Burning Man Launches Big-Scale Public Art

The Guardian makes the case for Burning Man as a vanguard for big public art and rare opportunity to experience art without distractions, unless you’re distracted by 70,000 naked bacchantes:

But Burning Man is a launching site of the most interesting and fun large-scale public art, architecture and public planning projects on the face of the planet. Many pieces get major exposure here before being placed elsewhere. Long before the Big Rig Jig hovered in Banksy’s Dimsaland, the Raygun Gothic Rocket Ship landed in San Francisco, or Cube-a-tron arrived in Zurich’s train station, I saw it years ago here on the playa.

Burning Man is also a beautiful locale for viewing the bigger picture, from the curvature of the earth to the stars and the moon. And, for all the tech-enabled festivalgoers (or “burners”) among the 70,000 people in attendance this year, cell service is so poor that it’s very rare to see people holding phones or even taking pictures. The experience of looking at art and nature without a screen – and actually talking to other people about it – makes the festival a great way to experience new works.

The art of Burning Man: skeletons, temples and flaming Tetris  (The Guardian)

Richard Knight Teams With Fabrizio Moretti 

Fabrizio Moretti

The email is circulating this morning announcing Fabrizio Moretti’s further expansion by going into partnership with Christie’s former co-Head of Old Masters, Richard Knight:

After leaving his role as co-Chairman of Old Master and 19th century art at Christie’s in July, Richard Knight has formed a new partnership with Fabrizio Moretti of Moretti Fine Art, under the banner of Knight Moretti. Based at the Moretti Gallery on Ryder Street in St. James’s, London, together they will operate as dealers and agents in Old Master European art. Richard Knight Fine Art Ltd. will also act as an independent dealer.

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The Wall Street Journal Is Skeptical that a Modigliani Is Worth $100m

Modigliani, Nude on a Blue Cushion
Modigliani, Nude on a Blue Cushion
In a slightly odd take on the Christie’s announcement that it will be selling one of Modigliani’s coveted nudes, and a work that has not be displayed in public for decades nor ever sold at auction, the Wall Street Journal identifies the seller of painting but has some doubts about the $100m estimate even though Russian collector Dimitri Rybolovlev was happy to pay $118m (about what the $100m hammer price would amount to with fees) just a few years ago for a similar work. (Above)

Rybolovlev was a little less happy when he discovered the seller had parted with the work for less around $93m but that price still validates Christie’s $100m estimate:Continue Reading

Christie’s Giga-Week Strategy Returns

The New York Times announces that Christie’s will repeat its new formula of holding Giga-week sales with another series commencing November 9th and opening with a 25-30 lot sale around the theme of the Artist’s Muse with a Modigliani nude as the anchor work.

The week is modeled on May’s successful sale including the “Looking Forward to the Past” sale of Modern and Contemporary works. As the Times points out, these sales over further evidence that the top end of the art market is merging into one category packed into a frenzied week.

The success of that opening auction had persuaded the owner of the Modigliani, a private Swiss collector, to consign this fall, and the opening auction on Nov. 9 will be constructed around it, said Jussi Pylkkanen, Christie’s global president and chief auctioneer. That evening’s sale will include about 25 to 30 works, including works by artists such as Giacometti, Picasso and Warhol — “artists for whom,” Mr. Pylkkanen said, “the muse was so important.”

The move—which should have been anticipated by the competition—will immediately raise the question of how and when Sotheby’s and Phillips will schedule their own sales.

Another Single Week of Sales for Christie’s This Fall, With Modigliani as Its Star  (The New York Times)

Chinese Collectors Show Strength for High Quality Works at the Peter Elliott Estate Sale in Australia

Peter Elliott Sale Mossgreens

The rest of the Peter Elliott sale at Mossgreens in Australia was a spectacular blow out with a 98% sell through rate:

All up, across three days and 1015 lots, the Elliott collection brought in $7.03 million with all but 22 lots finding a buyer.

What’s even more interesting for those spooked by the Chinese slowdown is that all of the Chinese works went to buyers in the Mainland or Singapore:

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Sotheby’s Hong Kong Specialist Sees Financial and Economic Turmoil as Opportunity

Julian King (Click on Image to view Reuters video)
Julian King (Click on Image to view Reuters video)

Sotheby’s Julian King speaks to Reuters about the firm’s upcoming Hong Kong sale. King pushes the idea that the current market turmoil surrounding China is actually good for the sale’s prospects as wealth Chinese look for a safe haven to store value:

A rare peach bowl from China’s last imperial  dynasty and a two-centuries old portrait of an emperor’s consort  by Italian painter Giuseppe Castiglione could each fetch up to $7 million when they go under the hammer at Sotheby’s autumn auction next month.The auction, set to take place on Oct. 7, will include 270 lots with a total estimated value of $103 million.

Rare Chinese bowl, imperial portrait among top lots at Asian art auction (Reuters)

Some Celebrity Curators Are Better Than Others … But All Make Art More Personal, More Social

Julian Barnes

There’s an interesting story taking place here. Too bad the Independent’s Oliver Bennett doesn’t get to it. Art is moving out of institutions and into a more public realm where everyone is encouraged to be their own curator.

Now before you start freaking out over that last description, it’s obvious that most of us won’t be any good at being curators. But is that really a reason to complain? As Kenny Schachter says later in the piece: “‘It’s a reflection of how things have changed in art exhibitions over the past 25 years,’ he says. ‘It’s moved from erudition, professionalism and connoisseurship – the slow burn of accumulated knowledge – to lifestyle and publicity.’

