Friday, February 27, 2009

An Auction of a Lifetime

Well, Christie's has done it! They've pulled it off, maybe saved their company, maybe saved the whole art world. We'll have to see. 

What they did do is they managed to sell $477 million dollars - that is 96 percent of everything offered - worth of art, furniture, goodies, etc. Major winners include the two Qing dynasty bronze heads for $40 million, a dragon chair for $28 million
“This was a once-in-a-century sale,” Hugh Edmeades, deputy chairman of Christies South Kensington, said in an interview. He has been involved in single-owner collections at the London-based auction house since the 1980s and said, “I can’t remember anything like it. I’ve never seen people queuing for hours to view an auction before. Patriotism was definitely a factor.”

It is certainly something that I will remember for a long while. And hopefully it will be one part of the puzzle that pulls the art market out of its downward slump. But we've got to remember that this is a single person sale - and I don't see YSL dying again any time soon. It was Christie's one big chance and opportunity but it was also a one off deal. Hopefully they can continue taking risks, working hard, and making the art market work to their favor. We've just got to keep our heads up and everything will be ok. 

Monday, February 23, 2009

ADAA: The Art Show

Every year the Art Dealers of America Association throws a major art fair at the armory. This year there were over 70 galleries which participated this year in the fair, despite a falling economy and anticipation of diminished sales. 

Most of the galleries brought a high proportion of secondary market pieces (secondary market means that the work has already been marketed by a gallery, sold to a collector and is being resold through another gallery by the collector). Secondary pieces are a tried and true way to way some money when times are hard. For the most part, pieces that go to the secondary market are by better known artists, artists whose reputations have already been established, pieces that have accumulated in value by collectors who want to capitalize on value. These sorts of shows with lots of secondary market pieces are often more like a museum show than an art fair - people will gather around Picasso's, de Kooning's, and any number of other well known artists' work. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Michel de Broin

Wow, I've been absent for quite a while. Such is the life of a student during a long holiday weekend :)

Here's some food for thought - some candy for the eyes. 

The artist is Quebecois Michel de Broin. He is currently represented by the new Lower East Side Gallery On Stellar Rays. At the group show's opening last night, he brought this awesome piece - half television, half fireplace. The piece could be hooked up to a fireplace and used accordingly. And the owners would sit around the "TV" like people used to. :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


We had an appraisal specialist come into one of my classes today. It was really fascinating because for all that I know about art and the art market I still have very little idea about how value comes about. And its a very interesting process. 

We haven't really learned how to do an appraisal (and, granted, that is not really the type of school I'm in) but we have learned what it's all about. Appraisers are basically super intense researchers - they aren't specialists in any particularly field but know a little about everything and have the wherewithall to find just about any information possible. We looked at two Frederic Remington sculptures sold within several months of each other at auction- both were from the same cast, but from different years (around 15 years apart) and different foundries. The prices varied drastically - the earlier version was valued at between $500,000 to $700,000 and sold somewhere in between while the later version was valued between $100,000 to $150,000 and BI'd. It's sort of crazy. I mean, I couldn't tell any difference between the two and I don't know that I'd even really care about those 15 years (especially when its a cast sculpture) but obviously someone does. 

Monday, February 9, 2009

Emily Mason Show

I went to Emily Mason's gallery opening on Saturday at the David Findlay Jr. Gallery in the Fuller Building on 57th St. The most successful works in the artist’s exhibition were her large and intensely saturated canvases. The aptly named Earthly Sun (2007) is a full-on explosion of bubblegum pinks, chrome oranges, and cadmium yellows with a touch of cerulean blue. The colors are washed across the canvas in easeful but controlled sweeps, unexpected at such a large scale. The brushstrokes are strong and daring but seem somewhat incidental to the use of color. The careful application of cerulean is a reprieve from the infinite desert sun; it is a cold glass of water to a long, hot day. At 4½’ by 6’ and brightly colored, the canvas is confrontational while Ms. Mason’s easy style ensures that it remains accessible and relatable. 

The exhibition taken as a whole focuses on Ms. Mason’s use of vibrant and nuanced colors: lime green, vermillion, Indian yellow, hot pink, and deep azure. Yet the artist’s work is not lost in color. Her paintings find their strength in the relationships the artist draws through the unanticipated juxtaposition of various elements in a work.  The colors, though saturated, are laid on the canvas as though the oil paint were as light as watercolor, effortlessly melting into one another in ink spill-like patterns. Each color, individually overwhelming, is tempered and enhanced by the artist’s choice of a color pairing. The structure and use of color in each work suggest both intention and spontaneity, cohesion and chaos, the natural and unnatural. Ms. Mason’s “Recent Paintings” succeeds due to her exploration of these dichotomous relationships. 

On the whole the exhibit was lovely and quite crowded. Most all the attendees I recognized as members of the artists family and friends, so I felt a bit out of place. But I really enjoyed myself all the same and loved getting to know Ms. Mason's work

Here's my favorite work, Earthly Sun:

Friday, February 6, 2009

Chelsea Art District

I went around Chelsea this week. Maybe not the best choice in the world - since it was FREEZING - but I had a good time all the same. Chelsea is the major arts district in the world right now. According to their website, there are over 330 galleries in a four block radius. It's pretty incredible. For me though, the concentration of art is very overwhelming - I never know which galleries to go into, which artists to see, which shows to see. It's very exhausting just thinking about it - and trying to plan something. Well, this weekend, I just decided to go for it - I decided that I would walk until something really struck me and then I'd go in. I wouldn't let the overabundance of art overwhelm me.

I saw the Von Lintel Gallery. Right now they have an exhibition of Izima Kaoru, the Japanese artist born in 1954 who takes these disturbingly beautiful photos of young women as corpses. 

It was a really interesting show - not necessarily something that I want to be hanging in my living room, but I appreciate it all the same.

Monday, February 2, 2009

New Season of Auctions

So the latest auction season has officially started. I like to follow the auctions quite closely (or at least those at Sotheby's, Christie's, and Phillips de Pury) to get an idea of the value and valuation of works of art at market right now. It's so difficult to get any price information from galleries unless they think you're a serious buyer, so this is really the most transparent and easily accessible way possible. 

The New York Times, published this story recently on the Old Masters auctions. On the whole, the action didn't do quite as well as "expected" but then again we didn't really think it would. I'm sure the estimates were really just an attempt for the auction house management to appease the consignors. I mean, they have to think they'll get something for the work or they won't bring it to auction. Sometime soon, the auctions will have to rethink their marketing ploys. They can't get works just to fill up their auctions, if none of them are going to sell. It's all about managing expectations of consignors and making them understand that you can't get top dollar at every state of the economy. 

Anyway,  "One of J. M. W. Turner’s classically romantic images brought $13 million at Sotheby’s on Thursday morning, becoming the most expensive work in two days of turbulent old master painting sales." but otherwise there were few notable sales. 

This Hendrick ter Brugghen sold for a record $10.2 million after a bit of a bidding battle between the buyer, Richard Feigen and a phone bidder.