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Friday, 08 April 2011 03:12

June 18–October 2, 2011
Monterey Museum of Art, 720 Via Mirada, Monterey, CA
For information call 831.372.5477
or visit

Edward Weston is among the twentieth century’s most influential art photographers and widely respected for his many contributions to the field of photography. Along with Ansel Adams, Weston pioneered a modernist style characterized by the use of a large-format camera to create sharply focused and richly detailed black-and-white photographs.

The combination of Weston’s stark objectivity and his passionate love of nature and form gave his still lifes, portraits, landscapes, and nudes qualities that seemed particularly suited for expressing the new American lifestyle and aesthetic that emerged from California and the West between the two world wars.

This major exhibition of photographs, many vintage, will also include Weston’s original diaries or Daybooks and ephemera relating to his life and travels.

Friday, 08 April 2011 03:10

June 11–September 18, 2011
The Denver Art Museum, 13th Avenue between, Denver, Colorado
For information call 720.865.5000 or visit

The Denver Art Museum (DAM) takes a closer look at the medium of clay throughout seven exhibitions that are all part of Marvelous Mud: Clay Through the Ages. Celebrating the prolific and diverse material, Marvelous Mud reveals how clay has shaped culture, creativity, science and industry over time and around the globe. The museum-wide exhibition explores one major medium and illustrates its diversity and history through fascinating stories that span time and geographic location.

“For centuries, clay has been an important medium for artists. It has been used to make unglazed earthenware vessels, exquisite porcelains, and flamboyant contemporary sculpture,” said Margaret Young-Sánchez, chief curator and the Frederick and Jan Mayer Curator of Pre-Colombian Art at the DAM. “We asked our curators to dive into their collections and create inventive exhibitions around this rich material while also taking advantage of loans from around the world.”

Friday, 08 April 2011 03:06

Through July 24, 2011
Toledo Museum of Art, 2445 Monroe Street, Toledo, Ohio
For information call 419.255.8000 or visit

A consistent innovator at the forefront of abstract art, Stella produces his works in series, immersing himself in visual thinking and creating according to the principle of, in his words, “line, plane, volume, and point, within space.”

This exhibition presents one of each of the artist’s eleven monumental compositions for the Irregular Polygons series (1965–66), along with preparatory drawings and the 1974 print series Eccentric Polygons based on the Irregular Polygons. Stella uses the same shapes but varies colors in the lithograph series. “Together the objects provide visitors a chance to engage with the ‘complex simplicity’ that is the paradox of Stella’s work,” says Toledo Art Museum Director Brian Kennedy. “It’s the first time all of these monumental works will have been displayed in one room. In fact, until this exhibition was organized, all of them had never had been shown together,” he notes.

What’s perhaps even more startling is that Frank Stella is the first artist in history to create a deliberate set of paintings shaped as irregular polygons. Before Stella, most often paintings were rectangular or more rarely, oval, circular or square, as Kennedy points out in the 134-page scholarly catalog he wrote to accompany the exhibition.

Friday, 08 April 2011 03:00

53 Paintings by Various Artists
Exhibition and Sale runs through the end of April 2011
Courtesy, Gavin Spanierman, Ltd., New York, NY

Monhegan Island is located approximately twelve miles off the coast of Maine and measures about one mile square. Home to striking coves and rocky cliffs that rise forth from the sea, Monhegan Island has been a destination for artists since the mid-nineteenth century. Aaron Draper Shattuck, a second generation Hudson River School painter, visited the Island in 1858 and was one of the first to speak of it as a sublime and inspiring object. However, it wasn’t until the 1880s that artists began to venture to the Island for extended periods of time, painting the innumerable views of land and sea. Such luminaries as Winslow Homer, N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth, George Bellows, and Edward Hopper have all endured the taxing trip to Monhegan Island to capture its raw and wild beauty. Private art dealer, Gavin Spanierman, recently came across a collection of fifty-three Monhegan Island paintings that have been painstakingly amassed over the last twenty-five years by a private collector.

Friday, 08 April 2011 02:02

This year’s honoree of the ADA Award of Merit is Morrison H. Heckscher, the Lawrence A. Fleischman Chairman of the American Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. A scholar of eighteenth-century American furniture and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American architecture, Morrie is universally liked and admired by museum professionals and patrons alike.

From his school days growing up in Philadelphia, Morrie remembers with fondness the shop classes taught by his teacher Erwin Drexel at the Episcopal Academy in Merion, which inspired him to dream of becoming a cabinetmaker. In his words, “I dabbled at woodwork,” and was very proud of a copy of an early nineteenth-century tripod table that he made as a high schooler. With his usual self-deprecating humor, Morrie admits he’d chosen a second rate example to emulate.

