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After half a year of seat-vacancy, Art Basel in Basel has a new director in Maike Cruse. Berliners lament the departure of the director of Gallery Weekend Berlin, including Marcus Woeller in the WeLT: "The appointment is a good decision for the world - but bad for Berlin. A big gap needs to be filled here. Because in the capital, Maike Cruse has been in charge of the Gallery Weekend for the past ten years and made it the centre of attraction for the art scene par excellence." Ursula Scheer explains the hierarchy in the company in the FAZ: "Superior to the directors on site is Vincenzo de Bellis as the director generally responsible for fairs and exhibition platforms, above whom in turn ranks the CEO Noah Horowitz, who operates from New York. This is the hierarchy at the top of Art Basel in the year following the departure of Marc Spiegler, who had led the exhibition company as sole global director from 2012 and had also become a member of the board of parent company MCH in 2019." I spoke to Berlin gallery owner and GWB advisory board member Jochen Meyer about the change for the Handelsblatt and for the Tagesspiegel I try to classify the choice.
Art Karlsruhe's founder Ewald Karl Schrade is apparently leaving the fair as he led it, according to Daniela Gregori's report at Artmagazine: "The fact that the Mr. fair curator is also a gallery owner is quite acceptable, but that he is honoured as a collector with a 400m2 presentation is rather surprising, especially since the presentation follows the concept of a show depot rather than comprehensible collection criteria. Well, one can also understand this as an appreciation of his tireless commitment to 20th editions. This commitment sometimes went so far as to interfere with editorially marked texts; this time, too, there was probably something to complain about and improve - at least a 'correction' had to be printed and specially laid out for one monopol-spezial issue. The differences? Marginally incense crumbs."
Qualitatively, on the other hand, not so much seems to have changed in the two decades. Even if the trade fair reports are behind the paywall, the headlines "Everything so beautifully colourful here" by Birgit Möthrath in the Rheinpfalz and "Art that doesn't hurt" by Adrienne Braun in the Stuttgarter Zeitung are enough to give an idea of what is on offer.
It is therefore time to cut old ties, Brita Sachs writes in the FAZ: "The upcoming generation change in the management of Art Karlsruhe offers the opportunity to rethink concepts or take new directions. The fact that changes are due is obvious when you walk through the fair: this huge villa of four halls needs to be tidied up, say critical exhibitors, i.e. the number of participants could be reduced, the selection could be handled more strictly. Because with the motto 'something for everyone' you risk a lack of high quality in the long run with a surplus of mediocrity."
Christiane Meixner found some good galleries in Karlsruhe for the Tagesspiegel: "They effortlessly raise the fair to a level that will make it an attraction for collectors even after the handover to the new director duo Olga Blaß and Kristian Jarmuschek. But the two cannot avoid a relaunch. Reduction and concentration are the order of the day. Even if that means for 2024: 'Honey, I shrunk the fair.'"
Only Susanne Schreiber searches for flattering words in the Handelsblatt on the occasion of the impresario's farewell: "Art Karlsruhe, which runs until Sunday, is a fair that focuses on art for normal earners. Nevertheless, it is also visited by numerous private collectors and representatives of corporate collections from Germany's southwest. The range of styles and tastes is broad, everyone will find something here."
Is there a derivatives market emerging in the art trade? Judd Tully reveals in The Art Newspaper the latest developments around the guarantied bids of the major auction houses: "The market for third-party guarantees-which offer auction houses and sellers a useful tool to hedge their bets-is showing no signs of slowing, reaching a likely record of $3.4bn in 2022. But a darker, lesser-known market has been discovered by The Art Newspaper whereby third-party backers are selling off fractions of their guarantees to anonymous partners, sharing the risks as well as any upside. Some of the biggest names in the game include the Nahmad family of art traders, the mega dealer Larry Gagosian and the billionaire collector José Mugrabi, all of whom are known to routinely offer third-party guarantees, or irrevocable bids, on works in exchange for a negotiated financial fee from the auction house. While Gagosian and Mugrabi are unlikely to need helping hands for their multi-million-dollar guarantees, the pair are understood to trade guarantees back and forth between them." It is also surprising that the same names keep coming up in this and similar contexts.
