardly. Seemingly paradoxical in recessionary times, records merely highlight the huge price rise of the art of the past over five decades.

True, this increase has not been uniform. Even as records are being set, wild estimates fail to be matched and some works sell at levels that leave their consignors with severe losses.

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Monday, 13 August 2012 18:30

China's Art Market is a $13 Billion Bust

If you pay attention either to China or the art market, you’ve probably heard the story: China last year became – according to art industry experts – the world’s largest market for art and antiques, surpassing the USA.

Well, here’s a shocker: it isn’t.  Not even close.

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Monday, 13 August 2012 18:05

Collecting Art Considered the New Gold

As the world economy began to tank about five years ago, a curious thing happened at the top level of the international art market: It started to boom. At the annual spring art auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's in New York and their branches around the globe, deep-pocketed bidders snapped up Braques and Bacons, Klimts and Kandinskys, often at record prices.

Now with the global recession officially over but the American and European economies still shaky, auction records for blue-chip modern and contemporary art continue to be shattered. Just a few months ago, a pastel version of Edvard Munch’s "The Scream" (1895) fetched an astounding $119.9 million at Sotheby’s, by far the highest price ever paid at auction for a work of art, surpassing the winning bid of $106.5 million for Picasso's "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" (1932) at Christie’s two years earlier. A week after the gavel fell on the Munch, Mark Rothko's "Orange, Red, Yellow" (1961) went for nearly $87 million, the artist’s personal best at auction.

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Old Masters take centre stage in New York this week with a number of auctions as well as the dealer event, the week-long Master Drawings New York. This opens on Saturday with all 23 galleries staying open in the evening. While US dealers are in the majority, some foreigners also participate – including Londoner Lowell Libson showing at Mitchell-Innes & Nash and the Madrid-based José de la Mano at Arader Galleries. Libson always has lovely things, including a portrait of a boy by Sir Thomas Lawrence priced in the region of £120,000. And the French dealer Laura Pecheur, participating for the first time, is bringing a show of 40 watercolours and drawings by Dora Maar, Picasso’s lover and muse, famously known as la femme qui pleure (the crying woman).

As for the Old Master auctions, the offerings are far stronger in New York than they were in London last December. Christie’s kicks off on Wednesday with an evening sale featuring one of the last two Memlings in private hands: “The Virgin Mary Nursing the Christ Child”, estimated at $6m-$8m. Also attracting a lot of interest is Gerrit Dou’s “A Young Lady Playing a Clavichord”, estimated at $1m-$2m. This is a rediscovery, having been sold by Duveen in 1927, and in the same family ever since.

Sotheby’s holds its Old Master sale on Thursday: among the standouts is a piece by the top Dutch flower painter Jan van Huysum (est $4m-$6m), which comes from the estate of Lady Forte of Trusthouse Forte. But the real buzz is about another still life – a crisp, gorgeous arrangement of flowers set in a niche by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder from about 1618, estimated at $1m-$1.5m but tipped to soar much higher, despite having been cleaned by the auction house. It was deaccessioned from the Hermitage museum in 1932: a stellar provenance.

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Friday, 11 November 2011 04:19

Who will follow baby boomers into the art market?

Many factors will shape the art market in the future, from changing fashion, taste, disposable income, taxation and philanthropy to online auctioneering and authentication technology. But of all the forces that will affect the market, demographic change is probably the most important. Demographics should, therefore, underpin every business plan and marketing strategy in the art world and in commerce.
Two main features of demography stand out today: the extent to which most industrial countries are ageing and whether developing countries will fill those gaps.

The main way in which demographics affect an economy is the ratio of dependents to people of working age. This dependency ratio refers to people under 16 and over 64, considered to be of non-working age. The number of over 60s as a percentage of the total of population will continue rising in the developed and developing world, as it has been since the 1950s, with the period of greatest acceleration post-2010. Fertility rates have meanwhile been falling in the west and Japan for the past 60 years.

These two trends combined mean that the dependency ratio of the retired to the working-age population will continue to grow until 2050. In Japan, it has risen from 44% in 1990 to 56% in 2010 and it looks set to rise to 69% by 2030. In the US, however, the dependency ratio fell from 67% in 1960 to around 50% in 1980 and has been stable since. The ratio is expected to change this year, reaching 63% by 2030.

Such is the importance of demographics in the US that all the major generations have been given names since 1871. The most famous are the “baby boomers”, referring to the generation born between 1946 and 1964, many of whom have now reached retirement age.

It was the generation before them, the so-called “lucky few” born between 1929 and 1945, who have ridden the demographic and economic wave created by the number of “baby boomers”, and who were able to retire early. Their outlook and taste was influenced by their parents, a generation marked by the fact that they were increasingly native-born rather than immigrants.

Two generations preceded the “lucky few”: the “good warriors” (1909 to 1928) who went on to fight in the second world war, and their parents, the “hard timers” (1890 to1908). The latter were born during America’s “gilded age”, but were so called because they lived through the first world war and the Great Depression. Their parents, born between 1871 and 1889, were typically immigrants, many from Ireland and Germany, who found work first in agriculture and then industry, and are called “the new worlders”. Per capita income doubled between 1860 and 1914 as the US became the world’s foremost industrial power.

Many of these developments have been mirrored in the art market. The “new worlder” generation were prolific art buyers. Between 1885 and 1914 Americans bought 14 of the 20 highest priced works of art. Many of their names, and their purchases, now adorn the great US museums they supported. These purchases were made despite high import taxes. (In 1909 works of art over 100 years old were exempted from duty.) Their offspring, the “hard timers”, were the first generation to embrace modern art in the late 1920s. However, crucially their limited numbers did little to boost the art market. That was left to their more numerous offspring, the “good warriors” in the 1950s. The post-war decades were when impressionist and modern art first made outstanding prices at auction. The “good warriors” were also responsible for creating new forms of American art in the post-war period until its peak in the 1960s. These same works are the most highly prized by today’s “baby boomers”.