As an American history student at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, Morrie became “entranced” by American architecture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although Morrie chose American History as his major, his most influential professor was Samuel M. Green, an art historian and a painter. During Morrie’s senior year in college in 1962, he contemplated the traditional career choices that many of his classmates were making, and says that he realized he “was singularly unsuited to be a lawyer or a businessman.” Morrie accepted Professor Green’s suggestion that he apply to the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture. It was the right fit. Charles F. Montgomery, who became Morrie’s mentor, was in the midst of writing his noted catalogue of the Federal furniture in Winterthur’s collection. He encouraged Morrie to write his MA thesis on the cabinetmakers of Federal-era Philadelphia. When Montgomery suggested he do his PhD at Yale or Columbia, Morrie chose Columbia in part because of his welcoming interview with famed art historian Rudolph Wittkover, who told him at their first meeting (and Morrie says the next quote with a heavy German acccent) “Ven you come in the fall, ve vill vork out the details.” The details were that he would be studying English art and architecture, and write his dissertation on William Kent’s architecture and interiors.

In 1966, Morrie received a Chester Dale Fellowship to work on the English architectural drawings in The Metropolitan Museum’s Print Department, and in 1968, putting his dissertation on hold, he accepted an offer from American Wing curator Berry B. Tracy to become assistant curator and work on a catalogue of the museum’s eighteenth-century American furniture collection. Yet almost immediately he was pulled away to assist Tracy on the groundbreaking exhibition Nineteenth Century America (1970) and an accompanying exhibition The Rise of American Architecture. Soon after, the idea gained traction for an enlarged American Wing with galleries for American paintings and to expand the decorative arts collections through to the beginning of the twentieth century.

Morrie’s mission during the 1970s was to collect important pieces for the new wing by the big three of late-nineteenth-century architecture: Henry Hobson Richardson, Louis Sullivan, and Frank Lloyd Wright. He was successful in two out of the three; today the American Wing is the proud home to two wonderful staircases designed by Louis Sullivan for the Chicago Stock Exchange (1893) and the serenely beautiful living room from the Little House in Wayzata, Minnesota, (1913–1915) by Frank Lloyd Wright. Morrie’s good friend Christopher Monkhouse, Chair and Eloise W. Martin Curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, remembers, “When Morrie was negotiating with the Little family descendants, they met him at the Minneapolis airport in the winter of 1971 for a visit to the house. In order to break the ice, Morrie felt the need to make some light conversation, starting with the observation on how pleased he was to find himself in the middle of winter in Indianapolis! The fact that the museum eventually acquired the room is a testament to Morrie’s residual diplomatic skills, and the fact that Morrie has continued to tell this story suggests that he doesn’t take himself too seriously.”

Morrie’s mission during the 1970s was to collect important pieces for the new wing by the big three of late-nineteenth-century architecture: Henry Hobson Richardson, Louis Sullivan, and Frank Lloyd Wright. He was successful in two out of the three; today the American Wing is the proud home to two wonderful staircases designed by Louis Sullivan for the Chicago Stock Exchange (1893) and the serenely beautiful living room from the Little House in Wayzata, Minnesota, (1913–1915) by Frank Lloyd Wright. Morrie’s good friend Christopher Monkhouse, Chair and Eloise W. Martin Curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, remembers, “When Morrie was negotiating with the Little family descendants, they met him at the Minneapolis airport in the winter of 1971 for a visit to the house. In order to break the ice, Morrie felt the need to make some light conversation, starting with the observation on how pleased he was to find himself in the middle of winter in Indianapolis! The fact that the museum eventually acquired the room is a testament to Morrie’s residual diplomatic skills, and the fact that Morrie has continued to tell this story suggests that he doesn’t take himself too seriously.”

When the new wing opened in 1980, Morrie returned to working on the American eighteenth-century furniture catalogue (1985), for which, in combination with some other writings, he received his PhD from Columbia in lieu of his long-ago proposed dissertation on William Kent. That year he was also the winner of the Charles F. Montgomery Award from the Decorative Arts Society. Subsequently, Morrie went on to write articles and books and mount such memorable shows as The Architecture of Richard Morris Hunt (1986), American Rococo: Elegance in Ornament, 1750–1775 (with Leslie Greene Bowman, 1992), and John Townsend, Newport Cabinetmaker (2005). Two of his favorite projects were the museum Bulletins he wrote in 1995 on the architectural history of The Metropolitan Museum and “Creating Central Park” in 2008.

