Sotheby’s Beats Earnings Estimates despite 31% Sales Slump—and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week

Artsy Editors
Aug 12, 2016 6:22PM

01  Sotheby’s beat earnings estimates by 30% in quarter two, posting net income of $89 million, significantly outpacing 2015 quarter-two earnings of $68 million—but there’s more to it than initially meets the eye. 

(via the New York Times)

Given a $26 million loss in the first quarter, the company’s net income so far this year of $63 million falls approximately $10 million below that of the first half of 2015. The jump in earnings this past quarter is likely due to the London auctions having taken place in quarter two rather than quarter three, due to a slight shift in the calendar. According to Sotheby’s CEO Tad Smith, although collectors are still buying top artworks, consignors remain reluctant to put their work up for auction amidst current market uncertainty. Total sales volume through quarter two is down 31% over the same period last year. And Smith expects the third quarter to be “quite weak.” The past year has seen a number of strategic changes in the staffing of the company, which invested $85 million in acquiring advisory firm Art Agency, Partners in January. Sotheby’s future earnings depend on the successful integration of the firm along with “management’s success in implementing its business plans and strategic initiatives,” according to the quarterly report.

02  Armenia will host a major international art initiative in hopes that it will lead to both cultural and economic revitalization for the country. 

(via The Art Newspaper)

Launching August 22nd, the Dilijan Arts Observatory will bring together a mix of artists, cultural historians, designers, and environmental scientists over a three-week period. Participants, a third of whom are Armenian, will conclude the project with a public presentation of their research on a wide range of subjects, including local artisanry and Soviet architecture. The event will also include exhibitions and performances alongside an all-night symphony. The goals of the observatory are wider in scope than a biennial or strictly discursive summit; organizers hope to use culture to positively impact Armenian society, which has recently been faced with widespread unemployment and emigration. A second think tank will be held next year, followed by exhibitions at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof in 2017 and Paris’s Centre Pompidou in 2018. The long-term plan is to establish an art academy in Dilijan for teaching and research, as well as a site for the production of marketable goods. “The idea is to create a model for an institution that could apply to all parts of the world,” said the project’s curator, Clémentine Deliss, former director of the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt am Main.

03  The gazebo where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot will be displayed in Theaster Gates’s Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago. 

(via The Art Newspaper)

In a Cleveland City Council meeting, councilman Matt Zone said the gazebo would first be sent to the Tamir Rice Foundation and then, within six months, to Chicago. In place of the gazebo, a stone memorial to Rice will eventually be installed in Cleveland. It remains unclear how long Stony Island—a hybrid gallery, archive, library, and community center run by Gates’s Rebuild Foundation—plans to exhibit the gazebo. The city council had originally intended to deconstruct the gazebo where Rice was shot by police officers in November 2014. Initially backed by the victim’s family, the plan was delayed following a miscommunication earlier this year; the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture falsely created the impression that it planned to preserve the structure. A lawsuit against the city of Cleveland, filed by Rice’s family for wrongful death, was settled in April for $6 million.

04  Within weeks of each other, two rare ancient Roman mosaics have been uncovered in Cyprus. 

(via The Art Newspaper)

On August 9th, a well-preserved 4th-century mosaic scene of a chariot race in the Hippodrome was found near the capital of Nicosia. At 26 meters long, the chariot scene is one of just seven mosaics of its kind around the world, and the only one discovered on the island of Cyprus. “It is an extremely important finding, because of the technique and because of the theme,” director of the Department of Antiquities Marina Solomidou-Ieronymidou said. Archaeologists believe the floor mosaic was constructed for a wealthy citizen’s villa at a time when Cyprus was part of the Roman Empire. Construction workers in the port city of Larnaca discovered another significant mosaic last month. This second mosaic measures 20 meters long and dates back to the 2nd century. It depicts the mythical hero Hercules performing his feats of strength. The Larnaca mosaic is a rare find since much of the ancient city of Kition, atop which the modern city sits, was destroyed in earthquakes in the 4th century.

05  The Artist Pension Trust, an organization that pools and sells artists’ works for their later financial security, has made its first financial distribution since it was established in 2004. 

(via The Art Newspaper)

As members of its New York and Los Angeles trusts, over 400 artists received between $200 and $1,700 in July when more than 20 works, totaling $452,085, were sold. APT operates by asking participating artists to give one artwork a year for 20 years; if the work is sold, the creator receives 40% of the proceeds, with the “pool” of artists receiving 32% and APT receiving 28% for its operations. Since its founding, APT has accumulated about 14,000 works by about 2,000 artists, including Ryan Gander, Jeremy Deller, Shezad Dawood, and Iván Navarro. Though the returns are small, APT describes this initial distribution as “a major landmark.” Conceptual artist John Baldessari, a member of the advisory board, said, “It’s great to see the program working.”

06  A $2 million lawsuit alleges that David Zwirner Gallery mismanaged the sale of a work by an unidentified, “world-renowned artist.” 

