Art Fairs
Marion Maneker0April 10, 2014

Vernissage TV: Art Cologne 2014

Vernissage TV Art Cologne 2014

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Marion Maneker0April 09, 2014

Who Is Behind the Billion-Dollar Bids for Detroit’s Art?

Detail of Vincent van Gogh Self Portrait at DIA

The Detroit Free Press and Wall Street Journal both have greater detail from the court documents and their own reporting on what the various expressions of interest are concerning the Detroit Institute of Arts collection. The effort is being driven by a bond insurer that stands to lose a great deal of money in the bankruptcy. To stave off their loss, the FGIC has solicited interest from a range of financial entities. One is a collector offering to buy the whole collection or nothing at all. Another offer comes from Poly Auction just to acquire the Chinese works which raises an interesting cultural question about where those works “belong.”

In documents filed in court, FGIC said its financial adviser, Houlihan Lokey, had “conducted an exhaustive examination” of the value of the DIA by examining works in person, reviewing publicly available DIA records, reading books about the museum and discussing the situation with experts.

The insurer compiled the information into a 259-page document sent to 19 prospective investors after initially contacting 38 parties about potential bids. The insurer listed four indications of interest with prospective bids:

Catalyst Acquisitions and Bell Capital Partners: Offered $1.75 billion for “all assets held in the DIA” to be funded by the two companies and “a syndicate of leading global investors.”

Art Capital Group: Offered a $2 billion loan with the DIA’s entire collection used as collateral. The loan would carry a minimum interest rate of 6% to 9%. A person close to the bid solicitation said the city would likely have to sell some art to pay off the loan.

But some of the proceeds could be used to invest in city services and pay off creditors.

“Art Capital Group is providing financing that enables the people and community of Detroit to keep its treasured art assets,” said Montieth M. Illingworth, spokesman for Art Capital Group, in an email. “Our solution does not require the sale of this art collection. It is one of the country’s most important collections and it should stay in and with the people of Detroit. We also believe that our proposal addresses the requirements of creditors and is superior to the alternatives that have been made available today.”

Yuan Capital: The Asia-based investor offered $895 million to $1.473 billion for 116 specific works, including most of the museum’s most valuable pieces, with funding led by a “consortium” of investors.

Poly International Auction: The Beijing-based auction house offered up to $1 billion for the Chinese art collection, although the bid would be conditioned on a review of the specific pieces owned by the museum.

“Ignoring the proposals, or failing to cooperate with the interested parties to advance the process, would be another egregious example of the City placing politics over the financial and legal realities of the situation – this would almost certainly result in drawn-out litigation, which no one wants,” Spencer said.

Separately, bond insurer Syncora and the city’s retiree committee recently delivered subpoenas to the DIA seeking a massive list of documents detailing the DIA’s collection and finances.

The Wall Street Journal adds:

Marc Bell, a Boca Raton, Fla., investor said his namesake firm Marc Bell Capital Partners and a subsidiary of his firm, Catalyst Acquisition Group in New Jersey, have offered to buy the museum’s entire 66,000-piece collection for $1.75 billion. Such a deal would probably not close for six months, documents show.

Mr. Bell’s firm is known for focusing on mortgage-backed securities, but he also helped produce several award-winning Broadway musicals and plays, including “Jersey Boys” and “August: Osage County.” Mr. Bell, in an interview, said he started collecting contemporary art 15 years ago and owns pieces by 1980s art stars like Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf as well as Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher.

He said he hasn’t yet decided what do with his art trove should the city approve his offer, but he said it could involve a combination of auction and private sales of some pieces, and loans or sales to museums where possible.

“I love art, but it’s also an investment,” he said. “And I don’t think it’s right that 30,000 people in Detroit should get shorted their pensions because the city can’t figure out what to do with its art. Somebody has got to step in, and we’re offering cash in the bank.”

He added that his offer price could change based on future valuations of the museum collection, but he said he wants to buy the entire collection, not just the masterpieces. “Our offer is all or nothing.”

