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Kobel's Art Weekly

Irina Goryacheva War&Peace; free via
Irina Goryacheva War&Peace; free via
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 21 2024

In the run-up to the New York auction week, Ulrike Knöfel tries her hand at art market bashing in the very best BILD style in Der Spiegel, with Magnus Resch spreading banalities as insider knowledge as a key witness. The author does not make herself any more credible with the prediction: ‘This season, the work of graffiti painter Jean-Michel Basquiat will make a big splash.’ As a new discovery, so to speak. It almost doesn't matter that she turns Lucio Fontana into a Lucia.

Summing up the auction week, Barbara Kutscher in the Handelsblatt gives the all-clear: ‘The positive flip side of the coin: the houses did not have to authorise massive guarantee sums to lure collections away from the competition. After the first three evening auctions at Sotheby's, Phillips and Christie's this week, it must be said that the auction houses have their finger firmly on the pulse of the market under difficult market conditions. The excellent sales rates of around 90 per cent are proof of this.’

The smallest of the three auction houses had the most expensive work of art of the week, reports Anne Reimers in the FAZ: ‘Phillips sold the most expensive work of art of the season: Jean-Michel Basquiat's “Untitled (ELMAR)” (40/60 million) realised 40.2 million dollars. In total, the auction house's ‘Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale’ realised 86.3 million dollars with 25 lots sold out of 28 on offer. The expectation was between 75 and 110 million. Only four lots were secured with irrevocable bids.’. At this point, it should be pointed out once again that the estimated prices are meant without premium, but the results lists always include the premium. The top lot therefore did not reach the lower estimate price limit.

Julia Halperin and Zachary Small explain why good sales quotas are not necessarily a sign of a stable market in their detailed analysis for the New York Times: ‘The third-party guarantee, which became a popular risk-avoidance tool after the 2008 financial crisis, is playing an increasingly critical role in today's jittery art market. (Consider it the art-market equivalent of a put option.) Last week, auction houses secured outside investors to support a vast majority of financial guarantees offered to sellers. Those investors were behind every guaranteed work in Phillips's modern and contemporary evening sale on May 14 - commitments roughly equivalent to two-thirds of the auction's total value. At the Christie's and Sotheby's evening sales, 105 of the 117 works with guarantees were backed by third parties. [...] The phenomenon is ‘almost a requirement for selling right now,’ the former auction executive Caroline Sayan said. What many have noticed this year is that the pool of potential guarantors is growing beyond the typical hedge-fund honchos. Dealers are joining, and the Toledo Museum of Art recently admitted to serving as a guarantor at auction.’

The best summary of the evening auction at Sotheby's is provided by Karen K. Ho and Alex Greenberger at Artnews: ‘After three hours, anyone who stayed until the end of the sale was probably hungry. But instead of the usual assortment of cheese, crackers, and charcuterie available for guests, there were only empty champagne glasses. When ARTnews asked a Sotheby's staffer about this change, they simply replied, ‘The market has changed.’

The highlight of the auctions at Christie's was the Rosa de la Cruz auction, which Brian Boucher reports on Artnews: ‘The sale brought a hammer total of $28.1 million against an estimate from $25 million to $37 million. Eight works-almost a third of them-were priced at $1 million or above. Bidding was very lively both in the room and on the phone, with clients bidding via specialists. Every work was guaranteed to sell, 17 of them by third parties. ‘Of course the most talked about consignor is the liquidation of the de la Cruz Foundation, said [art adviser Ralph] De Luca in an email, ’which sadly reinstates that foundations ARE NOT museums and should not be given access to primary works like they are. The de la Cruzes were often on the receiving end of major discounts from dealers. During a brief break before the 21st-century sale, one adviser, speaking anonymously, called the de la Cruz results ‘depressing’ despite the deep bidding, saying that the family had plainly priced the works to move.’

Susanne Schreiber and Sabine Spindler have compiled the top pieces of the German auction houses for the Handelsblatt: ‘German Expressionism takes centre stage at Grisebach, Ketterer, Karl & Faber and Lempertz. What else is slumbering in national and international private collections, market connoisseurs ask themselves in view of the spring offerings from Ketterer Kunst, the house that presents the most substantial offerings.’

Nicole Scheyerer took a look at the catalogues of the Dorotheum in Vienna for the FAZ.

