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Kobel's Art Weekly

Elle Art "We never learn"; free via
Elle Art "We never learn"; free via
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 20 2023

Institutions and the market are extending the discourse of decolonisation eastwards, explains Katie Marie Davies in the Russian exile portal Meduza: "It wasn't until Moscow's 2022 invasion of Ukraine that the topic of Russian colonialism converged with broader conversations about decolonization, but it catapulted into the public consciousness quickly. Previously, decolonization was one of the issues that we would come across as historians of Eastern Europe but didn't quite know where our place [was],' says Marta Zboralska, a Departmental Lecturer in Art History at Oxford University. While many Eastern European artists recognized an overlap between their experiences and those of other colonized communities, they found themselves in an uncertain position in discussions about decolonization that mainly centered around race and the 'Global South,' Zboralska explains. I think this sort of ambiguous position has been a source of confusion and some debate about where we are and how we can adopt these methods,' she says."

Frauke Steffens visited Tefaf New York, which is particularly popular with residents of the Upper East Side, for the FAZ: "This publicity can only help the fair, which has just been reduced from two to one date a year. New Yorkers who want to collect or view art can choose from several events in May: Frieze is undoubtedly the best known, but Focus, Nada or Volta also court customers. The Chelsea district offers the most fairs. Not far away, in Hudson Yards, Frieze starts in a few days."

Barbara Kutscher explains in the Handelsblatt why Tefaf New York will continue to exist and the difference to its mother in Maastricht: "Launched in 2016 with two events annually - one for contemporary and one for historical works - the fair has been reduced to the May edition since the beginning of the pandemic. But it intends to stick with it, as evidenced by last year's contract renewal with the landmark Park Avenue Armory. [...] On two floors, 91 dealers from twelve countries also show what interests the international collectors who have arrived for the big auction season: Blue chips from modern to contemporary, design, exquisite jewels, some antique and tribal art. 'Old master collectors prefer to come to the fair in Maastricht, which is almost three times as big. The concentration there is important for museums,' says Hidde van Seggelen, president of the Tefaf Executive Committee."

The large number of fairs taking place in parallel seems to overwhelm some editors of online magazines. Artnews limits itself in each case to the usual picture spreads of the "best stands" with a bit of preliminary banter. The Taipei Dangdei is worth just four sentences to Karen K. Ho. But they are sobering: "At the fair's opening, there was quiet, relaxed excitement as local collectors took time to view the fair's 90 booths, including those from blue-chip enterprises like David Zwirner, Gagosian, and Whitestone Gallery. A few dealers reported first-day sales [...] by early afternoon." Angelica Villa prefaces her photo tour of the Independent with almost something like an article: "As with previous editions, Elizabeth Dee, the fair's founder and director, said, 'Every year we kind of grow this audience exponentially'. According to Dee, the fair expected around 2,000 VIP attendees to attend Thursday morning. 'We really choreograph that first three hours carefully,' she said, explaining that giving collectors and dealers the time to have discussions in those opening hours is key." Who doesn't wish for exponential growth every year!

After years of fancy figuration, the trend could now once again be going in the other direction, Benjamin Sutton observed for The Art Newspaper at a hip fair in New York: "At the Future Fair, which opened to VIPs on Wednesday (10 May) for its third in-person edition, painting is without question the dominant medium. But what manner of painting-the bright, figurative style that has dominated the contemporary art market for the better part of a decade, or more process-driven abstraction-is up for debate. There are strong examples of both, and plenty of sculpture too, but amid the stands filled with canvases featuring popping portraits, irreverent domestic scenes and stylised art historical allusions, abstract works may invite closer inspection and more sustained interest. I'm excited for the pendulum to swing back to abstraction,' says Joey Piziali, the director and co-founder of San Francisco-based Romer Young Gallery".

Christie's kicked off the New York spring auctions with a successful sale of the estate of Condé Nast owner Si Newhouse, reports Kelly Crow in the Wall Street Journal: "There is a backlog of estate material in this spring's sales, partly because Mr. Allen's estate took up so much room in last fall's auction catalogues. Caroline Sayan, an art adviser with advisory firm Cadell, said more estates are also expected to hit the marketplace in the coming years as a generation of postwar and baby boomer collectors die and millennials make their mark. Ms Sayan said a steady pipeline of estates is typically a boon to auctions because such troves have often been hidden away for years-but they are landing as the marketplace is also undergoing a generational taste shift among younger buyers who want a broader canon of artists."

