Charles Goldstein, “Unsung Hero of Art Restitution”

Several weeks ago, failed art dealer Julian Agnew wrote a letter to the Financial Times questioning whether too much fuss was being made about restitutions for art stolen during the Nazi-era. After all, Agnew complained, shouldn’t these claims have an end point?

Agnew’s haughty impatience is contradicted by the actual record of postwar governments and institutions in dealing with these claims. Another recent letter to the FT points out that with the notable exception of the National Gallery in London, few museums have taken restitution research seriously:

Despite the example set by the National Gallery, many public museums across Europe, some justifiably, plead lack of resources as the reason for not having undertaken research into the provenance of their collections. As 17 years have elapsed since 44 governments committed their museums to this work at Washington, this is a highly unsatisfactory position. The sooner such research is conducted and finalised the nearer might be the time when the process may come to an end. It is also important to state the fact that a large number of looted objects may never be claimed because tragically there is no one left to actually claim. That should not devalue the efforts to return objects where there are survivors and their descendants.

Today’s news that Charles Goldstein, a central figure in some of the most important restitution claims in recent memory, has died should also remind people like Agnew of the gross inappropriateness of their comments. Here’s the New York Times on Goldstein and his campaign:Continue Reading

Corporate Art Collections Thrive Deep in Primary Market

Goldman's Mehretu

The FT reports that corporate art collections remain far more healthy that advertised. Looking at Deutsch Bank’s collection,

The institution is one of hundreds of companies, typically in financial services, that see art not just as a decorative necessity but also an opportunity to stimulate the thoughts of their employees, support artists through purchases of their work and, perhaps most importantly, to project their desired image to clients, staff and visitors.

About 600 companies have collections, according to Global Corporate Collections, a book published last month by Deutsche Standards. Many of the biggest are focused on contemporary art.

Banks’ art-related activities have expanded in recent years. Deutsche and UBS sponsor big international art fairs — Frieze and Art Basel respectively — which they use as an opportunity to gather their most important clients in one place. The draw for wealthy clients is that the banks can smooth access to the most sought-after gallerists, bypassing the need to “prove” their credentials as big art buyers.

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$100bn Art Loan Market Only Possible If Every Top Work of Art Sold Is Borrowed Against

Marinus van Reymerswaele-545559

Skate’s released a report on the art loan market this week which The Art Newspaper felt compelled to pass along to its readers without much inspection:

The report calculates that art loans could account for more than $10bn in 2015, at least twice the 2011 level, and could grow to become a $100bn market.

Several other art market journalists also passed along The Art Newspaper’s report amplifying its conclusions. But $100bn is an extraordinary number for art loans. And the report’s own chart of the 39 institutions that offer all types of loans against art is missing more information than it gathers. More than that, Skate’s cites 39 entities offering art loans but says its research only involves contacting fewer than 2/3s of those firms. Here’s where Skate’s informs us they only spoke to two dozen of the more than three dozen firms and adds that the $100bn figure is “conservative:”

Skate’s has polled about two dozen art-lending practitioners, pierced some art-market numbers, and researched various filings (including liens recorded on art assets with so called UCC filings in the United States) to produce this inaugural issue of the Skate’s Global Art-Loans Report. Our key findings are:

• Art-lending business is booming, with the 2015 art-loans book scheduled to grow above $10 billion this year, which is at least twice the level of the art-lending market last reviewed by Skate’s in 2011

• This still leaves ample room for growth, as Skate’s most conservative estimate of the addressable art-lending market size is $100 billion

It’s worth remembering that art loans provide funds against 50% of the value of the works pledged as collateral and the actual income to the lenders is rate charged on the loan. Nonetheless, here is Skate’s basis for $100bn:Continue Reading

3 Must See Shows: Art Shows You Can’t Miss This Week in New York

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

1. Empty House Casa Vazia @ Luhring Augustine
June 27 — August 28

(Luhring Augustine)

Luhring Augustine’s new sculpture exhibition features a cross-generational selection of Brazilian artists that engages with the doctrine and legacy of Neoconcretism. The movement, which emerged from Brazil in the 1950s, was a rebellion against the certainty of sculptural art, an effort to transform sculpture into a more profound reflection of complex modernity. Augustine’s exhibition provides and informative and stunning look into this major Brazilian artistic movement.

On display at 531 West 24th Street, New York NY.

2. Roger Brown @ Maccarone
June 25 — August 14


Virtual Still Life gathers 11 works from the late Roger Brown’s formative, eponymous period. This series of works, which Brown creted in the mid 1990s, was inspired by the rapid technilogical growth of the decade, during which virtual reality became ever-less virtual and all-the-more real. Brown examined this line between 2D and 3D realness by placing his distinctive patterned landscape paintings in interaction with similarly patterned and shaped thrift store ceramics. The resulting dynamic interaction examines the point where virtuality ends and our physical world begins.

On display at 630 Greenwich St, New York NY.

3. Dream House @ Dia:Chelsea
June 16 — October 24

(Master Dynamic)

Thirty-six years after exhibiting Dream House in New York City, Dia Art Foundation is filling their Chelsea location with their newly acquired, site-specific iteration of House. The installation is a key work in the ongoing collaboration between artists La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, who created this iteration with their “disciple” Jung Hee Choi. Dia Foundation describes the Dream House work, which has been displayed at a variety of institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as “…a continuous frequency environment in sound and light, in which a work would be played continuously and ultimately exist in time as a living organism…”

On view at 535 W 22nd St, New York NY.

