File under R, for “Rapidly regretted quotations,”

From the Bloomberg report on Sotheby’s sale last night:

“Contemporary art is an incredibly sexy thing to be buying right now,” said New York art adviser Cristin Tierney. “People talk about hedge-fund money, and part of it is a desire to conquer yet another market. But this is a market that’s more social, and social on an intellectual level.”

You can see her trying to save herself in that last phrase, but it’s too late. Let me save you some trouble:, complete with the de rigueur “Art as an Investment” link.

Tobias, keep your hands off the sculpture!

meyer.jpgEveryone I know who has seen Tobias Meyer’s preview video has fixated on his caressing the David Smith sculpture Voltri XVII and then rounding off the foreplay with the thought, “Maybe humans are imperfect, too?”Bouncy Castle Mini Jungle ouverte

But when it came to the climax, of course, things went awry: That statue was bought in last night in a sale described by Bloomberg as “Quiet.” Wonder what conclusion, if any, will be drawn by auction house re: sculpture Smith video previews fondling the merchandise.

Statisticians to the barricades

For further reading and comment (has anyone read this book?)

Excerpted from Today’s NYTIMES:

“The Art of Pricing Great Art” By DAVID LEONHARDT

The mysterious part of the current [art-market] mania lies in figuring out what exactly makes a piece of art worth $30 million instead of, say, $1 million. Not even people who make their living selling art claim to have much of a definition of great art. In fact, they’re proud not to have one. “That’s where the market becomes magical,” Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s chief auctioneer, told me.For the last five years, though, a man named David W. Galenson, an art lover, modest collector and tenured professor of economics at the University of Chicago, has been trying to change this. He has developed something approaching a unified theory of art, which hasn’t won him many fans in the art world but does a surprisingly good job of explaining the relative value of the world’s great paintings. Even if you know nothing about art, Mr. Galenson can help you understand why Andy Warhol’s 1962 “Orange Marilyn” is expected to sell for more than his 1972 “Mao” at Christie’s postwar auction tonight.
Continue reading “Statisticians to the barricades”

And thus, with the usual Italian delay, the counter-attack begins…

Email from the La Biennale di Venezia organizers (referring to the Cornice art fair):

We would like to refer to some pages published on art magazines and web sites, announcing art fairs in Venice related to the preview of the 52nd International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia (June 2007) which have been moreover advertised through pictures showing art works and exhibition spaces of former Editions of La Biennale di Venezia itself.

We want to formally underline in any case that such commercial initiatives happen not to be connected with or included by any kind of collaboration with La Biennale di Venezia.

Therefore, they are completely unrelated to the organization of the 52nd International Art Exhibition.

Sothebys tries talking-head video to promote sale

The Tobias Meyer video interview that Sothebys is using to promote the 14 Nov sale is interesting. Have they done one before? Interesting use of the medium; both to push the sale and to show Meyer at his (pretentious) best. Wonder how regular buyers will react? Wonder how the new buyers from Asia that he mentions will react? Interesting that he highlights their presence but makes no comment about how their new tastes may shift the market.

Has anyone done any studies on whether the arrival of successive waves of new money (US, Arab, Russian et al) have shifted the core contemporary (or classical for that matter) Art markets at all? I would guess not much. New money is often not Art informed and therefore it relies on advisors who, in turn, perpetuate the same current Artist vogues. The same Art sub-movements. The only real changes come from new gallerists if they latch on to new sources of capital, as they discover/create new artist reputations, no? I wonder if the arrival of the slightly more confident Chinese will change any of this?

Chelsea evacuates to Miami, due to cash tsunami

vice_city.jpgInteresting press release I received yesterday, in which …

reported today that no less than 116 Chelsea galleries are going to ten different art fairs in Miami the second week of December, making 2006 the largest such migration ever, up 25% from just a year ago. “Chelsea’s presence in Miami will be significant”, says Alessandra Almgren, editor at “More than one sixth of all galleries participating in any of the art fairs, and 43 out of the 247 galleries at the main fair, Art Basel Miami Beach, have a Chelsea address.”

Four questions:
– Clearly, Chelsea is an art fair every day, and yet dealers still feel compelled to drag their asses and their art down to Miami. Why? And no, “mojitos by the pool” does not explain it.
– Does anyone think that all these galleries can possibly break even, given the competition?
– Will any art at all be sold in Chelsea come January?
– 10 fairs, 686 galleries. Does that sound doable to anyone except a compulsive collector with a sunlight allergy and no artworld friends to distract him?

