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Kobel's Art Weekly

This year without the King who had to join a crises meeting: Queen Letizia at Arco Madrid; photo Stefan Kobel
This year without the King who had to join a crises meeting: Queen Letizia at Arco Madrid; photo Stefan Kobel
Stefan Kobel

Stefan Kobel

Kobel's Art Weekly 9 2022

The Russian invasion of Ukraine renders most other issues seem unimportant. The information situation is confusing for outsiders, social media is full of fake and manipulated images. The Art Newspaper has compiled a list of accounts of verified photojournalists.

An overview of how people with or without relatives in Ukraine can help has been compiled by Nico Ernst for heise online. The article in German and English is licensed under Creative Commons and can be republished by all online publications.

The UN Refugee Agency is already on the ground and can be supported via this link. Since Sunday, all UN aid agencies have paused their activities in the country, according to BBC. A joint fundraising campaign has been organized by UNICEF, Red Cross, Caritas and Diakonie. The stern foundation promises that the magazine's editors will check that the donations are being used correctly. Aktion Deutschland Hilft is an alliance of eleven organizations and cooperates with the German public broadcaster ARD.

Some direct effects on the art market can already be discerned. The Moscow art fair Cosmoscow in September is unlikely to be able to hope for foreign galleries, Viennacontemporary with its Russian owner will have to position itself and Walter Smerling will have to look for new patrons and sponsors.

Meanwhile, the art scene is trying to protest with the means at its disposal. Sophia Kishkovsky describes in The Art Newspaper how Ukrainian museum employees are trying to protect their collections from war damage. The two major pivotal art centers in Moscow, Garage and V-A-C, have suspended their exhibition activities until further notice in protest of the war instigated by Putin, reports Sarah Douglas at Artnews. In open letters the artists Emmanuel Bornstein (Berlin) and Vladimir Potapov (Moscow) have cancelled their joint exhibition in Krasnoyarsk. The Russian pavilion at the Venice Biennale will not take place because the artist and curator refuse, reports Monopol.

In a somewhat sensationalist commentary, Ursula Scheer insinuates in the FAZ (paywall) that Putin and his cronies could circumvent Western sanctions with the help of the art market: "They can escape them on the art market. The example of the Rotenberg clan shows how." The reason given is the transactions of the Rotenbergs, who were already subject to sanctions at the time, that were uncovered by the Panama Papers. This sounds more like the tabloid titles of the Funke Mediengruppe than like FAZ.

One cannot accuse Art Basel of exaggerated tact. Only a few hours after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it announces the list of participants (PDF) of its Basel edition in June in a press release. Not only can this seem tactless, it is not exactly conducive to attracting particularly great attention on this day.

That an art fair can be more than a mere sales event is emphasized by Uta M. Reindl in her tour of the Arco in Madrid for the NZZ: "In addition to the accompanying program with lectures and talks parallel to the sales exhibitions, which has been top-class in each case since the first decades, special shows in (almost) all art houses in the city reflect the occasion throughout Madrid. Therefore, to this day, the Madrid fair is still more than just a commercial event." The FAZ has entrusted its Spain correspondent from the politics department with the Arco and receives a correspondingly less expert retelling. Kabir Jhala reports in The Art Newspaper more substantively.

I was on location for the Handelsblatt and Artmagazine.

The South African sister of the Milan Miart was a great success, writes Daghild Bartels in the Handelsblatt: "The Cape Town art fair, the Investec Cape Town Art Fair, has finally established itself as the most important hub for African contemporary art. The 9th edition, which ended [before] last Sunday, benefited in particular from the general joy among gallery owners and collectors that the performance show could take place at all after a long period of trepidation. The new euphoria after the forced break in 2021 was also reflected in business: collectors bought almost enthusiastically. Although there were some cancellations by European galleries, two galleries from Germany, Eigen + Art from Berlin and Leipzig), and Artco from Aachen and Berlin remained loyal to the fair. Participants from Italy, France and Belgium, as well as Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, ensured internationality."

Shortly before the scheduled date, Sotheby's canceled an auction of 104 CryptoPunks. Barbara Kutscher and Susanne Schreiber puzzle over the reasons in the Handelsblatt: "Mike Hager, NFT expert, book author and coach, expresses two assumptions to the Handelsblatt. 'A general rule of the stock market is to buy, not sell, when there is cannon fire,' Hager reflects. Almost at the same time as the auction started, Russian soldiers had marched into Ukraine. 'But it could also be that the seller has a knowledge advantage,' the expert speculates. 'Possibly he knows about a circumstance that makes him expect that he could earn much more from CryptoPunks in the future.'"

The so-called middle market may be on the verge of a new flowering, speculates Melanie Gerlis in The Art Newspaper: "And yet the middle market has made some surprise headlines of late. In December, the valuations and advisory firm Gurr Johns bought the UK's Forum Auctions and, last month, Bonhams took over the Stockholm-headquartered Bukowskis.The, um, billion-dollar question is: what is the middle market? Ben Clark, the head of Gurr Johns, defines it as the market 'below £100,000', while Bruno Vinciguerra, Bonhams' chief executive, talks of the wider area 'between £2,000 and £1m'. Some call it the 'core' market; some the 'collectibles' market. I would call it the 'treat-yourself' market."

A boom in the trade with GDR design is not to be expected in the near future, believes Jens Müller in the Tagesspiegel of February 26: "The interest in midcentury design has always had a lot to do with the longing for a glamour attributed to this era. This cannot be reconciled with the socialist economy of scarcity. It is therefore doubtful that the exhibition 'German Design 1949-89' will lead to a big business with GDR design. [Berlin design gallerist Hans-Peter] Jochum gave up the trade in it years ago."

An insight into Larry Gagosian's inner life, as disturbing as it is illuminating because of its detail, is given by Robert Armstrong in the Financial Times.

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