Cohen Buys But Does He Sell?

Well, Yes and No.

According to Bloomberg this morning, Steven Cohen has considered selling a group of works through several dealers in order to buy something else. The financial seize up has caused him to reconsider both sides of the $100 million trade, according to some very good reporting by Lindsay Pollock and Philip Boroff.

More recently, he snagged two pieces by Jeff Koons, including the shiny 9-foot-tall “Hanging Heart (Violet/Gold)” sculpture, according to people familiar with the transaction. Another heart from the same series fetched $23.6 million at Sotheby’s in 2007.

Last year, Cohen consigned at least eight paintings to New York dealers to sell, among them works by Willem de Kooning, Ed Ruscha and Pablo Picasso. He hoped to raise money for a major purchase that — as financial markets tumbled — he ultimately decided not to make, according to sources close to Cohen. They declined to disclose his target. [ . . . ] Last summer, as Cohen prepared to make the mysterious major purchase, he approached Sotheby’s about selling a group of artworks in the November auctions — including a work by Koons and a painting by Maurice de Vlaminck — valued at around $100 million, according to dealers and auction-house sources. The group was ultimately not put up for sale. The works he withdrew from sale at private galleries in Manhattan included Picasso’s “Homme a la Pipe,” insured for $20 million, and currently on view at Gagosian Gallery.

SAC’s Cohen Shows Off $137 Million ‘Woman’ at Sotheby’s Exhibit (Bloomberg)

Russians Dressed Up the Hirst Sale

Sarah Thornton reveals in the Economist the secret behind the success of the Hirst sale at Sotheby’s: Russian buyers. In fact, the Russian buyers were, by Thornton’s account, buying in bulk. (So much has happened since the fall of Lehman Brothers that it is almost hard to remember that the margin calls on Russian loans only began in October.)

“Every Russian collector owns a Damien Hirst”, says Maria Baibakova, a Courtauld-trained curator; she also collects with her father, Oleg Baybakov, whose business partner is Mikhail Prokhorov, currently considered Russia’s richest man. “You have to start somewhere. Then you might graduate to a Richard Prince, a Warhol or a Lichtenstein,” she adds. Out of Mr Hirst’s sale at Sotheby’s last September, “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever”, Ms Baibakova bought a zebra in formaldehyde for £1.1m. Next week her space, Red October Chocolate Factory, will host highlights from Sotheby’s forthcoming spring auctions.

The success of Mr Hirst’s sale, which began the evening that Lehman Brothers collapsed, was in no small part due to collectors from the former Soviet Union. Vladislav Doronin, a Russian property tycoon [who dates Naomi Campbell], bought work, and Alexander Machkevitch, a Kazakh mining magnate, acquired two diamond cabinets, three butterfly paintings and a gold spot canvas for a total of £11.7m. Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian steel billionaire, is believed to have bought the large fish cabinet, “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”, for £2.95m. It is one of the 100 works that will be shown in the Hirst retrospective, which opens at Mr Pinchuk’s Art Centre in Kiev next month.
[ . . . ] Victoria Gelfand, a director of Gagosian, an important New York gallery, reports that she has sold art to two new Russian collectors in the past month alone.

The Bear Still Hungers for Art (Economist)

The Myth of the Orient

More on Orientalism. Forbes discovers the popularity of the style among Middle Eastern buyers.

In 2008 Orientalist works grossed $70 million at auction worldwide, an eightfold increase from 2004, partly a reflection of the auction houses’ decision to add more sales to the calendar. In March Sotheby’s introduced its first Orientalist sale in Doha, Qatar. Last May an Orientalist session at Sotheby’s in London brought in $16 million for 90 works, setting records for ten artists.

Leading the charge of newly appreciative Orientalist collectors: Shafik Gabr, 56, the Cairo chief of Artoc Group, Egypt’s largest private developer, with $1 billion in annual sales. Gabr’s collection of 96 Orientalist pieces, accumulated over the last 15 years, is probably worth at least $40 million. Gabr first attracted FORBES’ attention when a Dubai publication described him as a billionaire. (Maybe he was before the recession arrived; now, we figure, his net worth is around $700 million.)

