01 An auction week totaling over $1.4 billion in sales kicked off in New York with evening Impressionist and Modern sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
Monday night’s sale at Christie’s finished with a within-estimate total of $289.1 million, thanks in large part to strong showings from two star lots. The result marks the auction house’s best sale in the category since 2010. The results were a 17% rise from November’s Christie’s New York evening sale, which totaled $246.3 million, and a 104% rise from the prior May, a sign that buyers’ appetites for the choicest works are undiminished. At Sotheby’s, the loss of Egon Schiele’s Danaë (1909), apparently within hours of the sale’s start, put the auction house on the back foot on Tuesday. The painting was estimated to sell for between $30 million and $40 million (roughly one-sixth of the night’s total sale estimate). Still, the evening closed with $173.8 million in total sales, falling squarely within a presale estimate of between $147 million and $210.4 million that was revised downward, following the withdrawals of the Schiele and a work by Camille Pissarro. The results represented a modest 10% uptick from the house’s November haul of $157.7 million, but fell significantly short of the Christie’s sale the prior evening, suggesting the auction market hasn’t fully landed on solid ground after a 2016 marked by uncertainty and caution on the part of sellers.
02 The week’s contemporary evening sales concluded Thursday with strong results from all three auction houses.
Sotheby’s garnered headlines with the $110.4 million sale of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (1982), which sold to Japanese e-commerce billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who had previously set a Basquiat record when he bought one of his paintings last year for $57.3 million. Almost immediately after winning the painting, Maezawa posted a photo on Instagram of himself taken with his prize during a previous trip to see it in New York. The blockbuster sale, which broke the auction record for Basquiat’s work as well as topping Andy Warhol’s standing record for work by an American artist, brought the total for the evening to $319.1 million, including the buyer’s premiums, for 51 lots. Sales had been estimated at $211 million to $277.1 million; the total without the buyer’s fees was just shy of the high estimate, at $276.9 million. Wednesday night’s $448 million Post-War and Contemporary sale at Christie’s had a higher total on 71 lots, but the evening lacked the drama of Thursday night’s 10-minute bidding war over the Basquiat. The result without the buyer’s premiums came to $391.3 million, falling within the estimated $339.2 million to $462.8 million range. Both sales had high sell-through rates and the majority of works falling within or exceeding estimates, a sign that the market may be finding its level. And Phillips rounded out the trio with a sale Thursday night that brought in $110.3 million (with buyer’s premium) with a 100% sell-through rate of the 37 lots (though three were withdrawn). The total is more than double what the same sale brought in last year, with this year’s top lot, a Peter Doig landscape selling for $28.8 million—making him the most expensive living British artist.
03 German artist and choreographer Anne Imhof has been awarded the Golden Lion, the Venice Biennale’s top prize.
(via the New York Times)
Titled “Faust,” Imhof’s show is on view at the German pavilion, one of 85 national pavilions across the Venice Biennale. It features a dozen performers, dressed in black athletic gear and walking through, over, and under the crowd of viewers via glass platforms while a grating, metallic musical score plays in the background. “I thought the sadistic state of hyper-visibility inside was brilliantly conceived,” Tate Modern senior curator Catherine Wood told the New York Times of the work, which won the Golden Lion for national participation. A second Golden Lion, for the best artist in the Christine Macel-curated central exhibition, was awarded to another German, Franz Erhard Walther, for his sculptural textile works that invite audience interaction. Carolee Schneemann won the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement earlier in April, with all three of this year’s Golden Lions going to artists who work with performance. London-born, Egypt-based Hassan Khan was awarded the Silver Lion, which recognized him as the most promising young artist in the Biennale’s central show, for his sound installation.
04 New York City has released a report detailing the results of roughly seven months of public engagement conducted in the lead-up to the city’s forthcoming cultural plan.
New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) engaged 188,000 New Yorkers—via focus groups, phone surveys, and hundreds of community events—in order to compile its brief, released Monday. The report, titled “What We Heard,” provides a glimpse as to what will likely be included in the cultural plan (due to be released in early July), spanning commitments to equitably distributed funding, better disabled access, and affordable living for artists. “What We Heard” includes insight into New Yorkers’ cultural habits and perceptions and lays out a list of policy proposals. The findings reveal the robust health and value of the arts in New York, while also showing that issues of inequality and affordability are indeed felt in the cultural sector—an imbalance the cultural plan hopes to mitigate.
05 The trust of Elizabeth Taylor is suing Christie’s, claiming that the auction house improperly canceled the sale of one of the late actress’s diamonds.
