Collectors
Marion Maneker0April 30, 2012

Reuters on Forstmann as Collector

Reuters focuses on Teddy Forstmann as a collector and investor in art.

 

Dealers
Marion Maneker1April 30, 2012

Michael Findlay’s Art Education

Michael Findlay is a New York art dealer whose career spans the range of the art market from Madison Avenue to Soho in the late 60s and early 70s to Christie’s at the height of the Japanese art boom to the depths of 1990s art recession and, finally, more than a decade at Acquavella Galleries as the super dealers have come to dominate the top end of the market and host museum quality shows to rival their academic cousins.

He has just published a remarkable book called The Value of Art in which he attempts to explain to the initiated and the un-initiated why and how paintings come by their prices. We sat down a week or so ago with Mr. Findlay to talk about his career and the art market.

One thing we wanted to know was how Findlay, who dropped out of university after two semesters, came by his art education. The answer we got was cryptic but still illuminating:

Having established that the best way to learn about a work of art was to look at it, we still wondered how a young man interested in Contemporary art should eventully  come to head Christie’s Impressionist and Modern department. The answer, again, lay in the market itself:

The Value of Art by Michael Findlay

Art Fairs
Marion Maneker0April 30, 2012

Paddle 8 Made 50 Armory Show Sales

According to Peter Schjeldahl’s New Yorker story on art fairs in this week’s issue:

Paddle 8 reported three-quarters of a million views for the hundred and one participating galleries, but only about 50 sales. I like to ascribe the tepid action to the fact that it is absurd to buy art that you haven’t actually seen, but it was almost certainly due to the lack of see-and-be-seen sociability.

This is a remarkably biased assumption. Paddle 8′s sales may or may not have been meaningful at 50 purchases. We don’t know the prices paid or have a real comparison to sales that took place at the fair itself. If those were 50 $1m+ sales, it would very meaningful (even though it is highly unlikely.) If sales at the fair were (as seemed from the reporting during Armory Week) not very robust, it may also be a respectable number.

The point here is not that Schjeldahl is wrong or right but that his statement is built upon poorly-reasoned premise followed by a wishful pair of conclusions.

All is Fairs (New Yorker)

General
Marion Maneker2April 30, 2012

Lucian Freud’s Estate = £95m

Britain’s Mirror reports that Lucian Freud left an estate of nearly £100m but no indication of how that sum will be divided among his many children. Even though Freud was notorious for his slow work pace and small output, the estate is a remarkable comment on the painter’s earning power late in his life.

Freud, who died last year aged 88, left his daughter Rose Pearce and lawyer Diana Rawstron in charge of most of his staggering estate, instructing them to dispose of his personal possessions within two years.

He gave his assistant of more than 20 years David Dawson £2.5 million as well as the West London home where he painted many of his most famous works.

The vast sum – £96, 626, 011 reduced to £95, 917, 859 after liabilities – reflects the record-breaking prices Freud’s works fetched during his lifetime.

General
Marion Maneker1April 30, 2012

Ruprecht’s Reign

The Wall Street Journal gives Sotheby’s CEO Bill Ruprecht a victory lap this morning ahead of the anticipated success of The Scream. The story has a number of interesting tidbits though several hedged in odd ways:

  • Mr. Ruprecht says. “Europe today is a net seller of art as opposed to a net acquirer. Europe has moved very much to selling,” he says. In 2011 alone, Sotheby’s sourced roughly 50% of its world-wide business from European clients. Over the same period, Europeans accounted for about 30% of world-wide purchases.
  •  “Last December, we had a $19 million online bid in one of our antiquity sales. In our wine sales, 40% to 50% of sales are being bought online. A third of our Web content is being consumed out of China. It’s amazing.”
  • Five years ago, Greater China represented 4% or 5% of Sotheby’s global commerce. Last year, that figure was closer to a third, Mr. Ruprecht says.

One odd bit of reasoning on the Journal’s part is counting the price-fixing-crisis-era move to sell Sotheby’s headquarters building in New York as a success for the firm even though it cost the company $200 million:

After Mr. Ruprecht took over, Sotheby’s slashed operating costs, reduced headcount and, in 2003, sold its Manhattan headquarters for $175 million. [...] At the height of the financial crisis, Sotheby’s saw year-to-year sales drops of more than 60%, Mr. Ruprecht says. Auction sales fell to $2.3 billion in 2009 from $4.9 billion the previous year. “That period was frightening,” he recalls. “[...] In the worst sales-deterioration periods we were able to stay cash-positive and profitable, which was remarkable,” he says. The firm weathered the storm and, as proof, bought back its Manhattan headquarters in 2008 for about $370 million.

