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Kobel's Art Weekly

Stable diffusion, Prompt: Donald Trump caricature with big Chanukah lamps at Mar-A-Lago interior
Stable diffusion, Prompt: Donald Trump caricature with big Chanukah lamps at Mar-A-Lago interior
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 30 2023

In his half-year review for the Handelsblatt, Christian Herchenröder does not only consider the very big auction houses: "This half-year, not only the turnover, but also changes in the corporate structure of long-established houses, first and foremost Hôtel Drouot in Paris, have shaped the market. Two Parisian investment firms, Groupe Chevrillon and Vesper Investissement, have bought a 30 per cent stake in the oldest French auction house, after the half-year figures had risen by 14 per cent to 338 million euros. At the British firm Bonhams, which last year acquired the international auction houses Bukowskis (Stockholm), Bruun Rasmussen (Copenhagen), Skinner (Boston) and Cornette de Saint Cyr (Paris), half-year figures rose by 32 per cent. At $552 million, the house achieved a proud growth rate with its network in a world market shrinking in top pieces."

Phillips is drawing conclusions from the downturn, notes Stephanie Dieckvoss for the Handelsblatt: "Phillips did not submit its 2021 figures to the UK's Company House register until March 2023. As 'The Guardian' reported at the time, the auditors expressed doubts about whether the auction house could meet its debt obligations in the long term. In any case, it is dependent on guarantees from its owners, which puts the house in a precarious situation. Salvation does not seem to be coming from contemporary art auctions. Instead, the house announced a change in strategy: The future profit will now come from jewellery and jewels. It was only in May that Benoît Repellin was hired as the new head of the jewellery department. He operates out of Geneva, where Phillips will hold annual jewellery auctions from November."

The auction houses Lempertz (Cologne) and Ketterer (Munich) have fought it out in court in the dispute over the auction of a Pechstein painting that may or may not have been seized due to persecution, Susanne Schreiber reports in the Handelsblatt: "Ketterer demanded that 'only works that are marketable' be put up for auction. The title of his statement is: 'Auction houses must not pass on responsibility to customers'. Hanstein did not put up with this, he wanted the injunction to stop the damage to his reputation. The parties agreed on a settlement before the Munich Regional Court on 18 July. A spokeswoman for the court confirmed this. Silence was agreed on further details."

Art Basel Miami Beach has a new director, according to a press release and countless reports, among others in the FAZ, the Handelsblatt, The Art Newspaper, Artnews, Artnet.

The Berlin Senate sets a good example in promoting the art trade and subsidises up to two fair participations per year for galleries based there with up to 12,000 euros each, according to a press release from the Landesverband Berliner Galerien LVBG.

Timo Feldhaus strolls through Bad Gastein for Monopol. He even has a short paragraph to spare for the fair there: "For the second time, the art fair Art:Badgastein is taking place on three floors in the historic power station by the thundering waterfall, and it certainly works, as gallery owner Zeller van Almsick confirms at the end of the first day. A highlight are the feminist works by Ulrike Rosenbach in the Giesela Clement Gallery, and there is a bit of design too. The wonderful green dining table from the 80s by Maurice Barilone, of which there are said to be only five in the whole world, has found a new owner here." However, the Viennese gallery owner van Almsick's first name is Cornelis.

In the special interest portal Financial Planning (free article if you register with any email address), lawyer Matthew Erskine gives US citizens tips for selling, giving away or inheriting art: "Unlike real estate investments, there are no tax-free exchanges of artwork. But there are some alternatives to defer the payment of the capital gains tax."

The dispute over the Guelph treasure in the US courts is probably finally over, writes Patrick Bahners in the FAZ of 18 July: "As a legal fiction, a subsequently established expatriation is supposed to keep the back door to the American legal process open with conceptual force. With these constructions the Court of Appeals in Washington did not deal with these constructions. The three-judge panel, which announced its unanimous decision on Friday, referred to the five lengthy rulings already in the case and got by with five pages because it confined itself to procedural law: From the outset, the plaintiffs would have had to show that the reason they appealed to the American courts was because their ancestors were not German."

A right to be deleted from the Lost Art database does not exist, according to a ruling by the Federal Supreme Court, according to Legal Tribune Online: "After all, the purpose of the Lost Art database is to bring together the former owners or their heirs and the current owners," ruled the Federal Supreme Court. The search report only referred to the former ownership of the work of art and did not make any statement about the current ownership, which is why the right of ownership of the art collector who filed the claim could not be impaired. According to the Federal Supreme Court, the same applies to the entry of the painting in Interpol's database of wanted persons. This registration was also not connected with any statement that the trustees considered and represented themselves as the owner of the painting. Even if the trustees had in mind that the trust could be the owner under other legal systems, and the trustees wanted to exert pressure in this way, their notification still did not constitute a claim of ownership under German law."

In a bizarre case, Israel is so far trying in vain to get antique objects returned from the US, Alex Greenberger at Artnews repeats a report from Haaretz (paywall) : "According to the Haaretz report, it's not entirely clear how these items got to Mar-a-Lago or if Trump even knew they were there. Members of the Israel Antiquities Authority said they had tried again to obtain the antiquities but had never been successful." Even the Hamburger Abendblatt finds the affair worthy of a story by Maria Sterkl: "It isn't entirely clear how these objects made their way to Mar-a-Lago, or if Trump even knew that they may have been there, based on the Haaretz report. Members of the Israeli Antiquities Authority claimed they had made attempts to obtain the antiquities once more, but said they had never been successful."

Artnet news from the summer slump:
By Eileen Kinsella: "French-Israeli telecom magnate [and owner of Sotheby's] Patrick Drahi is in the headlines once again as news emerged this week that his Altice cable company co-founder and former COO, Armando Pereira, was detained in Portugal and remains in custody amid a sweeping corruption investigation. Subsequently, Alexandre Fonseca, chairman of Altice USA and co-CEO of Altice Group, removed himself from all executive and non-executive duties at the company. Fonseca resigned from the board of Altice USA on July 15, according to an SEC filing. [...] The involvement of executives at the Drahi-owned multinational has left some with questions about what the implications are for Sotheby's."

From Annie Armstrong: "Art collector and proprietor of New York's Venus Over Manhattan gallery Adam Lindemann was arrested in Montauk on July 5 for criminal trespass in the third degree, a misdemeanor, and harassment in the second degree, according to police records published by the East Hampton Press. Lindemann, who owns a house nicknamed 'Eothen' in Montauk that used to belong to Andy Warhol, 'entered a private property-through an open driveway gate with a 'No Trespassing' sign on it-and went into a building used as an art gallery without permission,' the report said. According to Lindemann's lawyer, the art gallery mentioned in the record is The Ranch, which is owned by Max Levai, former Marlborough staffer and son of megadealer Pierre Levai. Levai could not immediately be reached for comment."

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