Lindemann’s Art Basel blockchain conference; Andy Hall regulated your art market; What Jho Low does for the Chinese; Does David Zwirner fixate on Gagosian?
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“Blockchain is a digital common space, a shared room where members can gather and see stuff.” @RealZandy on how the people who fractionally own art could get together to see shared performances or experiences or get to know each other#experientialart #artofblockchains @ArtBasel
— Kelly Crow (@KellyCrowWSJ) December 4, 2018
It’s not fair to draw conclusions about events that you only experience third hand through social media. But the quotes and video coming out of Adam Lindemann’s art and blockchain symposium held at the Faena Forum yesterday before the opening of Art Basel’s VIP vernissage were so striking they can hardly pass without comment.
Skeptics point out that blockchain technology has yet to produce a real-world application beyond Bitcoin no matter how many IBM ads you are forced to sit through. Some blockchain enthusiasts simply don’t see the art world applications. Others wonder if there’s a utopian fantasy that has allowed many to project upon the blockchain their own fervent agendas. The Wall Street Journal’s Kelly Crow tweeted from the conference including this gnostic gem from Stuart Comer, “differentiating the difference between value and values is the key tension now.”
This is the art world. So perhaps the best way to understand how the fantasies about decentralized fractional ownership can be much harder than it sounds is to watch what happens to a work of art. On hand at Lindemann’s conference was artist Kenny Scharf who created an original work on a substrate of 150 tiles. At the end, there was a frenzy of interest among the attendees to walk away with a fraction of the whole work. Lindemann himself complained in a tweet after that even he didn’t get to keep one of the tiles.
As this video shows, the break-up was a free for all, aptly becoming a metaphor for the decentralized blockchain. Does anyone think it will be easy to re-assemble the pieces, let alone in some semblance of order that recreates the work of art? Does anyone think the individual tiles have value, monetary or artistic? Does anyone think they can be put back together without someone coordinating it like perhaps buying up all the pieces at a discout?
Then why does anyone think de-centralized ownership will work? Please don’t say the blockchain will solve it all unless you can describe the process in detail because that’s not how the blockchain actually works.
Give Andy Hall Your Thanks
Last week’s news that collector Andy Hall had won a civil judgment against Lorettann Gascard and her son Nikolas who must repay the oil-trader $465,000 for being the source of dozens of works by Leon Golub that Hall bought believing them to be genuine.
It seems unlikely that Hall will ever see that money. Even if he does, the half million dollars surely doesn’t cover the costs of the litigation which has taken three years to wind its way through the system. In that sense, the art market owes Hall a word of thanks. He devoted his time, energy and money to seeing that faking art works and selling them as real would be punished. And he did without regard to the necessary embarrassment of admitting that he was duped.
Here’s what Hall told the New York Times whose headline writers glibly called his victory a refund:
Mr. Hall said that even though some people wondered why he had wanted to draw attention to the fact that he had been tricked, he said he was glad he had pursued the case and now felt vindicated. “People thought maybe I was rash and should put it down to one of life’s rich experiences,” he said. “But people defrauding other people, especially in the art market, should not be allowed to get away with it.”
Mr. Hall said that though he was satisfied because he was getting his money back, “I am even happier for Leon Golub and his legacy that was being impaired by this whole business.”
“I hope it’s cleared the air,” he said.
A Glimpse at Jho Low’s Importance to the Chinese
One of the great mysteries of the 1MDB case has been where Jho Low is hiding—he’s assumed to be in China and under the government’s protection—and why he has evaded answering questions about the ever-widening scandal. Low first came to prominence in the West through the New York Times’s investigation of apartment sales in the Time Warner Center. That story also revealed the extent of Low’s buying in the art market which was extensive and caused Low to unwind those trades at significant losses.
One of the reporters on that New York Times series was Louise Story who now works at the Wall Street Journal. Story wrote a piece last week that contained, again at the bottom, a clue as to what the Chinese have been getting from Low that makes him worth protecting:
- “In his plea, Mr. Higginbotham also admitted to helping Mr. Low’s effort to have returned to China a foreign national who is identifiable as Guo Wengui, a wealthy Chinese businessman who has criticized the Chinese government from his home in New York. The Chinese government has aggressively sought to bring him back to China, the Journal has reported.”
Is David Zwirner Fixated on Gagosian? Le Monde Is
Le Monde published a profile of David Zwirner today. The story sets up an opposition between the 73-year-old Gagosian and the 54-year-old Zwirner. It’s hard to tell whether Zwirner is as fixated on Gagosian as Le Monde makes him out to be or if that’s just what the journalists wanted to get across. But there is an interesting tidbit that comes out of the story, the two dealers have never met.