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Kobel's Art Weekly

New Head of Art Basel Noah Horowitz; photo Stefan Kobel
New Head of Art Basel Noah Horowitz; photo Stefan Kobel
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 44 2022

Immediately after the premiere of Paris+ par Art Basel, the second initiator of the coup that meant the end of Fiac is also leaving. Marc Spiegler is leaving Art Basel, to be succeeded by Noah Horowitz, according to a press release (PDF). In an initial report, Kate Brown at Artnet mistakenly puts James Murdoch's share in MCH Group AG at 49 per cent, which she later corrects to 38 per cent. The error is repeated throughout the report, for example by Maximiliano Durón for Artnews. In the FAZ Ursula Scheer also makes Horowitz Spiegler's successor as CEO of Art Basel, a newly created post that did not exist before. There is an introductory message from me in the Handelsblatt. I wrote a commentary on the Spiegler era for Monopol.

Bernard Arnault (LVMH) and Larry Gagosian were negotiating the sale of the gallery to the luxury conglomerate, rumours have recently begun. Alex Greenberger sums up the flurry of papers and the prompt denial for Artnews. On Saturday, however, Kenny Schachter claimed on Twitter that the sale had been completed. Against this backdrop, the departure of Marc Spiegler at Art Basel might be seen in a completely different light...

The German auction market has never seen anything like it: a self-portrait by Max Beckmann is expected to fetch 20 to 30 million euros at the upcoming Villa Grisebach auction in Berlin. And rightly so, believes Christian Herchenröder in the Handelsblatt: "The fact that this capital work came directly from the Beckmann family made it particularly desirable. So the high price of 5 million D-marks that was rumoured at the time was quite understandable. The painting was acquired by a Bremen business lawyer who lived in Switzerland in his last years and died in 2006. [...] A price expectation of 20 to 30 million euros is legitimate in view of the 22.5 million dollars that the "Self-Portrait with Trumpet" already achieved in New York in 2001."

According to Ursula Scheer's research for the FAZ of 29 October, this would put Beckmann in the German auction top 5 with three works: "So far, the record is 9.5 million euros, achieved last year at Nagel in Stuttgart by the fire-gilded bronze of a deity given to the Chinese Emperor Chenghua by a concubine in 1473. The sculpture pushed a work by the artist off the top spot, which is now pushing back up. Beckmann's 'The Egyptian Woman' from 1942 was brokered at Grisebach in 2018 for €4.7 million. The fifth most expensive artwork at the 2021 German auction was also a Beckmann: 'Bathers with a Green Cabin and Mariners with Red Trousers' from 1934 was secured - again at Grisebach - by The Hague Art Museum for €1.9 million."

Dieter Schnaas of the Wirtschaftswoche even sees a possible trend reversal in the global auction business: "Ketterer and Grisebach are thus profiting from a development that runs counter to general world trade trends: While the exchange of computer chips and rare earths, pipeline gas and medical goods is literally coming up against (political) borders again, digitalisation is visibly 'flattening' the art market. [...] But the flat, digitalised art world is by no means all that plays into Ketterer and Grisebach's hands. Perhaps even more important is that both houses are skilfully playing their trump cards as medium-sized businesses, positioning themselves as exclusive boutiques in order to steal market share from the big department stores: they score points with exclusive advice and tailor-made marketing, put their offer in the limelight of lavish glossy catalogues and decorate the top lots with essays and dossiers, marginal stories and contemporary documents [...] And apparently some important art dealers want to buy art from them. ...] And apparently some important consignors no longer want to sell their wares on the rummage tables at the Tiffanys and Harrods of the industry (i.e. Christie's and Sotheby's), but as a highlighted showpiece in a German fine art shop."

The auction of the Al Thanis collection was not only successful, but also offered insights into the market, Olga Grimm-Weissert writes in the Handelsblatt: "The international antiques trade breathed a sigh of relief when the multi-day auction of furniture and arts and crafts from the 'Hôtel Lambert' in Paris went well. Sotheby's Paris auctioned 1,134 lots in the room and online from 11 to 17 October for a total of 76.6 million euros. [...] Hamad Al Thani has bought across the board. For fifteen years, he was considered the world's largest and most financially potent collector. He acquired European decorative arts, jewellery, furniture from the Renaissance to the 18th century, tribal art and antiquities at almost all the major art dealers and fairs. Sotheby's auction raises many questions: first, about today's buyers; second, whether Hamad Al Thani will continue to collect art from the 17th and 18th centuries. After all, this segment of the market has recently been selling only at the top end due to changing tastes."

Nina Schedlmayer analyses the figures of the Vienna Dorotheum, which are published very late as usual, in the Handelsblatt: "Turnover is always only made public in the autumn of the following year, when companies have to disclose their balance sheets. As reported by the 'Standard', in 2021 the Dorotheum enjoyed sales of 93.78 million euros with a profit of 15.75 million euros. Under point 2 of the balance sheet, which can be viewed online, the revenues are broken down: 48.53 million fell under 'commission business', i.e. the auctions, 16.55 million euros under 'pawn loans' and 23.62 million under 'merchandise', i.e. direct sales."

A sunny disposition is needed to deal with the numerous legal regulations concerning the art trade. Zacharias Mawick, legal advisor at the Cologne art house Lempertz, has looked at a number of new laws for WELTKUNST (paywall): "Although reading the legal text reveals a certain uncertainty in the use of art-historical terms as well as the arbitrariness of the value and age limits, clear regulations are provided that can be worked with a priori. In the context of application, however, a chain of problems then emerges. In order to be able to check whether the export was regulated at all, foreign and often foreign-language standards have to be consulted - for example Chinese, Iranian or Ethiopian. The Commission has already made it clear that it will not provide any assistance here in the form of translations or explanatory information."

Thanks to a cash injection from an asset manager, Carpenter's Workshop has become the first mega-gallery for design, notes Sophia Herring in The Art Newspaper: "Now with outposts in Paris (including a massive research facility near Roissy airport), New York, Los Angeles and, next spring, an expansive space at Ladbroke Hall in London, the gallery has surpassed all its competitors in the art and design sector to become, effectively, a mega-gallery. An investment from French private equity firm Montefiore in 2020-reportedly worth multiple million dollars-not only made expansion more feasible, but also reflected a significant vote of confidence from a major funder."

If you want to get an overview of the current creative output at German art academies, you should take a look at the annual exhibition of a Hamburg collector couple in Hamburg, recommends Frank Kurzhals in the Handelsblatt: "How does the Holle couple arrive at their selection? Christian Holle reports that they write to a total of 36 painting professorships at German universities every year and ask them to point out talented artists. Then the real work begins for both of them. Christian and Margarita Holle select from the suggestions and take part in the studio tours of the major universities themselves. Always on the prowl for the outstanding. And they also ask those who have already exhibited their work in the 'Salon'. For this year, that meant examining a good 600 artistic positions to then decide who would be in the current exhibition."

Russia is liberating cultural goods from the occupied Ukrainian territories on a large scale, reports Konstantin Akinsha in The Art Newspaper: "When Russian president Vladimir Putin declared martial law in the annexed Ukrainian territories on 19 October, he also explicitly 'legalised' the looting of the country's cultural heritage in the name of 'preservation'. According to the Ukrainian press, the Russians are currently removing artefacts from the museums in Kherson, the city in southern Ukraine conquered on 2 March, but secret removal of the most valuable museum objects had already started in May when the Russian army faced a possible Ukrainian counterattack."

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