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Want to own a part of a Picasso Painting?

25,000 internet users communally purchased a single, $2 million Picasso painting.
Pablo Picasso, Buste de mousquetaire, 1968. Photo by Harold Cunningham / AFP / Getty Images.

The sale of Pablo Picasso’s Buste de mousquetaire (1968) shows you don’t need to be a millionaire to own a work by one of history’s most famous artists—but you do have to be willing to share. Qoqa, a Swiss bargain commerce site, put Buste de mousquetaire up for sale last December, offering 40,000 shares in the painting at a cost of $51 each. Over the course of just three days, 25,000 people purchased a piece of the artwork through the platform, usually known for selling goods ranging from vacations to drills. Selling the painting by a famous artist was an attempt to make Qoqa “go viral,” Pascal Meyer, company chief and founder, told the South China Morning Post. And it appears Meyer succeed.

Prior to the sale, the bargain website brought in experts to ensure the work’s authenticity and determine its value, ultimately setting the price at 2 million Swiss francs. Meyer refused to tell the SCMP how much Qoqa originally paid for the painting, which fits in with Picasso’s later work and depicts a musketeer through exaggerated white and grey marks. Each buyer has been issued a card that entitles them to see the painting, on view in Geneva until October. Where the artwork goes next will be decided by the thousands of proud new owners.

Eli Hill
A new Rembrandt.....

A “new” Rembrandt was discovered by a Dutch art dealer, who originally purchased the painting for only $185,000.
When Dutch art dealer Jan Six first saw Portrait of a Young Gentleman (c. 1634) in an auction in 2016, his keen eye told him the piece, then unattributed and unremarkable to most, was by Rembrandt van Rijn. The collar of the figure was singular, painted in a style used only by Rembrandt during the brief moment the collar was popular. Working with an investor, Six purchased the potential “sleeper” for $185,000—quite a large sum if it turned out to be by an unknown artist, but a paltry price for a Rembrandt. In 2015, the Louvre Museum and the Rijksmuseum jointly purchased, from the Rothschild family, a pair of portraits by the Dutch master to the tune of €160 million, then the highest price ever paid for an Old Master.

Now, after 18 months, more than a dozen Rembrandt experts as well X-ray analysis have confirmed his suspicion. “Seeing all these experts agreeing to what you’ve found is truly special,” Six told Reuters. “With the support of this vast body of knowledge, anybody contesting the painting would clearly represent a minority.” The work, the first Rembrandt to be discovered since 1974, will go on view for a month at the Hermitage in Amsterdam. While experts have attributed other previously-known paintings Rembrandt in recent years, the existence of Portrait of a Young Gentleman was a total surprise to art historians, making it a truly “new” Rembrandt.

Six declined to tell Reuters how much he believes the portrait to be worth. But Rembrandt is the most lucrative Old Master painter. In addition to the €160 million deal between the French and Dutch state museum and the Rothschilds, a portrait by the artist sold for $33.2 million in 2009, setting an auction record for the artist.

Isaac Kaplan

an update

New details have emerged on how Steve Wynn’s $70 million Picasso was damaged.
A falling paint pole is the reason why Wynn’s Pablo Picasso had to be withdrawn from the May 15th Impressionist and Modern evening sale at Christie’s at the last minute, Bloomberg reported. Katya Kazakina recounts the moment in which Le Marin (1943), estimated at $70 million, was damaged:

A paint roller attached to an extension pole used by a contractor was leaning against a wall before gravity took over and it fell, puncturing the lower right of the canvas, said Wynn’s attorney, Michael Kosnitzky. It’s unclear whether the painting was hanging on the wall at the time or if the pole struck the front or the back of the canvas, he said.
The damage forced another Picasso, also consigned by Wynn, to be withdrawn because the pair were covered by the same third-party guarantee. A third work consigned by Wynn for this week’s auctions, Andy Warhol’s Double Elvis [Ferus Type] (1963), did proceed to sale, going for $37 million with fees at Christie’s on Thursday evening on a pre-sale estimate of $30 million.