The other groups offered either a loan based on the value of the art or a sale of part of the collection. Poly International Auction, which offered to spend up to $1 billion for the DIA’s Chinese art collection, is a Beijing-based auction house. Over the past decade, Poly has risen to become an unlikely power broker in the international art world. Controlled by Chinese state-owned China Poly Group, which began as a unit of the People’s Liberation Army, Poly is now the largest auctioneer in Asia and ranks only behind Sotheby’s and Christie’s in terms of total art sales.

Less is known about another interested Hong Konk-based entity, Yuan Management, which offered to buy 116 works in the collection, including some not valued by Christie’s last year.

Insurer solicits offers for DIA artwork; several billion-dollar bids received (Detroit Free Press)

Detroit Art Draws Potential Buyers, Says Bond Insurer  (

Marion Maneker0April 09, 2014

Collectors, Asset-Backed Lenders and Poly Auction Want to Make Offers on DIA’s Art

The Detroit Institute of Arts

Katya Kazakina reports on the surprise move by Detroit’s creditors to milk $2bn from the Detroit Institute of Arts’s by generating asset backed loans. How loans against the art would improve Detroit’s fiscal position is unclear. The additional interest will only add to the city’s future obligations. As with all aspects of Detroit’s bankruptcy, a Federal judge will have the final say.

Perhaps more interesting in the news report is the identity of the four entities making separate or combined offers. Two are Chinese:

Detroit could get four offers to turn some of its art collection into as much as $2 billion in cash, either as a loan backed by the works or as a purchase, creditors including bond insurers said in a court filing.

The creditors today asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes to force the city to cooperate with the potential bidders, who would like to investigate the value of the art. The possible bidders include Catalyst Acquisitions LLC/Marc Bell Capital Partners LLC, Art Capital Group LLC, Poly International Auction Co. and Yuan Management Hong Kong Ltd.

Poly International, an auction house owned by China’s government, seeks to buy all the Chinese works in the city’s art collection for as much as $1 billion, according to court filings.

Yuan said it would like to buy 116 works for as much as $1.47 billion and Catalyst said it may be interested in paying as much as $1.75 billion for the entire collection.

Detroit Bond Insurers Say City Could Get $2 Billion for Art – Bloomberg.

Marion Maneker0April 09, 2014

Third Point Responds to Sotheby’s

IGW_Sothebys_Art_V7Third Point has created its own website to push its side of the Sotheby’s board fight:


Auction Results
Marion Maneker0April 09, 2014

Sotheby’s Hong Kong = $438m (37% Above Estimates)

Sotheby's HK Sale 414

Sotheby’s Hong Kong five-day Spring 2014 Sale Series (4 to 8 April) concluded yesterday, achieving HK$3.42 billion / US$438 million and far-exceeding pre-sale expectations (in excess of HK$2.5 billion / US$320 million).  A total of 3,445 lots were sold throughout the week. 

Marion Maneker0April 09, 2014

Newly Discovered Miró, Estimated at Between $4 & 6m, to Sell at Sotheby’s in New York This May

Miró, Sans Titre (4-6m USD)

Eileen Kinsella has a nice story on Artnet News about a cache of Joan Miró works that were the property of a New York photographer and filmmaker’s daughter. Now her estate is selling the three works at Sotheby’s in a few weeks time:

[Nicholas] Bouchard, who had extensive experience photographing dancers and was credited with widening the audience for modern dance in the 1930s, had a solo exhibition of his photographs at the Brooklyn Museum in 1936–37. He filmed Miró for a project entitled “Around and About Joan Miró” including documenting the artist creating one of his paintings. Miró dedicated this work to Diane with an inscription that read: “to Diane Bouchard, with all my love.”

Not only is the video, a fascinating artifact in its own right, also serves as instant indisputable evidence that Miró created the work. According to the Sotheby’s catalogue, the authenticity of the work has been confirmed by A.D.O.M., the seven-member Association pour la Défense de l’œuvre de Joan Miró.

The painting, along with two others Miró gave to Bouchard, languished in a vault in New York for decades.  That is until Sotheby’s senior vice president Elizabeth Gorayeb got a call from an estate representative following Diane Boucher’s death in March of 2013. Gorayeb says the representative knew there were works in the vault by artists Thomas Bouchard had filmed (he also shot Fernand Léger wandering through the New York and New Hampshire countryside gathering materials and ideas for his canvases), but didn’t know exactly what the works were. He “was unsure what we would be seeing, and did not have a sense of the value of these works,” recounts Gorayeb. Miró’s Untitled, 1947, painted on a rich blue background that “characterizes his most acclaimed works of this era,” according to the catalogue, was nothing short of a revelation.

