Frieze Week Takes London—and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week
Catch up on the latest art news with our rundown of the 10 stories you need to know this week.
01 Frieze London and Frieze Masters opened in tandem on Wednesday morning, with the roughly 300 galleries exhibiting as part of the fairs facing a decidedly more reserved art market compared to years past.
The two fairs, which span two tents at opposite sides of London’s Regent’s Park that are open until Sunday evening, opened amid a broader cooling in the global art market. This has been compounded for Britain’s dealers, who have been further slapped with the uncertainty foisted upon them by June’s vote for the country to leave the European Union. And the emerging art sector in particular, which has long been Frieze’s hallmark, has been hit particularly hard. Early reports from the fair indicate relatively steady sales, especially given the market environment. Still, the pace has not matched the purchasing frenzies of prior editions. But, whatever you choose to call this period in the art market—a softening, a correction, a burst bubble, or a flight to quality—one particular trend has trumped the rest. Artists of groups that have been marginalized from the art-historical canon, whether due to race, gender, or sexuality, are finally gaining market recognition. At Frieze London and Frieze Masters this week, women artists—though still in significant minority to men at both fairs—are faring particularly well.
02 London’s Frieze Week auctions witnessed solid returns and some lively bidding, especially given the overall market climate.
Frieze Week sales began on a positive note with an auction at Christie’s featuring the collection of British art dealer Leslie Waddington. The 44-lot auction met with a 100% sell-through rate, bringing in £28.3 million ($36.1 million); all prices including buyer’s premium were well over the presale high estimate of £18.5 million. Though no works achieved astronomical sums, the general success was notable given that Brexit had stoked fears of a weakening market. An evening sale at Phillips, focused on 20th century and contemporary art, saw 94% of its 28 lots sold by value and brought in £17.9m with fees. The figure falls between the the presale estimate of £14.2 million–£20.5 million, but is down from last year’s total £31.5 million on 36 lots. Andy Warhol’s 20 Pink Mao’s (1979) claimed the top lot, selling for £4.7 million ($6 million). The postwar and contemporary evening auction at Christie’s brought in £34.3 million ($43.5 million), a total roughly £13 million above the presale high estimate and only slightly under last year’s total. The sale featured a sell-through rate of 90% and set records for several artists including Henry Taylor, Lucy McKenzie, and Adrian Ghenie, whose Nickelodeon (2008) went for the auction high of £7.1 million ($9 million). The evening’s largest buyer was reportedly dealer Stefan Simchowitz, who spent £7.4 million ($9.3 million) across four works of art. On Friday, the contemporary evening auction at Sotheby’s boasted a sell-through rate of 91.2% and fetched a total of £47.9 million ($59.6 million), well above the high estimate of £31.2 million ($39.7 million). Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Hannibal (1982) was the top lot of the night, going for £10.6 million ($13.1 million), more than double the high estimate of £4.5 million ($5.6 million). Gerhard Richter’s Garten (1982) went for just under triple the high estimate, selling for £10.2 million ($12.7 million). The Sotheby’s sale was the capstone to a strong week of evening auctions across London.
03 An oil painting held by the National Trust for Scotland and previously thought to have been a £20 copy has now been attributed to Renaissance master Raphael.
(via The Guardian)
The Madonna painting was noticed in the 18th-century Haddo House in Aberdeenshire by art historian Bendor Grosvenor. There to examine other artworks for his BBC series Britain’s Lost Masterpieces, Grosvenor noticed the painting hanging above a doorway. The work was thought to have been painted by minor Renaissance painter Innocenzo Francucci da Imola but is now believed to be a Raphael original following conservation efforts, as well as research into the painting’s underdrawing. In the early 19th century the piece had been purchased as a Raphael and exhibited under his name at the British Institution in London 1841, but later reassessed as a copy “after Raphael” and then as a work by Innocenzo. “It is simply too good to be by Innocenzo,” Grosvenor remarked and added that while the production schedule of his television program didn’t allow for additional examination by Raphael experts, “all the evidence seems to point in the right direction.” He cites the underdrawing and recognizable model—one seen in other Raphael Madonnas—as evidence of the work’s true provenance. With this latest attribution, the work’s value, £20 in 1899, could be close to £20 million.