Christian Wermke explores the art market for NFTs after the crypto winter in the Handelsblatt: "In the future, the Berlin gallery Office Impart will also have a permanent place between all the physical works where digital art will be shown. Anne Schwanz and Johanna Neuschäffer already curated an online-only exhibition in 2020 via the platform 'Common Garden'. 'We believe in digital art made tradable through NFT technology,' says Schwanz. For her, the industry is one of the few areas where blockchain technology is finding meaningful application. [...] Interest in digital art is growing, but there are still many prejudices, she says. I can buy a poster by Gerhard Richter, but that's not the same as owning the work,' Schwanz explains. It's the same in the digital world. 'Sure, you can save the photo by right-clicking on it, but then I'm not the owner, I don't have a certificate.' Schwanz also collects NFTs himself. There is a lot that she doesn't want to have physically. 'Because it works best digitally.'"
Sotheby's is trying to revive the NFT market by opening it up to private sales, reports Shanti Escalante-Di Mattei at Artnews: "Sotheby's Metaverse, the auction house's NFT marketplace, is getting an upgrade. The marketplace will now expand to include not just primary market offerings but also secondary sales, through which collectors can sell directly to each other. [...] Yet it will operate quite differently from secondary NFT marketplaces like OpenSea, where any user can upload any NFTs they want. In the initial phases of the new Metaverse, collectors will be able to list works from only 13 artists. [...] It's a strategy that will allow Metaverse to skirt some of the issues that other secondary platforms faced. OpenSea was constantly inundated with plagiarized, low-quality, or stolen NFT projects that left collectors feeling burned not just by scammers but by a marketplace that could offer little in the way of compensation for lost investments. By restricting the works that collectors can list, Metaverse will be better able to avoid dealing with bad actors while keeping the quality of works on offer high."
A first conviction for insider trading in NFTs is also reported by Shanti Escalante-De Mattei at Artnews: "Nate Chastain, a former manager at the marketplace OpenSea, has been found guilty in the first insider trading case in the NFT ecosystem. In the fall of 2021, OpenSea users noticed that Chastain was using anonymous Ethereum wallets to buy up works of artists who were due to be featured on the marketplace's welcome page. In the hot NFT market of 2021, a feature from OpenSea usually led to an overall spike in the valuation of an artist's work." Let's hope that this legal opinion doesn't spill over into the art market!
Restitution of looted colonial property has its own pitfalls, as Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin reports in the FAZ (paywall): "The still incumbent Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced in a public statement on 23 March 2023 that he had transferred ownership of all Benin artefacts looted from the royal palace in 1897 and collected elsewhere in the Benin Empire to the Oba of Benin. He recognises him as the owner and has therefore transferred to him, by means of a presidential decree, all related rights, including custody and administration - and this 'to the exclusion of any other person or institution', as the Nigerian newspaper 'This Day' quotes the decree. This applies to all already returned and all further expected restitutions of Benin objects worldwide; in future, they must be handed over directly to the Oba as the original owner. All artefacts are to be housed at the discretion of the Oba in the King's Palace or
in another location in Benin City or elsewhere, as long as their security is guaranteed." säd (Florian Sädler?) explains in the WeLT how this surprising volte-face came about: "According to the Nigerian media, a personal conflict between the Oba and the governor of the Benin region, Godwin Obaseki, one of the staunchest supporters of the museum project, lies in the background of the transfer of ownership. Obaseki's grandfather had served the British as interim regent after the destruction of Benin City in 1897 and the ouster of the then Oba. Royalist supporters of Ewuare II now accuse the governor of continuing to collaborate with opponents of royalty." The experts at the relevant auction houses have probably already picked out flight connections to Abuja.