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Kobel's Art Weekly

Alex Nirenberg, War in Ukraine;  freevia
Alex Nirenberg, War in Ukraine; freevia
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 27 2022

The Ukrainian collector is donating the proceeds of 10.2 million pounds, which Victor Pinchuk achieved through the auction of a Balloon Dog by Jeff Koons at Christie's in London, to humanitarian projects in his home country, reports Artlyst.

London has held its own as an auction venue for modern and contemporary art, Stephanie Dieckvoss sums up the auction week in the Handelsblatt: "There continues to be a lot of money in the world, which leads to new highs at the auctions in London. And this despite an art marathon with summer exhibitions and art fairs. Christie's evening auction of 20th- and 21st-century art fetched 181 million pounds, 60 million more than the corresponding auction last year." Competitor Sotheby's, however, had not done quite as well: "Despite selling 76.7 million pounds in the evening auction, Sotheby's in particular suffered heavy losses. Its 80 percent sale rate was far below that of competitor Christie's."

This is exactly what experts see as a warning sign, explains Abby Schultz at Barron's: "One sign of weakness noted by the London firm was the sell-through rate-a measure of the percentage of lots sold-which fell 3.5% to 87% across the five sales. Sotheby's, for instance, didn't sell 16 lots in its two evening sales, leading to an overall sell-through rate of only 77.5%, according to ArtTactic."

Bonhams CEO Bruno Vinciguerra continues to build his auction empire and is absorbing Cornette de Saint Cyr, reports Olga Grimm-Weissert from Paris for the Handelsblatt: "With the latest acquisitions, the market segments offered by Bonhams have grown to 53 different areas. Cornette de Saint Cyr, for example, brings Bonhams comics auctions. Vinciguerra, of course, discusses each new auction house acquisition with the 'board' of the investment fund Epiris, which gives him financial freedom. He says the decision to buy Bonhams in 2018 was made because of the development potential of this 'sleeping beauty'. It has been known as a solid brand since 1793, he says." As yet, the conglomerate of its own and four acquired auction houses is more like a patchwork of miscellany for the mid-market. But it doesn't have to stay that way, with a smart Internet strategy and the necessary capital, which seems to be available.

Sabine Spindler summarizes the results of the Asian art auctions at Koller, Lempertz and Nagel in the Handelsblatt: "The expectations of Asian art auctioneers have become more modest. But when high-caliber art from the Middle Kingdom is offered, estimates can still increase tenfold, even in Europe."

Deutsche Bank continues to part with parts of its art collection, Stephanie Dieckvoss has found out for the Handelsblatt: "With this trickle-down strategy, the house has probably sold more than 50 works with total proceeds of 6.3 million pounds so far, without the press knowing about it. In general, the works sold tended to be mixed, mainly works on paper by artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Kurt Schwitters and Emil Nolde. But sculptures have also been sold at auction, such as Ernst Barlach's 'Pregnant Woman', which fetched £623,000 last March. The estimate was 350,000 to 550,000 pounds. A total of around 200 works are still expected to sell in the international trade between now and 2024."

Exploring art as a field of activity for corporate diplomacy, Sarah Khan for Monopol: "Meanwhile, a new type of art consultant has emerged, creating a transnational network adapted primarily to the needs of corporations and political leaders. Such networks bring corporations together with projects and politicians, engage in normalization and artwashing to create a 'political corridor' of moods and opportunities where official - democratically legitimized - politics does not." The author rightly points out that sport - especially soccer - suffers from this kind of instrumentalization. Here, the sums are greater and the resistance less than in the arts: "So far, it is mainly artists' and women artists' networks that are freeing themselves from the torpor, researching backgrounds, protesting, calling for boycotts, and stressing local cultural politics. Because they have understood at least one thing: It takes a network to fight a network."

Kate Brown at Artnet attributes documenta's low market response in part to the alternative economic model that underlies the current event: "And while there may not be the same volume of traditionally appealing artworks co-produced with mega galleries, Ruangrupa has created the online Lumbung Gallery, an alternative economic model that allows collectors of all stripes to engage with the work presented there." Georg Imdahl explains the economic model of the Lumbung Gallery in the FAZ: "If we nevertheless try to look at it from the perspective of the art market, one of the remarkable findings is that around eighty percent of the artists at this Documenta are not represented by a gallery. This is an enormous figure for a major exhibition of such significance, since contemporary art is per se - also - negotiated in economic terms. Martin Heller, cooperation partner of the Kassel World Art Show and co-operator of the Berlin sales platform 'TheArtists.Net', which supports artists without gallery representation in sales, cites the quota."