Among Morrie’s greatest frustrations were the shortcomings of the 1980 wing in terms of the display of the museum’s great American collections. When he became the chairman of the American Wing in 2001, he began to focus on how to make the Wing a more satisfying experience for visitors. What started as a modest ambition soon morphed into a multi-phase project that has improved almost every part of the Wing. Says Morrie, “Little did I dream that this project would end up taking ten years and costing one hundred million dollars, but the experience of working with a great architect, great trustees, and the best colleagues imaginable has been enormously rewarding.”

Phase I opened in 2007, with the newly remodeled Classical Galleries highlighting American Federal and neoclassical furniture; Phase II in 2009, with the entirely redesigned Courtyard, intended to showcase the collection of American sculpture and architectural elements, a new mezzanine balcony level and integrated installations of silver, glass, and ceramics, and a rethought suite of eighteenth-century period rooms, complete with digital room labels. Phase III, the rebuilt paintings galleries, will open in mid-January 2012. Metropolitan Museum trustee Lulu Wang says, “Morrie’s passion for the “new” American Wing at The Met goes far beyond just a professional interest. He truly feels he has a calling to present America’s greatest collection of fine and decorative arts in a setting it deserves, and to have visitors leave the collection with a renewed appreciation of its beauty and historic importance.”

In his private life, Morrie counts himself extremely lucky to have married the wise and wonderful Dr. Fenella Grieg in 1974. They enjoy gardening and working on their somewhat eccentric Gothic Revival weekend home “The Vyne,” in Newburgh, New York, and are happiest when hosting their large extended family of nieces and nephews.

All images courtesy Morrison Heckscher unless otherwise specified.

Amelia Peck is the Marica F. Vilcek Curator, Department of American Decorative Arts and Manager, The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY.

The ADA Award of Merit is selected by the board of directors of the ADA (Antiques Dealers Association of America) and is presented to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the field of American antiques. The Award of Merit dinner will be held at the Philadelphia Antiques Show at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 9. It will feature cocktails and dinner followed by a variety of guest speakers and friends The ADA Award of Merit is sponsored in part by Antiques & Fine Art Magazine, Antiques & The Arts Weekly, Flather and Perkins Insurance, The Magazine Antiques, and Mizzentop Transport. Seating is limited; tickets are $90 per person. For additional information and reservations call the ADA at 203.364.9913 or send your request to: Antiques Dealers’ Association of America, Inc., P.O. Box 529, Newtown, CT 06470-0529.

The ADA is a nonprofit trade association. Its major objective is to further professionalize the business of buying and selling antiques. Its membership is composed of antiques dealers who are dedicated to integrity, honesty, and ethical conduct in the antiques trade. All members are required to guarantee their merchandise in writing on a sales receipt that states approximate age, origin, condition, and any restoration of pieces sold.

Thursday, 07 April 2011 02:39

In British master George Stubbs's 1765 painting of the legendary English thoroughbred Gimcrack, the artist shows the horse several lengths ahead of its competitors. Now the work is expected to gallop into the record books to become one of the most expensive British paintings ever sold.

The work, Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath is set to fetch more than £20m when it is sold at Christie's in London in July. "Gimcrack was one of the most popular racehorses of the 18th century and was unusually small, but with incredible staying power," said Christie's senior director of British pictures John Stainton.

"He became something of a favourite, winning 28 out of 36 races which he was entered for, which was a remarkable feat."

The sale will make the work one of the most expensive Old Masters ever sold at auction. The current record for an Old Master is held by Flemish artist Sir Peter Paul Rubens, whose The Massacre of the Innocents sold for £50m in July 2002. If the Stubbs raises more than £20m it will make it the sixth most expensive Old Master ever sold, above Rembrandt's Portrait of a Lady Aged 62, which sold at Christie's for £20m in 2000.

"It is of great importance on many levels," said Mr Stainton. "The use of space is daring and unprecedented in British art at the time. It was a wonderfully wide panorama of the scene, and was unusual in that the central focus is shifted to the extreme left of the composition. In both pictorial and compositional senses it is groundbreaking."

Thursday, 07 April 2011 02:37

Leigh Morse, a former Upper East Side art gallery director, was convicted on Wednesday on charges of cheating the estates of four artists out of about $5 million.

But Ms. Morse, 55, who had served as director of the Salander-O’Reilly Galleries on East 71st Street, was acquitted on a second charge that had cast an extra spotlight on the case because it involved the estate of a fifth artist: Robert De Niro Sr., a figurative and abstract painter and a certain actor’s father. In that charge, Ms. Morse had been accused of funneling $77,0000 from the sale of one of Mr. De Niro’s works into her own bank account.

After a monthlong trial, a jury in New York State Supreme Court found Ms. Morse guilty of one count of first-degree scheming to defraud, a felony that could carry a sentence of up to one and a third years to four years in prison. She is to be sentenced June 3, said the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., whose office handled the case.