Embracing the Past (Forbes)

Judge Doesn't Like Secrets in Restitution

The Guggenheim Museum settled a restitution case last month over two Picasso paintings once owned by Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and his wife. But the New York Times reports this morning that the judge in the case is unhappy with the heirs’ secrecy demands:

When the settlement was announced on the eve of trial, the judge, Jed S. Rakoff of Federal District Court, expressed dismay at the secrecy, and asked whether the parties would disclose the terms, given the museums’ role as quasi-public institutions and the gravity of the plaintiffs’ accusations.Continue Reading

German Bank in Voluntary Restitution

Bloomberg’s Catherine Hickey examines the voluntary restitution of a Franz Marc painting–Cat Behind a Tree–by a German company:

The Hess family, who lived in Erfurt, had one of the most comprehensive collections of German expressionist art at that time, with about 4,000 works by artists including Max Pechstein, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde and Paul Klee. In 2006, the city of Berlin restituted Kirchner’s “Berlin Street Scene” to the sole surviving heir, who lives in London.

Marc’s 1910 “Cat Behind a Tree” was one of several paintings that Tekla Hess sent to Switzerland for protection from the Nazis in 1933. It was sold to Pelikan AG, a maker of ink and stationery, in 1936. Though it isn’t known whether Hess received any money in the transaction, under German restitution law, art sales by Jewish collectors made after 1933 are assumed to be forced. NordLB bought the painting in 1983. [ . . . ] NordLB has a collection of about 3,000 artworks, with the emphasis on postwar art. It owns works by Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Sol LeWitt, Jeff Koons, Jannis Kounellis and Joerg Immendorff, among others.

NordLB Returns Franz Marc’s Cat Painting to Jewish Family Heir (Bloomberg)

The Fate of Lehman's Art

It will be a long wait to learn the fate of bankrupt broker-dealer Lehman Brothers art collection. Lehman has hired Kelly Wright as an art consultant. Wright has experience unwinding Arthur Andersen and Warnaco corporate collections but the consistent message from Lehman, confirmed again in this New York Magazine report by Erica Orden, is that they’re in no hurry to sell.

“We are not anticipating the imminent sale of art, particularly under the likely current market conditions,” says Lehman managing director Francine Kittredge. Furthermore, Barclays, which purchased Lehman’s investment-banking and capital- markets operations, and Neuberger Berman, the firm’s former asset-management arm, still have right of first refusal on portions of the collection. “We know exactly what we’re dealing with,” adds Wright. “Art is ultimately a commodity, just like any investment tool, and when it’s high, it’s high, and when it’s low, it’s low.”Continue Reading

Zhukova Facing Facts in Moscow

The future of the art market rests upon the expansion of wealth and stability in the so-called emerging markets. By no means a foregone conclusion in these challenging and uncertain times. What will become of any of these regions remains to be seen though the long-term energy needs of the planet suggest equilibrium will return. While we wait for those economies to find their natural level, we can only wonder what role art will play. Which is why the continuing efforts of Dasha Zhukova to promote Contemporary art using commercial resources is noteworthy. The  Times of London thinks so too:Continue Reading

Crossing Over Mexican Style

Newsweek profiles the collection of Eugenio Lopez Alonso, heir to a Mexican juice fortune, who has taken on the roll of arts patron with the Jumex Collection:

Three or four times a year, the gallery launches new exhibits with lavish parties that last into the wee hours, complete with art-world big shots, live music and free-flowing alcohol. They—as much as the works they celebrate—bear the distinct mark of López, a well-known man about town who happens to own one of the biggest art collections in Latin America. Estimated to be worth between $50 million and $80 million, it encompasses more than 1,800 works by such artists as Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol, as well as by established and up-and-coming contemporary Latin American artists. “I believe I did something that was never done in Latin America,” says López, who began collecting in 1990 and opened his art to the public in 2001, once he’d amassed about 400 pieces. “I wanted to create an important collection for my country.” [ . . . ]

(More on the Jumex Collection after the jump)

Continue Reading

Correcting Richard Prince

Artnet magazine got in touch with Richard Prince to follow up on a Times of London report that he was negotiating with the Morgan Library to donate his book collection in exchange for a multi-year exhibition. Here’s Artnet’s report:

Prince says the story isn’t true. “I have never talked to anybody at the Morgan about this possibility and have never talked to any reporter about this possibility,” he said in an email to Artnet Magazine. “I have no idea where or how this story started.” It turns out that Allen-Mills wrote his report based on an interview Prince gave to Bookforum — and the author of that text, Geoff Nicholson, does claim in passing that Prince is “negotiating to donate it to the Morgan if they let him have an exhibition there for a couple of years.” A spokesman for the Morgan Library also said he didn’t know anything about the deal. Bookforum, for its part, says that “the article was reviewed by Richard Prince before publication.”

No Book Gift to Morgan: Richard Prince (Artnet)