Interesting point, not noted: While Chelsea’s representing Continue reading “Chelsea evacuates to Miami, due to cash tsunami”

The $4 million habit (from the NYT):

The Spending Habits of Hedgies November 9, 2006, 6:09 am

As the art market boils over this year — Wednesday night, Christie’s oversaw a record-setting $491 million sale that included works by Gauguin and Klimt — it is fair to say that hedge fund managers are adding some of the heat. Consider SAC Capital’s Steven A. Cohen, who recently agreed to drop $63.5 million for a Willem de Kooning painting owned by the entertainment mogul David Geffen. Kenneth Griffin, who leads hedge fund Citadel Investment Group, snapped up another painting from Mr. Geffen for $80 million inflatable pool slides.

A new survey of hedge fund professionals, who are a generally secretive group, suggests they are juicing not just the art market, but those for other goods as well. For his book Fortune’s Fortress: A Primer on Wealth Preservation for Hedge Fund Professionals, Russ Alan Prince of the consulting firm Prince & Associates, working in conjunction with trade publisher MARHedge, polled the buying habits of 294 managers with a median net worth of $61.7 million.

The book is not out yet, but MARHedge shared some of the survey’s findings with DealBook. The average respondent reported spending nearly $4 million on fine art last year, which means that among the survey participants alone, more than $1.1 billion of hedge-fund money poured into the art market. Continue reading “The $4 million habit (from the NYT):”

Prepare to be amazed…

Klimt_Christies.jpgWhen we went to see the Klimts, I had my students write down on a piece of paper how much they estimate the other four would go for in this sale.

I did this exercise in order to test the hypothesis in Jim Surowiecki’s book, The Wisdom Of Crowds, in which it is claimed that the average guesses of a group will always be more precise than the best guest of any expert in the room.

The four Klimts (including Adele Bloch-Bauer II, 1912) sold for $192.2 million. That number includes auction house commissions, so the actual total price was $169.1 million.

That number falls exactly at the midpoint of the average figure that my students guessed ($168 million) and the median figure they guessed ($170 million).


And of course…

$491 Million Sale Shatters Art Auction Record


In a landmark sale, the biggest in auction history, nearly half a billion dollars’ worth of art changed hands last night at Christ’s sale of Impressionist and modern art. Soaring prices for blockbuster paintings by Klimt and Gauguin left thousands of spectators, who came to watch and to buy, gasping.

“It was certainly the most amazing sale I’ve ever taken,“ said a dazed Christopher Burge, honorary chairman of Christ’s and the evening’s auctioneer, after the two-and-a-half hour sale. The evening’s total, $491.4 million, was well over $200 million more than that for any previous auction, topping its high estimate of $427.8 million. (The previous record was $269 million at Christ’s in May 1990.) Of the 84 lots up for sale last night, only 6 failed to sell. The sale included an estimated $125 million worth of artworks that had recently been returned to the heirs of owners from whom they were looted by the Nazis during World War II.

Full article here (reg required)

Gallery guide Google mashup

gallerygoogle.JPGVery interesting use of technology. Now if they could just combine this with Mappy or another route planner, that would be useful.

I imagine an interface where you choose all the shows that you want to see and then the software spits back to you the most efficient route and modes of transport – taking into account existing tube and traffic conditions. Especially in London, this would be a godsend.

Photography in Berlin and Paris with Google Maps
Recently Google Maps has linked maps from all over the world with specific information on many different locations.

Photography now and the Berlin based agency Datenflug have developed a prototype version of this service for the European Month of Photography in Berlin and Paris. All the institutions have been “pin-pointed” on Google Maps and are presented with their exhibition programmes as well as opening times, enabling interested users to find detailed information about the festival quickly and easily.

Paris | Berlin

“Cutting Edge,” the new auction category?

From a recent Christies PR Release. Underline is mine.

”It has been an incredible week for Christies and the London Contemporary Art market,” said Jussi Pylkkänen, President of Christies Europe. “Every major collector in the world travelled to London to attend our sales and the great events at Frieze, the museums and the galleries. Over 25 world auction records were broken at Christies where we have established an incredibly strong position of leadership in the Italian, Post War and Cutting-Edge markets. We look forward to our major London sales in February with great confidence.”