Sotheby’s Eastern Advantage (Wall Street Journal)

Art Fairs
Marion Maneker0April 29, 2012

Dear Occupy Museums, Stop Watching Bravo’s Work of Art

Frieze Art Fair is launching in New York later this week. The fair has been targeted by an Occupy Wall Street offshoot called Occupy Museums ostensibly for setting up on Randall’s Island to skirt the city’s powerful unions. But the movement also resents the fact that art collectors’ payments are not more equitably distributed. One of Frieze’s co-Founders blames this mistaken notion of equality on the false promise of Bravo’s reality show competition for artists, Work of Art:

“Over the last 10 years, the art world has tracked global economic change. In America there is a more politicised awareness of inequality between class and wealth. At the same time, more people have decided that art can be a career. They’ve seen art reality TV shows and they think they can make a career purely out of their work. That’s an unrealistic expectation so a lot more people feel disenfranchised,” she says.

London Frieze braves backlash to fly the flag of British culture in Manhattan (Guardian)

Museums
Marion Maneker0April 29, 2012

Does MoMA’s $51m in Acquisitions Make it Untouchable?

The Financial Times is full of tidbits this weekend, including this paragraph in their story about Sheena Wagstaff’s role at the Met where the writer happens to mention the size of MoMA’s acquisitions last year. What’s interesting to ponder is how MoMA’s $51m stacks up against Francois Pinault or Laurence Graff’s annual acquisitions budget:

Wagstaff has stressed that she would not seek to rival or duplicate the collections of MoMA, the Whitney and the Guggenheim. According to its financial statements, MoMA spent $51m on acquisitions in 2011. Veteran curator Robert Storr, dean of the Yale School of Art, says:“There is no way that any museum in the world can ever catch up with MoMA in terms of its encyclopedic holdings of classic modern and contemporary art, although some rival it in particular areas, like the Pop Art collections in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne.

New Kid on the Block (Financial Times)

Critics
Marion Maneker0April 29, 2012

Spinning the Scream

Carol Vogel’s preview of this season’s art auctions contains this head-scratching paragraph about the top lot: Edvard Munch’s The Scream:

Some art historians, who declined to be named for fear of offending Sotheby’s, laughed at the astronomical price predictions for “The Scream,” even the seemingly lowball house estimate, calling the work too ugly to live with, depressing or mere kitsch. Whoever buys it will have a hefty insurance bill, not to mention round-the-clock security, to worry about. But were any new museum to add “The Scream” to its collection, that institution would become an immediate destination.

  • Why would any art historian fear offending Sotheby’s? Art advisors, art dealers and art collectors might be understandably circumspect. But what penalty could Sotheby’s exact on a doubting art historian?
  • Why would anyone be interested in an art historian’s opinion of the estimate—or final selling price? The art market is only loosely correlated with art history (and isn’t that a good thing?)
  • If a museum would immediately promote itself to a destination institution by purchasing the work, wouldn’t that be incentive for a buyer too? Doesn’t that validate the idea that the painting—whatever one’s view of the work’s art historical value—would be viewed as a trophy?

Sure Bets (New York Times)

Emerging Markets
Marion Maneker0April 29, 2012

Russians Buy 8-10% of Christie’s Annual Turnover

There’s a couple of interesting quotes in this AFP video about Christie’s Moscow road show of Impressionist and Modern works. One is the Russian off-handedly commenting that art from the best names rises 15-20% a year. He sees it as a safe place to park money.

The other is Christie’s Russia’s CEO, Matthew Stevenson, remarking that Russians “participate” in 8-10% of the company’s $5.7m. We should watch out for that “participate” because it isn’t really clear what Stevenson is actually saying. (Do they bid on 8-10% of the turnover or buy it?) Also, remember that the $5.7bn he cites includes a substantial amount of money paid in private sales which may over- or under-represent Russian buyers.

Nonetheless, if we follow Stevenson’s statement to its conclusion, Russians are spending $456-570m. Add Sotheby’s and Russian-owned Phillips de Pury, and you should be able to say that Russians bought $1b or more at auction.

If we take these numbers a little further, 8-10% of the global art market should be around $5bn spent each year by Russians.

Dealers
Marion Maneker0April 28, 2012

Michael Findlay’s NY Adventure

Michael Findlay is a New York art dealer whose career spans the range of the art market from Madison Avenue to Soho in the late 60s and early 70s to Christie’s at the height of the Japanese art boom to the depths of 1990s art recession and, finally, more than a decade at Acquavella Galleries as the super dealers have come to dominate the top end of the market and host museum quality shows to rival their academic cousins.

He has just published a remarkable book called The Value of Art in which he attempts to explain to the initiated and the un-initiated why and how paintings come by their prices. We sat down a week or so ago with Mr. Findlay to talk about his career and the art market.

In this clip, he explains how he came to be in New York from Britain and the accidental path he took into the art world:

I spent two semesters at York University in Toronto in 1962-63 on a scholarship from a traditional English boarding school. I found out that Toronto in the early 1960s was much like Manchester in the Dickensian era. It was very bleak. I returned my scholarship . . . with thanks.

Let’s let Michael pick it up from there:

 

Findlay may not have had luck anywhere else on Madison Avenue but he only needed one break and he got that with Richard Feigen:

 

The Value of Art by Michael Findlay