04 After months of delays, the trial of billionaire art dealer Guy Wildenstein and seven others—from family members to financial advisers—is taking place at the Palais de Justice in Paris.
Wildenstein is charged with tax fraud and money-laundering in a case that has thrown a very public spotlight onto the normally reserved and secretive family known in the country simply as “Les W.” The case is part gossip factory, including stories of glitzy displays of wealth, family betrayals, and a friendship with former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. But more importantly, it is a rare glimpse into the complex financial arrangements and freeports used by some wealthy art-owning individuals to shield themselves from tax laws. Wildenstein, who normally presides over Wildenstein & Co. from the company’s luxurious headquarters on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, is accused of failing to disclose and pay tax on the full amount of the inheritance he received after his father’s death in 2001. At the time, Wildenstein reported some €40.9 million, with a resulting tax bill of €17.7 million. But now, French prosecutors are saying that Wildenstein should have declared roughly €616 million in taxable assets. In defense, Wildenstein asserts that his father began the process of reorganizing the trusts in July, months before he died in October. Further, he contends that he simply followed the advice of lawyers and financiers who told him that the assets weren’t owned by the family but by independent trusts, and thus need not be disclosed to tax authorities. Authorities argue that the trusts were far from independent. The trial is expected to wrap up by October 20.
05 Sotheby’s has determined that a Frans Hals painting sold in 2011 was a forgery—one in a potential string of Old Master fakes—and refunded the buyer.
(via the BBC)
The work, An Unknown Man, a portrait once attributed to the Dutch master, sold for £8.5 million in 2011. Sotheby’s has since confirmed that the work is “undoubtedly” fake, annulled the sale and fully reimbursed the client. The determination comes amid reports that a series of Old Master paintings (a notoriously difficult genre to authenticate) may have been forged by an as-yet-unknown individual. Implicated are a work loaned to the National Gallery that is attributed to Orazio Gentileschi and a piece attributed to Lucas Cranach the Elder. That latter work, purchased by the Prince of Liechtenstein in 2013, was seized by a French judge in March after its authenticity was questioned. The investigation by the judge, which is said to have widened to include some 25 paintings, is ongoing. That number comes by way of a recent Daily Mail story, which declared the possibility that millions in forged Old Master works have been sold and exhibited. While the Sotheby’s announcement offers some confirmation to the underlying claims (namely, that a few forgeries have been discovered), the exact scope of the forgeries is not currently known.
06 As part of a relief package to its country’s museums, which have seen decreased attendance since the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, France will increase public funding to the institutions by 5%.
(via The Art Newspaper)
The 5% financial boost to French museums was announced this week by France’s Minister of Culture and Communication, Audrey Azoulay, as part of a 6.6% countrywide cultural funding hike. The increase, which will go into effect in 2017, will raise the capital provided by the French government to its cultural institutions to €2.9 billion—the largest amount that France has ever pledged to the arts in a single year. The decision comes in response to the financial hit French cultural institutions have taken in the last year. Museums, in particular, have cited decreased attendance, connected to the decline in tourism the country has experienced since the 2015 and 2016 terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice, respectively. “I know the difficulties confronting museums today, between a drop in attendance, particularly linked to the drop in tourism, and a rise in security expenses,” explained Azoulay of the reasoning behind the increase. Along with the 5% overall funding increase to museums, Azoulay also announced a whopping 12% increase to the acquisitions budgets of regional and national museums. While funding increases of this scale are largely unprecedented in France, the impact of the government’s efforts to re-stimulate the country’s cultural tourism—and how, exactly, the new funding packages will be allocated—remains to be seen.
07 The family of late artist Dash Snow has sued McDonald’s for allegedly using his work to decorate hundreds of restaurants without permission.
