At a recent press preview, a reporter asked a representative of Mnuchin Gallery why the firm held shows of work that was not for sale. The answer, of course, is that it enables the gallery to learn more about its clientele’s desires and interests. Carol Vogel has a timely case in point about Art Institute of Chicago which has long sought a Donald Judd Stack:
Through the Mnuchin Gallery in New York, the Art Institute was able to acquire “Untitled (DSS 120)” from 1968, what Mr. Rondeau believes is among the last of the artist’s 1960s stacks still in private hands. Judd, who died in 1994, created his first stack in 1965. This one, measuring 10 feet from floor to ceiling, consists of identical stainless steel and Plexiglas boxes cantilevered from the wall at regular intervals so they form a column of alternating solids and voids.
The work was included in exhibitions of Judd stacks at the Art Institute earlier this year and the Mnuchin Gallery last year. Like many museums, the Art Institute does not disclose what it pays for acquisitions. But this stack was offered at a Christie’s auction in 2009, when it sold for nearly $4.9 million.
More Public Art for Governors Island (Inside Art/NYTimes)
Eileen Kinsella reports that Phillips has pushed its Contemporary Evening sale back to Thursday May 15th in light of the stiff competition from Loic Gouzer’s sale at Christie’s also scheduled for Phillips’ original time slot on Monday night.
Longtime auction goers will remember that Phillips moved from Thursday nights to Monday to gain access to collectors in a fresher state of mind. Kinsella comments on the whole affair:
Said one art adviser of the reshuffle: “It shows ruthless aggression to gain market share.”
Emmanuel Perrotin and Dominique Lévy are doing everything they can to remind the art world that Pierre Soulages is alive, active and matters much more than we realize. Today their combined galleries held a press event to open a show of a dozen recent works by the 94-year-old abstract master who has been steadily at work for seventy years. Soulages himself was stuck in Rodez, France working on the opening of the Soulages Museum in the town of his birth. But true to his easy assimilation into the present-day, the artist appeared at the gathering via Skype to hold a sustained dialogues with the gallerists and crowd.
Lévy and Perrotin joked about Soulages work being so of the present day. It’s the usual gallery talk and the sort of thing you expect of a dealer trying to make the case for a painter’s most recent work. But the top floor of the building both galleries share is a selection of works from American collections.
And Lévy went even further by commissioning Soulages in America, a collection of interviews and archival documents that reminds us of not only the hey day of abstract art in the post-war period when New York suddenly emerged as the center of the art world but also that Pierre Soulages was right in the thick of it. As the book points, out, Soulages’s primary dealer from the mid-50s to the mid-60s was in New York—and Soulages was his top artist. Sam Kootz gave Soulages 8 shows in the 12 years they worked together. Their collaboration only ended when Kootz closed his gallery but during that time Soulages’s work was bought extensively in North America by many prominent collectors and celebrities.
The book reproduces a Time magazine cover of David Rockefeller showing a Soulages in the background. Charles Laughton, Alfred Hitchcock and other collectors joined numerous American museums in buying Soulages work. The painter was also a peer of the artists who could most be considered his peers, Rothko, de Kooning, and Motherwell.
This, of course, raises the question: why is Soulages valued so far below his peers? The show demonstrates that Soulages is hardly an unknown here. His work is held widely and was bought vigorously. Surely a collector seeking a very good example of abstract painting would think about buying an A+ Soulages instead of a B- work by a better known American artist from that era. Dominique Lévy certainly hopes so.
Pierre Soulages (Dominique Levy)
Jerry Saltz piles on to his wife’s recent review of James Franco’s exhibition of work mimicking Cindy Sherman’s film stills. Sherman has wondered in the press why Pace Gallery is showing the photographs. Saltz thinks he knows the answer:
[T]his is what happens when one of these massive megagalleries loses its bearings and vision. Pace has all of this space all over the world. It has several galleries in New York and ones in London, Beijing, and of course, Menlo Park, in Silicon Valley. All these vast spaces must be filled with stuff at all times in order to maintain the operation. Spectacle, success, and supply-side abundance begin to take over. As overhead and corporate merchandizing increase, quality and aesthetic complexity begins to decrease. The gallery begins to seem lost, irrelevant, clueless.
With “New Film Stills,” Pace has backed itself into a corner with no credible way out. The gallery can either say We’re publicity whores and want long lines to see bad gewgaws by a celebrity. Or it can say We love this art. Neither is a defensible position. And it must be having deleterious effects within the gallery. And not just with the diligent staff; Pace artists must look at this show (and others at Pace, like the recent Raqib Shaw double exhibition), wonder what is going on in their gallery, and dream of leaving.
Which brings us to the depressing part of the megagallery game: Artists in these galleries are trapped. Many of them are in overproduction and maintain huge staffs and can only go to another megagallery. Many others weren’t that good to begin with and probably can’t go anywhere at all.