And maybe that’s not so bad. Art’s success has always been social. So shouldn’t we be more tolerant of approaches to art that are more actively personal and social?Continue Reading

ArtList’s 5 Art World Updates: Just the things you should know this week

Weekly post from ArtList, the online marketplace for private sales.


1. Boy Accidentally Punches Hole in $1.5 Million Artwork

There are bad days, and then there are days where you become known as the boy who punched his fist through a $1.54 million painting. A twelve year old boy had a very unlucky day at Taipei’s Huashan 1914 creative arts center when, as he walked by Italian Baroque artist Paolo Porpora’s “Flowers”, he tripped, sending his fist into the painting.

The young boy falling into the displayed work (Want China Times, NBC News)

The painting, which was part of an exhibition on artists who were influenced by Leonardo da Vinci, was insured and the boys’ family did not face any punishment for the accident. The artwork was quickly repaired is already back on display. However, some are suspecting that the incident and the release of its security footage was a publicity ploy for the exhibition, which itself may contain some historical inaccuracies. And indeed, since the incident, traffic to the exhibition has definitely increased. And so have the required distances in front of the works.

2. Experts Make Surprising Discovery While Restoring Botticelli Portrait

Experts at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum made an unexpected discovery this week in Sandro Botticelli’s Portrait of a Lady known Smeralda Bandinelli (c. 1470–1475). It has long been thought that painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who bought the painting at auction in 1867 for £20, had himself added the red hair of the portrait’s sitter, as it demonstrates more Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic principles than Renaissance.

Botticelli’s Portrait of a Lady known as Smeralda Bandinelli undergoing restoration (artnet News)

However, conservators’ use of new restoration technology to look below layers of paint and varnish on the painting’s surface proved that Rossetti’s alterations focused upon the subject’s face and did not touch the hair. The discovery gives experts a new perspective on the way Botticelli, one of the Renaissance masters, painted, using aesthetics that were previously not associated with his style.

3. Simchowitz + Ellis King File Suit Against Ghanian Artist

Los Angeles dealer Stefan Simchowitz and his Irish dealer-partner Ellis King have filed a lawsuit against 28-year-old, Ghanian artist Ibrahim Mahama. Simchowitz told Los Angeles magazine earlier this year that when he discovered Mahama online he thought the African artist would be “the next Oscar Murillo,” and began offering works to his clients telling them that it was, “ the Simchowitz Trust-Me Special. He is going to be huge.”

Mahama in front of his work (ArtNews, Abitare)

And Simchowitz’s prophecy seemed to be coming true as Mahama’s work gained increasing amounts of attention, including his installation of one of the largest artworks at this summer’s Venice Biennale. However, after he notified Simchowitz and King that over 290 works they had commissioned and that Mahama had signed were not actually from the artist, the dealers are now taking legal action.

4. Frank Gehry Unveils Latest Design for LA Complex

Frank Gehry has revealed his plans for a new, multi-use complex along Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip. Gehry’s $300 million design for the 2.6 acre site includes 5 separate buildings, 249 residential units and a 333,600 square foot complex.

A rendering of Gehry’s future Senset complex (designboom)

The Pritzker prize wining architect’s design will be constructed using “cross laminated timber mullions” and will house a combination of commercial businesses and residential units. While the site now houses a midcentury strip mall, Gehry’s design was inspired by the site’s previous occupant: The Garden of Allah hotel, which was visited by many of the cultural icons of its time including Greta Garbo and F. Scott Fitzgerald. “It was all white, the Garden of Allah. It was low rise, a lot of incense burning, and people in flowing gowns. [Visitors] should feel that they are part of LA, a part of LA that has a culture that comes with it,” explained Gehry.

5. Met Makes Plans for Takeover of Whitney Building

The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently released the plans for its lease of the Whitney Museum’s former location on Madison Avenue. The new building will open in March, 2016 as the Met Breuer, in honor or Marcel Breuer who designed the building for the Whitney Museum in the 1960s.

The current exterior of the future Met Breuer (DNAinfo)

The Met will use the new location to house a collection of modern and contemporary art alongside a garden, restaurant and curated book bar. The Met will restore and upgrade the structure this winter in preparation for its move-in. But the building’s aesthetics will go largely unchanged. “The Met is proud to become the steward of this iconic building and to preserve Marcel Breuer’s bold vision,” said Thomas Campbell, the Met’s Director and CEO.

Burning Man 15: Scenes from the Playa

Through the magic of Instagram, we visit Black Rock City in the Nevada desert where thousands have gathered for an end of Summer bacchanalia that is a self-professed arts festival. The art of Burning Man may not have achieved the support of the art establishment but it thrives all on its own. All images regrammed with handles of the original account.

Chinese Demand for Art Continues to Fuel Retail Expansion

Adrian Cheng

China may be in the midst of a massive slowdown but that hasn’t stopped Adrian Cheng from expanding his museum and mall retail concept within Mainland China, The Art Newspaper announces:

“We have 19 projects planned under the K11 brand, all of which are in China. When I say project, it includes mostly museum- retail art malls and also offices. Hong Kong and Shanghai are both in operation, so the remainder will be ready by 2020, and indeed, all will show art.” An exhibition of works by Salvador Dalí, on loan from the Spanish-based Fundación Gala-Salvador Dalí, is due to open at the chi K11 art space in the basement of the K11 art mall in Shanghai later this year (5 November-15 February 2016). Meanwhile, the K11 Art Foundation and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London are collaborating on a series of exhibitions in a bid to foster cultural exchange between the UK capital and China.

Chinese billionaire to build 17 shopping centres and fill them with art (The Art Newspaper)