Cybil Huichen Chou has mainly positive things to say about the Taipei Dangdai fair with its 78 exhibitors this year for Artnews: ‘Those figures are slightly down from 2023, when 90 dealers participated. Fair co-director Robin Peckham, however, cautioned not to read too much into that shift, as Taipei Dangdai, and other fairs in Asia, are primarily working to serve their local scenes in a fine-tuned way. ‘The entire Asian art market has become so complex that it was no longer being efficiently served by Hong Kong alone,’ Peckham told ARTnews.’ The affirmative tenor runs through the rather detailed text. A minimum of critical distance and analysis would be helpful for everyone - the readers, the media, the author and ultimately the fair itself.

The war in Ukraine also pervades the first edition of NADA in Warsaw, reports Aga Sablinska on Artnet: ‘Despite the positive political and cultural shifts in Poland, the geopolitical climate of Eastern Europe remains tense. War rages just across Poland's border in Ukraine as Russia's invasion, launched in February 2022, continues to pose a threat to the entire region. As NADA Villa Warsaw is one of the biggest art events in the region, the war and other geopolitical issues seep through the exhibition.’

Chinma Johnson-Nwosu reports on the turbulence in Africa's two largest art markets - Nigeria and South Africa - in The Art Newspaper: ‘Naira uncertainty soon reached a point where businesses in Lagos began issuing invoices with three- to five-day windows, says Ugoma Ebilah, founder of the gallery Bloom Art. Indeed, many galleries in Lagos, including her own, began charging in dollars. ‘It was a difficult decision because I know the dangers,’ she says. ‘The more we dollarise our economy, the worse [the naira] gets. At first the dollar trend was ‘a bit of a snooty thing among Lagos gallerists but it soon became a necessity’. Not least for gallerists seeking financial stability. But for artists too who began petitioning for gallery payment in the US currency. ‘Everything the artists need: paints, canvases... are imported,’ Ebilah explains.’

‘Gallery doom?’ is what 3sat dramatically calls its exploration of ‘how young artists are using Instagram to shake up the art market next Saturday: ’[Johanna] Dumet is still one of the few exceptions who have made the leap from social media into the established art market, but many are following suit. While it used to be the gallery owners who determined which newcomers would make a career, today more and more young artists are taking their sales and marketing into their own hands. Is social media making galleries superfluous? Elke Buhr, editor-in-chief of the specialist magazine ‘Monopol’, does not believe in the lasting success of newcomers: ‘An artist only becomes relevant when they are recognised by the art world. Galleries, collectors and museums will continue to determine who belongs.’ This could be exciting, because people like James Rizzi, Stefan Szczesny, KAWS and Leon Löwentraut have already become rich with products that are ignored by the traditional art world with a wrinkled nose. Until Perrotin shows them at Art Basel.

The methods used in the competition for a national photography centre between Essen and Düsseldorf are enough to make you shake your head. Now Düsseldorf protagonists at the photo+ festival have tripped each other up, reports Christiane Fricke for the Handelsblatt: ‘Now there's trouble again. The city has cancelled considerable funding for the photo festival, which was reorganised four years ago. Instead of 250,000 euros, it only received 200,000 euros. The cancellation is the result of a political intrigue following protests from a few stakeholders who felt ignored. Even written flank protection by the Lord Mayor, who defended the curated concept of ‘düsseldorf photo+’, did not help. The city of Düsseldorf, which has more money at its disposal than it has had for a long time thanks to the Rheinmetall armaments company, has not done itself any favours. The festival is a building block with which the city could sharpen its profile as a photo and media city. The prerequisite for this is not an event format in which everything that has anything to do with photography can be randomly crammed in like a general shop.’

The Berlin gallery Barbara Weiss is now called Galerie Trautwein Herleth, reports Victor Sattler in the FAZ.

Following a report of possible financial misconduct, gallery owner Nino Mier is planning to close four of its eight locations, reports Alex Greenberger at Artnews: ‘’As Nino Mier Gallery increasingly focuses on its operations in New York and Brussels, we are strongly considering closing some of our gallery space in Los Angeles and will share more in the near future,‘ a gallery spokesperson said in a statement to ARTnews.’

Hilde Lynn Helphenstein, who in her Instagram persona Jerry Gogosian poses as the satirical good conscience of the art market and likes to call critics ‘haters’, has apologised to Anni Irish of Artnews for a disparaging comment she made during her live broadcast of the evening auction at Sotheby's in New York, in which she made fun of the auctioneer's first name: ‘’Who would name their child ‘Ashcan’?’ Helphenstein says, laughing offscreen. ‘Asking for a friend. Who would name your child Ashcan? Maybe they are not American, and it means something in a different language.‘’ Depending on the emphasis, the word means the first name ‘Ascan’ or ‘Ashtray’. This is at a Trumpian level of humour. The apology seems to have only been online for a short time, as it can't be found on Instagram or her website. Wouldn't be good PR for her either.

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