Maybe There’s More to the Botin Picasso Story

Town & Country adds a useful bit of background the reporting on Jaime Botin’s recently seized Picasso. Much of the newspaper coverage implies that Botin was trying to smuggle the work to Switzerland, presumably through France because Switzerland is, you know, landlocked.

Instead of looking at this as Botin being caught in the act, it appears the French basically acted as repo agents for the Spanish government. Botin had been claiming he no longer had control of the work of art.

The key may lie in the fact that the judgment was with the work of art which would not be the smartest move for a smuggler. (Also worth asking: where did the $29.5m valuation come from?):Continue Reading

Everyone Is Too Cool to Buy Art on Instagram—But Not to Look At It … A Lot

The International New York Times discovers that people in the art world like Instagram. But the story can’t make up its mind whether Insta is meaningful to art sales or not. So let’s answer the question for them.

Instagram isn’t a sales platform. But it is an important and effective marketing channel that has changed the way buyers related to art. To measure its importance based upon a direct connection to art sales misses the point. Instagram is expanding the experience of art. Collectors use it to brag, goad, debate, inspire and mock their friends and rivals. Instagram takes what was always a social experience, art, and gives it a social media platform that allows users to participate in whatever social experience art provides them away from the art itself.

That’s a bigger deal than the silly quibbling here over who has the right contacts or not:

“A lot of seasoned collectors in the art world don’t use it as much,” Ms. Kuan said in a telephone interview. “They already have their own contacts in the gallery world and they go to art fairs, and may not be using Instagram that way.”

Hearing the results, Ms. Schiff, whose clients also include leading contemporary art collectors like Candace Barasch and Anne Anka, agreed with Ms. Kuan’s qualifications. “No way, no how — seasoned collectors aren’t using it like that,” Ms. Schiff said. “Maybe people in the 20-30 age range, but not over 40.”

Most of her clients are over 40, she added, and in her experience, “online sales for art tend to have a price limit on them of about $20,000, maybe $50,000.”

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Art vs. Gold, A Brief Crisis Correlation Now Out of Sync

Gold v. Art

All the recent talk of the falling price of gold combined with a look back at the first half of 2015’s art sales raised an interesting question about whether art was still “behaving like gold” in the marketplace. Remember, one thesis about the increased value of art over the last 15 years is that art prices are driven by global liquidity. So we asked Artnet to provide some numbers on the average price of fine art for each year of the last decade. They came through with the data represented by the blue line in the chart above.

From that data, you can see that only this year did art exceed its 2007 peak average price across all categories. Meanwhile, the price of gold rose steadily through the boom years and into the panic surrounding the credit crisis and its aftermath. The average price of gold peaked in 2012 but its absolute peak price was in September of 2011 which seems to have coincided with the recovery in art prices. Surprisingly, after a dip in 2012 the average price of art started to climb again with this Winter and Spring seeing a dramatic acceleration. Those numbers may temper or even falter in the second half bringing the rise back in line with previous years. But there’s no denying that Gold and art are currently moving in opposite directions and have been for two and a half years.

Cirque de Soleil Founder Brings Art Circus to Ibiza

Guy Laliberte's Murakami
Guy Laliberte’s Murakami

Art collectors and scene-makers—sometimes both in the same person!—have been heading to Ibiza this Summer to see Cirque de Soleil founder Guy Laliberté’s new art-themed attractions:

Laliberté firmly believes that Ibiza, still better known by many for its package holidays and clubbing scene, can become a prime culture destination. He is not alone in working to raise the island’s artistic profile, but has taken it upon himself to help move things forward. He plans to develop a public sculpture park alongside his residence, with Rogers’s totemic installation as the centrepiece (contingent on permission from local authorities).

The billionaire’s Ibizan home, made up of several discreet villas, was once owned by the German-Swiss collector Friedrich Christian “Mick” Flick. Laliberté has transformed the property, furnishing it with works by Wolfgang Tillmans, Andreas Gursky, Franz West and Jimmie Durham. […]

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Cuba the ‘Galapagos Island’ of Cars, Not Collectible

One story that came out of Cuba’s opening was that car collectors would flock to the island to buy up all of the vintage autos. CNBC throws cold water all over that fantasy:

Hagerty likened it to a “Galapagos Island” of cars. “Because they’ve been cut off for so long, they’ve morphed into their own species. It’s not a Cadillac. It’s something else.”

To use an example of how that affects valuation, Linden said a quintessential American car like a 1957 Chevy Bel Air four-door sedan, in perfect condition with original parts, could sell for as much as $50,000. The same model in Cuba, with a large dollop of Bondo body filler and substitute parts, would probably sell for only $5,000.

Additionally, the sweet spot of car collecting has moved from the 1950s to the 1960s. “What’s hot right now are the American muscle cars of the late ’60s and ’70s,” Magers said. Models such as Ford Mustangs from 1965 to 1973, Dodge Challengers, Chargers and Daytonas are hot, plus the Shelby Plymouth Superbird.

Antique Cuban cars: Why auto collectors are holding off (CNBC)

Santander’s Botin Can’t Get His Picasso Out of Spain

This story about Jaime Botin trying to sneak his Picasso off to Switzerland despite the Spanish government having refused the work an export license is curious more because it reveals a mis-conception about the global transfer of art works and the assumption that valuable art is easily moved about the world without unsuspecting customs officers being able to figure it out.

Obviously, here’s a case—one among many in recent years—where the authorities were quite capable of spotting a valuable work of art:Continue Reading