The total value of online art sales grew by 15% in 2016 against a backdrop of a sleepy market, according to a new report from specialty insurer Hiscox. Released Tuesday and entitled “A market yet to awaken?,” the fifth annual report documents strong annual growth in online sales, but slowing momentum in converting customers to buying art online. The report also forecasts “long-awaited consolidation” in the sector, which today is fragmented across several main players. Hiscox’s report includes survey responses from 758 art buyers (up from 672 respondents in 2016) and 132 galleries and dealers (a slight increase from last year). This year’s edition also includes a new component: 42 interviews with managers and “key staff” at various online art platforms who provided information to Hiscox.
05 The renowned Venezuelan-American artist Marisol bequeathed her entire estate to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo.
On Tuesday, the museum announced what it described as the largest gift of art in the institution’s history.
, a major pop artist who infused her work with
, died last year at the age of 85. She left her estate to Albright-Knox, which was the first museum to purchase one of her works. The artist (born María Sol Escobar) trained in
in New York, later shifting her practice in the early ’50s to incorporate a combination of pre-Columbian folk influences and
, in part as a response to her mother’s suicide. The estate includes 100 sculptures, over 150 works on paper, thousands of photographs, her archive, and her Tribeca workspace. The gift is a major addition for the Buffalo museum, which will name a gallery in her honor.
06 City workers in armored jackets have begun removing Confederate monuments in New Orleans.
After a December city council decision, disassembly began Monday on an obelisk honoring an insurrectionary, white supremacist group that in 1874 battled New Orleans police and state militia. The obelisk, which the Times reports served as a frequent rallying point for the Ku Klux Klan, was one of four statues slated for removal. Others include monuments to General Robert E. Lee, General P.G.T. Beauregard, and Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Threats over the removals prompted heavy police presence as workers dressed armored vests, helmets, and scarves disassembled the 15,000-pound work. Opponents of the removal cited what they see as importance of preserving historical and cultural legacies, while critics argue they are symbols of racism and oppression. A candlelight vigil met Monday night to defend the obelisk, which until 1993 bore the inscription, “United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers, but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the south and gave us our state.”
07 A tax judge ruled that a Sotheby’s appraiser lowballed estimates for two paintings to help solicit business and lower estate taxes.
The estimates for the more valuable painting, a 17th-century work by
, St. George’s Kermis With the Dance Around the Maypole
, was set at $500,000 in 2005, a fourth of the $2.1 million it eventually sold for in 2009. George Wachter, chairman of Sotheby’s North America and South America and co-chairman of Sotheby’s
paintings department, had been vying for the estate of the painting’s owner, Eva Franzen Kollsman, who died in 2005. In a letter, he valued the other painting at $100,000. The IRS challenged the estimates, and the case went to tax court. This is not uncommon: An analysis of 1,840 artworks showed that “taxpayers tend to underestimate the value of art that was given as gifts or bequeathed and, conversely, tend to overestimate the value of art donated as a charitable contribution,” the Times
reported. The tax judge said Wachter had a “significant conflict of interest” when providing the estimates, and found his explanation that Russian buyers drove up the work’s value in the intervening four years unpersuasive. Sotheby’s has announced it will appeal the decision.
08 The Tate is drawing criticism after asking staff to contribute to the purchase of a boat for outgoing director Nicholas Serota.
The request to “put money towards a sailing boat” as a “surprise gift” for Serota came in a notice posted in the staff rooms of both the Tate Modern
and Tate Britain
on Wednesday. One staff member who requested anonymity said the note was met with a mixture of “shock and laughter,” adding that “the chasm that exists between upper management and the staff on the ground is just farcical and this just made it clearer than ever.” While Serota was paid roughly £165,000 in 2015, the museum outsourced jobs to a private firm called Securitas, which pays below the London living wage. Museum staff also lost their canteen discount last week and there have been complaints over low pay. In a statement, the Tate said that employees are under “no obligation for any staff to give towards a leaving gift” and that the institute has “invested considerably in raising salaries over the past three years.”
09 A mural of Michelle Obama in Chicago ignited controversy this week following allegations that it copies a work shared on Instagram without crediting or paying the original artist.