After the verdict was announced, one juror, Stanley Cohen, told reporters he believed Ms. Morse was guilty of the charge involving the De Niro artwork, but had caved under pressure from other jurors who were pushing for an acquittal.

“The pressure got to be unbearable,” he said. “I apologize to Mr. De Niro. I’ll see him in the movies.”

Thursday, 07 April 2011 02:35

A page from a 16th-century manuscript sold today for 7.4 million pounds ($12 million), an auction record for any Islamic work of art.

The illuminated sheet was one of the 258 illustrations to the “Shahnameh” and offered by Sotheby’s (BID) in its sale of works from the collection of the late Harvard lecturer Stuart Cary Welch. There were five telephone bidders.

“It’s one of the supreme examples of the art of the book,” the London-based dealer Brendan Lynch said.

The sale gave Middle Eastern buyers the chance to acquire one of the last illustrations from the book, showing King Faridun transformed into a dragon to test his sons’ courage.

The “Shahnameh” was made between 1520 and 1540 for Shah Tahmasp. The manuscript was owned by Arthur Houghton II, who donated 78 paintings to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1972.

Another 118 paintings were acquired from Houghton’s estate by the London-based dealer Oliver Hoare. In 1994, Hoare persuaded the Iranian government to accept these in exchange for Willem de Kooning’s 1952 painting “Woman III” in Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Both were valued at 13 million pounds at the time and were swapped at Vienna airport, according to the U.K.’s Independent newspaper.

The Abstract Expressionist canvas was subsequently acquired by the U.S. collector David Geffen in a sale brokered by the Zurich dealer Doris Ammann. Geffen sold the painting to the hedge fund manager Steven A. Cohen for $137.5 million in 2006.

The highest price for an Islamic work of art was previously the 6.2 million pounds paid for a 17th-century Persian carpet at Christie's, London, in April 2010.

Stubbs Horse

George Stubbs is set to become only the sixth Old Master artist to sell for more than 20 million pounds ($32.5 million) at auction.

The U.K. painter’s 1765 canvas of a champion racehorse has a minimum hammer estimate of 20 million pounds at Christie’s International on July 5, the London-based auction house said today in an e-mailed statement. The work has a bid from a third party guarantor to ensure its sale.

Thursday, 07 April 2011 02:25

Footage of what has now become the last U.S. television interview with world-renowned Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei before his widely-criticized disappearance now seems eerily prophetic.


Thursday, 07 April 2011 02:23

On Thursday MEPs will hold an emergency debate on the arrest of Ai Weiwei, the brilliant Chinese artist and political activist, as well as other victims of Beijing's new crackdown. His is the highest-profile case since Liu Xiabao was sentenced to 11 years in prison for subversion – and won the 2010 Nobel peace prize for his leading role in the Charter 08 movement.

With the world's attention on the uprisings in the Middle East, Chinese authorities are reacting to the widespread rumblings since mid-February, when a "jasmine revolution" was called across China, and a few brave souls dared to express their protest.

Ai, who is best known for creating the sunflower seed installation in London's Tate Modern and his work on Beijing's Bird's Nest Olympic stadium, is the highest-profile victim in the heavy-handed suppression of political dissidents by Chinese officials.

The Beijing regime has detained or arrested dozens of human rights activists from lawyers to bloggers in what appears to be a pre-emptive strike against what they "might" do. The process resembles the pre-Olympic Games crackdown in 2008.

The police are again regularly putting activists and their families under house arrest, depriving them of their rights without any hint of due process. In the past few days four veteran activists – Liu Xianbin, Ran Yunfei, Ding Mao and Chen Wei – were all formally charged with inciting subversion of state power. Instead of the routine three-year sentences, 10 years is now normal.

Thursday, 07 April 2011 02:14

Through August 14, 2011
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Museum
Donald W. Reynolds center for American Art,
Eight and F Streets, NW, Washington, D.C.
For information call 202.633.1000 or visit

Best known for his abstract mobiles and stabiles, Alexander Calder (1898–1976) was also a prolific portraitist who created hundreds of likenesses over the course of his lifetime. Calder’s Portraits: A New Language sheds light on an often-overlooked aspect of Alexander Calder’s career and on broader narratives of twentieth-century American culture.

In addition to paintings and drawings, Calder’s Portraits will feature a number of the artist’s famed wire sculptures. Working with the unorthodox medium of wire, Calder shaped three-dimensional portraits, achieving nuanced likenesses and vivid characters. His inventive technique was referred to as “drawing in space” and reconceived both portraiture and sculpture. “Calder’s mobiles and sculptures represent some of the highest achievements in twentieth-century American art,” said Martin Sullivan, director of the museum. “This exhibition explores his lesser-known yet imaginative, portraits offering insights into both Calder’s perspective and his sitter’s personalities.”

