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Kobel's Art Weekly

Spark Art Fair Vienna; photo Stefan Kobel
Spark Art Fair Vienna; photo Stefan Kobel
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 13 2022

The sanctions against Russia raise the question of whether, how and when works of art borrowed for exhibitions fall under them. The different answers of the Düsseldorf lawyer Philipp F. Hardung in the Legal Tribune Online may seem a bit dry to non-lawyers, but are quite exciting: "The works in the Morozov collection are thus on loan from public institutions - and these are not (yet) on the sanctions list. However, as the past weeks have proven, the factual situation is dynamic and sometimes changes from day to day. Therefore, if certain artworks in the Morozov collection were owned by legal entities under public law and they were included in the sanctions list, they would automatically be subject to the freezing requirement." With private lenders, however, the crackdown would be easier.

Probably in vain, some oligarchs tried to cash in on their art treasures, reports Ian Mohr in the tabloid New York Post: "'About six Russian oligarchs are trying to quietly sell major works by Picasso, Warhol, Jeff Koons, Modigliani, Kandinsky, Damien Hirst and Basquiat in the $30 million to $100 million range,' an art insider said. 'They are looking to cash out quickly as they are afraid the collections will be seized.' However, the source added that it'll be difficult for the Russian moguls to unload the art. So far, the galleries won't touch the stuff."

How much does the failure of Russian buyers affect the art market, and how likely is it that sanctions will be circumvented? As justified as the questions are, as small is the gain in knowledge that the readers of the FAS of March 27 owe to Dennis Kremer: "This is probably no longer so easy after the latest sanctions, especially since art and auction houses now have to carry out much stricter checks. But it shows that the discretion of art deals, which many houses virtually cultivate under the label 'private sales,' still tempts criminal activity." If as much attention were paid to the windy side of the real estate market as to the art market, London, Berlin and New York would probably have one less problem.

Austrian art collector Karlheinz Essl is auctioning more than 100 works from his private collection to benefit the Diakonie's Ukraine aid via the Dorotheum online until March 31, including a Schüttbild and a painting shirt by Hermann Nitsch for five-figure sums. No buyer's premium will be charged.

In Vienna, after its sensational debut last year, the Spark Art Fair has found a successful continuation, writes Niocole Scheyerer in the FAZ: "The open fair architecture not only takes into account the pandemic-related need for space, but also the galleries' desire for equally large stands. But the biggest ace up the Spark boss's sleeve is undoubtedly the booth rents, which at around 4500 Euros are only a third of the price at Viennacontemporary. The low costs open up the scope to show a younger generation that is still moderate in price. A total of 25 positions under the age of 40 are represented. Painting is the trump card at the Spark".

However, it is precisely this aspect that bothers Amira Ben Saoud of the Standard: "Because galleries are used to accommodating as many of their artists as possible in as little space as possible, practicality reigns, not creativity. At this fair, they would have had the chance to effectively stage a single position. Unfortunately, very few galleries seized this opportunity and dutifully covered their walls with flatware. The future of Spark will show whether more playful approaches develop here." I was in Vienna for Handelsblatt and Artmagazine.

MCH Group unveils the staffing tableau for its Fiac killer "Paris+, by Art Basel" in a press release. Kate Brown argues at Artnet: "The fair's run will butt right up against Frieze Week, which takes place between October 12 and 16. Historically, many collectors-and several dealers-have happily hopped the English Channel. But whether the ambitions of Paris+, by Art Basel might end up eclipsing the energy of Frieze Week, which has similarly city-wide events during its fairs, remains to be seen."

Should anyone still be indulging in any democratization fantasies through anything with crypto and NFTs: The Apecoin has become one of the most popular "currencies" of the so-called Ethereum whales with large holdings of Ether right off the bat, explains Dieter Petereit at t3n: "BAYC creator Yuga Labs wants the Apecoin to be understood as a 'primary token for the Bored Ape Yacht Club ecosystem as well as for future Yuga products and services'. The new asset will be managed by the Apecoin DAO and is intended to be the 'token for culture, games and commerce [that] serves to empower a decentralized community that is at the forefront of Web3.'"

Exploring museums' approach to issuing their own NFTs, Scott Reyburn for the New York Times: "Suse Anderson, an assistant professor of museum studies at George Washington University, said she was skeptical about museums becoming involved in the mania for NFTs. It risks being a gimmick rather than focusing on the work itself. We should be making resources as available to the public as we can,' Anderson said. Yet she acknowledged that there was currently a market for NFTs from museums. It may not last long, but this is a moment where there is a possibility for fund-raising and visibility,' she said. At the moment, that market is relatively small. Publicly funded galleries are wary of cryptocurrencies, and, for those immersed in that world, digitized old art doesn't have the speculative cool of 'native' NFTs, like CryptoPunks or Bored Apes, which can sell for millions. As yet, no museum NFTs have achieved attention-grabbing profits on resale platforms, such as OpenSea." It's most likely not sustainable, but you can make money with it. Sounds like a legitimate business model for museums.

Frauke Steffens exposed herself to the first gallery exhibition of physical artworks by Beeple for the FAZ: "The aesthetics are reminiscent of 'Robocop' or 'Mad Max'. Where naked women on their knees give their blood - symbol of data - to an oversized robot, Beeple has drawn inspiration from the science fiction genre. None of this is subtle. Nor is it made more impressive by the fact that such things from Beeple have so far only existed virtually in the form of image files on the Internet or as NFTs on the blockchain. Whereas a large format called 'Toxic Masculinity,' showing Bezos heads overgrown with male genitalia, might seem even more monstrous in a gallery than on a display."

Katya Kazakina tells the story about Andy Warhol's "Shot Sage Blue Marilyn," which is expected to fetch £200 million at Christie's in London in May, at Artnet.

A global mid-market empire where the sun never sets seems to be what Bonhams, with its owner Epiris, is aiming for. As Vivienne Chow reports at Artnet, the London-based company has now also swallowed the Danish auction house Bruun Rasmussen.

Olga Grimm-Weissert examines in the Handelsblatt how the ruling house of Qatar not only makes money but also politics with real estate and art in France: "Until now, Qatar was known for its three focal points: Universities - Museums - Sports in the Emirate. With the World Cup in Doha starting this November, this triad will reach a local climax. As there is much criticism of the World Cup in the run-up, cultural soft power in France is more than mere patronage. It is always also power politics."

Gina Thomas introduces the new head of the Old Masters department at Christie's Andrew Fletcher in the FAZ.

Anna Sorokin(a) (Delvey) now has an artist's career. Emily Palmer reports on her first exhibition "Free Anna Delvey" in the New York Times.

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