Sotheby’s To Offer a 1947 Miró Pulled Straight From the Vault (artnet News)

Marion Maneker0April 09, 2014

Gurlitt’s Looted Matisse Now Subject to Three Conflicting Claims

Vanity Fair Gurlitt Image

The most prominent work of art in the Gurlitt hoard, Matisse’s Woman with a Fan which is claimed by the heirs of Paul Rosenberg, including the wealthy Anne Sinclair, was just revealed to have two rival claims. One claimant just stepped forward. The confusion does underscore the German government’s initial hesitation to reveal hoard the overwhelming nature of these claims:

The task force declined to comment on the criticism by the two sides or their negotiations, saying only that it had disclosed the information of the new claim to Mr. Gurlitt’s lawyers. The documents backing the third claim—including the claimant’s identity—were released to Mr. Gurlitt’s team but not to the Rosenberg heirs, both parties said. Neither the task force nor Mr. Gurlitt’s representatives would disclose any information on the new claim.

“Mr. Gurlitt’s lawyers have a right to be informed about every claim that has been filed against him,” said Matthias Henkel, the task force’s spokesman.

German Task Force Criticized Over Rival Claim for Nazi-Looted Matisse (

Marion Maneker0April 09, 2014

Sotheby’s Plays Defense


Download a copy of the deck here: Sotheby’s Board Deck 414

Marion Maneker0April 09, 2014

Galleries Look for Hope to Triumph Over Experience

Forrest Bess

Though not new, Katya Kazakina rightly covers the intensifying trend toward re-discovering artists that seems to be overtaking New York’s dealer community.

“Whether the artists are old, dead or overlooked, people are turning over all the stones,” said Wendy Cromwell, founder of Cromwell Art LLC and president of the Association of Professional Art Advisors in New York. “It’s a function of a global market. Dealers have to have new material all the time.” […]

“People feel priced out,” said John Good, Christie’s international director of postwar and contemporary art. “They know that at one point works by these artists cost a lot less and are looking for parallels in the market of things that are undervalued.” […]

“New buyers who have doubts about young artists feel more comfortable with an artist who has a place, even a small one, in art history,” said Belgian collector Alain Servais.

Since the tendency is driven by a search for strong work that has not become too expensive for a wider range of collectors, one would think that critics—especially those who complain bitterly about market pressures—would celebrate the turn toward research and rediscovery. Here’s Roberta Smith, who, to be fair, celebrates the tendency but thinks it has gotten out of hand:

History — or the test of time — is not always wrong. Not every artist whose work languishes in obscurity is unjustly ignored. The work of some more or less died with its time and exists as retro artifact or interesting historical evidence but doesn’t give off much heat now. The idea that an overlooked artist is by definition a significant artist is sometimes based more on wishful thinking than on actual looking.

Forgotten Artists Monetized as Millionaires Buy History (Bloomberg)

The Effort to Resurrect the Sculptor Germaine Richier (


Marion Maneker0April 08, 2014

Poly Reportedly Loses a $4m Painting After Hong Kong Sale

Snowy Mountain

The folks at Poly had a great sale in Hong Kong but one of the works disappeared before it made its way to the new owners. The South China Morning Post says the work was accidentally thrown out with the trash. Others are claiming that the work is not lost at all:

The Chinese ink wash painting, Snowy Mountain, by  went under the hammer for HK$28.75 million, the second highest price among 22 of the artist’s works sold during a two-day sale in the five-star Wan Chai hotel by Poly Auction.

A police source said officers scrutinising closed-circuit TV footage yesterday saw cleaners disposing of the painting.

The rubbish was then taken to the landfill in Tuen Mun.

Police had been to the landfill but could find no trace of the artwork, the source said.

Police search landfill for HK$28 million painting ‘after cleaners mistake it for rubbish’ (South China Morning Post)