Sotheby’s Raises Commission to 25% Up to $200k


In case you missed it in the blizzard preparation, Sotheby’s raised the lower limit on its commission structure:

The first change in Sotheby’s rate structure in nearly two years means that beginning Feb. 1 buyers at its auctions will pay 25 percent on the first $200,000 of a hammer price, up from a previous low threshold of $100,000; 20 percent on the value between $200,000 and $3 million, up from the previous range of $100,000 to $2 million; and 12 percent on any amount remaining above $3 million, up from the previous upper threshold of $2 million.

Sotheby’s Raises Its Rates for Buyers –

China Cracks Down on Using Art for Corruption


China is getting serious about cracking down on abuses in the art market. One of the government’s official outlets has this story railing against corrupt officials who peddle their works of calligraphy to disguise bribes:

Hu Zhangqing, former deputy governor of southeast Jiangxi Province, was executed in March 2000 on a charge of corruption. In 1998, Hu’s works of calligraphy were sold in the price range between 3,000 yuan and 6,000 yuan (about US$480 to US$961). One of his calligraphy works even had a price tag of 90,000 yuan (about US$14,425), reported state-run People’s Daily on October 2014.

In 2010, during the trial of Wen Qiang, former deputy chief of police in Chongqing in the southwest, one of the biggest debates was over the authenticity of one of the paintings in his possession—said to be the work of Zhang Daqian, considered one of the extraordinary Chinese artists of the twentieth century. If it were authentic, the painting would fetch a market price of 3.64 million yuan (about US$583 thousand)

Later, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage determined the painting was a forgery. As it turns out, the controversy over this painting was the least of Wen’s problems. He was eventually given a death sentence on a variety of charges including rape and protecting organized crime.

Officials for Sale in China’s Art Market (The Epoch Times)

Outsider Art Attracts Curators, Will Collectors Follow?

Henry Darger, Are Seized by Pursueing [sic] Glandelinians, n.d. Carbon transfer and watercolor on paper. 19 x 48 ins. Courtesy Carl Hammer Gallery.
Henry Darger, Are Seized by Pursueing [sic] Glandelinians, n.d. Carbon transfer and watercolor on paper. 19 x 48 ins. Courtesy Carl Hammer Gallery.

Christie’s was supposed to hold a panel discussion last night about the burgeoning market for Outsider art. The panel was sponsored by the Outsider Art Fair but one of the strengths of Outsider art is its confluence with Contemporary art. Painters like Jean-Michel Basquiat, who was self-taught, fit into the strict definition of the field. But curators are also reaching beyond conventional understandings of Contemporary art to include more works that would be considered Outsider:

When curator Massimiliano Gioni appropriated the utopian concept of self-taught artist Marino Auriti’s Palazzo Enciclopedico — a panoptic, non-elitist examination of international art practice — for the 55th Venice Biennale, viewers thrilled to the presentation of so-called outsider artists, those who make work without the training of the art-school system, alongside known market stars, most of whom flaunt fine-art degrees.

Two years later, Gioni’s implementation of Auriti’s vision is regularly being traced as the spark for the current interest in a (sometimes eschewed) genre that has been quietly championed by a loyal following for better part of the 20th century.

In addition to the breakout in Venice, the Philadelphia Museum of Art mounted Great and Mighty Things: Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection in the spring of 2013, while currently, curator Lynne Cooke of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., is organising a yet-to-be-named exhibition, examining the relationship between self-taught art and modern and contemporary work.

The lock, however, might be the gift of 57 works of outsider art made by the Atlanta-based Souls Grown Deep Foundation last November to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, considered to be perhaps the ultimate encyclopedic collection of global art work.

