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Kobel's Art Weekly

Goodbye Grand Palais, Fiac!
Image Stefan Kobel
Goodbye Grand Palais, Fiac! Image Stefan Kobel
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 5 2022

The takeover of the Grand Palais and the ejection of Fiac by Art Basel's parent company MCH (press releas as a PDF) is "a nefarious act" for Ingo Arend in the Süddeutsche Zeitung: "The Parisian act is thus about symbolically demonstrating the claim to dominance of the disruptive European market with its new powerhouse Paris. If it succeeds with a convincing exhibition, it would also be the first globally visible proof that James Murdoch, the billionaire son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, majority shareholder in the MCH fair company since 2020, can not only save a faltering empire from bankruptcy with a lot of money, but also put the traditional Basel tanker on a substantially new course."

Bettina Wohlfarth takes a sober view of the matter in the FAZ of January 29, referring to equally criticizable behavior on the part of Fiac operator RX France and noting, "At the same time, this provided an opportunity to increase the user fee in the Grand Palais and in the current provisional Grand Palais Émphémère, which could translate into higher stand fees for exhibitors. RX France has been awarded the contract to continue Paris Photo, with a rental fee that has increased to 7.3 million Euros for a seven-year contract. The new art fair, which has fallen to MCH, is to pay 10.3 million Euros for the same period."

I try to update the Musical Chairs games around locations and dates in the Handelsblatt.

Art Cologne director Daniel Hug picks up on Instagram an old post of his in which he accuses Art Basel of colonialism and criticizes: „Ultimately it means Paris will never have an art fair of equal stature to Basel ever, MCH Group will never permit this, it is just not in their interest.“

Art Basel Hong Kong has (unsurprisingly) moved from March to May, reports Maximilíano Durón at Artnews. In German, Werner Remm has the news at Artmagazine.

In Vienna everything seems to arrive a bit later. But then one seems to want to exaggerate it with pleasure. The Belvedere (press release as a PDF) sells (video) for Valentine's Day 10,000 pieces of a digital picture of Gustav Klimt's "Kiss", each 100 by 100 pixels in size, for 1,850 euros each. Aside from the opportunity to leave names and messages of love on a digital bulletin board, the NFTs, as usual, do not come with any rights to the physical artwork, not even a private photo opportunity in front of the original or anything similar. In total, this collection is expected to raise 18.5 million euros. Wolfgang Bergmann, managing director of the Belvedere, even seems to think this is good value for money: "The very small number of shares for the world market and the fact that each part is unmistakable is what makes these tokens so precious," he says in a press release. I wonder if the private partner will also get a half share of the proceeds, as was the case with the Uffizi's Doni-Tondo, albeit with a much smaller total volume. In Vienna, the company is called artèQ, "a company of the Donau-Finanz Group, [...] an NFT investment fund and auction house with the goal of uniting innovation, technology and art." Werner Remm inquired for Artmagazine: "The question, how high the commission of ArteQ is in the context of the co-operation, remains unanswered with referral to confidential contract details - unusual in the NFT business with art. The high level of transparency compared to the conventional art market is an important argument for its supporters. With this act, the Belvedere has probably not yet fully arrived in the world of crypto art marketing."

Stephanie Dieckvoss attributes a double-edged advantage to NFTs in the Handelsblatt: "On the other hand, you don't have to know anything about art. That has always fascinated new groups of collectors. What can you buy if you don't know or aren't interested in classical education? This appeals to the technology-oriented, primarily male, young clientele of the NFT scene."

The problems museums face in appraising and storing NFTs are described by Kevin T. Dugan in the New Yorker.

Opensea, one of the largest NFT marketplaces has refrained from limiting the number of objects individual accounts can post after protests, reports Shanti Escalante-De Mattei at Artnews: „As the controversy was unfolding, OpenSea users pointed out that instead of limiting the number of NFTs created, the company could have addressed theft and spam differently so as not to control the scope of their collections. This includes OpenSea verifying all legitimate accounts created on its platform, not just high-profile brands and artists, as well as using a machine-learning algorithm to scan images and their metadata on blockchains and third-party marketplaces for possible plagiarism and copyright infringement.“ The reason for the original blocking was that 80 percent of the NFTs mined for free on the platform were either fraudulent or pirated, knows Jordan Pearson of Vice.