Calder’s heads cast evocative shadows, change when viewed from different angles, and move if suspended from the ceiling. In this way, Calder captured the distinctive personalities of his sitters with humor and sophistication. The exhibition juxtaposes Calder’s works with portraits of his subjects from the National Portrait Gallery’s
extensive collection of contemporary photographs, drawings and caricatures by such artist-illustrators as Paolo Garretto and Miguel Covarrubias.

A catalogue, written by guest curator Barbara Zabel, accompanies the exhibition.

Thursday, 07 April 2011 02:12

Over the course of his career, Dale Chihuly has revolutionized the art of blown glass, moving it into the realm of large-scale sculpture and establishing the use of glass—inherently a fragile but also magical material—as a vehicle for installation and environmental art. This exhibition of new and archival works represents the breadth and scope of the artist’s creative vision over the last four decades.

The exhibition will include installations such as Lime Green Icicle Tower, to be installed in the Shapiro Courtyard; a Persian Wall; a Chandelier room with six examples, including the Chiostro di Sant’Apollonia Chandelier; and a room containing a magnificent Mille Fiori installation that is nearly sixty feet long.

By 1965, Dale Chihuly was already captivated by the process of glassblowing. Influenced by an environment that fostered the blurring of boundaries separating the various arts, as early as 1967 Chihuly was using neon, argon, and blown glass forms to create room-sized installations of his glass. Although his work ranges from the single vessel to indoor and outdoor site-specific installations, he is best known for his multipart blown compositions. Based in Seattle, Washington, Chihuly works with a team of glassblowers, a process that allows him to work on a grand scale and to explore and experiment with color, design, and assemblage. "Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass" provides an opportunity to see and explore the full range of his artistic achievements by immersing visitors in the beautiful and enchanting environments created through his extraordinary vision.

Wednesday, 06 April 2011 04:24

A 1934 Pablo Picasso painting of his mistress may fetch as much as $35 million at Sotheby’s (BID) in New York next month as auction houses aim to capitalize on buyers’ appetite for iconic 20th-century art.

“Femmes Lisant (Deux Personnages)” depicts Marie-Therese Walter as a blue-faced, supple figure reading a book with another woman. It’s the top lot in Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art sale on May 3. The evening auction is expected to tally more than $150 million, the New York-based company said.

The market in this mistress has surged in the past year. The 1932 “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” went for $106.5 million -- a record for any work of art at auction -- at Christie’s International in New York last May. Sotheby’s in London sold the 1932 “La Lecture” for 25.2 million pounds ($40.6 million) in February. Gagosian gallery will open the “Picasso and Marie- Therese: L’amour fou” exhibition on April 14 in New York’s Chelsea district.

“These are images of desire and rapture,” said Simon Shaw, senior vice president and head of Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art department in New York. Referring to “La Lecture,” he said, “the picture we just sold generated a huge competition; there were seven bidders.”

Wednesday, 06 April 2011 04:19

In a contest for the title of most reviled artist, Edouard Manet would be well placed to win.

It was only after his death of tertiary syphilis at age 51, in 1883, that he was recognized as one of the great masters of the 19th century. Placing him in the history of art, however, is not an easy task.

The Impressionists regarded him as their leader and were disappointed when he refused to participate in their exhibitions. Degas called him a traitor.

In 1910, the first Post-Impressionist show in London, organized by Roger Fry, treated him as the forerunner of Cezanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh. Today, we tend to see him as the man who invented modernity.

That’s, in fact, the subtitle of a huge exhibition at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. Nonetheless, the show firmly embeds Manet in the tradition of French painting, surrounding his works with some by his more conventional colleagues. The Manichaean way of separating academic art and avant-garde, we are told by the curators, makes no sense.

In the first room, 19 works by Manet are confronted with nine by his teacher Thomas Couture. Traditionally, Manet’s six years of apprenticeship are dismissed as of no great consequence, and it’s true the teacher was horrified by the pupil’s “Absinthe Drinker,” the first of his many paintings rejected by the Salon. It’s on display here as an etching.

Wednesday, 06 April 2011 04:16

A Palestinian art academy is preparing to spruce itself up for a famous guest: a $7 million Pablo Picasso masterpiece that would be the first displayed in the West Bank. But simply arranging the painting's journey remains a far more difficult work in progress over complications such as finding reliable transport and clearing Israeli checkpoints.