(via The Fashion Law)
Jade Berreau, Snow’s former girlfriend and executor of his estate, filed the suit in federal court in Los Angeles earlier this week. The complaint asserts that McDonald’s copied Snow’s signature street tag (“SACE,” the artist’s pseudonym) for use in the industrial, graffiti-themed décor of a number of its locations. It further alleges that associating Snow, who died in 2009, with a corporate chain like McDonald’s is antithetical to the outsider status of his work—a status that has likely contributed to the six-figure sums his pieces have fetched at Sotheby’s and Christie’s. According to the complaint, Snow’s family reached out to the fast food chain in June when they discovered the alleged infringement, to no avail. The newly filed suit would prevent McDonald’s from using Snow’s name and work in any way; it also seeks damages for copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and other related claims.
08 The Turkish government has decided to leave Creative Europe, the European Union’s cultural funding organization.
Effective January 1, 2017, Turkey will no longer be a part of Creative Europe, which, after signing an agreement with the EU in late 2014, the nation officially joined in 2015 as one of several non-EU nations to receive financial support for its arts and culture sectors. This exit from Creative Europe (which has an approximate budget of $1.64 billion to spend between 2014 and 2020), will see Turkey relinquish future funding and sever relationships with European cultural institutions. The motives behind this decision are still unclear, though several reports suggest that it may be related to the organization’s funding of an April concert in Germany commemorating the Armenian Genocide, an event Turkey refuses to acknowledge. This is the latest in signs of an increasingly strained relationship between Turkey and the European Union. The move also follows a series of hits to the country’s arts and culture sector in the wake of the July 15 failed military coup in the country—including the cancellation of the Çanakkale Biennial and Art International art fair, as well as a wave of censorship among artists and journalists. A spokesperson for the EU expressed regret over Turkey’s exit from the program: “The European Commission regrets Turkey’s decision and the fact that Turkish cultural and audiovisual operators will miss future opportunities for cooperation with their counterparts in the EU. Although this is unfortunate, the commission respects the sovereign decision of Turkey.”
09 L.A.-based illustrator Lili Chin has sued mega-retailer Kohl’s and two clothing manufacturers for what her complaint calls “flagrant” and “willful” copyright infringement.
In court documents filed late last week, Chin claims that Kohl’s sold t-shirts and socks that ripped off her drawings, thus disregarding her rights and profiting from her illustrations. The document asserts that despite several requests to cease sales of the allegedly infringing clothing, Kohl’s continues to stock them on store shelves. Along with damages and other relief, Chin is seeking an immediate injunction halting sales. The works at the heart of the dispute come from an “infocomic” poster titled Doggie Language that Chin created in 2011. On both the socks and t-shirts sold by Kohl’s, the complaint asserts that Chin’s drawings had been slightly changed or rotated. When asked what she hopes to receive from her lawsuit, Chin offered only one word: “Justice.” Instances of independent artists charging major fashion companies with copyright infringement have received growing attention recently. Such allegations have ensnared numerous prominent brands, from Zara to Topshop.
10 The architects behind Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery have won the Stirling prize, the U.K.’s most celebrated architecture prize.
(via The Guardian)
Caruso St John, considered to be among Britain’s top architects of art-world spaces, takes the award for the best new building in Britain for Hirst’s gallery in Vauxhall, London. Adam Caruso and Peter St John’s building beat out, among other shortlisters, the new Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University, designed by Herzog & de Meuron—a starchitect firm also beloved by the art establishment, who won acclaim earlier this year for their extension to the Tate Modern. This is the third time Caruso St John has been shortlisted for the prize since 2000, first for their New Art Gallery in Walsall, and then again for their Brick House in West London. Other major projects on their resume include several branches of Gagosian Gallery and a recent facelift of Tate Britain. The Newport Street Gallery, renovated from three Victorian scenery-painting workshops that were purchased by Hirst in 2002, is noted for its thoughtful restraint and subtle detail, honoring much of the buildings’ original structures. Among its winning features are a metal balcony cut from a single slab of steel, a jagged, serriform roof, and elegant, spiral staircases.
Cover images: Frieze London, 2016. Photo by Benjamin Westoby for Artsy; The painting formerly attributed to Innocenzo da Imola but now thought to be a Raphael. Image courtesy of the National Trust for Scotland.