Wynn is apparently planning to get into the art trade after leaving his publicly traded company earlier this year, when multiple people came forward with allegations of sexual-misconduct against the businessman (he denies the allegations). All three pieces were consigned by his online art gallery, Sierra Fine Art LLC, and can still be found on its website. Kosnitzky, Wynn’s lawyer, told the Culture Grrl blog, as of yet, no action legal action been taken over the Picasso damage and he hoped that route could be avoided. “Our intention is to work with the adjuster, the insurers, and Christie’s and to try to get to an amicable, businesslike resolution of the problem,” he said.
I thought about putting this in the RIP thread.

Robert Indiana, a Pop artist best known for his iconic “LOVE” sculptures, has died at 89.
Robert Indiana with his 'LOVE' sculpture in Central Park, New York City in 1971. Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images.
Robert Indiana with his 'LOVE' sculpture in Central Park, New York City in 1971. Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images.

Indiana was an integral figure in the development of Pop Art, drawing inspiration from the signs found on America’s highways to create his signature style. The subject of a sweeping Whitney Museum of American Art retrospective in 2013, Indiana is best known for a series of works that riff on the word “love”—always presented with the first two letters stacked upon the last two, with the letter “O” tilted to the right. The sculptures themselves have become icons around the world, transcending Indiana’s personal fame. A postage stamp featuring the work, first released for Valentine’s Day in 1973, is one of the most popular ever produced, with more than 330 million of them released into circulation, according to the artist’s obituary in the New York Times. Public sculptures that Indiana made of the design consistently draw tourists to 55th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan, and Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Plaza, more commonly known as Love Park.

But the artist grew frustrated with the public’s fixation on one aspect of his sprawling practice, which was just as often acerbic and political as it was sunny. The original version of the Love design featured a very different four letter word. He retreated from the Manhattan artists scene in which he was a fixture—he shared a studio with Cy Twombly, lived near Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, and was for a time a lover of Ellsworth Kelly—and went to live in a remote part of Maine. And while he continued to make work, old friends and associates say he was increasingly difficult to reach. His Chelsea dealer, Paul Kasmin, told the Times that he had given up sending gifts to the artist because of the complete lack of response. Whether Indiana was entirely responsible for work produced towards the end of his life is the focus of a lawsuit filed by the Morgan Foundation, which holds the rights to some of Indiana’s creations, just days before the artist’s death.

He died on the island of Vinalhaven, his remote home of many years, and the cause of death, as reported by his lawyer, was respiratory failure.

Nate Freeman
Today at 10:50 am, via
The New York Times
A contentious legal fight is looming over control of Robert Indiana’s estate.
Just days before the famed Pop Art icon died, the Morgan Art Foundation filed a lawsuit alleging that art publisher Michael McKenzie and Jamie Thomas—described in the suit as a “fisherman from Maine with no art expertise” who was granted power of attorney by Indiana in 2016—conspired to isolate the artist and sell millions of dollars in art attributed to Indiana but which were essentially forgeries. Now, as the New York Times notes, “the dispute is likely to broaden now into questions of who controls Mr. Indiana’s legacy and estate.”

The Morgan Foundation, which holds exclusive rights over several important works by Indiana, claimed in its 53-page complaint that the actions of Thomas and McKenzie, as well as the latter’s publishing business, American Image Art, are damaging the artist’s market, imperiling the work done by Indiana’s longtime agent Simon Salama-Caro, who spent years rebuilding the artist’s market but found himself increasingly unable to meet with Indiana in person.

According to the suit, there are several works attributed to Indiana that violate the Morgan Foundation’s exclusive control over the artist’s output—including, among other work, numerous prints and variations on the artist’s famous LOVE sculpture, including the version reading “HOPE,” which garnered attention during President Obama’s campaign in 2008. The suit alleges that Indiana told Salama-Caro and others that “McKenzie forced him into approving HOPE through emotional abuse and intimidation.

