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Sotheby’s Roars Back In American Art

GO'KJimson Weed

Years ago, when I first started covering auctions, Sotheby's always had the best American art sales. Lots of people didn't even bother going to Christie's to look, I recall. But that changed, and for the last several years, as in most categories, Christie's has surpassed Sotheby's in this category, getting the best art and posting the best sales totals.  Not this week. Thanks to three consignments by the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Sotheby's sale today reached $75.4 million, far exceeding it presale high estimate of $46 million--though that … [Read more...]

Strategic Timing: Christie’s Gallery Announcement


Last week, just as the bellwether fall sales of Impressionist, Modern and contemporary art in New York were about to begin, Christie's announced that it was going deeper into dealer territory. Not with that headline, of course. The press release was titled CHRISTIE’S OPENS NEW ART SPACE IN ROCKEFELLER CENTER, and it said that architect Annabelle Selldorf, whose work can be seen in many NYC commercial galleries as well the renovated Clark Art Institute, had designed the new galleries. There are four of them, plus five private viewing rooms, … [Read more...]

The Perelman-Gagosian Brawl


You may not be avid readers of the business section of The New York Times, so you may have missed an article in Sunday's paper headlined The Feud That's Shaking Gallery Walls. In it, Ron Perelman says, "Art is such a beautiful thing. But it’s been sullied by an ugly business. It needs to be fixed.” Do you find it strange that a man who's been buying and selling art for a very long time suddenly decides he's had enough or that he was had? After all, he willingly entered into the transaction he has now gone to court to protest. Here's the … [Read more...]

Ethics 101 For Dealers: Deaccessioning


Are dealers are "accessories" to an ethical violation if they agree to sell works of art for museums, like the Delaware Art Museum (pictured below), that are selling to raise money for capital or operational purposes? Accessories to criminal acts may, after all, be guilty of an infraction. That's the underlying question, but not my point, in a short piece I wrote, published today, on a  a new(ish) website based in London and with an international audience, mainly of art and antiques dealers. The site, Art Antiques Design, was started by a … [Read more...]

Detroit Creditors Stir Up More Trouble


Just when things were looking good for the Detroit Institute of Arts, what with pensioners approving the "grand bargain" that allows the DIA to buy its freedom from the city, and with the DIA getting close to its goal of raising $100 million for the grand bargain to work, another creditor has come along to rock the boat. The Financial Guaranty Insurance Company hired Victor Weiner Associates to assess the value of the collection and, in a rush job, VWA put a total value on it of $8.5 billion. You may recall that another "complete collection … [Read more...]

Seizure: Federal Prosecutors Issue Forfeiture Action


Federal prosecutors have filed another forfeiture complaint, this one for a 13th century painting that had been up for sale in the Important Old Masters sale at Sotheby's in January. Sotheby's voluntarily pulled the painting and told Courthouse News Service that it had "cooperated fully with the government on this matter." Sotheby's has not been accused of wrongdoing. The troubling issues with the work surfaced when Sotheby's was doing due diligence on the painting. Courthouse News said the painting was a "Madonna and Child" (at right) … [Read more...]

The Deathbed Deal With Cornelius Gurlitt


The Wall Street Journal published an excellent narrative of Cornelius Gurlitt's final days the other day. You can read it here, assuming it is not behind the paywall. But it may, and so I thought I'd relate a few key paragraphs of the story, by Mary Lane and Bertrand Benoit. It documented, as I suspected, Gurlitt's revenge on Germany. The article begins: Cornelius Gurlitt [at left], 81 years old and his heart faltering, in early January called a notary to his hospital bed in southern Germany, determined to write a last will and testament … [Read more...]

“Spring Masters” Show Hires Architect To Radically Redesign


Last year about this time, I wrote here about the Spring Show at the Park Avenue Armory, lauding the use of color on the walls of the booths. This year it was  Spring Masters, New York -- they called it and "inaugural fair" as it was under new management, but it is basically a reincarnation of the Spring Show. This year, it had the same array of colored walls -- well, maybe a little less flashy: I didn't see the bright red, yellows and greens that were there last year. But this year it had something else, as its website claims: ...a design by … [Read more...]

Now What? Cornelius Gurlitt Has Died


News reports are coming in from Europe: the "'Nazi art' hoarder," as the BBC terms Cornelius Gurlitt, is dead at the age of 81 -- "with no definitive answer on what will happen to his secret collection, which included many Nazi-looted pieces." Gurlitt recently changed his mind about claiming all 1,300 or so pieces in his collection as his own, saying he would cooperate with German authorities on establishing the paintings' provenance and that he would return them if they were proven to be stolen. More from the BBC here, plus a look into … [Read more...]

“Bronze” — A Reprise, Sort Of


In 2012, the Royal Academy in London had a total winner on its hands, in my opinion, with Bronze, an exhibition of about 150 bronzes from all over the world, dating from 5,000 years ago to the present. Robert Mnuchin, the dealer, thought so too: We were struck by the dazzling breadth of inventiveness and the vast range of visual effects at play in the five centuries of bronze objects that the show brought together. After returning to New York, we could not get the show out of our heads. When we learned the exhibition would not be traveling … [Read more...]

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