01 The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union Thursday, sending the pound tumbling and creating a climate of uncertainty that could impact the upcoming contemporary art auctions in London.
Although the U.K. faces a two-year process to leave the E.U., markets reacted quickly, with the pound sterling plummeting and prime minister David Cameron, who championed remaining in the E.U., announcing his resignation. It’s difficult to say what impact the vote will have on next week’s contemporary auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s—despite speculation that Brexit fears may have dampened the Impressionist and modern sales earlier this week, a vote to exit was entirely unexpected. The rapid decline of the pound might cajole buyers
whose dollars and euros now have additional purchasing power (at one point, the sterling dropped to lows not seen since the days of Margaret Thatcher). Art may also look like a relatively stable asset class given that global markets have been nothing but a sea of down arrows since the referendum results. Still, with relatively weak offerings in next week’s auctions and a climate of uncertainty, it’s also entirely possible the art market will suffer following the shocking result.
02 In the leadup to Brexit at the Impressionist and modern auctions in London this week, Sotheby’s exceeded expectations while Christie’s failed to meet its low estimate.
Tuesday’s Sotheby’s auction fell solidly between estimates with a final tally of £103.3 million—80 percent of which came from the sale of two major lots, ’s Femme Assise
(1909) and ’s Jeanne Hébuterne (au Foulard)
(1919). At £43.3 million and £38.5 million, respectively, the paintings set records as the priciest works sold at Sotheby’s in London since 2010. It was a stronger showing than expected for the auction house, considering the uncertainty inspired by both the leadup to the Brexit vote and a cooling art market. Meanwhile, on Wednesday evening Christie’s managed a sell-through rate of just 64% and fell below its low estimate by more than £7 million. The auction was hampered by the withdrawal of three major works, including two works by
and one by
. The cover lot, ’s L’Ancienne rue de la Chaussée, Argenteuil
(1872), didn’t receive a bid and was the only work with a Christie’s guarantee. Going forward, it could be that the Brexit vote creates more demand for this sector of the market, where the financial staying power of the works on offer is seen as more secure.
03 Amid a budget shortfall and fiscal restructuring at the Met, three high-level employees are leaving the institution.
In April, the Met announced it would be taking steps to deal with its $10 million deficit to prevent the figure from ballooning to $40 million in the coming years. So far, the institution has instituted a 24-month restructuring plan that includes a hiring freeze and, if that proves insufficient to reduce costs, layoffs. The recent departures are by three upper-level staff members: Sree Sreenivasan, the first chief digital officer, Cythna Round, senior VP for marketing and external relations, and Susan Sellers, head of design. Round and Sellers both played key roles in the museum’s recent rebranding campaign. Beyond staff reductions, the Met will postpone its plans for expansion and will consider introducing a reduced exhibition calendar.
04 After an entire class dropped out in protest last May, the only MFA student in USC’s troubled Roski School of Art program has decided to leave the program before graduation.
In May 2015, the majority of the first-year MFA students left Roski, citing the program’s alleged “unethical treatment of its students.” Among the laundry list of grievances, the students noted a decrease in tuition subsidies and a general disregard for faculty and the arts community. In an open letter to Provost Michael Quick on Tuesday, the only MFA student to begin the program this year followed the former class of 2016’s example and dropped out. HaeAhn Kwon wrote that her first semester was “a shambles” and critiqued the general structure of the program. In a statement, Associate Vice Provost Robin Romans noted that the school had attempted to provide her with amenities to compensate for a lack of fellow classmates and also noted that a fully-enrolled MFA program would begin in the fall.
05 Artsy released new software this week that allows collectors to place real-time bids online during live sales, a feature to be incorporated at Phillips and Koller auctions held later this month.