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Kobel's Art Weekly

Christie's website down due to hackers' attack
Christie's website down due to hackers' attack
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 20 2024

This year, Tefaf New York starts as a latecomer to Frieze, which is likely to find its audience primarily among residents of the Upper East Side. Barbara Kutscher is delighted in the Handelsblatt: “It would be easy to forget the current uncertainty in the market. But as the recently published ‘Art Market Update’ by Bank of America, lead partner of Tefaf, analyses, collectors are now retreating to secured positions and the best works by underrepresented artists. This should play into the hands of the fair, which is known for juried top works. Undaunted, some dealers are betting on the city's purchasing power with seven-figure prices.” However, the author also calls the Venus over Manhattan gallery, founded in 2012, ‘young’. The 100th anniversary of André Breton's Surrealist Manifesto, which was extensively celebrated by exhibitors, marks a paradigm shift at the fair, writes Martha Schwendener in the New York Times: “This is a bit of a switch for Tefaf, the grand old art fair started in Maastricht, the Netherlands, which started off as a place to buy deaccessioned museum pieces and bona fide old masters. The New York edition focuses on modern and contemporary art and even the handful of dealers here specialising in antiquities, jewellery or design seem to have followed the Surrealist theme.” Eileen Kinsella went on a celebrity hunt for Artnet: “Among the VIPs spotted in the crowd early on were top collector and Neue Galerie co-founder Ronald Lauder as well as news anchor Anderson Cooper, who has become a regular at the New York edition. Also spotted browsing the booths were entertainment giants and artists including Zach Braff, Leonardo DiCaprio, David Geffen, KAWS, Mark Ronson, and Martha Stewart.” Maximilíano Durón from Artnews found the event “tepid”: “While TEFAF prides itself on presenting objects from antiquity to today in all forms-visual arts, design and furniture, and jewellery-this edition appeared lackluster. Add to that the fact that the fair's floral arrangements, a signature of TEFAF, were also rather drab, lacking in the abundance of tulips that marked the fair's arrival in 2016, where the flowers defied gravity and the champagne and oysters were flowing.”

Hakim Bishara from Hyperallergic thinks it's time for the Independent Art Fair to finally grow up: “At Tribeca's trendy Spring Studios, I found an art fair in denial, desperately putting off this next stage of its life. It's like grey hair dyed a bit too dark. Maybe when the Independent turns 30 it'll finally accept itself as a trade fair. This year's edition also includes an inaugural talk series about such weighty issues as persecuted artists, art activism (without specifying which kind), and big-tech art censorship. Tickets cost up to $50. I wonder what makes the Independent the right venue for these solemn conversations. It's akin to corporate-style Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives that are designed to put a pretty face on an ugly system. No salvation will ever come from a pricey art fair. It is this inflated pretentiousness, combined with piles of mediocre and objectionable art, that laid the foundation for my displeasure with this year's Independent.” In terms of prices, it has arrived in the establishment anyway, says Carlie Porterfield in The Art Newspaper: “A survey of this edition's 89 exhibitors taken by organisers before the fair began found that about 28% of the works being offered in the fair are priced between $20,000 and $50,000. That represents a large jump from the 2023 iteration of the fair, when the biggest share of works (39%) were priced at $5,000 or less. It's a surprising figure considering there is still a considerable amount of trepidation surrounding the art market, with interest rates remaining high and collectors reining in spending, particularly on speculative segments like ultra-contemporary work.”

Christie's has been the victim of a hacker attack. Zachary Small reports in the New York Times: “Edward Lewine, a Christie's spokesman, said that a security issue had affected some of the company's systems, including its website. ‘We are taking all necessary steps to manage this matter, with the engagement of a team of additional technology experts,’ he said in a statement. ‘We will provide further updates to our clients as appropriate. The art world has faced an increasing number of cyberattacks in recent years. In January, a service provider that helped museums host their collections online and manage internal documents was targeted by hackers. Organisations including the Metropolitan Opera and the Philadelphia Orchestra have faced cyberattacks that hampered their ability to sell tickets online.” Such attacks usually involve ransomware, which is used by criminals to encrypt data and only release it again after a ransom has been paid. If this is the case, the criminals would have chosen the best strategic time, as the probability of payment is likely to be quite high just before the most important auction series of the season. If (customer) data is stolen, this is usually only noticed later or never and does not lead to losses. However, the auction house has developed an interim solution, which at least makes the current New York auctions available online.

