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Kobel's Art Weekly

Strike at the museum; Photo Stefan Kobel
Strike at the museum; Photo Stefan Kobel
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 42 2022

Is London's art market following the same path as Hong Kong? The British capital still functions excellently as a hub for the asset class art, but the avant-garde is negotiated elsewhere. This is the impression conveyed by the synopsis of auction and fair reports from Frieze week.

The trend that has characterised Frieze in recent years is confirmed by Patricia Grzonka at Monopol: "But anyone who would have thought that the stands of the 120 or so exhibitors at this year's Frieze London or Frieze Masters in Regent's Park might show a moment of insecurity due to the current global crises would be proved wrong. Colourful, garish and often bold is the motto of the hour, neo-pop art and abstract expressionism thought dead are back from the brink."

Gina Thomas is also slightly alienated by the spectacle in the FAZ: "At the Frieze fair for contemporary art, members of the club of the upper ten thousand and so-called VIPs cavorted at the preview like a waiting woman who confessed not to know what she was in line for, perhaps a performance or a glass of champagne. Between gimmicky installations, such as the leather pumpkins by Anthea Hamilton at the stand of Thomas Dane, which fit more into a championship for giant vegetables, monumental canvases by young artists, fresh from the studio, imposed themselves. They looked as if a command had gone out that painting was all the rage this year. All the better if the artists are female and the subjects postcolonial."

Stephanie Dieckvoss looks at sales in particular for the Handelsblatt: "Frieze Masters is taking steps backwards, especially in terms of the spectrum of galleries. [...] Fans of design like to look around at the separate PAD in the city centre, where a strong buying atmosphere prevails. At Frieze proper, however, you realise why the fair is important. Here you can see what museums already want to buy in order to have their finger on the pulse of the times. And what collectors from all over the world are fighting over. Because they are represented in London - from Asia, the USA, but also from Europe."

Stephanie Dieckvoss also summarises the London auction results in the Handelsblatt

auction houses reacted to the market shift towards Paris, observes Bettina Wohlfarth in the FAZ of 15 October: "The fact that now works by artists like Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol or Joan Mitchell are now being auctioned in Paris and not in London or New York. They may not be major works with the highest prices, but the city on the Seine is clearly moving up in the art market rankings. For the first edition of the Paris+ par Art Basel fair, the international auction houses have put together an ambitious programme."

A rhetorical question by Scott Reyburn in The Art Newspaper is actually enough to predict whether London or Paris will win the hearts of art collectors: "London and Paris are both great cities with extraordinarily rich art scenes. But is post-Brexit Britain, with its declining economy driven by a ruthlessly extractive form of neoliberal capitalism, which despises liberal values and the creativity they encourage, the sort of place that people who care about art want to visit?"

Bad times for art fairs: Production costs have increased by 20 to 50 per cent, Kabir Jhala researched for The Art Newspaper. The prices are unlikely to be passed on to the exhibitors.

Two bangs in Vienna. Olga Kronsteiner reports the departure of the director of the Spark Art Fair in the Standard: "It is certain that Renger van den Heuvel will no longer be the managing director of the Spark. He will move to the fair's supervisory board, but will relinquish his shares in the company. Officially, the reasons for his withdrawal are being kept under wraps. However, differences of opinion are likely to have run rampant."

Johann König unexpectedly ends his guest performance in Vienna after only one year, reports Katharina Rustler in the Standard: "What is surprising is that there is now talk of a temporary 'pop-up'. Although until now there had never been any talk of a time limit. The gallery's media spokesperson replies: 'König Wien was a pop-up project for one year. There have already been similar spaces in Tokyo and Monaco, and the next one is planned for Mexico. The contract with gallery director Katharina Abpurg was allegedly limited to this period from the beginning. At the opening a year ago, on the other hand, a programme of four exhibitions a year was advertised." Nicole Scheyerer refers to the mixed success of the project in the FAZ: "Johann König is closing his Vienna branch prematurely. For one year, the Berlin gallery owner occupied a room in the Kleines Haus der Kunst, a centrally located Art Deco building with a restaurant. Originally, the commitment at this location vis-à-vis the Secession had been announced for three years. "Vienna is better than Berlin," König praised his mother's hometown as late as 2021. The local scene, however, reacted frothily to the guest performance. Above all, König's partnership with the trendy restaurateur Martin Ho was unpleasant for many. The intimate of ex-chancellor Sebastian Kurz was repeatedly in the media because of illegal parties and drug suspicions. "Nina Schedlmayer asks some (unanswered) questions in the Handelsblatt: "Had the location proved unattractive? Or is it because the VAT rate for art in Austria was raised from 5 per cent back to the pre-pandemic 13 per cent at the beginning of 2022, as some speculate? Ultimately, a gallery, art brokerage or not, has to earn money. Johann König himself did not want to talk to the Handelsblatt about this. He is already jumping ahead again: next he will open a space in Mexico. At least that's the declaration of intent."

In many respects, museums in the USA are more like businesses than European state institutions. And they often act accordingly; they are reluctant to let unions into their own house. The Philadelphia Museum of Art recently showed the rather unattractive side of entrepreneurship. According to the union, the renowned museum pays its top management about 50 per cent more than comparable other museums, while the employees receive about 30 per cent less. With an annual budget of $60 million and an endowment of $600 million, management was unwilling to meet the $300,000-a-year demands. A 19-day strike was the result, the background to which Elaine Velie provides information at Hyperallergic. I was in Philadelphia for the Henri Matisse exhibition for Artmagazine.

Uffizi are suing Jean Paul Gaultier because his company printed Sandro Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" on textiles without permission. In the Süddeutsche Zeitung Oliver Meiler and Tanja Rest outline the case.

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