The Times also relays a separate incident recounted in the complaint:

In 2014, Mr. Salama-Caro’s son, Marc, surreptitiously filmed Mr. Indiana during a rare visit to his home and asked the artist about Mr. McKenzie and the proliferation of new works carrying his name.
“Help me,” Mr. Indiana says on the video clip. “How does one restrain Michael? He’s beyond me. He’s mischievous.”
Mr. McKenzie said Mr. Indiana was just making the point that Mr. McKenzie is always bombarding him with new ideas.
McKenzie vehemently denies the Morgan Foundation’s other allegations as well, telling the New York Times that Indiana’s ill health and his own wishes were what kept visitors away, and that the artist wholly conceived of and authored all the work attributed to him.

Isaac Kaplan
Today at 1:48 pm, via
The New York Times

I picked up this book and thought it had some good insights. Some early chapters were introductory, but later chapters had me nodding in agreement!

Art world keeps changing, internet sales and wealth growth in Asia making trends harder to follow.

Death, Divorce and Debt cause people to sell their collections in unfavorable and leveraged positions. Remember "Buying art is easy, selling art is hard"


An article about Art Basel in Switzerland. 

What It Costs Galleries to Go to Art Basel
Installation view of work by Georgia Gardner Gray at Croy Nielsen’s booth in the Statements sector at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Art Basel.

Installation view of work by Georgia Gardner Gray at Croy Nielsen’s booth in the Statements sector at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Art Basel.


Basel, Switzerland, is not a cheap city, and the bill to attend Art Basel in Basel starts adding up quick. One dealer told me a last-minute suite at the Grand Hotel Trois Rois, which is usually an already-costly 1,815 CHF ($1,820) per night, was quoted to him with the art fair upsell of 7,000 CHF ($7,022) a night, or 49,000 CHF ($49,160) for the week. Go downstairs to the bar, and two drinks will be over 80 CHF ($80) with tip. A price quote for an Uber during the rush to leave the fair’s first day: 50 CHF ($50) for a five-minute trip. Gallery dinners are hours-long affairs that stretch until past midnight, taking over entire floors of grand restaurants. Lévy Gorvy has a dinner that’s circus-themed, and gallery co-owner Dominique Lévy has saidthat it contributes to a total fee for the week that exceeds $300,000.

Dealers can be hesitant to talk about exorbitant costs of attending a fair such as Art Basel, but the few that agreed to divulge information offered insight into how the high costs to attend the fair can be problematic, even for large galleries with multiple locations. A poll of representatives at different sized galleries exhibiting at Art Basel in Basel in 2018—two small galleries, three mid-sized galleries, and three large galleries—revealed that costs for a small gallery in the Statements sector are around $50,000; medium-sized galleries with modest booths on the second floor pay $150,000; and the the large galleries on the bottom floor can have totals that soar above $400,000 for a fair that is open for just six days. These costs include booth fees, travel, lodging in town, shipping costs for the works, gallery dinners during the fair, and other expenses accrued during the week.

The elemental cost is the booth fee to appear at the fair itself. For Art Basel’s Galleries and Feature sectors, the fee is priced at 830 CHF (around $832) per square meter, and according to one dealer knowledgeable of booth sizes, a medium-sized booth is around 70 meters—that’s 58,100 CHF ($58,255) already. The larger booths could be as much as 100 square meters, which comes to 83,000 CHF ($83,220). The walls on the outside of the booths require another 500 CHF ($502) per square meter if the gallery hangs work on them, and there is a 550 CHF ($552) application fee for those in the Galleries sector. For a “privileged booth location” by the entrance or along the side walls, add another 5 percent on top of the total booth cost. Hanging something heavy means paying to reinforce the walls, and certain works, depending on how valuable they are, require hiring a security guard for the duration of the show. Some galleries produce catalogs for the booth as if it were a bellwether evening sale at Christie’s. A fully loaded mega-gallery-sized booth could easily exceed $100,000.