The Outside Breaks In (Christie’s)

At Home with Glenn O’Brien


Glenn O’Brien is best known for his friendship with Basquiat but he’s also an idiosyncratic collector who is profiled online:

O’Brien’s art collection is best described as expansive. “I collect a lot of artists,” he told The Coveteur. “Richard Prince, Christopher Wool, James Nares, Tom Sachs, Robert Hawkins, Jean-Philippe Delhomme, Sarah Charlesworth, Ray Johnson, Brion Gysin, Philip Taaffe, Joseph Kosuth, Walter Robinson, Eliott Puckette, Stefan Bruggemann, Jane Dickson, Peter Nadin, Jane Corrigan….” Of his appreciation for Basquiat, the writer said, “I wouldn’t say I’m promoting his work but I have written a lot about Basquiat’s work. He is a very important artist and his work is even more relevant now that we are in a time of rather bland and non-committal work.”

Glenn O’Brien (The Covateur)

Ai Weiwei’s Zodiac Heads to Be Offered This February at Phillips in London with £2-3m Estimate

Ai Weiwei Zodiac Heads

 Phillips announced that it has an edition of Ai Weiwei’s Zodiac Heads from 2010, a commentary on the famous incomplete set of animal heads looted from the zodiac clock created by an Italian Jesuit in the Old Summer Palace of Beijing during the Qing dynasty. Two of the heads became a contentious international issue when Pierre Bergé tried to auction them at Christie’s in the Winter of 2009.

The twelve gold-plated sculptures portraying the signs of the ancient Chinese zodiac are offered with a pre-sale estimate of £2,000,000 – £3,000,000:

Working from the seven originals that remain, Ai Weiwei and his team had to creatively imagine the five heads that are missing. This forced them to draw upon other sources for ‘authentic’ Chinese portrayals of these creatures, such as the dragon, which is based on images from tapestry and print.  In spite of this, the set as a whole maintains glorious aesthetic coherence, challenging the idea that the original group was a work of perfection whose loss is an irredeemable tragedy. The fake is invested with the power to revive the past, and the marriage that is made – troubled, yet oddly serene – offers a lustrous exhibition of what might be a brighter, less confused and more beautiful future.

Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads was executed as 6 large editions in bronze, almost 10 feet in height and intended for outdoor display; and 6 smaller editions plated with gold, intended for interior display and between 20 and 30 inches in height. The project was officially introduced by then-Mayor Bloomberg at the Pulitzer Fountain at Grand Army Plaza, New York, in May 2011, and has since shown at sites and museums throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.  

The gold-plating of the legendary zodiac here carries a dual weight. The animals radiate the opulent inheritance of their ancient court setting; but the original heads – as well as Ai’s larger alternate version of this work – were in fact unadorned bronze.

Moving Motherwell to AbEx’s First Rank

Motherwell, Lyric Suite

Colin Gleadell points out that Bernard Jacobson, who recently moved galleries, has made a big bet on Robert Motherwell:

Jacobson has been buying up Motherwells for the past 10 years in the belief that the artist is greater than his contemporary New York School painters, Rothko, Pollock and Newman. He is certainly cheaper, with an auction record of $3.7 million. The aforementioned trio have sold for between $80 million and $140 million. But Jacobson believes the tide is turning. Elegy to the Spanish Republic No 130 is from the long series of the artist’s best-known works, and was unsold at auction in 2006, with a $1.5 million estimate. Jacobson has priced it at $10 million.

Art Sales: London’s artistic melting pot  (Telegraph)

Art Stage Singapore Sales Report

Damian Hirst

The Straits Times has some action from Art Stage Singapore:

A Damien Hirst artwork featuring butterflies stuck onto a surface of wet paint has been sold at Art Stage Singapore for US$1.6 million (S$2.15 million), making it the top sale so far this year.

The artwork, titled Amorous, was sold to a collector from the region last Thursday.

Damien Hirst’s butterflies artwork creates flutter with $2.15m sale at Singapore art fair (The Straits Times)

White Cube:  Tracey Emin, for £75,000 (S$151,216).

Sundaram Tagore Gallery: Hiroshi Senju for US$410,000 (S$551,357).

International Art: A monumental sculpture by famed Colombian artist Fernando Botero sold for an undisclosed amount.

