Saffronart held a life evening sale last month that had a strong result. More impressive still was the day sale where all 70 lots sold for an additional $880,525.
Below is the sales report issued by the fair’s PR firm Sutton PR
- Sundaram Tagore Gallery (New York City, Hong Kong, Singapore) sold Fernando Botero’s ‘Donna Seduta’, 2005, for USD 960,000
- Kálmán Makláry Fine Arts (Budapest) sold a painting by Judit Reigl entitled ‘Outburst’, 1956, for GBP 220,000 to an English collector. The gallery also sold two works by artist Sam Havadtoy for GBP 8,000 and GBP 18,000 to an Asian collector
- Alexander Ochs Gallery (Berlin, Beijing) sold Zhao Zhao’s ‘Waterfall’, one of the Art14 London Projects, for EUROS 90,000 to an Israeli collector
- Galerie Mark Hachem (Paris, New York City, Beirut) sold four works by artist Jesus Curia to a private museum in Dubai. One of the sculptural works made of bronze and wood, entitled ‘7-Camino’, sold for GBP 29,000
- Rossi & Rossi Gallery (London) sold two works by the Tibetan artist Tenzing Rigdol for USD 15,000 and USD 25,000, in addition to two works by the American artist Tsherin Sherpa ranging from USD 15,000 to USD 25,000
- Pearl Lam Galleries (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore) sold a painting by Chinese artist Zhu Jinshi, entitled ‘Old Cycas Tree’ for GBP 195,000 to a UK based collector
- Pifo Gallery (Beijing) sold five works including two works by Chinese artist Kang Haitao for GBP 40,000 and GBP 60,000, both to London based collectors
- Faur Zsófi Gallery (Budapest) sold work by an emerging Hungarian sculptor called Áron Zsolt Majoros to two privately owned contemporary art museums. Both sculptures were sold for GBP 10,000, one was bought by a private museum in Istanbul and the other in Mexico City
- Jerome Zodo (Milan) sold a work entitled ‘Bianco’, 1978 by Agostino Bonalumi for EUROS 140,000
- A painting entitled ‘Ashen face-Aiko Fang’ by Taiwanese artist Lo Chan-Peng sold at AKI Gallery (Taipei) for GBP 48,000 to an European Collector
- Sims Reed Gallery (London) sold a complete set of 16 etchings and aquatints by David Hockney entitled ‘A Rake’s Progress’ 1961-63, for over GBP 100,000 to a London-based collector
- Tang Contemporary (Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong) sold a painting by Chinese artist Wang Yuyang for GBP 17,000
- Lin & Lin (Taipei, Beijing) sold two mixed media works on canvas by Taiwanese artist Liu Shih-Tung, ‘Blossom’ 2013 sold for GBP 15,000 in the first 30 minutes of the Fair, and ‘Look, Something Amazing Has Happened Here!’ 2013 sold for GBP 11,000
- The Fine Art Society Contemporary (London) sold a film work by Rob and Nick Carter entitled ‘Transforming Nude Painting, 2013 after Giorgione’s ‘Sleeping Venus’, c.1510’ for GBP 100,000
- Lazarides (London) sold a painting by Conor Harrington for GBP 60,000
Colline Milliard adds this sale on Artnet:
- Karsten Schubert: Four Bridget Riley works on paper in the region of £100,000 (US$167,276).
More charts from the mystery collector at White Walls Are Ugly
NPR delves into some interesting social scientific research that’s been floating around about the role of peer influence on aesthetic values. In other words, do we value the best art because of its inherent qualities or do some works gain popularity through external forces?
Let’s put that more concretely: Is the Mona Lisa famous because it is the greatest expression of artistic genius or did the theft and publicity surrounding the search for the stolen painting at the turn of the 20th century have something to do with its worldwide stature?
Princeton’s Matthew Salganik tried to answer that with an experiment:
“To see the role of chance you need to see multiple realizations of the same process,” Salganik explains. “But we only get to see one outcome. So we see the world where the Mona Lisa is one of the most famous paintings, and it’s hard to imagine that something different could have happened.”
But Salganik is good at computers, so he came up with a plan.
He would create a series of identical worlds online filled with the same pieces of art, then get thousands of people to choose which they liked best.
If the same art rose to the top of every world, then he would know that success was driven by the inherent qualities of that work. If not, he could conclude, success was essentially random.
