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Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev had decided to send off a tough 2014 in New York City. The Monaco-based billionaire had been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons after a Swiss judge awarded his ex-wife Elena $4.5 billion in their seven-year divorce battle. An avid art collector, Rybolovlev decided to spend New Year’s Eve with Sandy Heller, Steve Cohen’s well-known art advisor. As they exchanged war stories, one particular tale made his jaw drop: it was about a beautiful "Nude" by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani that Cohen sold for a juicy $93.5 million to a mystery buyer. What Heller didn’t know was that behind the veil of anonymity stood Rybolovlev, fuming internally on that December 31. Rybolovlev had paid his trusted friend and art broker Yves Bouvier $118 million for the piece, more than $22 million above what he just found out the market value should’ve been, including the fee.

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After seven years of offering free general admission, the Indianapolis Museum of Art will go back to charging a fee this spring.

Starting in April, tickets will be $18 for adults and $10 for children ages 6 to 17, the museum announced Friday.

The IMA dropped its $7 admission fee in 2007 but said it will return to charging a fee in order to maintain long-term financial stability.

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The Getty, which includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute and the Getty Conservation Institute, has lifted restrictions on the use of images that the Getty holds the rights to or are in the public domain. Jim Cuno, the president and CEO of the Getty, made the announcement in a post on The Iris, the Getty’s blog.

Approximately 4,600 images of paintings, drawings, manuscripts, photographs, antiquities, sculptures and decorative arts from the J. Paul Getty Museum are now available in high resolution on the Getty’s website. The Getty Research Institute is currently deciding which images from its collections can be made available under the initiative and the Getty Conservation Institute is working to make images from its international projects available to the public.

Timothy Potts, the J. Paul Getty Museum’s director, said, “The Museum is delighted to make these images available as the first step in a Getty-wide move toward open content. The Getty’s collections are greatly in demand for publications, research and a variety of personal uses, and I am please that with this initiative they will be readily available on a global basis to anyone with Internet access.”

Previously, the Getty’s images were only available upon request, for a fee and carried certain terms and conditions. The images will now be available for direct download on the website, free of charge.   

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In November 2012, two members of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York sued the institution for making the public think that the suggested admission fees are mandatory. The historically free institution suggests entry fees of $25 for adults and less for seniors and students.

Theodore Grunewald and Patricia Nicholson filed the suit in state court in Manhattan and said that the museum’s fee policy lacks transparency. They also argued that the museum fails to note that the fee is suggested on several of its websites and that it’s only in fine and barely legible print on signs near cash registers. A statute was put in place in 1893 declaring that the Met must remain free in order to continue receiving government funding. Grunewald and Nicholson commissioned a survey of visitors to the museum and found that 85% of patrons believed they had to pay to gain entry.

According to court papers filed by Gerald Lee Jones, who worked at the Met as a floor manager from 2007 until 2011, cashiers were paid in part based on how much they collected from admission fees. The statement, which was filed in late June 2013, also suggested that cashiers were instructed to never volunteer that patrons may pay less than the “recommended” fee.

Harold Holzer, the Met’s senior vice president for public affairs, said that Jones, “one of the many floor managers” had a “glib spin on his experience [at the museum].” Holzer also asserted that the Met tracks how much the cashiers collect because auditors require admission figures. “It has nothing to do with performance evaluation or salary,” said Holzer, adding “The Met will offer its response in due course.”

During the year ending in June 2012, the Met brought in $37.8 million in admissions, about 16% of the museum’s revenue.

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Two weeks after Christie’s announced that they will be increasing their buyer’s premium, a fee charged to buyers, Sotheby’s revealed that they will raise their commissions as well. It is the first time Sotheby’s has boosted its buyer’s premium since 2008.

Sotheby’s and Christie’s had both been charging 25% for the first $50,000 of a sale, 20% on the amount from $50,000 to $1 million and 12% on the remainder. Sotheby’s new fees will take 25% of the first $100,000 of a purchase, 20% from $100,000 to $1.9 million, and 12% of the rest. While both auction houses are raising commissions, it will be slightly cheaper for patrons to buy at Christie’s as their new fees charge 25% for the first $75,000 of a purchase, 20% on the amount from $75,001 to $1.5 million, and 12% on whatever is left.

Sotheby’s announced the hike on Thursday, February 28, 2013, the same day that the auction house reported a decline in both revenues and profits for 2012. Sotheby’s revenues for the year were $768.5 million, an 8% decrease from the year before. The auction house attributes the decline to a reduction in commissions. In recent years Sotheby’s has given a percentage of the buyer’s premiums to its biggest sellers as an incentive to maintain their business, a practice that also cuts into the auction house’s profits.

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Christie’s announced that they will be raising their buyer’s premium, a fee charged to buyers at auction, for the first time since 2008. The auction house had been charging 25 percent for the first $50,000 of a sale, 20 percent on the amount from $50,001 to $1 million, and 12 percent on the remaining price. The increase, which will go into effect on March 11, 2013, will bring the charges up to 25 percent for the first $75,000, 20 percent on the amount from $75,001 to $1.5 million, and 12 percent on the rest.

In recent years auction houses have started offering certain sellers a percentage of the buyer’s premiums, which can result in lower profits for the auction companies but ultimately brings in more business. Last month Christie’s announced that its sales for 2012 totaled $6.27 billion, a 10 percent increase from its 2011 sales. While no other auction houses have announced increases in buyer’s premium, it has been a trend among them in the past.

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State Farm Insurance is suing French art dealer Alfred DeSimone for either discarding or losing an original lithograph by the colorful French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). The lost work, Artistide Bruant Dans Son Cabaret, 1893, was part of a series of three posters used to promote French cabaret singer and comedian Artistide Bruant (1851-1925) around Paris in the late 1800s. The lithograph remains one of Toulouse-Lautrec’s most recognizable images.

State Farm is seeking $103,000 in damages from DeSimone for the centuries-old lithograph, which was bought by the insurance company’s client, Thomas Rosensteel, in 2006. Rosensteel purchased the work as an investment, but never ended up hanging it. While looking for a buyer, Rosensteel gave the lithograph to DeSimone for safekeeping, agreeing to pay him a fee once the work was sold. Rosentsteel found a buyer in 2010 and when he went to pick up the work from DeSimone, it was missing. DeSimone claims that the lithograph may have been put in a mailing tube and either sent to someone else or discarded. Rosensteel filed an insurance claim with State Farm who paid $103,109 to him; the company is now seeking compensation for the claim.

DeSimone, who has been experiencing financial troubles, has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing in the Toulouse-Lautrec case. A judge will review the lawsuit on April 25, 2013.

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Tuesday, 27 November 2012 16:32

Dallas Museum of Art Nixes Admission Fee

The Dallas Museum of Art announced today that it will nullify its $10 general admission fee, effective January 21, 2013. The museum will also launch an online rewards program that could even make membership free.

In recent years, many institutions have reversed their decision to charge visitors and are now free to the public. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Museum of Art in Baltimore, and the Detroit Institute of the Arts have all decided that free admission will help their institutions become more widely accessible, which, in turn, will keep visitor numbers up.

While it appears that the aforementioned museums have started a trend, many institutions in major tourist destinations are not so quick to jump on the free entry bandwagon. In New York, the Museum of Modern Art charges $25 and the Guggenheim Museum charges $22. San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art, another major tourist attraction, charges $18. Other big-name museums that require visitors to pay are the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Carnegie Museum of Art.

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