Jerry Saltz on James Franco’s ‘New Film Stills’ (Vulture/NYMag)
The ISS, a leading arbiter in proxy fights, has endorsed Daniel Loeb’s position on Sotheby’s with some qualifications:
In its report, I.S.S. wrote that Mr. Loeb had made a “compelling” case that the company had underperformed financially. Its operating expenses have climbed 26 percent over the last three years, topping out at 74 percent of revenue last year.
Though I.S.S. described Mr. Loeb’s call for change somewhat broad, it agreed with some of his specific arguments for change. Sotheby’s practice of splitting its buyers commission with potential sellers of art, for instance, could limit the company’s strategic flexibility. And it needs to build out its online auction capabilities, it said.
I.S.S. ultimately concluded that two of Mr. Loeb’s nominees, himself and Olivier Reza, would be of great benefit to Sotheby’s because both are active art collectors, unlike the candidates put up by the company.
In the tooth and claw battle for Sotheby’s board seats, the company needs every bit of good news. So today they gave a peek at their first quarter results which are scheduled to be released after the May 6th annual meeting:
For the first quarter of 2014, Sotheby’s expects to report that Net Auction Sales have increased by 40% from the prior year to approximately $730 million. This substantial improvement is primarily due to a $113 million, or 34%, increase in sales of Impressionist Art and Contemporary Art over the prior year. Notably, Sotheby’s record setting Impressionist Art sales in London achieved the highest-ever total for any sales series held anywhere in London. Reflecting this sales growth, Sotheby’s expects to report that pre-tax loss for the first quarter improved by 81% to approximately ($6) million, as compared to Sotheby’s pre-tax loss of ($32) million in the first quarter of 2013.
The original post from 2011 appears further below but because of the popularity of this post, we wanted to give viewers an up-to-date list of the top Andy Warhol works. Among the many interesting features is the number of new works on the list that have been sold in recent years:
1) Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) (1963) $105.4m In November of 2013, Sotheby’s sold this painting as the capstone to Tobias Meyer’s career at the auction house. He left shortly after.
2) Eight Elvises (1963) – $100m In October 2008, Warhol’s Eight Elvises painting was sold in a private sale via French art consultant Philippe Ségalot for a price of $100 million, a record for Warhol’s work.
3) Turquoise Marilyn (1964) – $80m In May 2007 the painting, one of Warhol’s several portraits of Marilyn Monroe, was purchased by art collector Stephen A. Cohen in a private sale from Dtefan Edlis via Larry Gagosian for a price believed to be $80 million.
4) Green car Crash (Burning Green Car 1) (1963) – $71.7m Also in May 2007, this painting was sold at a Christie’s auction in New York for a then-record auction price of $71.7 million to art collector Philip Niarchos, son of the Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos.
5) Men In Her Life (1962) – $63.4m In 2010 the black and white portrait of Elizabeth Taylor, pictured with both her third husband Mike Todd and future husband Eddie Fisher, sold to an anonymous buyer at a New York Phillips de Pury & Co auction for $63.4 million. The work was consigned by the Mugrabi family.
6) 200 One Dollar Bills (1962) – $43.8m In November 2009 the painting was sold at a Sotheby’s auction to an anonymous buyer for $43.8 million. It was sold by London-based art collector Pauline Karpidas, who had purchased the work in 1986 for a mere $385,000.
7) Statue of Liberty (1962) — $43.8m Christie’s sold this 3D version of the Statue of Liberty in November of 2012.
8) Four Marilyns (1962) — $38.245m Phillips scored with this Mugrabi work in the Spring of 2013 which was bought by a dealer who works for Gagosian Gallery.
9) Double Elvis (Ferus Type) — $37m This Sotheby’s lot sold in the Spring of 2012 but the second registration of the image was so faint that one wag called it Elvis 1.1
10) Coca Cola  (Large Coca Cola) – $35.36m The painting sold in November 2010 at a Sotheby’s auction in New York for a price of $35.36 million to Steven Cohen who seemed to have gotten a bargain at the time.
This list of the top prices paid for works by Andy Warhol was compiled in honor of the anniversary of the artist’s death. But the interesting detail on the list is that 7 of the top ten prices have been achieved after the financial crisis began.
The top price on the list came just after the crash, in October of 2008. Half of the other top 10 prices were achieved in the past year:
1. Eight Elvises (1963) – $100m
In October 2008, Warhol’s Eight Elvises painting was sold in a private sale via French art consultant Philippe Ségalot for a price of $100 million, a record for Warhol’s work.
2. Turquoise Marilyn (1964) – $80m
In May 2007 the painting, one of Warhol’s several portraits of Marilyn Monroe, was purchased by art collector Stephen A. Cohen in a private sale via Larry Gagosian for a price believed to be $80 million.
3. Green car Crash (Burning Green Car 1) (1963) – $71.7m
Also in May 2007, this painting was sold at a Christie’s auction in New York for a then-record auction price of $71.7 million to art collector Philip Niarchos, son of the Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos.
