Get Ready for More Gutai

Sotheby’s is giddy for Gutai this Fall in Hong Kong:

On 5 October 2015 in Hong Kong, Sotheby’s will present Full Circle – Yoshihara Jiro Collection, the first dedicated sale of works from the Yoshihara Jiro collection ever to appear on the market, as part of the company’s forthcoming Hong Kong Autumn 2015 sales series. 

This assemblage features works of art both created and coveted by Yoshihara, the celebrated founder of Japan’s 20th-century avant-garde Gutai movement and a towering figure of post-war art history. The sale includes more than 20 pieces of Yoshihara’s original canvas, paper and ceramic works – many of them from his iconic Circle series, in addition to the late master’s collection of a Shiraga Kazuo painting. Previously in the artist’s personal collection, these works possess impeccable provenance, having never before been presented to the public. Full Circle offers an unprecedented opportunity to acquire important works exploring the contemporary master’s output over four decades.

Founded by Yoshihara in 1954, Gutai has experienced a surge of international attention in recent years, with curated exhibitions and retrospectives held at major museums worldwide placing a spotlight on the art movement. Not only as the leader but also a contributing member, Yoshihara devised the enduring signature Circle in the mid-1960s, which stands out as his most significant achievement in post-war abstraction.

How Did Basquiat Get to Be So Valuable with No Museum Support?

Artnews has a fascinating story by Bob Nikas outlining the aversion among museums to acquiring Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work. Despite the assumption that museums bestow the legitimacy that makes for lasting reputations, Basquiat has succeeded in becoming a giant of late 20th Century art without much significant institutional support:

Despite the fact that Basquiat’s excellent Glenn (1985) is now on display at MoMA, it’s still true that the museum has not yet acquired a painting by the artist. Glenn is accompanied by a wall label identifying it asa loan from a private collection, not as the museum’s own work, nor as a promised gift. This is an exceptional instance. The museum is not in the habit of presenting, outside of special exhibitions, works from private collections, as doing so would elevate the status of art held in private hands so that they may then be sold with value-added provenance. In this moment, the inclusion of the word “yet” is entirely appropriate. The presence of this painting on long-term loan can be seen as a very public announcement that a Basquiat is absent from the museum’s holdings, an enticement for owners and donors who may come forth—or come to the rescue, as it were. […]

Only the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A. are able to present a fully formed view of this artist, with significant paintings among a half dozen of his works in each collection. There are none at the Guggenheim, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Walker Art Center, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, or the Seattle Art Museum. MoMA, dedicated to telling the story of modern art, may well have been threatened by postmodernism as it took hold in the ’80s.

Basquiat and the Collecting of History  (ARTnews)

If Contemporary Art Is So Great, Why Doesn’t Anyone Make Any Money?

James Tarmy digs into Magnus Resch’s startling look at the economics of running an art gallery. The result isn’t pretty. After reading the book, Tarmy says, “It turns out that the upbeat world of biennials and art fairs and parties is in fact a cutthroat, antiquated, deeply flawed industry hampered by an obsession with keeping up appearances and an often misguided aversion to making money.”

Here are some more of the startling things Tarmy discovered in Rensch’s book:

  • Fifty-five percent of the galleries in Resch’s survey stated that their revenue was less than $200,000 per year; 30 percent of the respondents actually lost money; and the average profit margin of galleries surveyed was just 6.5 percent.
  • In the U.S. and Germany, the physical cost of an exhibition space was listed as galleries’ greatest expense (in the U.K. it was second), and Resch writes that “the almost unanimous, and unquestioned, conviction that central premises in a major city are essential simply cannot be justified with an economic rationale.” In other words, collectors will go wherever the art is, and everyone else—the inevitable crowds at openings, the passersby who pop in to see whatever’s on view—has no bearing on the gallery’s bottom line.
  • Galleries generally split the sale of a work 50/50 with the artist. Resch argues that—given that galleries often have to cover marketing, production, shipping, and insurance costs—it should be closer to 70/30. Cue artist outrage.

Why Do So Many Art Galleries Lose Money? (Bloomberg Business)

How Much Faith Can We Put in Public Collections?


This is a relatively old story from a few weeks ago about a German public collection that is unable to locate 500 works of art it acquired with public funds. As a local story, it’s not that interesting. In the context of the current suspicions about private art collectors, it should serve as a reminder that public institutions have their fair share of failures (apologies for the awkward Google translation):

The State Enterprise “Property and Construction Baden-Württemberg” serves about 3,500 works of art that have been cataloged. Since 2010, works of art were acquired worth two million euros. Since 2005, all existing and add purchased works of art are stored in a database. Employees of Auditors analyzed the database and have now found that 500 works of art are no longer discoverable.

Among them are works of classical modernism, about the woodcut “Sailboats” from 1919 by Lyonel Feininger . The lithograph “Signes et Météores” by Joan Miró has been lost. Both artworks have been purchased in the early sixties for the University of Stuttgart. According to research by the Court of the administration of the university is not even known when the loss or even the theft of works of art is first noticed.

