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Kobel's Art Weekly

How Midjourney's AI imagines a robot painting Andy Warhol.
How Midjourney's AI imagines a robot painting Andy Warhol.
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 4 2023

After NFTs, art generated by artificial intelligence, or AI for short, could be the next issue to set the art market abuzz. Stephan Scheuer explains the phenomenon in the Handelsblatt: "The question of intellectual property is easy to answer at first glance, said Sarah Polcz of Stanford University Law School. 'A work of art created solely by artificial intelligence is not subject to copyright protection.' This means that anyone could freely copy such a work, she said. [...] But the issue of copyright goes a step further when it comes to the use of AI in art, Polcz argued. 'Some AI models are trained with material that can be protected by copyright,' Polcz said. 'The attraction of some AI systems lies precisely in being able to imitate the style of a well-known artist. That's where the next problem begins. Until when is a work inspired by a well-known artist and when is it a copy? In the music industry, these questions are already being fought out in court." Sebastian Meineck takes a detailed look at the legal issues of AI-created art at

A new player from Liechtenstein is entering the arena of fractional ownership providers, Julien Ponthus has learned for Bloomberg: "Artex is joining the field of fractional ownership marketplaces, which split assets from diamonds to vintage cars into affordable shares. Masterworks, for example, securitizes paintings by artists such as street art star Banksy or pop culture icon Andy Warhol. [CEO Yassir Benjelloun-Touimi says Artex will be different because it will be structured like a stock market: Works will be listed in a process similar to initial public offerings, with banks marketing a painting to their clients. Then there will be a secondary market with real-time prices and brokers who stand ready to buy or sell, he said."

Had they only asked someone who knows about it: Handelsblatt correspondent Joachim Hofer (HB author page: "Joachim Hofer reports on the chip industry from Munich") cheers the Munich start-up Artoui, which wants to roll up the art market: "However, there is fierce competition in the art trade. Competitors like Lumas have been using a franchise model and a combination of online sales and shops for years. Well-known auction houses such as Ketterer from Munich now also sell online. Artoui has a slightly different focus than its competitors. In their B2B segment, the Munich-based company offers commissioned productions. [...] In business with private individuals, the founders currently sell the works of more than 60 artists via their internet shop. There are three categories of art to choose from. First, originals, which sometimes cost several tens of thousands of euros." One look at the shop is enough for people from the trade to realise that Artoui is more about interior design than art. And for wall decoration, prices per square metre of up to 30,000 euros are quite a lot of money.

Philipp Meier compares the marketplaces of Singapore and Hong Kong in the NZZ: "Gil Schneider, a proven market observer who has lived in Singapore for a long time, agrees that the new fair is not just intended for Singapore, but for a much larger catchment area. But he sees this art fair, which is strongly supported by the government, above all as a means of promoting Singapore as a business location. Singapore is a company, everything is organised from the top down. And it's all about one thing: money. Art SG is also sponsored by a major Swiss bank - the same one, incidentally, that is a partner of Art Basel. A stream of very chic Asian people moves through the exhibition halls. You hear Japanese, Korean, Thai, see families of Indian origin. The aim here is obviously to cater to the lifestyle of young, wealthy Asians. In addition to the usual luxury goods, this lifestyle now also includes art." Sabine B. Vogel is less optimistic in the WELT am Sonntag of 22 January: "But was it sold? Are the young the new customers? Or the surprisingly high number of Chinese family foundations that have moved to the city-state in recent months and registered there? It's called 'Singapore washing': 'Once a company is registered here, legally it increases confidence enormously,' is how one insider explained the situation. Almost every major international gallery reported success, but there was no euphoria. 'Slow' was the terse comment from Thaddaeus Ropac when asked how things went on the first day of Art SG. The market location still has a lot of room for improvement."

Kusama merchandising experienced another sad high point and possibly turning point in Singapore, explains Georgina Adam in The Art Newspaper: "'Everyone is just waiting for her to die,' said one art dealer at Art SG, cynically. The cynicism should be directed not at this commentator-there were plenty of negative comments at the fair about the collaboration-but at the way Kusama has been turned into a global luxury-goods brand. Other artists have exploited their creativity to produce market-friendly tchotchkes (Damien Hirst springs to mind, among others) but in those cases market exploitation is an integral part of their practice. In Kusama's case, I wonder who exactly is signing on the (polka) dotted line-and how aware she is of everything that is being sold in her name today?"