Galerie Sogan & Art:  sold out all five charcoal works by fresh Nanyang Academy of Fine Art graduate Henry Lee, priced between $4,200 and $7,500.

Jane Lee’s untitled mixed media work sold to a Singapore collector for US$38,000 within an hour of the vernissage.

STPI sold several paper works by Australia-based Singapore artist Suzann Victor and sculptor Han Sai Por for prices ranging between $4,000 and $25,000.

Works by several regional artists, including Entang Wiharso and Yunizar, as well as South Asian masters M.F.Husain, Satish Gujral and Jamini Roy, found ready buyers.

Works of home-grown artists are hot at Art Stage Singapore (The Straits Times)

Richard Koh Fine Art: sold more than 20 works by South-east Asian artists. Prices range between $4,200 and $350,000.

Pearl Lam Galleries:  sold several works with prices ranging between US$10,000 and US$250,000.

Butterflies create flutter with $2m sale at art fair (AsiaOne Singapore News)


Canada’s Aboriginal Nunavut Artists Benefit from Strong US Dollar

Nunavut Owl

Turns out the demand for Nunavut art is strong and getting stronger now that the US dollar has gained so much strength against world currencies, including the Canadian dollar. A company like Nunavut Carvings sells more than $1 million in art every year:

Alan Mullin, the purchasing manager at Nunavut Carvings in Iqaluit, says it does more than $1 million in sales each year.

He says the bulk of out-of-territory sales go to galleries in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, but lately there’s been a spike in sales to New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

[…] “After the red plaid jacket and maple syrup, you know, the next souvenir of Canada is a piece of Inuit art or aboriginal art,” Chapman says.

Lower dollar means bigger market in U.S. for Inuit art – North  (CBC News)

Auction Houses Market Old Masters to Contemporary Collectors, Dealers Scoff

Warhol, Portrait of a Young Woman (After Cranach) (800-1.8m GBP
Warhol, Portrait of a Young Woman (After Cranach) (800-1.8m GBP)

There’s a lot of dour pessimism in James Tarmy’s preview of this week’s Old Master sales. But this offering in Sotheby’s February London Evening sale suggests there might be ways to bring the Contemporary collector who dominates the art market these days back toward the Old Master market. Warhol’s Cranach is estimated at 800,000 to 1.8m pounds.

“The disparity between Andy Warhol and the Old Masters is just too wide to bridge,” said Richard L. Feigen, the Manhattan dealer and Old Masters expert whose gallery bears his name. […]

“These hedge fund guys are not going to buy Old Master paintings, even if they hear prices are a fraction of contemporary art,” Feigen said. “How will it hang in some loft in lower Manhattan?”

Continue Reading

Sotheby’s Plumps Picabia Transparency Painting for London

Lot 66 - Lunaris (high res)

Sotheby’s highlights Picabia in their London sale next month and reminds us that MoMA has announced a Picabia Retrospective for the Fall of next year:

Francis Picabia


Oil, brush and ink and black crayon on panel 120 by 94.5cm; 471⁄4 by 371⁄4in.
Painted circa 1929
Est. £800,000 – 1.2 million

Painted circa 1929, Lunaris is an exceptional example of Picabia’s celebrated ‘Transparence’ paintings that Picabia executed in the late 1920s and early 1930s. This series of works, which was a marked departure from the artist’s Dadist experiments of the previous decades, derived its name from the multiple layers of overlapping imagery that Picabia employed and is characterised by figurative images underpinned by a Classical beauty. The first owner of the present work was the influential French art dealer Léonce Rosenberg (1879-1947) who greatly admired Picabia’s work and commissioned several paintings for his home.

As the Museum of Modern Art, New York announced a major Picabia retrospective, scheduled for November 2016, the sale will present two other ‘Transparence’ paintings, including Lunis, also from circa 1929, (est. £800,000- 1,200,000) and Espagnole et Agneau de l’Apocalypse, from circa 1927-1928 (est. £160,000-200,000).