(via NY Post, artnet News)

Filed by London-based dealer Fabrizio Moretti under the auspices of his company, Blue Art Limited, the complaint accuses Zwirner of fraudulent concealment, breach of contract, and inducement. Although details are scant, we know that Moretti agreed to purchase the artwork, which remains undelivered, two years ago; he paid in full last year. The dealer was aware that he was purchasing a work in progress, but said he didn’t realize the full extent of the delay. Since 2014, Moretti claims the work has “fallen dramatically” in value, in part because of Zwirner’s “mishandling” of the artist’s other works. Zwirner countered, filing a motion to dismiss the suit and labelling it “a case of buyer’s remorse.” Spokesperson Julia Joern additionally noted the gallery’s position that this lawsuit is a “negotiating tactic.” Zwirner’s lawyers argue that, since the dealers never agreed upon a delivery date, there has been no violation of contract. They also claim the work in question is ready to be shipped, but Moretti has not yet arranged for delivery.

07  Pokémon Go developer Niantic Labs has removed the game’s catchable creatures from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and a French World War I memorial. 

(via the Associated Press)

Since the launch of the immensely popular app in July, museum operators have become frustrated by the presence of Pokémon Go players at certain somber sites. Hiroshima city officials requested that the creatures be removed from the memorial site last Saturday, just six hours before a ceremony to honor those killed by the atomic bomb. “We were worried if those Pokémon were really going to go away in time,” city official Tatsuya Sumida said. “We consider the park a sacred place where we pray for the victims of the atomic bombings.” The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. is also now Pokémon-free at the organization’s request, as is the Douaumont ossuary in northeastern France, which houses the remains of 130,000 soldiers who died fighting in the Battle of Verdun. Several other institutions, including Arlington National Cemetery, have requested that visitors refrain from Pokémon Go-related activity on their grounds.

08  The Bavarian state museums have been gifted 58 works from the former collection of philanthropist couple Christof and Ursula Engelhorn—a donation that includes paintings by the likes of Eugène Delacroix and Cy Twombly. 

(via The Art Newspaper)

The Engelhorns first donated their private collection, amassed over decades, to the Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne. The foundation subsequently determined that the collection should be passed on to the Bavarian State Paintings Collections and will additionally support the acquisition of a 1973 work by Dan Flavin. The donated collection spans the 18th to 20th centuries and also includes works by Joseph Beuys, Georg Baselitz, and Piet Mondrian, as well as works on paper by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingrès, Théodore Géricault, and Georges Seurat. A selection of these works will be exhibited at Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne museum in November. Christof Engelhorn, whose family owned the German pharmaceuticals company Boehringer Mannheim, passed away in 2010; his widow Ursula’s fortune is estimated by Forbes at $3.8 billion. The couple supported the Pinakothek der Moderne over four decades.

09  A pro-Trump artwork has been re-installed on a Staten Island lawn after being set on fire last weekend. 

(via the Daily Mail)

Commissioned by fervent Trump supporter Sam Pirozzolo, the 12-foot-tall “T” was emblazoned with an image of the American flag and had been on display since May. Early Sunday morning, however, Pirozzolo awoke to find the work in flames. The NYPD is currently investigating the case as arson, although the 52-year-old optician claims that it should be classified as a hate crime. “How is it that someone can come and set fire to your property and make it look like a burning Ku Klux Klan cross but that’s not a hate crime?” Pirozzolo asked the Washington Post. Now, the work’s creator—New York-based artist Scott LoBaido, who has collaborated with Pirozzolo on several lawn installations—has made a replacement “T” that stands four feet taller than the original. This isn’t the first Trump-based artwork to have sparked acts of vandalism, either. Collective t.Rutt, who purchased and modified a Trump campaign bus to criticize the polarizing candidate, have been egged and keyed by critics who think their vehicle is authentic.

10  Australian art magazine Vault is facing criticism for censoring the nipples of a painted female nude by Lisa Yuskavage, featured on the cover of its latest issue. 

(via the Guardian)

Round, yellow stickers were placed over the nipples of the pregnant female figure in Yuskavage’s Brood (2005-06). Vault’s editor, Neha Kale, claimed that the stickers were added to the painting at the request of the magazine’s distributor amidst fears that newsstands would refuse to carry the magazine. “We felt we didn’t have a choice,” Kale said, citing deadlines from advertisers and distributors. Nearly half of the 7,000 printed copies of each issue of Vault are sold at newsstands, meaning the magazine would suffer a major loss in revenue if newsstands rejected the publication based on its cover image. This controversy is the latest in a series of disputes over whether or not a woman’s nipples can be shown publicly, from the viral #FreeTheNipple campaign to backlash over countless Facebook and Instagram accounts having been disabled due to violations of each platform’s contentious community guidelines on nudity.

Artsy Editors

Cover image: Photo courtesy of Sotheby's