Christie’s sold the diamond, consigned by Taylor’s trust, for $8.8 million in 2011. The auction house promoted the gemstone’s supposed history for the sale, stating it was once owned by the Indian emperor who built the Taj Mahal. However, there are doubts Indian royalty ever owned the work. After discovering this uncertain provenance, the buyer of the piece demanded that Christie’s cancel the sale and repay him—which the auction house did. But Taylor’s trust is calling the reversal “unwarranted” and has refused to return the millions to Christie’s, arguing that the object was listed simply as an “Indian diamond” in the catalogue (although representatives for the auction house did elsewhere claim a royal history). In the suit, the trust further alleges that the proceeds of several separate sales have not been transferred and notes that they are seeking the missing money or return of the objects.
06 The row over a Harper’s Bazaar jacket-decorating party continues with news of three additional allegedly stolen patch designs.
On May 7th, a spokesperson for bi-annual erotic zine Leste accused organizers of a Harper’s Bazaar jacket-decorating party of co-opting a design by their editor Sara Sutterlin without permission or initial compensation, Jezebel reported at the time. Now, three other artists say their designs were also made into patches without permission. Emma McIlroy, of the fashion brand Wildfang, offered to sell Harper’s several designs, including a pin emblazoned with the words “WILD FEMINIST” (the magazine declined this design, though paid for others). Photos of the event, however, show that the design appeared in the party as a patch, a product McIlroy does not offer. A Harper’s marketing associate informed McIlroy that the patch had been “created inadvertently by an intern” and offered compensation. McIlroy declined, asking instead that a public apology be made on social media, a demand Harper’s representatives say they are unable to fulfill. Two more artists—Lotte Andersen and Madison Kramer—have come forward, accusing Harper’s of stealing their designs. Neither Harper’s nor its publisher Hearst have yet responded to these latest accusations.
07 Abby Bangser, currently Frieze’s artistic director for the Americas and Asia, is leaving the fair to join the Dia Art Foundation.
(via Dia Art Foundation)
Bangser will serve in the newly created leadership role of Deputy Director of Strategic Initiatives when she takes up the post in July. According to a statement, Bangser will “advance the strategic priorities of the institution and serve as the main liaison for Dia’s sites around the United States and beyond.” The departure from Frieze, where Bangser liaised with galleries and collectors, comes as the New York edition of the fair saw staid returns earlier this month, though there is no indication Bangser’s transition is a direct result. Many of the galleries under Frieze’s white tent on Randall’s Island who saw significant returns this year had, in fact, pre-sold much of their booths. For galleries relying on sustained foot traffic to generate sales, the relatively out-of-the way fair has always proved challenging—and matters were not helped this year when fierce rains forced the fair’s early closure on the Friday of its four-day run.
08 Publisher Françoise Nyssen has been appointed as France’s new culture minister.
(via Le Monde)
Nyssen, of the Arles-based publishing house Actes Sud, will become the first publisher to occupy the post. Her appointment was announced earlier this week by France’s recently elected President Emmanuel Macron. Through Actes Sun, Nyssen—a Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters—has published novels by Stieg Larsson and Nobel Prize-winner Svetlana Alexievich, as well as books on artists such as Sophie Calle and Giuseppe Penone. With her husband, she established the cultural organization Association du Méjan and the École Domaine du Possible, a school for children neglected by the French educational system. Reception to Nyssen’s appointment has been generally optimistic, especially among artists she has worked with in the past. “I hope she’ll have the means to create a visionary cultural policy that gives a social link in a divided and bruised country,” said French conceptual artist Laurent Grasso, who believes Nyssen will help create a stronger policy dialogue with artists.
09 Twelve art museums will receive $1.87 million in grants from the Knight Foundation, in order to develop immersive visitor experiences through technology.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation made the announcement Thursday. The institutions—including the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Akron Art Museum, the New Museum, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami—were selected from a pool of more than 100 applicants. From chatbots to 3D printing, each project works to incorporate digital tools into the museum experience. “People want those experiences to be personalized, interactive and shareable, just as they experience their daily lives,” said the foundation’s president, Alberto Ibargüen. The Detroit Institute of Arts, for example, will receive $150,000 to further develop an augmented reality tour of their collection—allowing visitors to explore the way their eyes process color in Georges Seurat’s paintings or the symbolism of Diego Rivera’s monumental mural at the institution.
10 Ahead of the U.K.’s general election on June 8th, the Labour Party has promised to invest £1 billion in arts and culture funding as part of its platform.
(via The Art Newspaper)
Released Tuesday, the manifesto would allow for £200 million annually over five years to go towards upgrading “cultural and creative infrastructure.” Specific cultural policies outlined in the 128-page document include a widening of access to the Government Art Collection, which curates artworks in major U.K. government buildings, and an additional £160 million diverted to primary school arts education.Recent polls put Labour at a 17-point deficit to Prime Minister Theresa May’s leading Conservative Party, which also released its manifesto this week. Matt Hancock, the U.K. minister for digital and culture, criticized Labour’s bold pledges and promising to ensure Brexit negotiations under the Conservatives would provide “the best possible Brexit deal” for the arts.
Cover image: Courtesy of Sotheby’s.