New York Auction Week Wraps Up—and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week
01 Energetic post-war and contemporary auctions in New York this week, including $98 million spent by a single Japanese billionaire, helped bolster confidence in what is seen as an uncertain art market.
The series of contemporary auctions began on Sunday, when Christie’s and Phillips together sold 76 lots totalling $124.7 million. Led by
02 New York’s week of spring auctions was also marked by decidedly subdued Impressionist and Modern sales.
On Monday evening, Sotheby’s kicked off the week with an Impressionist and Modern art auction that failed to reach its minimum presale estimate of $164.8 million. Compared to equivalent auctions in recent years, the house’s $144.5 million in total sales marked its worst showing since the 2009 recession. Along with a low sell-through rate of 66%, these results sparked despairing predictions about the state of the art market. Christie’s Impressionist and Modern sale on Wednesday evening, however, assuaged these fears somewhat. Clocking in at $141.5 million (above the low estimate of $134 million), 86% of the 51 lots on offer found a buyer. With collectors seemingly more reticent to test the market during an uncertain time and auction houses cutting back on guarantees (Christie’s only guaranteed one piece, a
03 The shortlist for the 2016 Turner Prize has been announced.
SculptureCenter; Dean for two exhibitions, in London ( “Sic Glyphs” at South London Gallery) and Amsterdam (“Qualities of Violence” at de Appel arts center); Marten for “Lunar Nibs” at the 56th Venice Biennale and “Eucalyptus Let Us In” at New York’s Greene Naftali; and Pryde for “lapses in Thinking By the person i Am” at CCA Wattis in San Francisco.
04 Online auction houses Auctionata and Paddle8 announced on Thursday that they would merge, a major consolidation in the rapidly expanding online art market.
Rumors of the pending merger had been circulating the art world for months. However, details of the arrangement with regard to financials—and what the newly formed entity will be called—remain sparse. Reportedly, the two companies have yet to decide whether they will set up their home base in New York (Paddle8’s hometown and the center of the global art market) or Berlin (Auctionata’s hometown, known more for its wealth of artists than wealthy collectors). Auctionata founder and CEO Alexander Zacke will helm the joint firm, with Alexander Gilkes serving as chairman and chief innovation officer. Gilkes’s Paddle8 co-founders Osman Khan and Aditya Julka will also remain on the executive team. According to the announcement, the newly-formed auction house will be among the top 10 globally, outside of mainland China, and will focus on the middle market—objects and artworks under $500k. Consumer preference for online auctions over marketplace models that offer a buy-now option has waned in the past year, according to a recent Hiscox report. But these auction houses are banking on a merger that allows them to pool their complementary strengths: Paddle8’s particularly strong brand and emphasis on contemporary art, in contrast to the more collectibles-focused Auctionata.
05 The New Museum announced that it will double its exhibition space by expanding into a next-door building after raising $43 million.
(via the New York Times)
The significant sum amounts to a little over half of the $80 million goal set by the institution for its current capital campaign. Along with tripling the New Museum’s endowment and financing the expansion—which will see the museum adding gallery space to an adjacent Bowery building it already owns—the money will also be channeled towards more cutting-edge programs like the institution’s business incubator New INC and its think tank Ideas City, which just concluded in Detroit. The New Museum’s expansion is particularly interesting given that, while it is hardly alone in adding exhibition space, most museums have been doing so only after building massive, multi-million-dollar new spaces. By taking advantage of an already existing and convenient space, the New Museum, which does not have a permanent collection, will be able to spare expense and time all while adding some 42,000 square feet of room for art.
06 Former Sotheby’s world-wide head of contemporary art Cheyenne Westphal is heading to Phillips to take on the role of chairperson.
(via the Wall Street Journal)
Westphal, who departed Sotheby’s in March, will serve as Phillips’s new chairperson based in London starting in the spring of 2017. The departure of the 48-year-old from Sotheby’s shocked some, given that high-level exits are rare in the auction world. The surprise was compounded by the fact that Westphal’s leaving came as Sotheby’s experienced a string of high-profile staff departures. During her 26 years at the company, Westphal landed major consignments and focused singularly on contemporary art, which went from a small-ticket afterthought to a multi-billion-dollar marketplace over her tenure. The hire is a boon to Phillips, which is looking for every edge in a competitive auction landscape. “Phillips has a lot of momentum. It’s growing, and I think I can bring something to the equation,” Westphal told the Wall Street Journal, with the paper hinting that Sotheby’s acquisition of Art Agency, Partners may have prompted her exit.
07 François Morellet, a major figure in abstraction and concrete art, died on Wednesday—just a few days after his 90th birthday.
Parisian gallerist Kamel Mennour confirmed the French artist’s passing to Le Monde. Center Pompidou in Paris, cementing his place in the country as one of the key artists of his generation.
08 Several members of an Egyptian performance group are facing criminal charges in the country after critiquing president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
(via The Art Newspaper)
The group, known as Awlad el-Shawarea (Sweet Children), consists of six members and was born out of the political and cultural scene that flourished following the 2011 uprisings in Egypt. The arrests come after the group released several video clips critical of el-Sisi and his supporters. Four of the members arrested, who are all aged between 19 and 25, face charges of insulting state institutions and inciting street protests and terrorism. A fifth member, though charged with insulting state institutions and inciting street protests, will not face terrorism charges. A sixth member remains free. It is not immediately clear why only some members face charges or why those charges differ. Recently, Egyptian authorities have reportedly grown increasingly hostile to criticism, repressing numerous artists, writers, and activists.
09 Following a lawsuit and countersuit, Stefan Simchowitz and Jonathan Ellis King have settled their legal disputes with artist Ibrahim Mahama.
(via The Art Newspaper)
The battle between Simchowitz and King, on the one hand, and
10 In the country’s continuing quest for the return of the Parthenon marbles, Greece may look to the United Nations.
(via the Guardian)
The revelation comes near the 200th anniversary of the marbles’ “captivity” in London, where they were spirited by Lord Elgin, and then bought by Parliament in 1816. According to Greece’s culture minister, Aristides Baltas, the nation is actively trying to “develop alliances which we hope would eventually lead to an international body like the United Nations to come with us against the British Museum,” where the marbles are currently kept. If their claim is validated by a body like the UN, the nation may bring a legal suit against the British Museum—though this is a risky strategy that could backfire. Unlike restitution arguments that hinge on the idea that the marbles should be seen in the context of the Parthenon and not that of a “universal” institution like the British Museum, any international suit brought by Greece would deal with raw legalities surrounding how the marbles were acquired by Elgin. Though a legal brief leaked to the Guardian lays out a strong case in Greece’s favor, should the country lose, it will likely forever doom any restitution claims.
—Abigail Cain, Alexander Forbes, Isaac Kaplan
Cover image courtesy of Sotheby’s.
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