The more than yearlong negotiations and planning — drawing in the Israeli military, Palestinian curators and Dutch museum officials — highlight the obstacles for even ordinary commerce or movement within the West Bank or through the few openings in the separation barrier with Israel.

"Of course, at the beginning, we saw these complications but didn't know to what extent this would reach," said Remco de Blaaij, the curator at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, who is overseeing the proposed loan of Picasso's 1943 "Buste de Femme."

If the painting makes it to the International Academy of Art, Palestine, by the summer — and that remains an open question — it will become the most valuable and prestigious artwork ever shown in the West Bank.

The small art school in Ramallah put in the loan request in early 2010. Normally, such inter-museum exchanges are routine and take about six months to coordinate. But de Blaaij said the logistics are still being addressed for the 52-mile (88-kilometer) trip from Israel's international airport near Tel Aviv to Ramallah.

"The main concern is with getting into the West Bank and even more with getting out of there," de Blaaij said. "You never know what's going to happen at checkpoints."

Beyond that, Israelis aren't allowed to drive to certain parts of the West Bank because of safety concerns. Palestinians' freedom of movement is limited within the West Bank. Those seeking to enter Israel require a permit and often wait for hours in line at security checkpoints.

So curators are still hunting for a reliable transport company that can drive in both Israel and the West Bank. De Blaaij said they have found an insurer but didn't want to go into details.

Wednesday, 06 April 2011 04:10

The exciting 228 page issue is jam-packed with articles on art, antiques, gallery exhibitions, show reviews and much more... View the Issue

Tuesday, 05 April 2011 04:54

Over Oscar weekend in late February, art dealer Larry Gagosian held a private lunch at the $15.5 million home he recently bought in the Holmby Hills section of Los Angeles. His glass-enclosed house had been decorated for the occasion by the artist Richard Prince, so its walls were lined with his portraits of beach beauties and pulp-novel nurses.

As guests including financier Ron Perelman and actress Renée Zellweger navigated the home's skylit hallways, Mr. Gagosian and his staff mingled with guests, discreetly passing a rolled-up sheet of paper between them like a baton. The sheet listed prices for nearly every artwork in sight.

With an unrelenting focus on selling, Mr. Gagosian, 65, has become the most powerful art dealer in the world. He represents the estates and careers of 77 of the world's top artists, including Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Cy Twombly, Richard Serra, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Ed Ruscha. Dealers who track how he prices his gallery shows estimate he sells upwards of $1 billion worth of art a year. Sotheby's, by comparison, auctioned off $870 million worth of contemporary art last year.

As the contemporary art market rebounds from the recession, Mr. Gagosian's art empire is exploding. In the last few years, he has opened new galleries in London, Paris, Rome, Geneva, Athens and Hong Kong, expanding his global art network to 11 galleries world-wide—the largest blue-chip franchise ever attempted in the industry.

Mr. Gagosian's position affords him a lifestyle on par with his billionaire clients, who include hedge-fund manager Steven Cohen, money manager Leon Black, Christie's owner Francois Pinault and billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad. He flies in a roughly $40 million Bombardier Global Express private jet and has a personal chef on call at his Madison Avenue headquarters. He has homes in New York, the Hamptons and St. Bart's in addition to his home in Los Angeles, speckled with his own collection of vintage photographs, Giacometti busts and canvases by Picasso and Andy Warhol.

Rapid global expansion has its risks. Mr. Gagosian now needs to supply about 60 distinct shows a year with fresh art. Collectors in Rome and Paris so far have shown little inclination to buy million-dollar contemporary art. And it was only two years ago that prices for some of Mr. Gagosian's trendiest artists, like Mr. Hirst, plummeted at auction. Contemporary art, the most volatile segment of the art market, remains subject to sudden, improbable leaps and jarring crashes.

There's also the question of a succession plan. The Los Angeles son of Armenian-American parents, Mr. Gagosian got his start peddling framed posters at a markup for $15 apiece. Since 1979 he has built his gallery empire largely on his own hard-charging deal-making abilities—he still conducts many of his biggest sales himself—and it's not clear who will eventually replace him as the head of his business. The dealer says he "lives in complete denial" about a successor. It's a critical issue, since Mr. Gagosian plays such a central role in elevating and maintaining the amount paid for his artists' work.

Tuesday, 05 April 2011 04:50

The sale of a 20th-century design collection, described as the world’s finest, has ended with furniture maker Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann the best-selling name.

The Christie’s International three-day sale in Paris of the contents of the Chateau de Gourdon museum accumulated by Laurent Negro raised 42.4 million euros ($60 million) with fees. Demand was selective. The total at hammer prices was lower than the estimated 40 million euros to 60 million euros, and less than the 59.2 million euros for 150 lots of modern decorative art sold on Feb. 24, 2009, on behalf of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge.

