The Telegraph‘s Colin Gleadell asks what Steven Cohen’s motives are in displaying a portion of his art collection at Sotheby’s:
It is the first public glimpse into the largely unknown holdings of a secretive, very rich art lover who has been one of the most potent forces in the art market for a decade. Naturally the show has aroused intense curiosity about how much the works cost, where they had come from, and what Cohen’s motives were for exhibiting them. [ . . . ]
But is the exhibition just a vain attempt to stimulate the market by reliving the art boom in the run-up to the all-important May sales in New York?
Certainly, it is effective PR for both Sotheby’s and Cohen. But, as a show which is as inescapably about money as it is about art, it may fall between two stools. In his scathing Channel 4 programme The Mona Lisa Curse last year, Robert Hughes argued that successive art booms had made it difficult to look at art without thinking about how much it was worth. Now we are officially in a recession, the issue for those who are concerned about such things is to wonder how much less that art might now be worth.
Of course, these are the questions that have pre-occupied many since the exhibit was announced in the New York Times. But one of the central points about Cohen the art collector–hinted at by Gleadell–is his secretive nature. Before Cohen gained a public status as a famous art collector, he was as a famously dark character in the financial markets. Paying top dollar for the world’s best collection of art has put a more benign cast to his name without forcing him to be any more open with publicity or public appearances. If viewers focus on the price of the paintings, they’re missing the value of the whole collection to Cohen.
This is even more pronounced when much of the financial world has been aware of Cohen’s SAC having gone to cash before the Lehman Brothers collapse and the market’s wipeout.
From the Times of London’s examination of Madonna’s business practices, personal finances and fortune comes this catalogue of her a £80 million art collection:
Her art collection, over 300 paintings including work by Léger, Dali, Man Ray, Damien Hirst and Frida Kahlo, was valued at around £80m last year. She paid $5m for Picasso’s Buste de Femme à la Frange.
Buying paintings she used to call her “sin”, but her collection of modern art has proved to be a shrewd investment. Since 1987, when she paid $1m for Léger’s Les Deux Bicyclettes, she has acquired around 300 pictures [ . . . ] . Christopher estimated that by 2008 his sister’s collection’s value had increased by 600%.
Why Madonna’s Still a Material Girl (Times of London)
The Master, Judd Tully, looks at the Cohen collection on view at Sotheby’s and gives the billionaire hedgie with a pre-eminent reputation for knowing when to buy or sell a low grade on his art market acumen. Scoring the 3 of the 5 works discussed as “Overvalued,” Tully points only to a Matisse bronze and the Munch Madonna as works where Cohen timed the market well.
Does the man with the private museum care? Probably not. For all the talk of how hedge fund buyers were going to transform the art market with their fast money ways, few have been in a hurry to sell. And the overall quality of Cohen’s holdings should mean the works will eventually gain value from having been in his collection (as well as on display at Sotheby’s in this unusual exhibition.)
Should is the most important word in that sentence because Tully doesn’t think wizard of Greenwich has quite made it there: “Even with his billions, Cohen doesn’t have the platinum brand allure of someone like Yves Saint Laurent. Not yet, anyway.”
Steven Cohen’s Women (ArtInfo)–Click on the slide show.
Roberta Maneker went to Sotheby’s this morning to see the press preview of the Cohen Collection. Here’s her report:
A dazzling collection of 20 pictures and sculptures from the much heralded collection of Steven and Alexandra Cohen, he of the hedge fund SAC, will be on view at Sotheby’s from April 2-14. “Women” is a powerhouse display depicting females in wildly varied styles, poses and media, and is a trove for scholarly analysis. Comparison is, of course, the name of the game, and it helps to be art historically literate. For those who need a little assist, an essay by scholar-curator Joachim Pissarro discusses the range of works on display, focusing on the dialectics of good/bad, pure/sexual, cool/hot, and the debt so many of these artists owe to the influence of Manet, frequently considered the progenitor of modernism. Pissarro was present at the press walk-through and described Cohen as “probably one of the only collectors I know who spans not one, not two, but three centuries” – true, sort of, if you start at the end of the 19th, with Cohen’s distinguished collection of Impressionists and early Moderns, and end with today’s more challenging works by Yuskavage, Freud, Dumas and the like (one work by each on view here).
The genesis of the exhibition is the by now familiar story of Sotheby’s Tobias Meyer dining at the Cohen home, with Picasso’s Le Repos and Warhol’s Turquoise Marilyn both in his direct line of site, giving rise to the suggestion of this one-owner exhibition. Cohen responded enthusiastically, though it is not irrelevant that he owns 5.9% of Sotheby’s stock – a stake making Cohen one of its largest shareholders. When asked directly, Meyer firmly responded, “These works are not for sale.” (“Not now,” thought everyone in the room.) As to the value of the works on line, Meyer declined to comment; however, Alexandra Peers, in New York Magazine’s daily Vulture blog, says nearly “half a billion dollars.” Whatever, it is a stunning collection of first-class works which encourage the viewer to see connections, make comparisons, and enjoy the company of some first-class Women.
This is the first exhibition focused entirely on Cohen’s exceptional art. You have thirteen days to get to see this don’t-miss exhibition.