Art Basel sales highlights; Guarantee Merry-Go-Round; Martin Kemp defends Salvator Mundi; Mary Max dies after Peter Max exposé; Françoise Gilot: ‘Je ne regrette rien.’
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.)
Vernissage TV: Art Basel 2019
We’ve published our comprehensive list of Art Basel sales reported by the galleries and in the press. The full list is available to AMMpro subscribers. Among the noteworthy sales are:
Hauser + Wirth sold a John Chamberlain, Comeover for $3m and Cy Twombly’s ‘Study for School of Athens [Rome]’ a painting from 1960 (below) which collectors say would be fairly valued at about the same price.
David Zwirner sold a Gerhard Richter for $20m, a Joan Mitchell for $6m and a Kerry James Marshall for $3.5m
Pace Gallery sold a Calder for $8.5m
Galerie Gmurzynska sold a Wifredo Lam for $2m
Acquavella Gallery sold a Keith Haring mask with a $4m asking price
Mnuchin Gallery sold a Mark Bradford, Fly in the Buttermilk with a $3.5m asking price
Art Basel Turns Into a Guarantee Merry-Go-Round
The theme of this year’s Art Basel has to be the re-emergence of works recently sold at auction to guarantors. Katya Kazakina spotted Peter Doig’s oft-traded The Architect’s Home in the Ravine at Gagosian which was bought for $20m last Winter at Sotheby’s. Kazakina says Abdallah Chatila was the guarantor and is now the consignor to Gagosian who is asking $25m.
Although the auctions have seen a few too many works come around on the turntable again, including one Christopher Wool acquired and sold by third-party guarantee recently to fund a Basquiat unexpectedly acquired by the same guarantor (a well-known and savvy market trader.)
Artnews also identified other savvy traders like the Nahmads who were showing a $30m Rothko, Dark Over Light, on their booth that was recently sold at auction to the third-party guarantor.
High value works recently sold are always tough to move. Art Basel is one of the few places where sticker shock is less of a hurdle than fresh-to-market allure. Though these are hardly the only works bought at auction that are now marked up at the blue chip booths. So it makes some sense that these works are getting a little face time before going back into storage.
The Backlash Against the Salvator Mundi Backlash
Martin Kemp has a new book Leonardo by Leonardo that has prompted Artnet news’ Eileen Kinsella to get Kemp to opine on the endless Salvator Mundi controversy. Most of the controversy has been spinned up in aftermath of the painting’s 2017 sale with a number of writers pursuing tendentious claims against the work. Kemp takes a swipe at one most vocal doubters in Kinsella’s piece before offering his own opinion based upon connoisseurship:
- “The Salvator Mundi is not a very common subject, but it’s a standard subject and to be a Salvator Mundi you have to do three things. First, Christ has to look at the spectator; his stare becomes unavoidable. In fact, that’s commented on at the time—that the point of Salvator Mundi is this ubiquitous view of God. The second aspect is that Christ should be blessing. This is part of the subject. And the third aspect is he should be holding a globe. Now in Leonardo’s case, he has done something very remarkable which none of the boys or copyists could do or would understand. He’s turned the globe into a crystalline sphere. It’s a rock crystal sphere with what in geology are called inclusions, gaps. They’re not air bubbles like you get in glass. I did some geology at Cambridge when I was there doing natural science. As soon as I saw the sphere, I thought it looked like rock crystal. So you’ve got these three absolutely required elements of the Salvator Mundi if it’s to be a Salvator Mundi. It was certainly a commissioned painting.”
- “Let’s look at how he portrayed hair. It’s very characteristic, this vortex hairstyle. Now the followers and boys could do curly hair pretty nicely. But Leonardo had a theory about the curling of hair. He said it’s like the movement of water, and with water, you’ve got the impeto, he calls it—the tendency to revolt against the impetus of the current, which creates a helix. If you look at the hair in Leonardo’s paintings, there is always a sense that there is a logic to the vortex formation. It has a kind of anatomy. It’s based upon his thinking about how hair curling occurs and its relationship to turbulent water. And none of the followers or boys really get that. They can do a superficial imitation. But if you look at the hair on Christ’s left side, our right side, it was very beautifully preserved. You can get a sense there’s a double helix going on there which follows its way through this complex tangle of vortices.”
Mary Max Found Dead After Farewell Calls
After the New York Times ran an exposé of the artist Peter Max, the production from his studio and sales through Park West Gallery’s cruise ship auctions, his wife estranged wife was found dead this week, according to the New York Times.
For the past several years, Ms. Max had been embroiled in a vitriolic legal dispute over her husband’s art, wealth and legacy, as he has struggled with increasing dementia. A stepson and household staff had made accusations that she had been abusive to her husband, and even attempted to kill him, while she countered with accusations that the stepson had “kidnapped” his father.
But in her final voice message to her friend, said her lawyer, John Markham, she did not rehash that dispute. Instead, he said, she left farewell messages for people she loved: her husband; her closest friends; her brother, Daniel; and her 94-year-old mother, Ruth.
The police said Ms. Max was found dead of an apparent suicide in her Upper West Side apartment at Riverside Drive and 84th Street at about 8:30 p.m. on Sunday. The exact cause of death is under investigation by the office of the chief medical examiner.
Françoise Gilot Recalls Her Picasso Tell All
“The most important thing in life is to be true to yourself,” 97-year-old Françoise Gilot tells Thessaly La Force in their T Magazine interview commemorating the re-release of her memoir Life with Picasso originally published in 1964. “You can be true to others, if you have time.”
- “Decades later, however, the book reads as surprisingly contemporary. Picasso is portrayed as both brilliant and tyrannical — possessive of Gilot but also careless with her desires and needs. As Picasso told Gilot, there are only two types of women: goddesses and doormats. The book does not diminish his art, but in its own way, it presents a man who could be remarkably self-absorbed and cruel to those closest to him. The myth of his genius must now contend with a frank depiction of his entitlement, immaturity and ego. Just last year, before his death, Richardson — who would become friends with Gilot — conceded that Gilot was more of an influence on Picasso than the other way around.”