Court: Baden-Württemberg 500 missing works of famous artists (FAZ)

Art as a Total Travel Experience

Yayoi Kusama, “Pumpkin,” (1994) (Shigeo Anzai)

We’ve had a rage for art travel, art hotels and private art museums. But Forbes reminds us that all three are combined in a few collections that create a complete art and travel experience like Japan’s Benesse collection created by Soichiro Fukutake whose Naoshima Island museum complex houses Monet water lilies to rival those in L’Orangerie in Paris as well as current works by Lee Ufan and James Turrell

Even if you wake up at 7 a.m. at Benesse House—the $400-a-night hotel where many of Fukutake’s treasures are housed—you can indulge in an experience unique among the world’s finest resorts. With no guards or velvet ropes to block access, there is a museumful of blue-chip works to be explored, including a 1962 Giacometti bronze, a David Hockney swimming pool painting, a whitewashed Jasper Johns alphabet work and, surrounded by a sloping walkway, a 10-foot-tall neon-light sculpture by Venice Biennale winner Bruce Nauman, flashing provocative aphorisms in red, pink, blue and yellow: “Feel and Die,” “Fear and Live … .”

One of Fukutake’s goals for the islands is to see that his collection lives beyond his lifetime. “Through the project I’m searching for eternity,” he explains. “I want the art to be significant in any age.” To build his legacy, he has collaborated with Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando, known for his minimalist sensibility, improbable angles and liberal use of smooth, unpainted concrete. Together they have created a complex of elegantly designed structures, three of them carved into the hills of Naoshima Island, a 5-square-mile outpost of rolling terrain, small villages and stunning views of the sea.

Treasure Islands: Inside A Japanese Billionaire’s Art Archipelago (ForbesLife)

Art Advisers Say Art Is Big Business in Hong Kong

Paintings by Dominic Lai at the Lounge at the Four Seasons – project by Sandra Walters Art Consultancy

TimeOut Hong Kong looks at the city’s growing ranks of art advisors and discovers that they—Surprise!—think the art market in Hong Kong has truly arrived:

The art market is thriving in Hong Kong. Not only is it one that is financially viable and profitable, but it is also one that harbours a strong creative output. [Sarah] Gordon cites an impressive balance in the presence of big named international galleries and local galleries. She further alludes to the collaborative nature of the galleries through the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association, and the continued development of the M+ museum, which is scheduled for completion in 2019.

The professionals respond almost as if in unison on one point – art is big business in Hong Kong.

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Paul Allen Says Art Market Fully Priced But Still Wants to Promote Buying Among Tech Set in Seattle

Barnett Newman, Onement VI (1953)

Katya Kazakina got a little time with Paul Allen to hear his views on art collecting as he promotes the Seattle Art Fair that he has developed for the tech-rich city. Allen comments on whopping gains he made on a Rothko he bought at the height of the last market only to sell again last year for a gain North of 50% (depending on guarantees and fees, of course.)

Oddly, and even though Allen made another huge gain on a Barnett Newman painting he bought privately during yet an earlier market boom, Allen now cautions that prices are too high:Continue Reading

Could China’s Crash Be Like When Japan Took Down the Impressionist Market?

Gursky, Chicago Mercantile Exchange
Gursky, Chicago Mercantile Exchange

Artsy’s Alexander Forbes worries out loud that China’s stock market collapse could bring down the global art market. Here he’s thinking of Japan’s role in the art market crash of 1990 when Japanese buyers at the top end exited the Impressionist market bringing down much of the rest of the dramatically smaller art market of the time. Forbes is right to raise the question but the comparison is probably spurious.

For one thing, Forbes notices that Chinese domestic art buying has swooned by 30% (or, at least, whatever the Chinese auction houses are reporting as art sales has fallen) but Chinese buyers have increased their activity at Christie’s by 47%.

There may be a simple explanation for the differential that also helps put the Japanese experience in perspective.Continue Reading

Paul Allen Inserts Art Exhibition Program Into New Brain Science Research Center

Paul Allen

By the standards of today’s private art collections, Paul Allen’s 300 works is not that big. But his ambitions for promoting art in Seattle are. He’s the driving force behind the Seattle Art Fair, opening tomorrow, and has recently hired a curator to do something interesting in his new Brain Science research center:

Pivot Art + Culture will be a 4,000 square foot, two room gallery located in the Allen Institute for Brain Science, a research facility that the venture capitalist and philanthropist is developing on the edge of downtown Seattle in the South Lake Union neighborhood. Scheduled to open in December, it is intended to be a cultural magnet in an area known as a tech and bio-medical hub.

“It’s a marvelous job and I’m extremely excited about it,” Heywood said, adding. “Allen is a great guy with extremely deep pockets and I think we can do some very exciting things here.”

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Met Reaches 6.3m Attendance Record, Admission Fee Shrinks to ‘$10 and Change’

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ten dollars. That what you should be paying to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. There were 6.3m other visitors there last year and that’s what they paid on average. That’s also a record level of attendance for the Met which is the United States’s top museum:

The Met, which announced the figures late Monday, said it was the fourth year in a row that the museum had drawn more than 6 million visitors, keeping it in a rarefied group that includes the National Gallery and the British Museum in London, which both attracted slightly larger numbers, and the Louvre, the world’s biggest draw with more than 9 million in each of the last three years. The Met’s total, which includes visitors to both the main building on Fifth Avenue and the Cloisters in Washington Heights, was pushed up in part by the highly popular “China: Through the Looking Glass,” an exploration of China’s influence on Western fashion; it has drawn more than 350,000 visitors, many of whom are reflected in attendance numbers for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

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