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Art Weekly

Kobel's Art Weekly

Annotated press review on the art market by Stefan Kobel, published weekly. Subscribe for free

Basel, photo Ste€an Kobel
Basel, photo Ste€an Kobel
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 24 2024

The good news first: the VAT in Germany rate will be reduced again to a uniform seven per cent, reports Ursula Scheer in the FAZ: ‘The Federal Cabinet has approved the draft for an annual tax law 2024 presented by the Ministry of Finance - and thus the reduced tax rate of seven per cent instead of the previous 19 per cent for the supply and acquisition of works of art.’ Christiane Fricke explains the previous and future regulations in the Handelsblatt: ‘In particular, the differential taxation mitigated Germany's disadvantage in competition with the most important non-European art trading centres. It could be applied to consignments from non-EU countries such as Switzerland, the USA and Great Britain. In this way, the surcharges on the hammer price could be reduced to around 41 per cent." The BVDG is also pleased in a press release: ‘Galleries are finally being treated equally to artistic creators and many other cultural enterprises. This strengthens their competitiveness and makes them fit for the future." However, the regulation is not due to come into force until next year.

its Art Industry Trends Report, Artsy asked galleries about their practices and strategies. 716 responded, over 40 per cent from the USA. In view of the weak economic situation in the sector, almost 40 per cent want to reduce the number of fair participations; understandable if art fairs only come in third place when it comes to attracting new customers. According to the survey, the gallery space itself and - unsurprisingly - online marketplaces (of which Artsy itself is one) are in the lead.

According to the World Wealth Report 2024 by consulting firm Capgemini, which Johannes Korge read for Der Spiegel, the number of wealthy people around the world continues to rise: ‘In Germany, which was in an economic slump last year, the wealth of the rich rose by 2.2 per cent to 6.28 trillion dollars, while the group of dollar millionaires grew by 34,000 (2.1 per cent) to 1.646 million members.’ In any case, it cannot be due to purchasing power that the art market is weakening. According to the report, the share of alternative asset classes has been steadily increasing over the years. Since 2018, their share has risen from 9 per cent to 15 per cent. Must all go to wine, watches and trainers.

With one exception, the German auctions were mixed. At Grisebach in Berlin, Christian Herchenröder identifies weaknesses in the Handelsblatt: ‘This is a sign of economic restraint, but probably even more a consequence of the weakness in materials, which this time had a more pronounced effect than usual on the supply in all sectors. The collection of drawings by the retired dealer Rudolf Zwirner, auctioned for a total of 670,000 euros, was a ray of hope among the consignments. But the ‘Selected Works’ auction, with its 34 mixed lots, 16 of which fell, was unable to sweep anyone off their feet. Christian Herchenröder also reports on Lempertz in Cologne in the same place: ‘However, 30 of 70 catalogue numbers were rejected - including the double-sided painting by Max Pechstein as the main lot. It should have fetched up to 800,000 euros. Collectors and dealers were very selective. Time and again, there were tight bidding stretches in which 17 lots fetched significantly more than their estimate. This was achieved by another major work of the evening: Heinrich Campendonk's ‘Reclining Nude’ from 1917, which enticed with its strong red tones, encouraged three bidders to place 996,000 euros with premium. The buyer is a collector from the Rhineland." Christiane Fricke, also for the Handelsblatt, takes a closer look at the auction at Van Ham in Cologne: ‘Auctioneer Markus Eisenbeis only considered 41 lots interesting enough to include them in the prestigious event. Of these, nine, i.e. not quite a quarter, were returned. ‘By our modest standards, we are extremely satisfied,’ explained Eisenbeis, however, alluding to the market situation and referring to the figures: a relatively high sales rate of 78 per cent compared to the competition in Berlin and Cologne and a turnover of just over six million euros including buyer's premium. According to Eisenbeis, the lower estimate price had been around six million euros." Ketterer in Munich took the crown (once again) with a ‘superlative auction’, as Sabine Spindler and Susanne Schreiber headlined in the Handelsblatt. The top lot ‘Tanz im Varieté’ by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, which had been announced long in advance, realised seven million euros. "This surprisingly high hammer price for Germany was even surpassed. The top lot from the catalogue title, Alexej Jawlensky's ‘Spanish Dancer’, fell at seven million euros, the lower estimate. With buyer's premium, that is 8,338,000 euros,’ write the authors.

Markus Hinterberger from Handelsblatt also knows that there is currently a buyer's market for luxury watches: ‘There has been a downward trend in prices for luxury watches for around two years.
Before that, however, there was an unprecedented upswing between 2020 and the beginning of 2022. Jakob Zeijl from the Cologne-based auction house van Ham speaks of the ‘coronavirus effect’. During the pandemic, many wealthy people invested their money in watches instead of other luxury goods."

With offshoots of Paper Positions and the Affordable Art Fair, Vienna is getting two new art fairs, reports Olga Kronsteiner in the Standard. If you set the bar so low (Affordable Art Fair), even Brisbane and London's Battersea district have art fairs.

Susanne Schreiber offers an introductory course on Art Basel in the Handelsblatt.

The Art Newspaper, Anny Shaw has reservations about the practices of some art market participants, which she calls ‘investment galleries’: “Beyond disrupting some of the characteristics of the traditional gallery model built on prestige and privileged connections, some so-called 'investment galleries' have caused an ethical stir. S&P Gallery was expelled from the Fine Art Trade Guild in 2022, according to a report on the financial website This Is Money, after the organisation received a ‘number of complaints’ about the gallery's conduct. S&P had claimed on its website that ‘benefits of using our art investment service include: Regulated by the Fine Art Guild so guaranteed provenance [sic]'. Daniel Tunkel, a partner at the London law firm Memery Crystal who specialises in financial regulation, points out that works of art are not themselves investments overseen by the UK's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). ‘Buying and selling art is not a regulated activity, nor is providing advice on art collection or art valuation,’ he says."

Tim Schneider reports on a class action lawsuit in the USA against Christie's for the theft of data in The Art Newspaper: ‘The complaint requests damages, including of the “actual, nominal, statutory, consequential and punitive” varieties, in an amount to be determined in a jury trial, as well as the payment of the plaintiff's legal expenses. It also seeks court orders that would require Christie's to undertake a long list of actions related to its client data and information security, including encrypting large tranches of its business-related data, removing sensitive personal information on its clients from cloud-based storage and conducting regular tests of its data security measures."

The legacy of alleged Russian avant-garde art from the Wiesbaden-based SNZ Galleries, which I reported on in the Handelsblatt and elsewhere from 2007, is apparently still floating around. George Nelson reports on Artnews about a dubious appearance of a painting by Kazimir Malevich from this source at a private event at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

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