A booth in the Statements sector of Art Basel—which focuses on young galleries showcasing the work of a single artist—is 400 CHF ($402) per square foot, and often as small as 50 square meters. At that size, it’s a much more affordable option for younger galleries, at just 20,000 CHF ($20,075). One dealer who co-owns a gallery that showed this year in Statements said the fee contributed to a total cost of $50,000 when tallying plane tickets, hotel rooms, and expenses, but that one purchase at the fair made up for it, and then some. The cost of shipping—one of the biggest expenditures, the representatives for large galleries said—is not a big issue for small galleries showing a solo booth, as they have to bring only a few works by a single artist.

Installation view of Lévy Gorvy’s booth in the Galleries sector at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Art Basel.

Installation view of Lévy Gorvy’s booth in the Galleries sector at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Art Basel.


The high cost of shipping caused some galleries to look for other ways to keep costs down. For instance, one outfit with a medium-sized booth on the ground floor said they decided not to do a dinner this year since last year’s did not generate enough sales to justify the expense, which came to $40,000. But still, when incorporating the cost of shipping 40 to 50 works—this booth had a complete re-hang after selling out the booth over the course of the first two days—and flying over five employees on top of paying the booth cost, the total amounted to somewhere between $250,000 and $350,000.

Another dealer said her gallery spends around $320,000 to come each year, a total that was pumped up by the cost of participating in Unlimited and Parcours, two other sectors of the fair. But another large gallery with artists at Unlimited—and which threw a dinner party on Monday at a popular Basel restaurant—was able to keep costs down to the relatively slim $150,000 to $200,000 by hosting a cocktail party with trays of hors d’oeuvres, rather than a multi-course sit-down affair.

One international gallery said the cost was $400,000, and despite making enough sales in the opening hours to make that back doubly, the budget had to be followed precisely—staff were told to avoid surprise expenses, such as taxis in town or impromptu drink with clients. The dealer at this international gallery said that only the biggest few galleries—the many-branched art market behemoths, the cruise ships that are unaffected by the wake that can sink smaller galleries in one wave—can spend $400,000 on a fair without a sweat.

Over a dozen galleries approached at the fair and contacted by email declined to respond, citing the need for privacy. The eight who responded generally did so because they were already in the black, which is not always the case for galleries who gamble on a fair. José Freire, the owner of New York’s Team Gallerydecided to give up the circuit after this year’s edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong, citing diminishing returns at various fairs. For instance, in 2016, he sold $35,000 worth of art during Art Basel in Miami Beach, and spent $200,000 during the five-day fair. The cost of attending multiple fairs is one of the most-cited reasons for a gallery’s closure.

And yet, the exposure that a world-class fair can bring is sometimes just worth betting on. Many dealers who decided against discussing the cost said that, for a world-class expo such as Art Basel in Switzerland, the returns far exceed the costs, even if they are high. At other fairs, even if the costs are lower, the amount sold can be significantly lower than at an Art Basel-level fair. The collector class at the Swiss fair, and their commitment to buying, is on another level, most dealers agreed.

For instance, the dealer who said he cut the $40,000 dinner to keep the costs within the range that he stated, which was $250,000 to $350,000, said that at last year’s Art Basel in Basel, a collector he had never met happened to come into the booth. They struck up a rapport, and while the collector didn’t buy anything that week, the two stayed in touch. Six months later, they struck a deal for a $5 million sale. The amount spent on Basel was suddenly just a fraction of a single sale. 

Nate Freeman is Artsy’s Senior Reporter.

It is really nice to see some good news come out of washington......

The U.S. House of Representatives voted down a measure that would have cut NEA and NEH funding by 15 percent.

In an overwhelming 297–114 vote on Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives denied an attempt by Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) to slash funding for the the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) by 15 percent, indicating bipartisan support for arts agencies that President Trump has targeted for elimination in the past. But despite repeated threats to the organizations, Congress has now rejected such proposals two years in a row, and the 2018 budget slightly increased funding to the arts agencies, bringing the total sum at the NEA and NEH’s disposal to $152.8 million each.

report in Variety notes that despite the president’s open disdain for the arts organizations, Republicans were nearly evenly split, with labor unions supporting the funding as it provides jobs in a number of struggling regions. Paul E. Almeida, who is president of the Department for Professional Employees at the AFL-CIO, testified that the “the economic pain of reduced federal arts funding will be felt most acutely in small towns and rural communities, far from the soundstages of Hollywood and bright lights of Broadway.” Other Republican Congressmen stressed that the groups also help struggling veterans through arts therapy.