Provenance is important in design auctions, and dealers were comparing this sale with the Saint Laurent event at which an Eileen Gray chair made a record 21.9 million euros. Gray’s works sold for smaller sums this time and she was eclipsed by the French Art Deco designer Ruhlmann, whose 35 pieces raised more than 13 million euros.

“The Chateau de Gourdon is the greatest collection of 20th-century design that has come up for auction,” the London- based dealer Sean Berg said. “When the biggest collector becomes the seller, this creates problems, though. It’s like having a Premier League of buyers without Manchester United.”

Negro, 39, was clearing out the entire contents of his medieval castle, near Grasse, Provence, to make more living space. The centerpiece of the Palais de Tokyo sale was 500 examples of Art Deco, Art Nouveau and modernist design that he’d bought within the last 15 years, often for big-ticket prices.

Father’s Armor

Christie’s found buyers for 84 percent of the 860 lots in total, which also included Old Masters and antique armor that had been collected by Negro’s father, who had started temporary employment company Bis SA.

The March 29 evening auction raised 24.3 million euros, with Ruhlmann works capturing four out of the five top prices.

An adjustable chaise longue “Aux Skis” sold for a record 2.9 million euros and a black-lacquer “Tardieu” desk for 2.3 million euros. Both pieces dated from 1929 and had high estimates of 3 million euros.

The chaise longue -- one of two pieces in the sale designated a “national treasure” by the French government -- sold to a European collector, while the desk went to the Paris dealer Cheska Vallois, who won Gray’s “dragons” armchair at the YSL sale.

An Asian collector paid 1.8 million euros for a 1925 ebony “Lassalle” commode by Ruhlmann. The price was more than three times the low estimate.

Tuesday, 05 April 2011 04:46

NEW YORK, N.Y..- This spring, 50 years after the founding of The Allan Stone Gallery, Sotheby’s will offer property from the collection of renowned New York dealer Allan Stone. Works will be presented in two volumes on the evening of Monday, 9 May 2011, the night before Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening sale on 10 May. Volume I will comprise outstanding examples by the key artists represented and collected by Stone and highlights include works by Willem de Kooning, John Chamberlain, Franz Kline, Joseph Cornell, and others. Volume II will be dedicated to the West Coast artist Wayne Thiebaud, whose work was first championed by Stone in New York more than forty-five years ago. The two sales are estimated to bring more than $35 million* and go on view in New York beginning 6 May 2011.

“Like Leo Castelli and Sidney Janis, Allan Stone was considered one of the preeminent American dealers based in New York with national and international followings for more than four decades,” said Anthony Grant, International Senior Specialist of Contemporary Art. “Unlike his contemporaries, who were focused almost exclusively on the New York school, Allan built upon his strong Abstract Expressionist holdings and expande west, representing an important group of West Coast artists who were inspired by the Bay area Figurative movement, Abstract Expressionism and the 1960s burgeoning Pop art movement. Allan was the consummate dealer/collector; he had a legendary eye, sought out works he loved, held on to them and lived with them. Through the upcoming sales, collectors will be afforded a window onto his storied career and the rare opportunity to own a piece of art history.”

Volume I – 9 May 2011
Volume I will focus on classic Abstract Expressionist works by the various artists championed by Stone throughout his career – Joseph Cornell, Willem de Kooning, John Chamberlain, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky, Alfred Leslie, and others. Major works will be offered, in addition to examples in different mediums, presenting the full range of an artist’s oeuvre.

The sale will include a critical mass of works by Willem de Kooning dating from 1942 to 1976. Among the highlights is Event in a Barn from 1947, a view of a figure set in an abstracted interior (est. $5/7 million). This configuration of an interior scene with a window is one the artist would return to often in the 1940s and 50s. Likewise, the palette of vivid colors – green and pink - was an important component of de Kooning’s work of this period, most notably his Pink Lady from 1944. Also by de Kooning is Forest of Zogbaum 1958, a wonderful example of the artist’s abstract landscapes executed when he first began to visit Long Island in the late 1950s ($2.5/3.5 million). This period for the artist was characterized by a hybrid of urban and rural inspiration and a palette of blue, yellow, brown and white emerges; eventually becoming even brighter when the artist moved permanently to Long Island in 1961.

Volume I will also include an impressive body of work by Franz Kline, from 1953 to 1957. The 9 May evening sale will feature the rare appearance of a large-scale work by Kline from 1953-54 - Herald (est. $2.5/3.5 million). This iconic masterpiece was included in important surveys of the artist’s work, most recently in the 2004-2005 exhibition, Franz Kline: 1910-1962 at the Castello di Rivoli in Italy, and selected by Stone for his 1997 show Franz Kline: Architecture & Atmosphere.

