Tours of Sotheby's new New York gallery spaces have begun; Athena Art Finance has been sold to YieldStreet; Visit Art Cologne virtually with Vernissage TV; Early Art Cologne sales.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.)
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Sotheby’s has begun to show journalists its new galleries that transform the company’s headquarters on York Avenue and create a series of impressive exhibition spaces that could change the way the firm does business. The former grand space on the 10th floor of the building will now become office space uniting various departments to collaborate. The grand show spaces for auctions and private sales begin a few feet from the front doors where visitors will enter. There, beneath the escalators that lead to the heart of the exhibition space, a few short steps lead to a double-height room that will host cars, art and other objects for previews and potentially act as a second auction space. Up the escalators, there is a self-contained double-height space with internal wallspace that can accommodate a large show which might easily over-flow into galleries across the hall or into the capacious hallways that can also be hung with art. On the third floor, the fun really begins. Here the bulk of the floor is gallery space. Two different double-height rooms contain vast expanses of wallspace, there’s over 5400 linear feet of wallspace in the new galleries. Some of these present the opportunity to show works larger than any institutional space in Manhattan could. One wall is 106 feet long; another has 1200 sq feet of display space. Finally, the fourth floor holds an octagonal gallery that has already become a focus of competition among departments for its appeal as a selling space and series of enfiladed galleries that could easily hold a small, specialized art fair. These two spaces are joined by a long gallery hallway that will remind some of the great houses of Europe. It’s easy to be cynical in the art market. It’s hard to maintain that flinty attitude after walking through these new spaces which the public will be able to do starting May 3rd.
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Athena Sold For Portfolio ValueThe long-rumored sale of Athena Art Finance has finally been announced in the Financial Times today. The buyer is a new platform for wealthy individuals to find greater yield for their money. The business was sold for $170m or the value of the loan book. The FT also reveals that the firm had made $225m in loans over its four-year lifespan. Art loans run for a short duration. So these numbers tell us that Athena had a long ramp to build a portfolio. At $170m the firm was surely behind plan but accelerating in loan volume. One issue was surely educating the art market, especially dealers, to use the capital locked up in their inventory more wisely. Another was most likely the low interest rate environment which means there have been a number of different ways for art market participants to fund their businesses. Collectors also have too many other ways to raise funds that would make asset-backed art loans an item low on an action list when looking for shorter-term cash.
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