The British Premier League and Uefa, according to a report by Anny Shaw in the Art Newspaper, are considering a copyright infringement lawsuit against the Ape Kids Clup, which is trying to get children to buy NFTs with images of small monkeys (average price $1,300 each) because they feature trademarked emblems of the two organizations. This promises to be an interesting legal battle, because a court would then have to clarify whether and from what level of creation NFTs fall under artistic freedom.

The New York Old Master auction of Sotheby's was a modest success well below the previous year's result, judges Angelica Villa at Artnews. However, she considers another circumstance to be more remarkable: „As has become typical at major auctions,11 works, among them pictures by Sandro Botticelli, Peter van Mol, and Bellini, were backed by financial guarantees, meaning if they failed to sell at the sale, a buyer had already been secured. Together, these 11 works brought in a total of $63 million (with buyer’s fees), accounting for a bulky 70 percent of the sale’s $91 million total.“ This means that only a small percentage of the auction is still an auction in the true sense of the word.

From the museum via controversial restitution to the auction block - the path of a major work by Franz Marc is traced by dpa: "Only a few weeks after its return to the heirs of its former Jewish owner, the expressionist masterpiece "The Foxes" by Franz Marc is to be auctioned in London. The oil painting, estimated at 35 million British pounds (about 42 million euros), comes on March 1 as the main lot in the evening auction, as the auction house Christie's announced on Friday."

For the Handelsblatt Christiane Fricke took a closer look at the case: "But there will also be many who feel confirmed in the assumption that the heirs of Kurt and Else Grawi are after all only concerned with money. The quick sale, however, is their private affair. Even more so more than 80 years after the escape from Nazi Germany and the subsequent sale of the painting, which was to lay the foundation for a new existence in Chile. The Grawi couple is long dead, the main heir aged; and so one can imagine that many reasons might have argued for liquidation, not least the high legal and procedural costs."

The opening of a privately run Kunsthalle in Tempelhof Airport, the future of which has been the subject of fierce debate in Berlin for years anyway, has received plenty of criticism following an article by Niklas Maak on the "Smerling system" in last Sunday's FAS (paywall). On social media, for example on Facebook members of the art scene call for a boycott of the exhibition, which made it to the dpa news channel. urn-newsml-dpa-com-20090101-220128-99-888767: "Rather than being a considered initiative that is in the interests of the arts and cultural community of Berlin at large (as you might expect from an institution wielding the name, ‘Kunsthalle Berlin’), the new ‘Kunsthalle’ can best be described as a cynical, neoliberal vehicle that will primarily serve to increase the stature and private wealth of all those associated with it. While Smerling may have the warm support of Vladimir Putin, Armin Laschet, Anselm Kiefer, Markus Lüpertz and Lars Windhorst—(and, perhaps most disappointingly, of prominent politicians)—he does not have the support of Berlin’s artists and cultural workers at large." The private operator receives the halls rent-free and bears only the operating costs, says the (berufsverband bildender künstler*innen berlin (professional association of visual artists berlin) in a press release. How a publicly funded Kunsthalle could be realized at this location, however, is difficult to see because of the enormous costs, notes Ingeborg Ruthe in the Berliner Zeitung: "So nothing will come of the Kunsthalle idea. The Bonn based foundation, on the other hand, is raising the funds and can rely on donations to make the 8,000 square meters attractive to the public with an infrastructure that should rather be addressed 'Thou'. The name 'Kunsthalle Berlin' is emblazoned there as a promise. Perhaps the coup can also be achieved on a smaller scale. How about Kunsthalle Tempelhof?"

On the other side of the art-world spectrum, Stefan Trinks takes a look at the trend toward collectives, using the example of documenta, in the FAZ: "With the quasi-colchosization of the Documenta that has now taken place, ruangrupa has also invited the invasion of the most mundane problems into the aesthetic realm. The once guaranteed artistic freedom has thus given way to a general vulnerability. In this respect, the emphasis with which the current and former mayors of Kassel invoke the freedom of art in defense of the project is misguided: ruangrupa wanted a thoroughly politicized Documenta; now it will have to allow itself to be questioned politically."

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