I guess when you’re selling work made in the same calendar year as the auction, then calling it “contemporary” is not enough. The new category may also be a setup for the house’s next strategic moves: Its contemporary art capa, Amy Cappellazzo, told Art Review that she expects to someday be auctioning brand-new works, saying, “We’re the big box retailer putting the mom-and-pops out of business.”

I’m doubting she means that last part. Why? Because auction houses sell whatever they have on hand to sell, whereas galleries build a reputation for discriminating taste. That means that in the long run, auction houses need galleries around, since the highest prices reaped on auction blocks are for pieces first stamped with the imprimatur of prestigious galleries.

File under C, for “Cravenly Commercial”

In case you missed it, Artnet on Thursday announced

“Cornice International Art Fair, June 7-10, 2007, in a custom-built pavilion in Venice’s Tronchetto district, at the gateway to the city — and at the other end of town from the Giardini, site of the 52nd Venice Biennale, which previews at the same time. Cornice general manager María Marqués Aparici notes that the location avoids the difficulties of art delivery by boat. Stand prices begin at €6,720 for 24 square meters.”

The mind boggles at the stupidity of this. I mean:

– Given the fact that Art Basel opens four days later and that at this point the Swiss city will feature the Art Basel, Design Miami, Liste, Scope and Volta fairs, what gallery would do this fair?

– There is a near-certain guarantee of broad artworld contempt for everyone involved. We can accept, “See it in Venice, buy it in Basel,” but a fair during the bienniale itself is too tacky.

– Everyone leaves the Venice biennial wishing they’d seen more. It’s always the one pavilion you missed that everyone loves most (Central Asian Republics in 2005, Mike Nelson in 2001, etc.) So who in their right mind would waste time to go to an art fair when there are so many pavilions to hammer through?

I’m betting this project dies, if not before the bienniale, then on June 11, 2007, in an epic furore.

The journalist as Artmarket middleman

I’m between Berlin and London. On the plane to Frieze, I picked up the FT’s weekend section and came across this jaw-dropper in Anthony Haden Guest’s column:

“About 18 months ago I was asked to help with the sale of a postwar painting by bringing in an appropriate private dealer. I decided this would be an educational process. The protocol was hush-hush. I wasn’t told who the seller was. Nobody was to know the identity of more than one principal. The sum was north of $20m. I was told that only 30 people in the world would be potentially up for the deal. Within 18 hours there were five players. Within 36 hours, everybody knew exactly who everybody else was. And they didn’t love each other one bit. The deal went ker-blooey. Yes, it certainly was educational. So the New World Order of Big Art still resembles the wicked old art world more than somewhat. But is it transformed and transforming? I think possibly yes.”

I can’t decide if I’m more stunned that AHG copped to this in print or that his FT editor let him run the column. Can you imagine a similar aside in a column on, say, the pharma industry, or closer to home, the pop-music industry? And what was his proposed commission on the deal?

Once again, I think this betrays the utter nonchalance with which the mainstream press tends to handle writings about the art market. Or am I too sensitive?

Science explains the popularity of Art fairs

I’ve always said the artworld has its fair share of unbalanced people, but it seems we may all be suffering from a chemical imbalance that causes “neophilia,” the syndrome Saatchi once self-diagnosed himself as having.   Based on neurological research in Japan:

It turns out some people may, in fact, be more genetically predisposed than others to wanting the newest toys, gadgets and fashions… it seems that genetic differences mean that people produce different variations of a mitochondrial enzyme called monoamine oxidase A. The researchers found that one form of this enzyme was “significantly associated with higher scores of novelty seeking.” In other words, people who produce that form of the enzyme are more likely to have novelty-seeking traits in their personality than others.

Gago’s Glasnost?

The artworld is full of dealers who love to talk to the press – I have the mobile numbers of roughly two dozen on my cell phone, many of them people I can call at 11pm for a killer quote when I’m on deadline. That said, among journalists it’s common knowledge that some dealers simply don’t talk to the press — Larry Gagosian and Jay Jopling are prime examples. You almost never see them quoted, and when you do the “quote” looks like something they signed-off-on rather than actually said.

Which is why I was surprised to see that Gagosian is doing a full-on public presentation next month. Well, it’s not public, per se, it’s in front of a room full of Wharton Business School students and alum. To wit:

Whenever Wednesday: Business of Art: Dealers and Collectors
wed oct 4 @ 5pm

“The art market is defying the laws of gravity. What went up isn’t coming down,” according to a gallery director in the 2006 ARTnews collectors issues. ICA Overseer and top 200 collector Glenn Fuhrman (W’87, WG’88) discusses the art market with dealer Larry Gagosian who Art Review magazine called “the world’s greatest art businessman.”

