Mastering the Old Master Market
In making her case of for the renewed importance of Old Master painting, Susan Moore makes some curious mistakes like suggesting the US National Gallery’s Ter Brugghen sold for $10m was sign of demand rather than a sign of the National Gallery’s determination to win its painting back from a restitution claim. In a bigger slip, Moore then counts the sale of the same painting from the auction winner back to the US National Gallery as another example of the “hot” Old Master market.
No matter. All of this interest in Old Master painting is merely a preface to a great preview of the wares on offer at TEFAF Maastricht which opens later this week:
TEFAF Maastricht is, of course, the most important fair in the world for Old Masters: paintings, drawings and prints. Its 75 or so specialist dealers in this field – from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and the US as well as the UK – present an unrivalled shop-window to the world’s collectors and curators, major and minor. Konrad Bernheimer, chairman of the fair’s pictura, or fine art section, describes the mood among his fellow dealers as “quietly confident”. He believes that more and more collectors are turning to Old Masters from classical modern and contemporary art, not least because it is one area of the market which is showing stability. He is tempting this year’s visitors with the likes of Lucas Cranach the Elder’s impressive “David and Bathsheba” of 1534, and a rare religious painting by Frans Hals, a “St Mark” from a set of Four Evangelists which had originally belonged to Catherine the Great. Both are priced between €5m and €6m.
Old Masters remain unscathed by the downturn (Financial Times)
The Gulf States get coordinated in their approach to art. Jan Dalley looks at the preparations that went into making the event that begins next weekend:
It opens in Doha with events centred around Qatar’s proud new Museum of Islamic Art, the IM Pei-designed building that is a sort of beacon in the area – for all the column inches, hype and furious PR effort devoted to successive announcements about Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island (with its Louvre and Guggenheim and all the rest) and Dubai’s own ambitious plans, the MIA in Doha is the only one that is in existence, filled with treasures, and open to the public.
From Doha, where one discussion topic is “Creating Spaces, Creating Audiences”, a pertinent question in a region that is busy building museums yet has no tradition of exhibition-gazing or gallery-going, Contemparabia’s caravan moves on to Dubai and Sharjah. Tate Britain’s orientalist exhibition Lure of the East is a prominent visitor on show; Sharjah’s biennale is set in its own romantic location, and for the discussion groups in Dubai beachside tents make a wonderful setting. Cultural identity and heritage, the role of the public and private sectors, cities as cultural destinations are among the topics covered.
United Front Bridges the Gulf (Financial Times)
Susan Moore charts the rise of Emirati art in five short years:
According to Hassan Sharif, the British-trained “father” of conceptual art in the Emirates, it was the 2003 Sharjah Biennial that “changed the artistic landscape of the UAE”. That year the directorship of the show was taken over by Sheikha Hoor Al-Qasimi, the daughter of the Ruler of Sharjah, who had studied at London’s Royal College of Art. With the help of curator Peter Lewis, she set a new agenda, not only by bringing in artists from all over the world but new media too – video, installation, digital and performance art – and organised a symposium focusing on globalisation and these new practices.
Christie’s went on to stage its first high-profile auction of international modern and contemporary art in Dubai in 2006, and the first editions of the UAE’s two thriving international art fairs, Art Dubai and ArtParis Abu Dhabi, followed in 2007 (this year’s Art Dubai, March 18-21, coincides with the Sharjah Biennial). Bonhams staged its inaugural Dubai auction last year, and Phillips de Pury has announced its plans for auctions later this year. All these events offer a showcase to established and emerging talent in the region alongside Western – and Asian – art and all have the support of the various UAE governments that are investing large sums in building museums and promoting culture in the region.
The Rapid Emergence of Emirati Art (Financial Times)
The Half-Year of Living Dangerously
The FT’s Patricia Chen on Southeast Asian, especially Indonesian, art’s surprising strength:
Yet for some reason, south-east Asian art did not seem as badly affected as its counterparts in other parts of Asia. While prices for other categories plunged, average prices of contemporary art in south-east Asia slid by only about 20 per cent from their height.
Auction houses argue that the south-east Asian art market is intrinsically different from others. The buying and selling of artworks has been the preserve of a coterie of savvy, passionate and well-heeled art-lovers from Indonesia, and Indonesian works account for 80 per cent of auction volume.
Having weathered many financial crises, the Indonesians are said to have learnt to “crisis-insulate” themselves by remaining fairly liquid. The telling sign is that prized works have not left their collections, yet.
Dark Days, High Hopes (Financial Times)