With assets of $440 million, the late Ruth DeYoung Kohler II made her Ruth Foundation for the Arts one of the best endowed foundations in the arts in one fell swoop. But that's not the only thing that makes it special, Maximilíano Durón tells at Artnews: "In addition to organizations that DeYoung Kohler had previously given to, a significant share of the 78 grantees were selected through a nomination process that involved nearly 50 artists, including Mel Chin, Nicholas Galanin, Michelle Grabner, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Guadalupe Maravilla, Ebony G. Patterson, Gala Porras-Kim, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and Nari Ward. 'We asked the artists to name three organizations that had an impact on their practice as well as their communities, which was very important to Ruth,' Patterson said. 'We're artist-forward in that we see artists as decision makers when it comes to community making and supporting creative process. This stems from the idea that we believe in them because artists believe in them.'"

Annika von Taube at Monopol would like to see leaderboards - dynamic rankings - like those that exist for sports and NFTs (e.g. Cryptoslam) for art as well. However, the criteria commonly used so far are not sufficient for her: "But what if algorithms were used to measure something else than market transactions? What if they were to map what we know in principle but have not yet measured, namely what influence galleries, institutions, scenes, concepts, media reports and whatnot have on the price development of a work, this matrix of factors that make the art market seem inscrutable to outsiders?" At least for the objectively measurable part of her wish list, there already is: Artfacts and its app Limna (only for iPhone).

There seem to have been real professionals at work, the only question is on which side: At Tefaf, on the morning of June 28, there was an armed robbery by four perpetrators at a jeweler's booth. A video of the robbery was uploaded by NOS journalist Henrik-Willem Hofs on Twitter. However, the police had already arrested two suspects after one and a half hours, first reports NL Times. dpa reports two days later, "the two Belgians aged 22 and 26 [...] had behaved suspiciously, the police announced. But the suspicion had not been confirmed. The manhunt for the alleged perpetrators is still ongoing. What exactly the perpetrators looted is unclear. Media reported that the loot included a necklace worth 27 million euros." Susanne Schreiber of the Handelsblatt gives Tefaf a very poor report card for its security concept: "With this embarrassingly dangerous attack, the security concept of the MECC, the Maastricht Congress Center, is up for grabs and the already Corona-damaged Tefaf in bad light. For years, only women have been checked here. They have to have their bags opened and inspected, and even their purses are checked on entry and exit. Men, however, are not checked. They can, as we have known since yesterday, smuggle in dangerous weapons."

Christie's is in legal trouble with the heirs of a French banker over a painting reported looted immediately after the war, reports Angelica Villa at Artnews: "The heirs are challenging this claim based on a 1945 ordinance that forbids jurisdiction and time limits for restitution claims. The suit claims that the current anonymous owner 'must be considered as a bad faith possessor' under the postwar provision. Additionally, Christie's alleged refusal to reveal the owner's identity 'demonstrates abusive retention,' causing 'serious moral prejudice to the heirs of the victim of spoliation.'"

The Federal Republic and Nigeria have reached an agreement in the dispute over Benin bronzes, Alfred Schmit reports in the Tagesschau: "These Benin bronzes are in several German museums. They come mostly from looting by British troops in 1897 in what was then Benin. Now they are to become the property of Nigeria. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth have signed the corresponding declaration of intent with their Nigerian counterparts. This is to transfer ownership of the art objects to Nigeria. The envoys of the Nigerian government will take two of the bronzes from the Ethnological Museum in Berlin with them on their return journey. The others will remain in Germany for the time being, but henceforth as loans from Nigeria.

Harry Nutt classifies the overdue decision in the Berliner Zeitung: "The result of Friday's agreement is that the Ethnological Museum in Berlin, the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, the Museum am Rothenbaum in Hamburg, the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Cologne and the Ethnological Museum in Dresden/Leipzig will transfer ownership of the artworks back to Nigeria and in return partial loan agreements will be negotiated. But, of course, there is more at stake. The agreements are an attempt to turn the murderous history of looting of past centuries into a learning history at a time when, as the discussion about the Documenta in Kassel just now shows, the future viability of a society is proven precisely by dealing with its colonial heritage in a spirit of partnership."

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