4. Men In Her Life (1962) – $63.4m
In 2010 the black and white portrait of Elizabeth Taylor, pictured with both her third husband Mike Todd and future husband Eddie Fisher, sold to an anonymous buyer at a New York Phillips de Pury & Co auction for $63.4 million.
5. 200 One Dollar Bills (1962) – $43.8m
In November 2009 the painting was sold at a Sotheby’s auction to an anonymous buyer for $43.8 million. It was sold by London-based art collector Pauline Karpidas, who had purchased the work in 1986 for a mere $385,000.
6. Coca Cola  (Large Coca Cola) – $35.36m
The painting sold in November 2010 at a Sotheby’s auction in New York for a price of $35.36 million.
7. Self Portrait (1986) – $32.5m
In May 2010 the large self-portrait by Warhol, painted in 1986 just a year before his death, was sold in a Sotheby’s sale in New York for $32.56 million.
7. Superman (1960) – $30m
Felix Stenert rightly points out that Wikicollection’s list leaves out CarolVogel’s 2004 report that Steven Cohen had set a then-record price for Warhol when he bought Superman from 1960. The list also neglects reports that Cohen was the buyer of the Coke Bottle at Sotheby’s in 2010 which would give the collector three of the top ten works.
8. Big Campbell’s Soup Can with Can Opener (Vegetable) (1962) – $23.8m
In November 2010 the painting, featuring one of Warhol’s favourite and most iconic subjects, sold at a Christie’s auction in New York for $23.88 million.
9. Silver Liz (1963) – $18.3m
In May 2010 Warhol’s portrait of Elizabeth Taylor sold at a Christie’s auction in New York for a price of $18.33 million.
10. Mao (1972) – $17.4m
In November 2006 the portrait of Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong was sold to Hong Kong art collector Joseph Lau for a price of $17.4 million. The sale, at a Christie’s auction in New York, was a record auction price for Warhol’s work at the time.
Top Ten Most Expensive Andy Warhol Works (Wikicollecting.org)
As part of the pre-sentencing memo in Helly Nahmad’s gambling case, we are given a glimpse into the gallery’s annual turnover:
Helly claims he didn’t get into the operation for money, since he was working six days a week at his gallery, which pulled in $70 million in sales last year, according to the memo.
As part of his sentencing, Helly Nahmad’s lawyers submitted a memo to the court that proposes the art dealer provide community service. But the document includes a fascinating account of the Nahmad family’s interest in gambling as a tool for training its members for a life as traders:
“Since I was young, gambling was part of my family’s recreational life. It was acceptable in the culture I was raised in,” he wrote. […]
At 5, Helly was scoping out antiques at Sotheby’s auctions, according to a letter his dad wrote to the judge on his behalf. At 12, Helly stared in awe at an exhibit coordinated by his dad of 11 paintings of the Rouen Cathedral by Claude Monet, according to the memo.
After high school, Helly joined the family business, and at 21, he managed a small family gallery, becoming a power player in the art world over the past 15 years.
David Nahmad said in his letter that he also exposed his son at an early age to playing poker, gin and backgammon, noting that gambling is a part of his Lebanese culture.
“Helly watched me gamble, sometimes for high stakes, and it became part of his life too,” David recalled. “When he lost, he sometimes turned to me to pay his debts, and I did.”
At 14, Helly was betting on Knicks games through a bookie and even lost in a ping-pong match a watch he received as a Bar Mitzvah gift, according to the memo. A year later, he was thrown out of a Monaco casino while playing its slot machines.
“He bet on everything from who could throw a baseball further to whether a friend could score a basket on an NBA player,” the memo says.
The path into the illegal betting operation began in Helly’s 20s, when he was losing heavily at poker and sports bets, the memo says. It was then, in 2006, that he met Noah Siegel, a chess-playing Connecticut College dropout who developed a computer algorithm that found weaknesses in a bookie’s odds-making, according to the memo.
Helly supplied the cash, while Siegel provided the mathematical wizardry. Bets of $100,000 were the norm.
“Soon, Helly joined up with Noah and went from being a loser to a winner overnight,” the memo says.
CNBC looks at some new proposals made by Massimo Sterpi to help lessen the country’s laws on export of art and antiquities. Pointing to the vibrant health of the market for 20th Century Italian art, critics say the laws that require approval for any work over 50 years of age to be exported whether it qualifies as a “national treasure” or not.
“I have studied the art trade in Europe very closely for the last 15 years, and whenever I’m describing what not to do to have a successful and healthy art market, I use the case of Italy and its regulatory system,” [Clare] McAndrew told CNBC via email.
[Philip] Hoffman said the market for Italian work over 50 years of age currently stood at “practically zero,” with the total Italian market worth just under 390 million euros ($538 million) in 2013. He forecast that the liberalization of export rules could see Italy’s art industry explode to over $10 billion per year [….]
“I’m totally surprised that Italy made so much harm to itself by passing these kind of laws and making everything so complex, rather than being the natural top art market in the world,” Sterpi told CNBC over the phone.