Dimtry Rybolovlev detained; Sotheby’s big building project; Heritage Prints & Multiples = $1.78m; Warhol’s soup cans, still lives or portraits?
This commentary by Marion Maneker is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)
Rybolovlev Detained for Questioning in Monaco
Bloomberg, and several European news outlets, reported today that Dimtry Rybolovlev was detained in Monaco for questioning related to potential corruption charges. Rybolovlev’s actions have previously caused the resignation of Monaco’s Justice Minister Philippe Narmino when his lawyer Tetiana Bersheda turned her mobile phone over to police because she was accused of using it to make illegal recordings of her conversations with another lawyer, Tania Rappo. All of these questions stem from Rybolovlev’s unending conflict with his former advisor Yves Bouvier. Bloomberg continues:
- “Rybolovlev’s lawyers, Hervé Temime and Thomas Giaccardi, said their client was interrogated based on information retrieved from his lawyer’s phone, something that is the subject of an appeal in Monaco. The attorneys also said they plan to lodge a complaint over the breach of secrecy in the case.”
Sotheby’s New Exhibition Spaces Coming in April
One of the curious mentions in Sotheby’s earnings call last week was this final element in CEO Tad Smith’s five-point update on the company’s strategy:
- “We are five months into our construction project for our new gallery space on floors one through four of our Manhattan headquarters, and are on target to unveil the finished product next April. We have completely reimagined the existing public spaces on those floors, and repurposed significant space that had not been adequately deployed previously.”
It turns out that “completely reimagined” isn’t hyperbole. Behind the walls where Sotheby’s has the material from its day sales on display are some vast, varied and very impressive spaces being built that will indeed be impressive when they are finished and revealed.
If Chinese Buyers Don’t Show Up, Will the Market Founder?
Tom Mayou of art advisory Beaumont Nathan was on CNBC a month ago describing the growth of Chinese buyers interested in Western art as the “number one phenomenon” in the current market and a “major driver” of the market and “one of the reasons we’re seeing these enormous prices.”
- “Tom Mayou […] said he is “sensing jitters” in recent weeks that could compel some bidders, particularly those in mainland China, to sit on their paddles. ‘I’m not forecasting doom and gloom, but the selling environment this fall feels very different from a year ago,’ he said. ‘There’s a big risk that the Chinese won’t show up at all.’”
Considering the six artists Crow singles out as bellwethers are Edward Hopper, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, David Hockney, Alberto Burri, Jacob Lawrence and KAWS, it seems hard to figure where the Chinese are likely to have been a factor. Although Mainland buyers have rather sophisticated and nuanced taste, at the very top of the market they usually chase works by the big names, Monet and Picasso. Sotheby’s happens to be particularly light on both names in their Imp-Mod sale by conscious choice (and a bit of luck.)
Mayou’s role at Beaumont Nathan is to run the “commercial and market intelligence departments […] to bring a level of analytical rigor” to the advisory’s market research and analysis. So it is also a bit of surprise to see his opinion on Sotheby’s restituted Kirchner—“I got a gas-chamber vibe,” he told Crow—offered as determinative. Most in the market view the Kirchner as an institutional piece likely to return to another important institution.
Heritage Prints & Multiples = $1.78m
Heritage Auctions’ Modern & Contemporary Art Prints & Multiples Auction made $1,782,025 with nearly 93% of the lots sold.
- Richard Diebenkorn’s High Green Version II, 1992 sold for $175,000
- Andy WarholMarilyn Monroe (Marilyn), 1967 nearly doubled its high pre-auction estimate at $156,250
- Andy Warhol Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn), 1967 made $106,250
- KAWS Man’s Best Friend, complete set of ten, 2016 also exceeded pre-auction estimate at $68,750
- Keith Haring Pop Shop I, set of four, 1987 brought $52,500
- Andy Warhol Mao, 1972 doubled its low pre-auction estimate at $52,500
Other notable sales include:
- Salvador Dalí Imaginations and Objects of the Future, deluxe edition with special etching Dalinian Prophecy, 1975-76$47,500
- Portfolio Leo Castelli’s 90th Birthday, 1997 $37,500
- Banksy Donuts (Chocolate), 2009 $32,500
- M.C. Escher Waterfall, 1961 $30,000
The Entire World in a Can of Soup
Mark Rozzo’s take on Warhol for Vanity Fair focuses on the 32 paintings of Campbell’s soup cans that Andy Warhol did for Irving Blum’s Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles. Only five of the works were sold during the show which gave Blum the idea to buy the whole set from Warhol for a $1000 and stiff the collectors. Blum eventually sold/gave the work, now a complete set, to MoMA in 1996 for $15m. They’re now in the Whitney show. Here’s Rozzo’s take from Vanity Fair:
- “Here, then, is the eternal oscillation of Warhol’s work, which was set in motion at Ferus: Is it a celebration of consumerism and its shallow shadow world of manufactured appearances? Or a damning critique? Warhol, I’d venture, wanted it both ways, blithely tossing that dichotomy into the art-history recycling bin like an empty can of Minestrone. And if he was trying to say that art itself was becoming a commodity, then he nailed it. Warhol’s cans—and he would continue playing with their iterations for decades—have been cited as the most meaningful development in still life since Cézanne, turning supermarket items into non-spatial pseudo-objects: pure, streamlined surface. They have been seen as icons, in the sense of religious art, traceable to Warhol’s roots in the Byzantine Catholic Church, and as landmarks in bringing the camp sensibility—gay, working class—into high art. Walter Hopps, the legendary curator who co-founded Ferus, asked Warhol about the paintings. ‘He gave me a funny smile,’ Hopps recalled in his posthumous 2017 memoir, The Dream Colony, ‘and he said, ‘I think they’re portraits, don’t you?’”