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Kobel's Art Weekly

Frieze buys Armory Show and Expo Chicago; photo Stefan Kobel
Frieze buys Armory Show and Expo Chicago; photo Stefan Kobel
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 29 2023

Journalism is sometimes a tricky business: while others still had to wait for the press release so as not to burn their sources, the Financial Times and the New York Times already had official interviews on the news of the week that Frieze is taking over the Armory Show in New York and Expo Chicago. Now, exclusivity is a nice thing when the topics are the fruit of one's own research. But when quality media buy this privilege by giving message control to the subject of the reporting itself, it is questionable. The first German report by me can be found in the Handelsblatt. For Monopol I try to place the takeover in the larger art fair context. The next day Ursula Scheer comes to astonishingly similar conclusions in the FAZ.

What Susanne Schreiber reports in the Handelsblatt is a bit more than a dent: "With a total turnover of 3.2 billion dollars, Christie's took in 23 per cent less in the first half of the year than in the same period last year. Hall and online auctions accounted for 2.7 billion dollars, private sales for 484 million dollars. Guillaume Cerutti, Christie's CEO, explains the decline with the changed macroeconomic environment: increased interest rates, inflation and decreasing liquidity. Cerutti puts the 'solid performance in the first half of 2023' in the context of the last five years, as 2022 and 2021 were exceptional years. Viewed in this way, the result is still above the five-year average. The Frenchman sees reason for optimism in the sales rate, which is 87 per cent across all auction formats. What is new is that in the meantime 80 per cent of all bids - even in the millions - are received online, whereas before the pandemic it was 45 per cent". Asia in particular is weakening, notes Angelica Villa at Artnews: "39 percent of Christie's buyers this year were based in the Americas, 35 percent in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and another 26 percent from Asia, according to the auction house. The number of Asian buyers was a sharp decrease from the first half of 2021, when Asia accounted for 39% of its clients."

Sotheby's and Phillips have already reacted to the downturn by laying off management staff, Shanti Escalante-De Mattei and Angelica Villa have researched for Artnews.

Bonhams, on the other hand, has achieved the best half-year results in its history, says Vivienne Chow of Artnet: "The auction house Bonhams achieved $552 million in sales during the first half of 2023, making it the best first-half year results in the company's history. The reported results reflect a 32 percent year-on-year increase in sales despite market correction observed at recent auctions around the world."

On the occasion of an exhibition at Esther Schipper's in Berlin, Marcus Woeller presents the Korean art scene and the country's position in the world market in detail in the WeLT: "Korean art, however, has not yet become conspicuous in the West to the same extent as the Western galleries that are participating in the boom in South Korea on the spot. Esther Schipper, a gallery owner from Berlin, now pays respect to Korean artists. She herself has only expanded in 2022 and opened a branch in both Paris and Seoul. In her Berlin headquarters, she is showing the group exhibition "Dui Jip Ki" until 31 August 2023, which she mirrors in the Seoul branch. It's an insight into Korean art production worth seeing - and a thoroughly forward-looking gesture of respect."

Annika von Taube at Monopol still has high hopes for a democratisation of the art market through technology: "Thanks to new media and community models, artists can increasingly define their market themselves and free themselves from traditional dependencies. Such a change does not protect them from new challenges, of course, but it does contribute to a moral reassessment of the old power structures. A moment ago, artists without gallery representation were failures; soon, those who can't make it without could be losers - a reassessment that can quickly become reality thanks to the power of technology." Yet she mentions a counter-example in her very argument: "We remember how crypto-communities, in the wake of the NFT hype two years ago, criticised the traditional art world for being inaccessible and non-transparent, partly and mainly because it was not digitally and technologically accessible." However, this hype has provided a picture-perfect demonstration of how quickly casino capitalism is able to assimilate any innovation and integrate it into the existing power structures.

This week, the German Federal Supreme Court has to deal with the question of whether registration in the Lost Art database constitutes an encroachment on property rights. The lawyer David Moll and the director of the Art Loss Register explain the case in the FAZ of 15 July: "Against the background of the economic consequences of a 'Lost Art' search report, the collector Wolfgang Peiffer has taken legal action against the registration of his painting 'Calabrian Coast' by the painter Andreas Achenbach. Peiffer had bought the work at auction in London in 1999. When he lent the painting to Baden-Baden for an exhibition in 2016, the Canadian Stern Foundation became aware of it and registered it as Max Stern's heir on 'Lost Art. [...] Peiffer initially sued unsuccessfully before the Magdeburg Regional Court for injunctive relief against a usurpation of ownership, which was in particular associated with the registration of 'Calabrian Coast' on 'Lost Art'. On appeal, he also applied to the Naumburg Higher Regional Court (OLG) for the deletion of the work from the database and failed with both claims. Now the Federal Supreme Court (BGH) must decide on the case in its judgement announced for 21 July."

Kabir Jhala reports the insolvency of the Simon Lee Gallery in London in The Art Newspaper: "Simon Lee Gallery is now in joint administration with the business advisory firm BDO LLP according to a notice placed yesterday in the window of the gallery's London space. A limited company goes into administration when it is in debt and cannot pay the money it owes, ceding control to an insolvency practitioner. The court-ordered administration came after a petition from Barclays Bank; three partners from BDO have been appointed as the joint administrators of Simon Lee Gallery Limited."

German magazine Der Spiegel wants to buy the art magazine art reports Monopol with reference to the Süddeutsche Zeitung (paywall): "'Art' is apparently to be converted into a culture portal under the 'Art' brand umbrella. It is unclear whether the entire editorial team will be taken over." Is there a competition somewhere to see how long you can ride a dead horse? The Hamburg-based company missed the boat at the latest when the former publisher Gruner+Jahr thought it would be a good idea to cut the online editorial staff. At Deutschlandfunk, too, people are having their own thoughts about the sale of the G+J rummage sale by the new owner RTL, although not necessarily the right ones: "The fact that Der Spiegel is showing interest is basically astonishing, [DLF editor Stefan] Koldehoff finds. Nobody really associated Der Spiegel with art any more. But the publisher obviously wants to profit journalistically from a booming art market, the cultural journalist suspects." To clarify: "booming" is not a prefix of the term art market and does not necessarily have to be mentioned, especially not in times when this is quite obviously inaccurate.

The Ukraine war is also producing strange blossoms in the art world. The Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam, which belongs to a public foundation, understandably no longer wishes to be associated with Russia and wants to change its name to H'art Museum. The Belgian art magazine finds this to be the case. For equally understandable reasons, the Belgian art magazine HART does not like this. Especially since the confusion would be complete if a museum magazine were to be published. A press release of the magazine is available here (We Transfer Download). By the way, there is another magazine with the same name. But there is hardly any danger of confusion.

In a very brief report, dpa informs about the rescue of the studios in the Uferhallen in Berlin-Wedding.

The ailing trade fair Volta (Basel and New York) is making a move to liberate itself with the appointment of curator Lee Cavaliere as its new director, reports Monopol.

semi-automatically translated


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