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Kobel's Art Weekly

The most unpretentious art fair entrance at artgenève; photo Stefan Kobel
The most unpretentious art fair entrance at artgenève; photo Stefan Kobel
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 5 2023

The Brussels Brafa seems to have come through the pandemic well, according to Alexandra Wach in the Tagesspiegel of 28 January: "After two cancellations, they lastly offered a replacement date in June at the new location of the Brussels Expo. A trial run that apparently fulfilled expectations. Because with the return to the old winter rhythm, the spacious rooms are once again being used. For the 68th edition, the fair has taken 21,000 square metres compared to 16,000 in the summer. On the first preview day, 130 exhibitors met, traditionally mostly from Belgium and France and 13 other countries. The most important Belgian art and antiques fair 35 of the galleries still present in 2020 did not return. The loss was compensated for by eleven newcomers."

Olga Grimm-Weissert visited a sober and dignified artgenève for the Handelsblatt: "Three trends stand out: the high number of Italian galleries coming up with interesting positions, the growing number of female artists - although one can by no means speak of equality yet - and a lot of African or African-American art. In the last area, the fair weakens as far as the quality of painting is concerned." I was in Geneva for Artmagazine and the Tagesspiegel of 28 January.

In Vienna, on the other hand, signs of dissolution seem to be just beginning to appear. The Spark Art Fair is to take place in less than two months, but there is no complete list of participants yet. Olga Kronsteiner reports in the Standard about the withdrawal of curator Sabine Breitwieser from the three-member selection committee, while numerous local galleries categorically refused to participate: "Upon request, they inform us that the 'invitation process' has not yet been 'fully completed', and present a 'preliminary selection', with 60 acceptances from Austria and abroad for the time being. [...] Among the galleries that explicitly exclude participation are prominent names such as Charim, Christine König, Croy Nielsen, Exile, Crone, Hubert Winter, Martin Janda, Krobath, Layr or Rosemarie Schwarzwälder and Silvia Steinek: a group that is withdrawing from the Spark biotope for the time being after Renger van den Heuvel's departure - reportedly due to a lack of confidence in the professionalism of the new team." At the same time, the Viennacontemporary planned for September is in financial difficulties.

The US Republicans seem to have run out of mud to throw at President Joe Biden. Now they are bringing out his painting son Hunter again. According to them, his gallerist is now to disclose the buyers of the paintings, reports dpa. A solution to the possible problem of buying influence had already been found one and a half years ago.

Melanie Gerlis appeals to the good in collectors in The Art Newspaper when she demands that they gamble less money at auctions: "I wonder, have people forgotten where art comes from in the first place? And how it was validated to the extent that it now commands such high prices? The logical conclusion to the current dynamics is that we get a shrinking pool of market-approved art to trade, which doesn't sound much fun to me. So as we start a new year, I'd like to see the wealthy resolve to put a little bit of the money they would spend on owning art directly into keeping it being made and received. It is less glamorous and nowhere near as much fun as an addictive auction or some of the genuine pleasures of collecting-including all the accompanying dinners and exclusive events, if that's your thing. It would, however, help to redress an increasingly strong imbalance of a market disconnected from its ecosystem.

Make a note for Tefaf, the works from the old master auction at Sotheby's in New York, which Barbara Kutscher has published for the Handelsblatt: "The top lot of the week, however, Peter Paul Rubens' early multi-figure composition 'The Head of St John the Baptist is Presented to Salome', was responsible for almost a third of the total takings. Christopher Apostle, head of Old Master Paintings in New York, secured it for his client at a net $23.5 million, below the minimum expectation of $25 million. With buyer's premium, $26.93 million is owed. [...] Both works are among ten guaranteed top works of the Baroque period that New York real estate developer Fisch was forced to sell in the divorce war with his ex-wife Rachel Davidson. They fetched $49.6 million at Sotheby's alone. But the house had made a special effort before the auction and had signed guarantors for seven of the ten works, so they had already been pre-sold."

The sad story of a painting by Bronzino from the same auction is told by Ursula Scheer in the FAZ: "Under the Nazi dictatorship, Ilse Hesselberger, as a Jew, was among the first deported by the regime; in 1941 she was murdered in Kaunas, Lithuania. The Mannerist painting from her possession, in the meantime attributed to del Conte, had by then found its way back into the art trade through expropriation or forced sale and from there came to the Führer Museum in Linz. After the Second World War, the painting passed via several intermediate stations into the hands of the German Parliamentary Society, which finally gave it in 2021 to the estate of Ilse Hesselberger's daughter, who had rescued herself to New York in 1938."

At Christie's, Old Masters from Jacqui Eli Safra's collection were called without reserve and sold at market prices, Judd Tully reports in The Art Newspaper. The regular offer with limits, however, was not so enthusiastically received: "In all, seven new artists' auction records were set between the Safra and various owners sales at Christie's on Wednesday. In addition to Goya and Daniell, new highwater marks were achieved for Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Gerard de Lairesse, Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari, Marinus van Reymerswale and Jean Valette-Falgores, called Penot. "

There is a new auction house for contemporary art in Berlin. Lisa Zeitz spoke to co-founder Lena Winter (ex Villa Grisebach, Ketterer Kunst, Johann König) for WELTKUNST: "I looked through the old Documenta catalogues over Christmas and saw lots of artists who are great and don't have a market yet, and now I just want to start with them. I'm trying to get to the bottom of them. [...] I hope so! We will offer drawings, graphics, small paintings, multiples, even a small pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama will be there. Women artists, get in touch!"

Shanti Escalante-Di Mattei at Artnews reports on a remarkable collateral damage that may have significance beyond the already shattered NFT market: "It may seem odd that Yuga has stated to the court that it does not hold copyright registrations for the images, however, [artist Ryder] Ripps filed a counterclaim asking for a declaration from the court that Yuga Labs did not have any copyrights, which he believed to be relevant to his defence strategy. Yuga Labs then filed a motion to dismiss this counterclaim. Yuga's] argument to the court was 'We brought an action for trademark infringement, not for copyright infringement, so it is not right for the court to reach out and determine whether or not we have copyright rights or not,'" explained [lawyer Erica] Van Loon. Yuga appears to be making a move to avoid the court ruling on whether large NFTs collections can be copyrighted at all. Whether copyright applies to computer generated work or procedurally generated works, like BAYC and other large profile-pic NFT collections, is not settled legally."

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