“We have the chance of really seeing — as much as we possibly can — parallel versions of history. So rather than trying to argue like that, we just said, ‘Let’s just create these parallel worlds and see what happens.’ “
So … what happened? As you can imagine, the results favored chance over inherent quality:
after this work, which one person in the field described as a seminal paper, Salganik went on to do similar studies with parallel worlds that suggest that quality does have at least a limited role. It is hard to make things of very poor quality succeed — though after you meet a basic standard of quality, what becomes a huge hit and what doesn’t is essentially a matter of chance.
The International edition of the New York Times wants you to believe that the art market is in trouble because it is too successful. The usually superlative Scott Reyburn writes a story about success at the top of the art market creating vulnerability in the middle where the auction houses must generate their commissions.
Towards the end, Reyburn offers this cautionary tale from London’s just-completed sales:
The auction houses instead have to make money out of lots in the $50,000 to $5 million range, for which they charge double-digit fees to both the seller and the buyer. This in turn squeezes the profitability of middle-range works that don’t enjoy trophy status.
At Sotheby’s on Feb. 12, for example, the 1984 Basquiat painting “Water-worshipper” sold below estimate for a hammer price of £2.15 million; it had been bought by its seller for €2.4 million at an auction in Paris in 2010.
Reading that second paragraph, you would think the Basquiat sold at a loss because the paper is comparing Euros to British Pounds. But according to Sotheby’s website, the price of the Basquiat in December 2010 was £2.022m. In other words, the consignor made 7% premium to hammer.
Yes, a seller’s commission could have eaten into that gain. But wouldn’t it have been better to convert the prices into a common currency and then make the point that the slim gain might have been eaten up by commissions?
Curiously, two of the more prominent market participants quoted in the story don’t real support the article’s thesis:
“In 2007 we were definitely in a bubble,” said Howard Rachofsky, a Dallas-based collector. “Then after the break it got globalized. The market attracted the attention of international players who are interested in art as another asset and they’ve got huge reserves.”
Rachofsky seems to be saying that this is not a bubble. And these two quotes go even farther:
“Things are different now,” said Allan Schwartzman, the New York-based art adviser. “There’s a momentum in the market that’s dictated by the top players. It’s trophy-driven. There are often six competitors for the major lots at auctions, which indicates to me there isn’t a bubble. Contemporary art has never been supported like this before.” […]
“It used to be said the air was thin at the top of the market,” said Mr. Schwartzman. “Now it’s thin in the middle.”
Then, again, isn’t the real takeaway from the Water-worshipper sale that a clearly non-trophy work found a buyer?
Speculating on Trophy Art (NYTimes)
Interview with David Zwirner begins at 19:00; later part of the interview addresses art dealing.
NBC News reports on a huge theft from Cuba’s museum:
Nearly 100 works of “important” Cuban art were stolen from a warehouse of the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana, Cuban officials confirmed Friday — and it may have turned up in Miami.
The Cuban National Council of Cultural Patrimony released a statement Friday confirming that a number of “important pieces” stored at an administrative building for the museum are missing, but that there was no forced entry at the building.
“We do not know exactly when the theft took place because the criminals cut the paintings from their frames in a way that the eye could not detect,” the statement said. “Most of the stolen works are from the period called Arte Cubano and are mostly pieces by Leopoldo Romañach.”
The AP follows up with what happened in Miami:
Gallery owner Ramon Cernuda said Friday that he bought a painting two weeks ago by Cuban artist Eduardo Abela from another local gallery and discovered the Cuban museum owned the work. The museum confirmed the painting was missing from its warehouse.
Cernuda then went back to the same Miami gallery and saw ten works by Cuban artist Leopooldo Romanach. Those also turned out to be missing from the Cuban museum’s warehouse. The museum confirmed the theft in a statement Friday. Cernuda said he was suspicious because the Romanach paintings had been cut from their stretchers, something only someone in a hurry would do.
MIAMI: Art from Cuban national museum turns up in Miami (MiamiHerald.com)
Lost in all the commotion caused by Daniel Loeb’s initiating a proxy fight for seats on Sotheby’s board was the reaction to yesterday’s earnings call. Sotheby’s stock fell as much as 7% in trading today. Philip Boroff explains why on Artnet’s news site. Boroff draws out one particular issue that has not gotten enough attention: the long-term decline of Sotheby’s commission margin. When asked, CEO Bill Ruprecht demurred that he could give no timetable for when the trend my reverse itself.
