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Kobel's Art Weekly

Paris + par Art Basel; photo: private
Paris + par Art Basel; photo: private
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 43 2023

In Paris, the art market casino game of waiting lists and allocation of scarce goods is still working or is working again, claims James Tarny at Bloomberg: "Several galleries had sold enough work that they were already sending out sales reports by mid afternoon, and over subsequent days collectors-giants in their own fields of finance or real estate or private equity-told me plaintively (and sadly, off the record) about not being 'given access' to $500,000 artworks. Others spoke triumphantly about 'scoring' small paintings for $300,000 apiece."

Marcus Woeller tries to explain the high number of collectors in the WeLT: "In this sense, Art Basel is certainly also a social phenomenon, but first and foremost it is an international million-dollar business with its own rules. And in Paris, one got the impression that this world is still in order. Collectors from France and Europe, but also from overseas, travelled to Paris in large numbers. Especially clients from the United States of America and Asia, who make the trade in contemporary art a high-speed business, came. Gallery owners and fair organisers alike confirm this almost somewhat with astonishment."

Alexandra Wach observed the reversal of the balance of power between London and Paris for the Tagesspiegel: "In any case, the start on the first day, which was reserved for VIPs, was brilliant. Not all of the 154 galleries, including 60 based in France, were able to enjoy big deals. However, there were so many of them that a shift in power between Paris and London can be observed, especially since many stands reported that more US collectors had come to the Seine than to the Frieze art fair on the Thames last week."

Susanne Schreiber, however, made different observations for the Handelsblatt: "At noon on the first VIP day, only small queues formed at the entrance. No comparison to the huge rush of high-spirited collectors a year ago. An important French gallery owner confirmed the absence of several US collectors. And so a few gallery owners could be seen sitting rigidly around the sofa table with their team, playing with their mobile phones. What does this fair, which aims to combine Art Basel's claim to excellence with French esprit, offer? It is happily more French than 2022."

It would be hard to characterise the supra-temporal orientation of the upper art market segment better than Bettina Wohlfarth does in her fair report from Paris for the FAZ: "The employee of an international gallery puts it in a nutshell: customers, she suspects, who come to an Art Basel fair do not feel the need to be confronted with the hardships of the immediate present. Committed positions that react seismographically to current events such as the war in Ukraine are indeed not to be found at the Paris+ par Art Basel art fair. The long organisational lead time of the galleries ensures that the latest conflict in the Middle East is all the more absent."

However, the Israel-Palestine conflict does not seem to be completely without repercussions, note Kabir Jhala and Gareth Harris in The Art Newspaper: "A number of dealers approached by The Art Newspaper declined to comment on the subject. Still, some are willing to address the situation. I am so concerned about events in the Middle East. We don't realise we are losing part of our civilisation,' said Franck Prazan, the director of Paris gallery Applicat-Prazan. [...] The tragedy unfolding in the region is likely to dampen sales, with some collectors understood to have cancelled tickets to France."

The global South is still under-represented, however, Paris Plus director Clément Delépine admitted to Angelica Villa of Artnews: "We are aware that the galleries of Africa are under-represented in the exhibitors list," Delépine said of the disparity, before adding that the fair is still navigating the inherently exclusionary nature of the selection process. [The Tunisian gallerist Selma] Feriani told ARTnews that the small number of galleries with bases on the African continent at Paris+ comes down to several factors: contemporary art is historically still nascent in many African locales; galleries in Africa tend to be commercially oriented and consignment-based and less focused on creating ties with institutions; and, lastly, Art Basel is a highly selective franchise." The fact that African artists often start their market careers with Western galleries, which then also show them at international fairs, should not be completely neglected.

Olga Grimm-Weissert visited the two satellite fairs Paris Internationale and Offscreen for the Handelsblatt: "The growing success of Paris Internationale, which this year features 65 galleries from 25 countries, is due to its "non-profit" concept. Because the organising team does without commercial income, it can decide completely freely. [...] However, since the huge building makes it possible to increase the number of gallery owners this year, the established Berlin gallery owner Mehdi Chouakri is also taking part. He has sculptures by the late Charlotte Posenenske and works by the internationally renowned Sylvie Fleury on offer. Art advisor and collector Christoph Langlitz is quite positive about this organisational novelty. He is pleased with the 'mixture of works by very young artists and long-recognised ones such as Dinos Chapman or Katherine Bradford'; and emphasises that he has discovered many works by young artists that he will follow up and subsequently recommend to his clients in an advisory capacity."

