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Kobel's Art Weekly

No copyright: Mug Shot Donald Trump
No copyright: Mug Shot Donald Trump
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 35 2023

The story of the CHART art fair in Copenhagen is one of success, writes Annegret Erhard in the WeLT: "Courage and self-confidence paid off. Not only were collectors from the Nordic countries interested, international attention also grew - together with the general enthusiasm for Copenhagen as a cultural and economic centre of Scandinavia." Ursula Scheer describes the fair in the FAZ as a low-threshold event for newcomers: "CHART seeks its fortune in the niche it unmistakably occupies: instead of expanding geographically - with the exception of cooperations such as with the Khartoum Contemporary Art Center - it deepens relations with its strongly regional audience. For some time now, an art book section has enriched the event, last year sculpture projects in the Tivoli amusement park were added, and this time, in the premiere edition of the fair's director Julie Quottrup Silbermann, offers decidedly for beginning collectors on a tight budget are enticing for the first time."

Sabine B. Vogel tells the story of the Vienna art fairs from her point of view in the WELTKUNST: "What followed was the fateful year 2021 in the Vienna fair hustle and bustle. At first it began promisingly. In February, a new boutique fair took place at the Intercontinental Hotel, which was running on a tight schedule due to the pandemic. 13 mostly young galleries used the "ballroom" for solo presentations, the fair was a success. But some Viennese galleries felt excluded, a game of intrigue began against the courageous, young project. It remained at one edition. At the same time, preparations were underway for another new fair: Spark Art Fair Vienna. Founded by VC ex-managing director Renger van den Heuvel and his business partner Herwig Ursin, tenant of the Marxhalle, and ex-landlord of the VC, the first edition took place in May. The contract with the VC, on the other hand, was terminated. The construction site of the Alte Post, which has just been transformed into luxury flats, served as an inadequate alternative venue for the fair, which was first boycotted, now also relocated and shrunk to 60 galleries, and in 2022 the Kursalon in the Stadtpark for only 25 galleries."

After a long slumber, her hometown of Milan is even interesting for foreign galleries again, Silvia Anna Barrilà observed for the WeLT: "Relatively new is the phenomenon that Milan is also attracting galleries from abroad. Recently, the M+B Gallery from Los Angeles opened Casa MB in the Corso Magenta district. The London gallery owner Carl Kostyál expanded into a flat in the city centre designed by the architect Caccia Dominioni. In the past two years, Peres Projects from Berlin had already arrived (centrally located in the neoclassical Palazzo Belgioioso), Gregor Staiger from Zurich and Ciaccia Levi from Paris (in a house with a charming garden in Via Rossini) and, in the immediate vicinity, Conceptual Fine Arts, which regularly invites guest galleries (most recently Sophie Tappeiner from Vienna)."

Far too little on the art market's radar is probably precisely the segment that is always eyed with disdain when it pushes its way to the periphery of the art market, but is never really taken seriously: Luxury goods. Christian Herchenröder describes the development for the Handelsblatt: "In its worldwide luxury auctions, Christie's fetched an impressive $779 million in 2022. By way of comparison: in the same year, auctions of art by the so-called 'emerging artists' in all three major houses fetched no more than 350 million dollars. Asians are the most important group of buyers. In the first half of 2023, according to 'Asianews', Asian buyers dominated 38 per cent of global luxury goods auctions, while American bidders were only 28 per cent active. The strong presence of luxury goods in global auctions is accompanied by a creeping market shift from thematic to multi-faceted collecting."