It is worth noting that Loeb raised this issue in his letter to Ruprecht but has offered no public indication that he has a solution for the eroding margins. Here’s Boroff on the matter:
Sotheby’s fourth-quarter net income was $1.30 per share, short of the $1.41 consensus of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Full-year earnings rose 20 percent to $130 million, but lagged that of 2011, 2010, and 2007, even as art prices for marquee works soared to record levels. […]
Sotheby’s auction commission margin, a closely watched measure, fell for the fourth consecutive year. It took in $15.90 for every $100 of auction sales in 2013, down from $16.30 in 2012 and $20.70 in 2009. While Sotheby’s private sales have grown, auction commissions still represent 81 percent of revenue.
(If you look closely at the chart of Sotheby’s stock above, you’ll notice a surge in buying that followed Loeb’s proxy fight announcement. But the rise is volume and price quickly faded suggesting Loeb’s campaign is far from convincing and few are eager to buy shares to vote him in.)
Loeb Presses Case Against Sotheby’s (Artnet News)
So here is a look at ten booths you should check out when you are at the Armory Show in New York next week. (Full disclosure: my insider art knowledge comes from working on the Armory Show preview for Artsy, which has partnered with the fair for the second year in a row to bring it online, and provide me with ample opportunity to contemplate the works ahead of the VIP opening.)
With an impressive list of over 200 galleries and a highly competitive selection process, this iteration of the fair is bound to have a self-assured vibe of not trying too hard. Many big names such as James Cohan, Sikkema Jenkins and Thaddaeus Ropac are new, while a multitude of younger European and Asian galleries, both new and returning, will be showing fresh talent coming to light. This year’s curatorial focus is China, which is extremely relevant, but far from my area of expertise, so I leave it to people who know far more.
Skip the Israel Lund at Roberts & Tilton. There’s a 100% chance it’s long-sold, months before it was created, to a bigger collector than you. If you really want to try your luck, maybe add yourself to the wait list for one of the Harold Ancarts at CLEARING Gallery, which sit there like fine tropical birds—to be desired but not captured. You might even spot a few of these rare breeds, if you get the coveted invite to the Hort’s Sunday Armory Brunch—and if the Horts have them, then what are the chances for the rest of us.
Instead, let’s talk about emerging painters and new media. Here are the booths I am most excited to see at this year’s Armory Show.
Jessica Silverman Gallery (Pier 94 – Contemporary, Booth 761)
The booth is part of the inaugural edition of Armory Presents, a curatorially tight section of the fair dedicated to newly-established dealers and younger artists. The San Francisco gallery, and preeminent outpost of emerging talent on the West Coast, will present Hayal Pozanti’s new series of paintings. With names like Technocream and Archival Alchemy, the irresistible canvases depict rounded geometric forms derived from subconscious doodles, GIFs and digital rendering which reconcile the digital world with canons of modern art.
I8 (Pier 94 – Contemporary, Booth 609)
There are a lot of interesting artists out of Iceland and Northern Europe dealing with temporality and the laws of visual and metaphysical perception disguised in post-minimalist form. This booth is a Nordic haven and will feature Olafur Eliasson, Thór Vigfússon and Alicja Kwade. My personal favorite is the Ragnar Kjartansson photograph from his S.S. Hangover voyage, which sailed across the the Venice Arsenale at last summer’s biennale.
Zach Feuer (Pier 94 – Contemporary, Booth 821)
At every fair, I am ever more blown away by Jon Rafman’s works. With the recent cameo of his morphed heads in the RoboCop film, the rest of the world also seems to have caught onto my obsession. The Monet Master Bedroom and De Kooning Hallway are especially amazing—they are unreal environments, digitally created to transmute iconic artwork into the physical realm, through 3D modeling software. Paired with new shingle paintings by Marianne Vitale, this booth is not to be missed.
James Fuentes LLC (Pier 94 – Contemporary, Booth 781)
The solo booth of Jessica Dickinson’s works on paper is a thoughtful and slow contemplation, that’s a rare find amidst any art fair, where mirrors and neons are the usual modus operandi. Her works are explorations into material flesh of paper itself and subtle color modulations. They are meditative, strong and will serve as a perfect respite from the visual barrage of everything else.