It was the “lucky few” generation, born between 1929 and 1945, that propelled art inflation during the 1970s and 1980s. In the early 1990s this was followed by the first of the boomers, by now in their mid 40s, or at the mature art buying age. (Art is generally collected by people between their 40s to 60s.)

From the middle of the 1990s one of the longest art booms in history began, which persists today despite the downturns at the turn of the century and from 2008 to 2009.

For the other driving force of the 20th-century art market, Japan, it is a very different story, one possibly instructive as to what the future might hold. Japan has the world’s most ageing population in the developed world. This is not an encouraging economic sign as it continues to wrestle with a near-20-year recession and the world’s highest government debts. But that was far from the case in the recent past.

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Friday, 14 October 2011 02:29

In China's Red-Hot Art Market, Fraud Abounds

As the global economy teeters, one market is still reaching stratospheric highs: Chinese art.

A Hong Kong auction of fine Chinese paintings earlier this month raised $94.8 million, three times pre-sale estimates. In fact, China is now the world's biggest art market, according to the art information agency Artprice.

Yet all is not what it seems in the murky world of Chinese art auctions, including a painting that sold last year for more than $11 million, but appears not to be what was advertised.

The young girl in the painting stands naked against a burgundy backdrop, one leg bent, an elbow crooked behind her back. Her eyes downcast, she looks shy and uncomfortable.

This artwork was put up to auction by Beijing Jiuge Auctions, as a portrait by the famous artist Xu Beihong of his wife, Jiang Biwei, and it sold for $11.4 million. A note from his son, Xu Boyang, on the back of the painting attests that it was by his father, although the artist died in 1953.

But Wang Yanqing, a 66-year-old painter in Inner Mongolia, tells another story.

"It's totally laughable," he says. "That picture doesn't look anything like Xu Beihong's wife." He says the picture was one of several painted by art students in his class at the prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in 1983, 30 years after the artist's death. The model was a peasant farmer. Wang was one of those students who painted her, and his memory is crystal clear.

"At that time, it was very difficult to find nude models, so we painted the same ones over and over, and it was boring," he remembers. "Suddenly this new model came — a young girl from the south who'd never modeled before, and everyone was very excited. We all wanted to draw her, so almost 20 of us crowded into the same room. It was one of my most successful pictures. I still have it in my studio."

Indeed, the subject in his painting is identical to the one that sold for $11 million, except for the angle. Four other classmates have produced pictures of the same girl, in the same pose, with the same backdrop. As Wang points out, it's an impossible coincidence.

"The person we painted had a 1980s hairstyle," he says, and he also notes the different styles of painting. "Xu Beihong studied in France, so he painted in a Western European style. But we were painting under the Soviet influence in a Russian style." He and his classmates published an open letter exposing the picture as a fake to stop it from circulating on the market.

No Standards For Auctions

"At this moment, in practice, there are no standards" in the Chinese art market, says Gong Jisui, a former Sotheby's expert who's now a visiting scholar in Beijing at CAFA.

"It's really, really bad. For the classical Chinese paintings, most of the pieces are disputable," Gong says. "Also, for modern Chinese paintings, there is a serious problem with authenticity issues."

It's not just the pieces that might be fake. At Chinese auctions, the bids are sometimes fake too. In some cases, the seller, or even the artist, may bid on their own pieces to push the prices up.

Sometimes auctions are used to pass bribes. For example, the buyer overbids for something mediocre — or even fake — and so passes money legally to the seller. Many auction houses turn a blind eye, since the higher the price, the higher their commission.

Paul Dong of Forever Auctions, the trademark licensee for Christie's in China, describes how the approach is made. "There are clients at certain times who come to us and say, 'Don't look at the quality of the property. I can assure you someone will buy it at a very high price, you'll earn your money.' We absolutely reject such offers."

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Gerhard Richter is one of the world's most prized living artists, and one of his famous "Candle" series is expected to fetch 6-9 million pounds ($9-14 million) at auction in London next week.

That is the highest price expected for a single work at the upcoming series of contemporary art sales, yet the man behind the image said he found such figures bewildering.

"It's just as absurd as the banking crisis," said the 79-year-old German, speaking to reporters on Tuesday at the press launch of a major retrospective of his work opening at London's Tate Modern.

"It's impossible to understand and it's daft," he added, speaking through an interpreter.

Asked how he thought the art market had changed in the last few years, he replied in English: "It became worse."

The show, "Gerhard Richter: Panorama," opens on October 6 and ends on January 8, 2012.

It coincides with the Frieze Art Fair being held in London next week which has become a magnet for art galleries and collectors from around the world.

As well as the fair itself, wealthy buyers can visit the auction house salerooms where prized works are on offer and a series of gallery openings and exhibitions around the city.

Christie's is offering a 1982 work by Richter called "Kerze" (Candle), not seen in public since 1986, and the price tag means it is likely to emerge as top lot at the sales.

The auction house said the slightly blurred image of a single burning candle "became a sign of the unification of east and west Germany and as such, literally holds up a light to the global world of today."

Richter, born in Germany in 1932, moved from communist-controlled East Germany to West Germany in 1961.


Richter would probably shun such an interpretation of his work, studiously avoiding comment about what lay behind his images, be they abstract, figurative or a combination of the two.

His answers to questions from the media were brief.

Asked where he got his strength from to go on creating, he replied: "I don't know." When someone quoted back his own words to him regarding painting being a moral act, he simply said: "Don't ask me, please."

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