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Kobel's Art Weekly

Expo Chicago 2023; photo Stefan Kobel
Expo Chicago 2023; photo Stefan Kobel
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 16 2023

"Back in full force" with "genually enthusiastic collectors" is Expo Chicago, as is actually always the case with any art fair with Eileen Kinsella for Artnet. Carlie Porterfield finds PR-speak of the same tenor for The Art Newspaper. Christiane Meixner reports in a more balanced way in the Tagesspiegel: "There are, however, also numerous works in which the black protagonists hardly change the sedate language of the pictures. Not even when they - covered with beads and fabric - switch to super kitsch mode and pretend to oscillate between pop and discourse. Much of this will no longer matter in a few years. But now it is gnawing away at the impression of the fair. And it ensures that people take refuge in stands by Yares Art, for example, where the tried and tested guard hangs out." I was in Chicago for the Handelsblatt and Artmagazine.

"Money in Art" is the name of an exhibition at the Monnaie de Paris that explores the interplay between money and art, with legendary gallerist Paul Durand-Ruel as the anchor figure. Farah Najeri visited it for the New York Times: "The exhibition's essential thesis is that art and economics have always been closely intertwined, and that to understand the characteristics of art in modern times, you need to follow the money. [...] After the Industrial Revolution, when funds were needed to pay for factories, railways and mines, the state took a back seat, and capital was provided by the financial sector. Before long, it became the lifeline of the art world, too. Suddenly, in France, speculation was everywhere: in the first casinos, where gambling was openly authorized, and at the Paris Bourse, the stock exchange, which was inaugurated in 1826. 'This temple of the modern era gave rise to completely new types of behaviour,' [curator Jean-Michel] Bouhours said. People placed bets. They took risks.' We're no longer talking about a real economy, but about a financial economy, based on gambling and speculation,' he said." Sounds familiar somehow. There is nothing new under the sun.

Art dealer Jane Kallir discusses the effects of inflation on the art market in The Art Newspaper: “For the time being, however, many collectors, spooked by recent economic and political uncertainties, are either buying less expensive works or not buying at all. The longer this trend continues, the greater the possibility that it will topple the art-market's top-heavy structure, which is sustained by a tiny sliver of super-wealthy collectors, together with the auction houses and mega-dealers who serve them."

It seems like every week there's an interview with Art Basel boss Noah Horowitz somewhere. In the interview with Marcus Woeller for the WeLT of 16 April, he also comments on inflation, among other things: "We have seen - and will continue to see - investments in art during past periods of inflation, especially in the higher-priced sector. After all, the current art market report by Art Basel and UBS shows that the top end of the market is growing. But Art Basel doesn't just cater to the million-dollar segment. Our clients are noticing a direct impact of inflation on business expenses. The costs of shipping, travel and transport are rising sharply at the moment. Small galleries in particular are now challenged to reduce their expenses and think carefully about how they make investments."

Whether art as an asset class is past its prime is examined by Scott Reyburn for The Art Newspaper. According to Guy Jennings, senior director at the Fine Art Group, "collectors' focus on young art makes financial sense. 'The money follows supply', he adds. 'There are plenty of artists and there's plenty of trading going on. But who knows if these artists will be of interest in ten years' time.' Right. So there you have the current state of the art as an alternative asset class. The famous-name trophies are overpriced. So too, probably, are most of the works by those must-have young names. And it's getting more difficult to sell the stuff in between. But what price can you put on the lifestyle?"

So even if Gerhard Richter's "4096 Farben" may not trigger a bidding war, the return for the consignor is still likely to be considerable, as Christiane Fricke writes for the Handelsblatt: "Sotheby's expects 18 to 25 million dollars for the artist's main work, which was consigned from an anonymous private collection. In May 2004, Christie's had estimated it at 3 to 4 million dollars and sold it for 3.7 million dollars. As recently as October 2022, Sotheby's auctioned Richter's first non-representational colour panel painting, '192 Colours', for £18.3 million."

The market for antiquarian comics is portrayed by Peter Dittmer in the WELTKUNST (paywall) : "No market analyses or statistics exist on the global or national sales of antiquarian comic books and original drawings, which cause a sensation at auctions with surcharges in the millions, but which also generate considerable turnover with a plethora of sales in the three-digit range. Yet the collecting field would certainly be a challenge for economists, considering that an issue of the first issue of Action Comics featuring Superman, which cost 10 cents in June 1938, sold for $3.55 million in January 2023."

The penny dreadful of a slew of fake Basquiats should be cleared up, reports Ursula Scheer in the FAZ: "Now [the declutterer Michael] Barzman is coming clean: He not only invented the origin of the artworks from the warehouse, he confessed to the investigators, but also created the paintings with an accomplice 'J. F.', whereby the other one mainly wielded the brush. This had taken five to thirty minutes in each case, after which they had exposed the paintings to wind and weather to let them age. If this is true, not only is the embarrassment for the museum perfect, but also for several experts who want to have seen authenticity."

Eberhard Kornfeld, an icon of the art market, died last week at the age of almost 100. Ursula Scheer pays tribute to the auctioneer in the FAZ: "It is probably also thanks to Kornfeld that Gurlitt appointed the Kunstmuseum Bern as his heir. Kornfeld himself professed to have other wishes for the majority of his collection: it should be put on the market instead of in museums, which he once called 'mortuaries of art'." Susanne Schreiber emphasises his down-to-earthness in the Handelsblatt: "Eberhard Kornfeld always had his eye not only on the potent collectors who could go to the highest prices. He also appreciated those who - like him - enjoyed art on paper, which trades in smaller coin than paintings." The art historian Gerd Presler has written a detailed obituary for the WELTKUNST.

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