Charlie Porterfield captures the market sentiment ahead of the auction week for The Art Newspaper: "New York auction houses are projecting their marquee spring sales could bring in more than $2.2bn, despite worries that the art market may be cooling, both for contemporary work deemed risky by collectors in times of economic uncertainty and for the most expensive works that consignors may be holding back given the uncertain macroeconomic picture. Notably absent this month are any works with nine-figure estimates, or even estimates in the high eights. [...] Dealers say that factors such as war, failing banks, an uncertain political outlook and rising interest rates aren't stopping wealthy collectors from buying art altogether, but acknowledge that the jittery economy may keep them from repeating the record-breaking bids of the past few rounds of major auctions."

Well-known New York art consultant Lisa Schiff is facing fraud charges, reports Rhea Nayyar for Hyperallergic: "It was only after an in-person confrontation last week, May 8, that Schiff allegedly told Grossman's spouse that the money wasn't there and that they should contact her attorney. According to the lawsuit, Schiff later doubled down over text, apologizing and saying, 'It's just complicated. The lawsuit claims the Ghenie incident is 'part of a much larger Ponzi scheme' in which Schiff allegedly takes money from one client to pay another in order to fund her 'lavish lifestyle'."

The FAZ reports the seizure of art worth several million euros on the yacht of a Russian oligarch in Hamburg: "After an initial search of the ship at the beginning of May, the Public Prosecutor's Office and the Federal Criminal Police Office announced that 'an entrepreneur from the Russian Federation is being investigated on suspicion of violating the Foreign Trade and Payments Act'. The yacht had been searched specifically for works of art or other objects of high value. According to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur, the yacht in question is the luxury yacht 'Luna', which the BKA attributes to the Russian businessman Farkhad Akhmedov."

Ursula Scheer takes the annual Europol initiative "Pandora", which has once again led to the seizure of thousands of objects, as an opportunity to point out the dangers of the illicit art trade in the FAZ: "Cultural goods are hot commodities, the illegal trade in them is a mega-business: according to estimates by the FBI and UNESCO, the annual turnover of the worldwide black market for art and antiquities is ten billion dollars, which puts the black market business right behind the illegal drug and arms trade. Organised crime goes hand in hand with all three. Stolen art and antiquities help finance mafia activities, terror and war - and profit from armed conflict themselves." Such reports regularly raise more questions than they answer. For example, about the horrendous sums that are allegedly being transacted. The FBI itself mantra-like reports an annual volume of 4 to 6 billion dollars . But even this much lower estimate was convincingly questioned already ten years ago by Mark Durney in the International Journal of Cultural Property.

Susanne Schreiber shows in the Handelsblatt how private art foundations can also be set up by companies, using the example of the newly opened Bailly Foundation on Lake Lugano: "It is unusual to commission works for an exhibition, in this case several for the garden. It is also unusual that the fashion brand Bally does not buy recognisable works of art from the market star. Instead of cultivating a collection, according to the NZZ, it currently pays 120,000 Swiss francs a year in rent to the city of Lugano and relies on a wide-ranging cultural programme in the Villa Heleneum. In foregoing a representative corporate collection while maintaining a presence through exhibitions, performances and events, the Bally Foundation is reminiscent of the Kunsthalle Kai 10 at Düsseldorf harbour. In Düsseldorf, too, the initiating entrepreneur and collector Monika Schnetkamp does not want the protégés from her private collection to be celebrated. Her Arthena Art Foundation has been supporting young art since 2008 by making relevant works visible and placing them in contexts."

Sabine Spindler explains the changes in catalogues raisonné, which are important not least for the art trade, in her review of the "Handbuch Werkverzeichnis, Oeuvrekatalog, Catalogue raisonné" for the Handelsblatt: "As a scholarly genre, the catalogue raisonné has undergone drastic changes. The time of the attributionist popes is over. The hermeticism of the printed word is being transformed into complex digital stores of knowledge. The comprehensive approach is an important feature in times of digitisation. Linking to databases of institutions are not only possible, but scholarly standard."

On the death of art critic Thomas Wulffen, Raimar Stange writes at Monopol: "He was, in a positive sense, a 'driven man' in the broad field of contemporary art and since the mid-1980s has set decisive impulses there that can still be felt today in the 'operating system of art'. Thomas Wulffen himself coined the term at the end of the 1980s."

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