In response to the vote, Robert Lynch, the president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, called the lopsided count “one of the largest vote margins in support of the NEA and NEH ever.” He added: “This bipartisan showing and resounding vote is a testament to the good work of the federal agencies and the power of the arts in our communities, schools, lives, and work.”

The battle continues over the Met’s Rose Period Picasso as the family that sold it during World War II appeals for ownership.

A legal tussle over one of the masterworks of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection is not quite over. In February, a U.S. district court judge ruled that The Actor(1904–05), a Rose Period painting by Pablo Picasso that has belonged to the Met since 1952, will remain there despite the ownership claims made by the estate of Alice Leffmann, the wife of the work’s former owner, German-Jewish businessman Paul Freidrich Leffmann, who sold the work for less than market value while fleeing Nazis in Italy.

While works looted by the Nazis have on occasion been returned to their rightful owners, in this case, the judge decided that the transaction “occurred between private individuals, not at the command of the Fascist or Nazi governments” while acknowledging the “economic pressure during the undeniably horrific circumstances of the Nazi and Fascist regimes.” David W. Bowker, an attorney for the Met, argued that, unlike other similar  cases, the work “was never in the hands of the Nazis and never sold or transferred in any unlawful way.”

Now the family is appealing, hoping to make the case that the transaction came about directly due to economic pressure put on them by the Nazis, a situation akin to the regime forcing them to part with the Picasso. “You either sell or face an unspeakable fate,” the estate said in the appeal, filed in federal court in New York, and called the sale a “desperate act of survival during the most horrific of circumstances.” The estate also hopes to benefit from the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act, which was passed in December 2016 and which extends the time limit for claims on Nazi-era art cases. The new suit claims the court did not take HEAR into consideration.  

The Met said that it will oppose the appeal and stands by its ownership.

Once eyes have seen a work, and a sale does not happen in 3 days, value drops. 

Things getting "burned" is a painful reality in my biz. I think I have a really hot product until 6pm Sunday of art fair week. Art patrons stopping constantly, getting their friends to look/talk about my curated pieces, posing for selfies in front the work. Next show it had better not be on the wall. Rich galleries can weather 6-12 months of soft sales and bad gossip. Small to Mids get rent hikes, art fair fatigue, and have to tell great artists to look elsewhere...

Saltz: if a work doesn’t sell at a fair “the value is gone, burned,” he says, since the work will have been seen and known not to have sold. This is a rotten system.

This will be interesting tonight.

At least half a dozen pieces I'd love to own... if I had $5+ million to spare. The Calder mobile (#39), at least one of the Hockney's (#17), the Georgia O'Keeffe street (#34), and the centrepiece of the auction, the large Gerhard Richter (#8). I also love the early Rothko (#43).

I'm guessing the Richter will go for somewhere just shy of $40 million. A similarly sized Abstraktes Bild sold at a previous Sotheby's auction in 2015 for $28 mill, and I think the current one is more interesting. And a smaller one (owned by Eric Clapton) sold at Christie's in 2016 for $22 mill.

You never know where you'll find things. The Oceanside Museum of Art, located inside a restored building in a block of Irving Gill buildings, keeps having the most interesting exhibits in San Diego County. Right now they have a revelatory Fred Tomaselli overview, 93 year old La Jolla's "Matriarch of San Diego's contemporary art scene" Faiya Fredman and the grand old man of San Diego art meets Gaudi meets JRR Tolkien--the late James Hubbell. 

The Fredman was remarkable. It's of her art from 1998 to today and while she often does cut steel sculptures she also uses photography, lenticular lenses and other effects that only someone who keeps up with technology would know.

A real pleasure.


Last edited by The Old Man

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