Germany's only listed art trading company has had a difficult year, I learned for the Handelsblatt of 25 August at the annual general meeting of Weng Fine Art AG: "Turnover slumped from €6.4 million to €4.3 million in the past financial and calendar year compared to 2021, while profits even fell from €2.4 million to just under €200,000. The traditional B2B business - above all buying and selling via auctions - is declining in perspective, Weng explained when asked. [...] Unlike in other markets, dwindling sales cannot be contained by price reductions in a downturn. The result: turnover declines, but margins remain the same. However, the company had to struggle with delivery problems, especially with the high-margin editions. The share price of the parent company Weng Fine Art fell from its all-time high of over 35 euros at the beginning of 2022 to just under 13 euros at the end of the year and down to around nine euros currently. "

Weng's stake in Artnet could be the most valuable, suspects Gereon Kruse of boersengeflü "However, finds another message super interesting, which Rüdiger K. Weng made unmistakably clear at the AGM: According to this, American investors, for example, regularly find the investment in Artnet the most interesting thing about the WFA share. A perception that is not so widespread in this country - also because Rüdiger K. Weng himself has made his contribution. After all, there have been quite different tones from him in the past regarding compliance and economic management at Artnet. In any case, every shareholder should know that Artnet can become the 'really big deal for WFA'."

Christie's has not covered itself in glory in its handling of a data leak. In their blog, André Zilch and Martin Tschirsich of Zentrust, a company specialising in IT security, describe their futile attempts to dissuade the auction house from no longer allowing geodata of artworks offered to it to be publicly posted online. Only after Washington Post reporter Max Hoppenstedt followed up with Christie's was the loophole closed. Jana Ballweber tells the story in German in the Frankfurter Rundschau.

A US court ruling on the copyright of AI-generated images is likely to have far-reaching consequences not only for the art market, even if it is upheld by the court of last instance. Tessa Salomon reports at Artnews: "A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled Friday that artwork generated by artificial intelligence is not eligible for copyright protection because it lacks 'human involvement,' reaffirming a March decision of the United States copyright office. The ruling is the first in the US to establish boundaries on legal protections for AI-generated art, whose immense popularity has opened a nebulous legal frontier dictated-for better or worse-by assessments of aesthetics and originality. Judge Beryl A. Howell of the US District Court for the District of Columbia agreed with the US Copyright Office's decision to deny grant copyright protections to an artwork created by computer scientist Stephen Thaler using 'Creativity Machine,' an AI system of his own design. Howell wrote in her motion that 'courts have uniformly declined to recognise copyright in works created absent any human involvement.'"

Three months in prison and $50,000 in damages may not seem like a big deal at first glance, but the case and sentence, described by Jody Godoy at Reuters, are quite something: "A U.S. judge sentenced a former product manager at OpenSea, the world's largest marketplace for non-fungible tokens (NFTs), to three months in prison on Tuesday for buying NFTs he knew would soon be featured on the site's home page. Nathaniel Chastain, 33, was convicted of fraud and money laundering in federal court in Manhattan in May for what prosecutors called the first insider trading case involving digital assets. U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman called the sentence a 'difficult' one to decide. The judge said he had doubts about whether the case alleging illicit trades worth about $50,000 would have been brought had the conduct not occurred in the "slightly sexy" new arena of cryptocurrency." But even if the judge does not seem to realise the scope of the case, it is the first time someone has been prosecuted for insider trading in the field of NFTs. This crime was previously known only from the financial market. The implication is either that NFTs are financial products, or that the criteria for insider trading could also be relevant to the art market, of which NFTs are a part of the extended environment. Or both.

The scandal surrounding art advisor Lisa Schiff is spreading, reports Alex Greenberger at Artnews: "According to the Winston Art Group, the advisory firm selected by [the liquidator Douglas J. ] Pick to inventory Schiff's company, there are 108 artworks whose whereabouts are still unknown by artists such as Damien Hirst, Richard Prince, Virgil Abloh, Jana Euler, Alex Israel, Joel Mesler, Ugo Rondinone, Julie Mehretu, and Lisa Edelstein, an actress who has previously produced art and is a friend of Schiff." The number of injured parties is now also much larger than previously known.

The theft of countless objects from the Britisjh Museum in London over a period of years and the handling of the affair prompted its director Hartwig Fischer to resign weeks later. Bettina Schulz offers a good summary of the scandal in the ZEIT.

French auctioneer Pierre Cornette de Saint Cyr is dead, announces Bonhams auction house, which took over his Paris-based business last year.

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