And the winner is: Dubai! As a sanction-free space, the financial oasis is not only interesting for Russians, Sophia Kishkovsky found out for The Art Newspaper: "Benedetta Ghione, the executive director of Art Dubai, the Gulf region's leading art fair, says: 'Since the pandemic, Dubai has been experiencing an economic boom, and an influx of wealthy people from all over the world-this includes international collectors, as well as artists'. Dubai-based gallerists working with Russian clientele also speak of an unprecedented influx of Russians."

Nicole Scheyerer reports in the FAZ on transparency that is taken for granted elsewhere but unusual in Austria: "For the first time in a long time, the Vienna Dorotheum has revealed its annual turnover. The house has every reason to be proud: more than 200 million euros is the best result in its history. Online sales contributed to this as much as the international orientation. More than half of our lots come from abroad and go again to foreign bidders,' says Martin Böhm, Director of the Dorotheum. [...] Germany and Italy - with representative offices in Milan and Rome - are the core markets of the auction house. In addition to the successful Old Masters segment, classical modern and contemporaries have recently recorded the strongest growth."

Gina Thomas in the FAZ sees hope for the Old Master market: "For years, the complaint about the decline of the Old Master market has been echoing like a chorus. The same reasons are cited again and again: Loss of knowledge, scarcity of material and a speculative greed that fuels the market for modern and contemporary art and shuns the slower pace for older art. In London, Brexit is added to the mix, with additional import costs, excessive bureaucracy and delays in transport affecting all sectors. The decision by Basel-based fair operator MCH to cancel this year's Masterpiece fair for art and antiques, which has been held since 2010 in June, the traditional London high season for the old master trade, and the cancellation of the summer fair in Olympia, feed concerns about the old master business and London as a centre for the European market."

In Spain, too, Old Masters are still top sellers, Clementine Kügler sums up the past auction year in the FAZ of 21 January: "The top sales of the Spanish auction houses of 2022 resemble a hit list of Spanish masters: Diego de Velázquez, Francisco de Goya, Juan de Zurbarán, Pablo Picasso and Joaquín Sorolla. The last two will be honoured in 2023 with numerous exhibitions to mark the fiftieth and hundredth anniversaries of their deaths, respectively. Number one remains the 'Portrait of a Caballero' by Velázquez, which was auctioned at the Abalarte House in Madrid in March for 3.5 million euros (estimate 2.5 to three million euros). In second place in July was a 'Baptism of Christ' by Goya. The painting went to a private collector at Abalarte for 2.5 million euros."

In the Handelsblatt Sabine Spindler observes that Paris is increasingly becoming the centre of the European market for Asian art: "As in all areas of the art market, Brexit has also led to a shift in the Asian art market. While Christie's is concentrating on New York and Hong Kong, Sotheby's is showing a strong presence in Paris. Bonhams is not sleeping either. Since January, Carolin Schulten has been working in Paris as head of the Chinese ceramics and art department for Bonhams Cornette de Saint Cyr. Insiders value her as a highly competent expert with excellent connections in collector circles. As a senior specialist at Sotheby's at the time, she acquired calligraphies from a German collection in 2018, for example, which brought in 10.5 million euros in sales. Paris is emerging as the new European centre for Asian art. "This will further complicate the fight for the goods. Everything interesting will go to Paris," Michael Trautmann [Nagel Auktionen Stuttgart] fears."

The trial about the burglary of the Dresden Green Vault brings astonishing insights. In the description of a confessed gang member, the crime sounds like a rascal prank: "This had arisen from the enthusiasm of 'another person' from a class trip to the Green Vault and the Green Diamond exhibited there, the plan had been developed over a year," writes the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland. "So he had also been on two of the exploratory tours to Dresden in preparation. 'I was surprised that one could move around there so freely and unnoticed and that it was not noticed,' he explained."

The tragedy surrounding the Villa Ludovisi with Caravaggio's only surviving ceiling painting, which was put up for compulsory auction a year ago for 471 million euros, is heading for a dramatic finale ,reports Karen Krüger in the FAZ: "At the next auction on 6 April, it is set at only 140 million euros. Until the eventual sale, the princess actually has the right to live in the villa. But now a court in Rome has ordered her evicted. The princess has at least 15 and at most 60 days to move out of the building in which she has lived since 2009. The reason: she is not maintaining the property adequately. The evidence for this is said to be a piece of marble that broke out of one of the outer walls and fell onto the street. The princess believes it is a plot by her three stepsons to scare her out of the villa." It is possible that it will be another cliffhanger until the next episode.

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