Marianne Boesky Gallery (Pier 94, Booth 604)
After that edgy WSJ feature, and a killer lineup of new talent including Andisheh Avini and the current show of Kon Trubkovich, Marianne Boesky has been turning heads this season. She delivers another ‘art star’ of the rise, with a solo booth dedicated to Serge Alain Nitegeka. The constructed planes of of wood and black contrasting shapes are exquisite and have depth and focus. With Julia Dault now on the roster as well, things are just heating up for this gallery.
BolteLang (Pier 94, Booth 779)
Thomas Raat was a new name to me before the Armory, but he has shown extensively around Europe and will have Zurich’s BolteLang Gallery booth dedicated to his vividly geometric, whimsically abstract and overall delightful paintings. They are a real gem, with an unpretentious price point and unique floor display. This should be a destination for any younger collectors looking to discover a new name.
Cardi/Cardi Black Box (Pier 94, Booth 725)
Many dealers like to approach art fairs as a chance to curate and explore themes and intersections of multiple artists’ practice. This year, Cardi promises one of the sharpest presentations with series monochromatic edge that will feature Andy Warhol’s Knives (a jarring silkscreen of just that), a stunning white Fontana slash painting from 1966 and Scott Short’s series of 2013 works. Short is a forerunner to much of today’s process paintings and his pieces are actually re-painted versions of photocopied black and white sheets of paper.
Galerie Rodolphe Janssen (Pier 94, Booth 507)
The program of this Brussels based gallery has gotten a lot of international attention and has become one of the main spaces for emerging American talent to show abroad. The gallery will be working with all the members of The Still House Group on a series of upcoming shows. For the Armory, Janssen is bringing a collection of uniquely figurative works by subversive artists including Betty Tompkins, Sean Landers and Chris Martin amongst others.
Peter Blum Gallery (Pier 94, Booth 709)
New Yorkers never tire of Alex Katz, a timeless favorite at the Armory. This year one can expect to see his works at no less than six booths. Blum is leading the pack and dedicating his space to Katz’s recent portraits and nature vistas. The paintings are all cropped off-kilter, gaining dimension in context of one another. Gavin Brown’s Enterprise showed a solo booth of Katz at Frieze last fall and now Blum is choosing a similar approach in New York.
Higher Pictures (Pier 94, Booth 771)
Rubbing shoulders with private collector spaces and Gagosian, this uptown gallery is a proponent of emerging art in the 980 Madison building and has been exhibiting abstract photography (and the likes of Sam Falls) before it ever became a thing. For the Armory, Higher Pictures will be in the Presents section with a booth of all Travess Smalley works. This artist’s goal is to ‘capture physical presence’ through a mashup of computer generated and physical matter. The UV prints on stretched vinyl resemble wave patterns from afar and almost make you wish OpArt would make a comeback.
If you’ve been following the Sotheby’s activist investor saga, you were as surprised as management was when it was announced yesterday that Daniel Loeb was spurning Sotheby’s offer of a significant board seat in favor of a slate of three candidates that included himself. Given Patrick McClymont’s masterly handling of the activist issues—freeing up capital from the company’s real estate portfolio and art loan book—the only remaining issue between activists and management was the volume of capital to be returned to shareholders.
Mick McGuire, the fund manager who set the drama in motion, has to be looking at his exit if he hasn’t already done so. McGuire amassed 4.5m shares somewhere in the $30-range. With the stock trapped below a $50 ceiling after the buyback announcement, an activist would be more than happy to book his 40+% gain and move on to another target.
Not Loeb. Yesterday he declared his intention to pursue a proxy fight. Loeb seems to want to manage Sotheby’s from the boardroom by adding not only himself but his restructuring ally and another luxury goods CEO:
“We believe these prompt and long overdue developments make the case that the company and all shareholders will benefit from having an owner’s perspective in the boardroom,” it wrote. […]
Sotheby’s still needs to cut more costs and improve its share of the contemporary art market, as well as enlarging its online sales programs, the hedge fund wrote in its filing.
“All shareholders will benefit from further depth of experience in Sotheby’s key business building block: luxury customer relationship development,” Third Point wrote.
Is Loeb’s proxy fight—when he’s won almost all of his activist concessions—simply a personal vendetta against Ruprecht? or is it the vanity of hedge fund manager wanting to play corporate strategist and executive?
Finally, if we take Loeb at his word, what is the strategy he envisions for Sotheby’s?
Loeb Plans a Proxy Fight at Sotheby’s (Dealbook/NYTimes)