I’ve never heard of Gagosian doing this kind of thing before, but maybe one of you (or one of our readers) have. Then again, maybe its just a personal favor to Fuhrman (who is Michael Dell’s investment manager), or an opportunity to recruit Wharton finance types onto the gallery’s roster of collectors. After all, someone has to pay for the empire’s expansion.

The neuroeconomics of Art collecting

brain_1.gifDid you read the New Yorker piece last week on neuroeconomics i.e. the integration of neural-processes science into the study of economic decision making by individuals? I couldn’t help but think of the artworld when I read this section:

“When people make investments, they weigh the possible outcomes of their decisions and select a portfolio of stocks and bonds that offers the highest possible return at an acceptable level of risk. That is what mainstream economics says, anyway. In fact, people often have only a vague idea of the risks they face. … In one study, Camerer and several colleagues performed brain scans on a group of volunteers while they placed bets on whether the next card drawn from a deck would be red or black. In an initial set of trials, the players were told how many red cards and black cards were in the deck, so that they could calculate the probability of the next cards being a certain color. Then a second set of trials was held, in which the participants were told only the total number of cards in the deck.

The first scenario corresponds to the theoretical ideal: investors facing a set of known risks. The second setup was more like the real world: the players knew something about what might happen, but not very much. As the researchers expected, the players brains reacted to the two scenarios differently. With less information to go on, the players exhibited Continue reading “The neuroeconomics of Art collecting”

Thoughts from the Shanghai Millenium

Greetings from Shanghai, where my party of journalists seem to be the guinea pigs for a new hotel here. Everything is new here, but then that’s the case all over Shanghai.

IMG_0072.JPGI came from the Singapore biennial and saw the Shanghai biennial yesterday. It’s an interesting contrast between the two. Singapore’s cultural scene is very much driven by funds from the state and local corporations (two sectors which in Singapore are functionally a single entity). The biennial was held in the former city hall courts and a military camp. We had an early-morning meeting with the National Arts Council leaders, who trumpeted their budget and exchange programs and showed us a slick video, talking about the arts using an ABC theory – “Art for Art’s Sake, Art for Business’s sake, Art for Community’s Sake.” Talking to locals, the reality is that most Singapore artists live on (often-generous) state grants. So it’s much like an extreme version of Holland in that sense – working the system is a key skill for artists, while galleries are minor players.

Except that as democracies go, Holland and Singapore could not be more different. Supposedly, Singaporean customs officials have the right to demand a drug test when you enter the country and you can get busted for Continue reading “Thoughts from the Shanghai Millenium”

In loco parentis (emphasis on loco)

Further examples of the academy and the market jumping in bed together. Which aspect of this is strangest:
A) The fact that this Goldsmith’s MFA 2007 Survey opens a full two semesters before the school’s degree show?
B) The fact that the MFA 2007 Survey is taking place in Chelsea, Manhattan, not Chelsea, London?

Apparently, Goldsmith’s does not share Columbia’s concerns about exposing young students to the marketplace.

Subject: AUG 30 Invite/Goldmiths Exhibit at White Box
What: Goldsmiths: MFA 2007 Survey
When: Date of Exhibition: August 28th – September 16th 2006
Where: White Box, 525 West 23rd Street
Who: Curated by Jennifer Thatcher
The exhibition will be a survey of the Goldsmiths College MFA class of 2007.

The show is being curated by Jennifer Thatcher, a London-based independent curator and critic, and will include works by 14 artists from the first year class working in painting, sculpture, photography, installation, and video. Goldsmiths has one of the most competitive Visual Arts programs in the world; numerous past graduates have won the illustrious Turner Prize

CondeNast (Art) Portfolio

Got the flyer pimping the new Conde Nast business mag Portfolio in my much-delayed mail coming from the States. Since no one I can find by Googling has blogged on this yet, three interesting things.

1. Looks like they’re planning major artmarket coverage.

2. The Art + Auction layout style adopted by Modern Painters after LTB Publishing bought the latter mag has apparently gone viral. i.e. huge headline, lots of white space – maybe even the fonts, but I’m not a font geek.

3. Despite all her best efforts, and those of her dealer Zach Feuer, to downplay it – for excellent reasons related to not wanting her to become the next David Salle – Dana Schutz seems to remain the mainstream media’s Default Artmarket Darling(TM). Behold: