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Displaying items by tag: Art

Friday, 16 September 2011 02:13

Is art still a safe bet for investors?

The financial crisis that started in 2008 has returned to haunt the art market once again, just when a run of good auction results was reassuring collectors and investors (the contemporary sales in London in June raised £200m over three evenings alone). July’s most recent ArtTactic US & European Confidence Indicator (a proprietary index that every six months polls a sample of 130 key international collectors, curators, auction houses, dealers and art advisers) saw an 8.3% increase in the first six months of 2011, the fifth consecutive rise from its low in November 2008. At the same time, those polled showed a strong divergence between their outlook for the wider economy and for the art market, a trend similar to what we saw in November 2007 and May 2008.

But does this divergence mean art experts are in denial, or that art is increasingly being perceived as a safe asset in an otherwise risky world? Or are we in a market scenario like that of autumn 2007, when the art market steamed ahead for another 12 months despite the brewing banking crises and the collapse of British bank Northern Rock? As in 2007, we might not yet have seen the true extent of the iceberg that we are about to crash into.

Same difference?

So what has happened to the art market since Lehman Brothers was declared bankrupt in September 2008? The downturn had an immediate impact on auction turnover, which dropped 81% between May 2008 and May 2009. The auction prices of the market’s previous favourites—such as Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami—came under severe pressure in the months that followed, with certain works dropping more than 50% in value.

For the more established post-war artists, such as Andy Warhol, the downturn was short-lived, however. In November 2009, one of Warhol’s serial compositions, 200 One Dollar Bills, 1962, achieved $39m (excluding buyer’s premium) against a pre-sale estimate of $8m to $12m, and the following 12 months proved to be one of the best years in the Warhol market’s history. The success of the Yves Saint Laurent sale in February 2009 also showed that high-end works with exceptional provenance were still in great demand despite the financial turmoil.

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Friday, 03 June 2011 03:47

NASA/Art: 50 Years Of Exploration

It was 1962 when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration first decided to invite artists -- yes, artists -- to interpret the work of the space agency. At the time, James Dean, the program's founding director, remembers thinking, "What do we know about art, right?"

You may be wondering that, too. This is a government agency staffed by people with pocket protectors. What do they traffic in? Only stuff such as human weightlessness, speeds that could rip your skin off, and the power to lift a house-size ship filled with astronauts off the face of the Earth and send them hurtling through space.

Come to think of it, maybe the marriage of art and NASA is not such a crazy idea after all.

"NASA/Art: 50 Years of Exploration" -- a traveling exhibition of more than 70 works created by artists working under the auspices of the NASA Art Program -- opened last weekend at the National Air and Space Museum, supplemented by works from the museum's permanent collection.

Featured artists include Alexander Calder, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Rauschenberg, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol and William Wegman. Look for a 2001 triptych of Wegman's photographs featuring two of the artist's favorite models -- his pet Weimaraners -- posing inside a costume-grade flight suit and a "space station" constructed out of Styrofoam.

Most of the works aren't quite so silly, though the show does include a 3-D Martian-themed gown by designer Stephen Sprouse that requires special glasses, and a cute cartoon view of a Martian man (and his Martian dog) by pop musician Moby.

One of the first images you'll encounter is a heroic, almost life-size 1963 portrait of Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper stepping onto the deck of his recovery ship after 22 orbits around Earth. It's by Mitchell Jamieson, who has several works in the show, including another, very different kind of portrait. Jamieson's 1969 "First Look" is a close-up, through the glassy reflection of an astronaut's visor, of a face. Looking for all the world like Keir Dullea in the 1968 film "2001: A Space Odyssey," the astronaut's expression betrays both wonder and fear. It's as if Jamieson -- and by extension all of us -- is looking at the vastness of the universe through this one man's eyes.

The expression is almost "Munchian," according to Bert Ulrich, who runs the art program today. That willingness to embrace -- or to at least acknowledge -- the dark side of space exploration lends "NASA/Art" a welcome complexity. Two works refer explicitly to the 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster (see "The Story Behind the Work").

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Friday, 22 April 2011 00:06

Art Behaving Badly

Last week, in the industrial heart of Downtown L.A., thousands of people were confronted with art and artists behaving badly. Big time. Graffiti and litter messed up every square inch of the walls and grounds around the crowds. But judging from their body language and smiles, the people were having the time of their life. And who could blame them?

For several weeks, dozens of artists from around the world have been working hard inside and outside of the once gritty old garage building which, a quarter of a century ago, was transformed by Frank Gehry into what is known today as MOCA's Geffen Contemporary. The resulting exhibition, with its messy, explosive, joyful energy, is called Art in the Streets.

If you had the misfortune of riding the New York subways in the late '70s or early '80s, you might be excused for your grudginess toward graffiti. And the same can be said for regular folks feeling abused by taggers scrawling their names around local stores and apartment buildings. And again, who could blame them?

But what a difference 30 years makes ... And that is precisely what this museum exhibition is all about. Without art behaving badly we would have never had the thrill of discovering the graffiti art of Keith Haring. And can anyone enjoy the great paintings of Jean-Michel Basquiat without feeling and smelling the danger of the streets that inspired them? Or would Barrack Obama's presidential campaign be the same without the Shepard Fairey posters pasted all over the country?

One wants to congratulate MOCA's director Jeffrey Deitch, who has been able to pull this wild rabbit of an exhibition out of his hat, in spite of the embarrassment caused by the white washing of the mural that initiated this exhibition a few months ago.

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