Meanwhile, digital marketplace Basic.Space has acquired the Design Miami/ fair, according to a press release: "Design Miami/ will continue to run independently with Jennifer Roberts remaining as CEO to oversee all fairs. Jesse Lee, the CEO and Founder of Basic.Space, will now serve as the chairman of the Design Miami/ board. The acquisition is an all-stock transaction signaling alignment from all stakeholders of the deal's long-term vision and potential impact." The event, founded by Miami-based real estate developer Craig Robbins, with editions in Miami, Basel and, most recently, Paris, will continue to be listed on the website of Art Basel parent company MCH as a group brand. More on this perhaps next week, when the Swiss have had a chance to respond to my enquiry over the weekend.

The fair 1-54 for African art with editions in London, New York and Marrakech wants to go to Asia. In The Art Newspaper, Chinma Johnson-Nwosu explains the plans: "1-54 organisers say they have seen 'a recent increase in interest from galleries based in Asia wanting to participate in the fair, as well as a growing number of collectors from that region attending the fair'. If all goes well, 1-54 hopes to launch a fully fledged fair in Hong Kong-most likely at Christie's new headquarters in the city's central business district-in 2025, the fair's founder Touria El Glaoui told South China Morning Post. Launched in 2013, 1-54 remains the only international art fair dedicated to work by African and diasporic artists." The latter statement is not entirely correct, however: In Paris, Also Known As Africa (AKAA) has already existed in parallel to Fiac/Paris + since 2016.

The Munich Highlights art fair is well on its way towards the present, observes Susanne Schreiber in the Handelsblatt: "But collectors' tastes are turning towards the 20th and 21st centuries in an irreversible current. The organisers of the fair, which has been held at the Residenz since 2013, also saw this. They invited a growing proportion of exhibitors of modern or contemporary art to complement and round off the unique overview of epochs from the Gothic to the present day. However, not all dealers of contemporary art were able to keep up with the level of the market leaders of old art. This often criticised imbalance is better balanced this time. A great gain in expertise is the participation of Emanuel von Baeyer from London and the Lehmann brothers from Dresden." In the FAZ of 21 October, Brita Sachs sums up: "All the signs are green for the international art fair Highlights in Munich: with 57 exhibitors now, it has grown further and, thanks to the newcomers, is strengthening its range of products, which is known for its high quality. Old art, a flagship of the Highlights, and even more so contemporary art: Contemporary Art has been given space in the 'Lounge Area'."

Artnews has compiled its annual list of the Top 200 Collectors including articles on the buying behaviour of Mexican collectors by Shanti Escalante-De Mattei, on Belgian private collections by Sarah Belmont on what makes an art collector today by Maximilíano Durón.

It's groundhog day for the Kunstkompass. For the ranking presented by dpa, a text from last year could also be recycled without extensive editing.

The British Museum plans to completely digitise its holdings within the next five years and make them public, reports Daniel Ziegener at golem. When the whole world knows what is lying dormant in the depots, the demands for restitution are likely to increase significantly.

In the perpetual Musical Chairs of New York's currently fashionable gallery district, Tribeca has just replaced Chelsea as the previous leader, explains Daniel Cassady at Artnews: "Art advisor and founder of industry newsletter the Baer Faxt, Josh Bae[r] argued on his podcast Thursday that the gallery closures are reflective of what happens whenever there is a tightening in the art market. "The big guys always win, the middle guys get squeezed out and the little guys are temporary," he said of the industry's Darwinian nature."

Caroline Schluge describes the moderately successful excursions of Austrian museums into the shoals of the NFT market in the Standard: "Above all, the Klimt snippets aroused great interest, and the Belvedere was the first federal museum to jump on the NFT hype. The sales price of 1850 euros per piece set by the museum has not changed since the launch in February 2022, but the online marketplace only shows 0.35 ether, the equivalent of around 527 euros, as the minimum price. Nevertheless, the museum is optimistic. The entire market is in a so-called crypto winter. This will also be followed by a new spring,' says managing director Wolfgang Bergmann. He argues with the subjective value of the objects, which does not speculate on an increase in purchase value: the digital declaration of love, as which the Klimt NFTs have been marketed, is like an engagement ring, it has 'a different value for the recipient than the market value of the materials.'" An engagement or wedding ring usually has a market value close to the value of the materials once it is handed over. The selling price of a Klimt NFT given by the author is still just under a third of the original price, but the highest offer is only just under 200 euros. This, however, with a material value of zero.

The shitstorm that hit Artnet art critic Ben Davis after he portrayed the on TikTok world-famous artist Devon Rodriguez prompted him to take a closer look at the phenomenon of artists' careers in social media: "Generally, the point of presenting an art show in public is to see if it can hold the attention of people who don't directly know you. But it seems to me that the majority of Rodriguez's fans are most engaged by his appealing social-media persona, not his actual artworks. If this is the case, then it's logical to think that it changes how criticism is perceived. His followers feel like I am attacking a person they like, not judging artworks or analysing a media phenomenon. I think that explains the character of the reaction, which has a level of raw personal anger completely out of joint with what I wrote in my article."

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