Allan Stone was a tireless supporter and collector of the Abstract Expressionist sculptor John Chamberlain. The three works to be offered in May are led by Nutcracker from 1958, a rare early example of the works the artist would become known for in the early 1960s (est. $1.2/1.8 million). Comprising all of the hallmarks of his mature compressed metal sculptures, including car parts and chromiumplated steel, the sculpture also has a full range of colors. The piece clearly moved Stone – he acquired it in 1964 and it remained in his collection until now.

The sale will also comprise a number of works by Joseph Cornell, including important examples of his boxed assemblages. Stone had a close personal relationship with the enigmatic and elusive Cornell in the mid-1960s and acquired these works directly from him. Aviary from 1949 is a classic example of a theme that captivated the artist and is coveted by collectors (est. $1/1.5 million). Untitled (Dovecote), circa 1953, features the artist’s well-known use of the grid on an unusually large scale, measuring over 17 inches in height (est. $800,000/1.2 million). The work is further infused with color by the incorporation of bright and childlike found objects.

Volume II: The Art of Wayne Thiebaud - 9 May 2011
Volume II will feature approximately 20 works by the California artist Wayne Thiebaud, including examples from some of his most popular bodies of work – pie slices and delicacies, street scenes, figurative work and landscapes. Thiebaud wandered into Stone’s 86th Street gallery in the spring of 1961 and in 1962, Stone gave the artist his first one-man show in New York, an event that would serve as a watershed moment in both their careers. The two shared a very close relationship over the next forty-five years and Stone amassed a remarkable cross-section of Thiebaud’s work spanning his career. The May sale will include paintings and drawings by the artist from 1961-1996.

Pies from 1961 is a classic example of Thiebaud’s architectural exploration of objects in multiple (est. $2.5/3.5 million). Just as man Pop artists were immortalizing commonplace objects, Thiebaud was looking to bakery window displays and cafeterias for inspiration and repeating the subjects while playing with perspective. Thiebaud gravitated toward subjects that pleased him graphically, such as his Tie Pile from 1969, a more abstract exploration of repetition (est. $1.2/1.8 million).

Both as an artist and a professor, the genre of figurative paintings and drawings was of great importance to the artist, yet it remains a body of work that does not often appear on the market. Many of the works were executed in the 60s and 70s and kept by Stone, including Nude, Back View from 1969 (est. $1.5/2 million). The subjects of these frank works were often people from the artist’s circle of family and friends, and the present work is one of three included in the May sale.

Down Penn. St. from 1977 is a wonderful example of the artist’s California street scenes (est. $300/400,000). In these works, Thiebaud blended abstraction with the horizontals and verticals of the renowned San Francisco cityscape. Thiebaud has continued to explore northern California landscapes into the 1990s and Allan Stone’s collection also includes his Brown River from 1996 which captures the Sacramento River Valley, where the artist lived and worked for many years (est. $500/700,000).

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium

Tuesday, 05 April 2011 04:43

At the elaborately renovated National Museum of China in Tiananmen Square, visitors interested in the recent history of the world’s fastest rising power can gaze at the cowboy hat that Deng Xiaoping once wore when he visited the United States, or admire the bullhorn that President Hu Jintao used to exhort people to overcome hardship after the Sichuan earthquake in 2008.

But if their interests run to the Cultural Revolution that tore the country apart from 1966 to 1976 and resulted in millions of deaths, they will have to search a back corner of the two-million-square-foot museum, which will complete its opening this month, for a single photograph and three lines of text that are the only reference to that era.

China spent more than a decade and nearly $400 million to remake the National Museum into a leading showcase of history and culture, a monument to its rising power no less grand — it is designed to be the world’s largest museum under one roof — and more enduring than the Olympic Games it hosted in 2008.

But one tradition has remained firmly in place: China will not confront its own history. The museum is less the product of extensive research, discovery or creativity than the most prominent symbol of the Communist Party’s efforts to control the narrative of history and suppress alternative points of view, even those that exist within the governing elite. It is also an example of how China finds it difficult to create cultural institutions that prove equal to its economic achievements.

Interviews with participants describe a tortured reconstruction that dragged on years longer than envisioned, with plans constantly revised to accommodate political twists and turns, many decided personally by top party leaders.

Officials rejected proposals for a permanent historical exhibition that would have discussed the disasters of early Communist rule — especially the Great Leap Forward, a political campaign and resulting famine that killed more than 20 million. Some organizers also wanted a candid appraisal of the Cultural Revolution, a decade-long attack on traditional culture and learning, but that effort was squashed.