London Auctions Confirm a Cooling Art Market—and the 9 Other Biggest Art News Stories This Week

Artsy Editorial
Feb 12, 2016 11:03PM

Catch up on the latest art news with our rundown of the 10 stories you need to know this week.

Outside view of the Grand Palais. Photo by Marc Domage, courtesy FIAC. 


The results of this week’s London contemporary auctions at Phillips, Sotheby’s, and Christie’s appear to indicate a cooling of the art market, following several years of unprecedented sales figures. Sotheby’s and Christie’s sales combined were $184.7 million, a significant drop from last year’s $364 million but also within both houses’ pre-sale estimates. On Wednesday, the headline work at Sotheby’s, Gerhard Richter’s Abstract Painting (1990) (low est. $21.1 million), was withdrawn without explanation by collector Fatima Maleki at the eleventh hour. The auction house still achieved a 78% sell-through rate on the 55 lots in its evening sale of contemporary art, with Lucian Freud’s Pregnant Girl (1960-61) going for $23.2 million—the highest-selling price of the week. The Christie’s auction on Thursday saw its greatest success with works priced for the middle market (between $500,000 and $5 million) and sold 89% of its 61 lots. (via the Wall Street Journal)


The latest installment in the Knoedler & Company forgery scandal—which brought down the once-esteemed gallery in 2011 and spawned numerous protracted lawsuits—came to an abrupt halt Wednesday when collectors Domenico and Eleanore De Sole announced a settlement with Knoedler and its parent company 8-31 Holdings, Inc., the remaining defendants in the case. The De Soles had already settled with Ann Freedman, the gallery’s former director, on Sunday. Together, these settlements resolved the $25 million lawsuit over the family’s purchase of a fake Rothko. However, they leave unresolved the point of law at the heart of the case: Is it the responsibility of the gallery or the purchaser to verify a work’s authenticity? (via Artsy)


Extensive renovations will shutter Paris’s Grand Palais for a minimum of two years, potentially stranding major art-world events such as Monumenta and FIAC, which traditionally take place in the historic building. The project will cost somewhere around €393 million, according to the venue’s former head, Jean-Paul Cluzel. Although repairs are not scheduled to begin until late 2019, the start date may change if Paris is selected to host the 2024 Olympic Games—officials have said the Grand Palais could be used to hold sporting events. (via The Art Newspaper)


1.85 million out-of-town visitors flocked to the Metropolitan Museum of Art this summer, spending approximately $946 million during their time in New York—a sum which translates into $94.6 million in direct tax benefit to the city and state, according to a survey released by the museum this week. These museum-goers, 54 percent of whom said that the Met was a key reason for their trip to New York, came to explore three exhibitions: “China: Through the Looking Glass,” “The Roof Garden Commission: Pierre Huyghe,” and “Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends.” Estimated visitor spending in New York for the entire 2015 fiscal year was $5.41 billion. (via the Metropolitan Museum of Art)


Pace Art + Technology, the Menlo Park offshoot of New York’s influential Pace Gallery, became the first major contemporary gallery in Silicon Valley when it opened its doors last week. The inaugural show, “Living Digital Space and Future Parks,” was created by a 400-person digital art collective called teamLab to be installed in the gallery’s 20,000-square-foot space. Reflecting the nontraditional character of the area’s art market, none of the work is officially for sale—instead, visitors pay $20 for a ticket to view the show. It’s a strategy that appears to be working, with three of the “not-for-sale” works already sold and a fourth on reserve, while several additional works by not on view also finding buyers. (via The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal)


Maya Widmaier-Picasso, a key figure in the ongoing legal dispute between dealer Larry Gagosian and a member of the Qatari royal family over the ownership of one of her father’s sculptures, broke her silence last Friday. In a statement issued via her lawyer, Widmaier Picasso disputed the claim that she sold the sculpture twice, stating that Gagosian had “paid in good faith the proper price” for Pablo Picasso’s Bust of a Woman (1931). Although she confirmed reports that she received two payments from the Qataris for the work, she also said that she returned them when her daughter, Diana Widmaier Picasso, pointed out that the bust was worth much more—and that Diana “cannot be faulted for reminding her mother of the sculpture’s true value.” (via The Wall Street Journal)


Following this year’s edition of Art Brussels in April, artistic director Katerina Gregos will leave her post to pursue independent curatorial projects full-time. Gregos stepped into the role in 2012; since then the fair has introduced not-for-profit spaces and collaborated with the Flanders Art Institute to create a “Curator’s Programme” that supplements the existing VIP Program. Anne Vierstraete, managing director of Art Brussels, said that Gregos was influential in building the fair’s reputation as a place to discover new artists, and that further collaboration with Gregos as a curator on special projects in the future is likely. (via Art Brussels)


Under pressure from the Chinese ambassador to the country, organizers of the Dhaka Art Summit in Bangladesh censored a work by two Tibetan filmmakers on display last weekend. According to Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, whose project memorialized 149 Tibetans who have self-immolated since 2009 (a form of protest often directed against Chinese policies in Tibet), the government official visited the showcase and “exploded” at the sight of the piece. The filmmakers have accused China of “bullying” another nation into removing artworks from public view, claiming that a similar incident took place in 2009. (via The Indian Express)


After 10 years as the dean of the Yale University School of Art, curator and critic Robert Storr will step down and Marta Kuzma, currently the vice chancellor and rector of Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Art, will take his place. This is the first time a woman has been named dean since the school was founded almost a century and a half ago. Kuzma previously served as director of the Office for Contemporary Art Norway, as well as the establishing director of the Soros Center for Contemporary Art in Ukraine. Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, noted that in past roles Kuzma “has been especially focused on the student experience”—an important quality in a period when, despite a burgeoning art market, it remains challenging to make a living as an artist. (via The New York Times)


The Elizabeth Dee Gallery announced this week that it will bid farewell to its Chelsea location—its home for the last 15 years—in favor of a two-story space in Harlem that housed the first iteration of the Studio Museum when it opened in the 1960s. At 12,000 square feet, the new location will allow the gallery to expand to more than four times its current size. This move is the latest sign that the New York arts scene has found its next up-and-coming neighborhood—Gavin Brown’s enterprise recently announced plans to reopen in a former brewery on West 126h Street, and Dee noted that approximately 10 other Chelsea galleries are “actively looking” for spaces in Harlem.

Make your weekend plans with our preview of exhibitions on view in cities across the globe.

Artsy Editorial