Katya Kazakina looks ahead to a mediocre New York auction week for Artnet (paywall), with a special focus on the prominent consignors: “Another big auction season is upon us in New York, although this one feels slimmer than usual, without major collections, estates, or spectacularly expensive masterpieces. As a result, the houses had to put together these sales virtually lot by lot. Given the art market's decline in the face of persistently high interest rates and geopolitical unrest, sellers at the very top end of the market seemed reluctant to consign. Next week's sales carry the low estimate of $1.2 billion, down 8 per cent from the same series of auctions a year ago.” Anne Reimers breaks down the expected sales in the FAZ: “As far as sales expectations for the upcoming so-called New York Marquee Week are concerned, Sotheby's is aiming for a total turnover of 549.3 to 783.6 million dollars with 721 lots spread over five evening and day auctions. Only Christie's was able to land a prominent private collection and aims to realise 578 to 846 million with eight auctions and 925 lots. In comparison: a year ago, Christie's achieved a turnover of 922 million dollars, Sotheby's 799 million. Phillips‘ total estimate is between 113 and 163.6 million dollars for 305 lots in three auctions - well above the 108.2 million realised last May with 315 lots.” Margaret Carrigan, also at Artnet , sees this as a good time to get in: “’I'm advising my clients to hold their current inventory and consider adding pieces,' said Gardy St. Fleur, a collector and an advisor to many sports superstars based between New York and Paris. He added that the lower prices seen at auction as of late are more ‘accessible’ to collectors who may have been waiting a long time to get their hands on works by a canonical artist. ‘Based on where things are, I don't think [collectors] should sell,’ he added. ‘But it is a great time to buy. The reluctance to sell may have contributed to the relatively limited number of significant single-owner and estate collections up for sale this season, which have buoyed auction houses‘ bottom lines the last few years.”

Shortly before the auction, Ketterer acquired a painting by Alexej von Jawlensky in Munich, which is likely to be the most expensive lot of the season in Germany at seven to ten million euros. The FAZ has a report on this by Ursula Scheer.

Ebay is full of art forgeries, reports Dalya Alberge in the Guardian and presents an expert who has discovered this with the help of artificial intelligence. However, a comparable result could be achieved with just a trace of natural intelligence.

Berlin gallery owners Jan and Tina Wentrup open a branch in Venice. Susanne Schreiber visited them for Handelsblatt: “They are now opening a new chapter in spectacularly beautiful rooms with a small guest flat. ‘We are creating a counter-programme to the hectic art market. It is now running hollow with its trade fair business,' says Wentrup, explaining the choice of location. ‘Venice slows down every visitor with its canals. Here you can calm down and concentrate on the art. More international galleries for contemporary art are moving to the lagoon city, he explains. Venice is no longer just a magnet for private collectors in the years of the art biennale.”

According to Julia Halperin in The Art Newspaper, the Los Angeles-based gallery owner Nino Mier allegedly took advantage of some of the artists he represented with manipulated invoices: “Nino Mier, the founder of one of the world's fastest-growing galleries, regularly altered records to increase the company's share of sales at the expense of artists from 2018 to 2019, according to documents seen by The Art Newspaper and interviews with four former staff members. A review of 21 invoices to clients and corresponding statements to artists, all dated within this two-year period, reveals discrepancies ranging from as little as $425 to as much as $7,000 each. The documents show that on a number of occasions the gallery, then encompassing three locations in Los Angeles, charged collectors higher prices and told artists the amounts had been lower. The business, the four former employees say, pocketed the difference.”

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