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Kobel's Art Weekly

Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 28 2023

This is the 500th edition of Kobel's Art Weekly. Therefore, a few thoughts may be permitted at this point. When Dr Stephan Zilkens and I embarked on the adventure of publishing a critically annotated press review of the art market reporting beyond the usual journalistic distribution channels in autumn 2013, neither of us could have imagined how successful the format would become. Obviously, we have served a need, or perhaps awakened a need in some people, for a central point of contact in a very confusing and fragmented offer that the media landscape makes. Gone are the days when knowledgeable and experienced editors were allowed to try with knowledge and passion to draw as comprehensive a picture of the art market as possible for their respective publications. It seemed and still seems necessary to us not only to bundle the information scattered on the internet and in printed newspapers and magazines, but also to classify and comment on it. For they still exist, the good colleagues who, under increasingly difficult conditions, are able to deliver high-quality reports, which in the best case not only inform, but also do so at a high linguistic level. The fact that the texts we get to read are increasingly being written by machines is unfortunately already a reality, as witnessed by a disclaimer that can be found more and more frequently under texts from the Ippen Media Group, for example: "Machine support was used for this article written by the editorial team. The article was carefully checked by editor [XXX] before publication." So there is a lot wrong with journalism, and critical monitoring seems more necessary than ever. I thank Mr Zilkens for so generously making this project possible and of course I thank you, the loyal readers, who give us a new reason to continue every week!

The new Tokyo Gendai fair was visited by the FAZ's Japan correspondent: "But despite all the scepticism, even the day before the official opening of the fair, which is reserved for the gallery owners' loyal customers, VIPs and journalists, gives the impression that Tokyo Gendai could actually be a success. Visitors crowd the aisles, ask a lot of questions, seem genuinely interested. The audience ranges from young hip Japanese in baggy clothes to elegantly dressed seniors to collectors from all over the world who have surely visited other international art fairs this year." One should not expect more than an atmospheric report, however, as the author calls the director Magnus Renfrew Enfrew, which also did not occur to the editors.

Similar expertise is displayed by Elisa Mussack for WELTKUNST (paywall), who faithfully relates: "The fact that the fair from 7 to 9 July 2023 will be held in the neighbouring prefecture, despite the name, has a compelling reason: the hotels and restaurants are better than those near the metropolitan exhibition halls." Not even the organisers tell you this fairy tale in a confidential conversation.

On the other hand, Silvia Anna Barrilà combines a profound analysis of the larger context with on-site observations in the WeLT of 9 July: "In fact, the number of collectors in Japan is not as high as in China or Korea, especially those who are wealthy and young. Chinese and Koreans are also the most important clientele for the Japanese gallery business. [...] The development of the Japanese art scene is ultimately seen as positive for the entire Asian scene. Besides, if it feels like every city in Europe has its own art fair, why shouldn't there be room for several fairs in Asia, especially since the population with purchasing power is larger on the continent? In any case, the balance is shifting."

The old masters market is showing stability - compared to contemporaries at a low level - Stephanie Dieckvoss observed at the London auctions for the Handelsblatt: "After the very mixed results for contemporary art, it shows that the market for historical painting is very robust and not only arouses interest, but also tempts clients to invest in this segment. New discoveries and portraits are particularly in demand. Sotheby's presented an auction that fetched a solid 49 million pounds in total, but in which only 65 per cent of the 49 works offered were sold. Still, it was the house's best auction of Old Masters in London since 2019, with prices going very high when there was interest. Seven world artist records were set. But the choosy public did not respond for unattractive works in the £100,000 to £500,000 range. Gina Thomas comes to a similar conclusion for the FAZ: "Rarely in recent times have so many quality, market-fresh old master paintings been called up within 24 hours as this week at Sotheby's and Christie's in London. Despite the extraordinary bidding, which gave the houses the strongest overall London results in the field for years, buyers proved choosy. At Sotheby's, a high rate of decline and one or two results that fell short of expectations also dampened the joy of "successes".

The market for both male and female Surrealist artists is developing steadily, notes Heidi Bürklin in the WeLT of 9 July: "No doubt: The 'wave of dreams' - this was the title of Christie's offer of ten Surrealist works from a private collection that was most recently auctioned in Paris - is still rolling quite gently, especially in the middle market. But it seems to be a good time for owners of quality works to test the market. Especially since the younger generation, especially of female artists, is also riding this wave of dreamlike aesthetics."

If all the articles in the finance section have a similar depth of analysis as Madeleine Brühl's portrait of Artnet and its presentation at the Equity Forum spring conference in the FAZ of 5 July, perhaps one should invest one's money in a lottery ticket rather than in the newspaper: "Compared to the previous year, the turnover in 2022 rose by 7 per cent to 26 million dollars. This was driven by huge revenue growth in news and data, while revenue from online auctions declined slightly. Overall, Artnet 2022 generated an operating loss of 1.7 million dollars. According to the company, the reasons for this were higher costs for sales, marketing as well as administration. For the current
Neuendorf said that for the current financial year, the company wanted to focus more on efficiency and margins." As a potential investor, one would certainly like to know what the reasons for the (notorious) red figures are according to outsiders. And the company has been promising profitability in the near future since its IPO more than 20 years ago. In short, the article borders on PR in its lack of criticism.

A large Fluxus collection is not going to Wiesbaden, as one might assume, but to the museum in Schwerin, reports dpa: "It acquired 452 works of Fluxus art from the Cologne collector couple Kelter, as the Cultural Foundation of the Federal States announced in Berlin on Monday. The foundation had supported the purchase of 36 pieces with 145,000 euros - works by Ben Vautier, Takako Saito, Endre Tót, Al Hansen, Ben Patterson, Jiří Kolář and Robert Filliou."

The Titze couple wants to give part of their collection to museums, and sell part, explains Hans-Joachim Müller in WeLT: "The collectors are silent about the reasons for the sale and the future of their half-life-long passion. In an interview about the Vienna exhibition, Anne Titze said: 'Our aim is not to expand the collection quantitatively, but to concentrate on the best'. And Wolfgang Titze added: 'Our collection will end up in museums. Art belongs to the public. Owning it is not our main concern.' Now it will just be the case that some of the things that supposedly belong to the public will, for the time being, end up in private hands again. Somehow that is part of the "love story". Which is why the expected art market event now also bears the old fairy tale title. And as we know, every love story has its fateful end."

On the other hand, the former gallery owner Jörg Johnen has given away parts of his collection, Monopol reports: "The Berlin collector and former gallery owner Jörg Johnen has donated parts of his collection of contemporary art to the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus and Kunstbau Munich. The donation comprises a total of 64 works by 26 artists, including works by Maria Bartuszová, Katharina Fritsch, Prabhavathi Meppayil, Wiebke Siem, Mario García Torres and Jeff Wall. John's donation is now on view in the exhibition 'Fragment of an Infinite Discourse'."

Brita Sachs congratulates Sotheby's employee Heinrich Graf von Spreti on his 70th birthday in the FAZ of 8 July: "At the time, Spreti was president of Sotheby's Germany, a post he held until 2018. Anyone who thinks that the man could now have rested on his laurels and put his feet up knows Spreti badly. In addition to his professional activities, he conducts genealogical research and has written several books. He also maintains a large circle of friends, is expanding his collection of exquisite objects - and continues to be sighted in the rooms of Sotheby's on Munich's Odeonsplatz. Because his expertise remains sought after, his acquisition talent in demand".

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