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A Top Ten List In Dubai


I happened to turn to a publication called Gulf Business, which I plan to use in my next post, and then happened upon a very interesting list. We think we know a lot about art in the Gulf States -- hearing all the time of the Doha and Abu Dhabi museums, the big annual art fairs there and the (what looked to me from afar as pretty awful) massive Damien Hirst bronze sculptures of fetal development that went on display there last fall. So the headline in Gulf Business drew me in: Top 10 Most Expensive Art Works Sold By Christie’s In Latest … [Read more...]

Poor Trade-Off — Bellows To London — But One Bright Side


Of course I have mixed emotions about the sale by Randolph College of its beautiful painting, Men of the Docks, by George Bellows, to raise money for its endowment. Remedying financial mismanagement elsewhere is not what art in museums is supposed to do, especially as this painting was purchased by students for the college in 1920. That part is very sad. But the great news is that the National Gallery in London bought the work and paid $25.5 million, finally adding a major American painting to its collection. As Nicholas Penny, the NG … [Read more...]

The Cost of Poor Care: Multi-millions


When I saw a digital image of the Pontormo portrait of Cosimo I de Medici, which was up for sale at Christie's yesterday, I fell in love with it. It's a beautiful pose, a study in black. But then I heard from art historians about how abraded the surface was -- some said they could not even stand to look at it. And surely, the presale estimate was a giveaway: $300,000 to $500,000 for a Pontormo? It would, some experts said, be worth $30 million to $50 million if it were in good condition. The Metropolitan Museum doesn't even own a Pontormo. … [Read more...]

Rothschild Prayerbook Squeezes Out A New Record, Sort Of


It was just by a sliver. This afternoon at Christie's, when the Rothschild Prayerbook came up for sale, the final price including the premium was $13.605 million. Last time, in 1999, it fetched $13.379 million. Considering that the book was sold in London last time, and therefore in pounds sterling, not dollars as today, the price could be construed as lower now. In pounds sterling, the price last time was £8,581,500 and today it was £8,215,583. I was watching only online, so I could not tell who was bidding -- the buyer was the phone, … [Read more...]

Paging Through A 1505 Prayer Book


It was a perk of the job, and what a pleasure it was. As I reported and then wrote a short item about the Rothschild Prayerbook, which is up for sale on Wednesday at Christie's, I went over the the auction house to "look" at it. I assumed that an expert would don white gloves and let me see a few of its 150 pages. But no. When I arrived at the skybox overlooking Christie's Rockefeller Center sales room, the guard standing outside let me in (along with a representative of the PR department) and -- as long as my hands were clean -- invited me … [Read more...]

Calder Heirs’ Fraud Case Against Dealer Perls Is Dismissed


I don't know about you, but I wasn't convinced by an article in The New York Times last October headlined Calder’s Heirs Accuse Trusted Dealer of Fraud. Apparently, neither was the court. On Christmas Eve, New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich made public an opinion that dismissed the $20 million suit by relatives of Alexander Calder (at right) against the late Klaus G. Perls, Calder's dealer from 1954 until 1976, when the artist died, and the Perls estate. According to a Dec. 26 article in Bloomberg Businessweek, “All these … [Read more...]

Cheese As Art, And ABMB As Celebrity Circus


If ever you thought that Art Basel Miami Beach was turning into a circus, take a look at this press release that landed in my Inbox this afternoon. The subject line was "MEDIA INVITE to "Cheeses of France" EAT ART Media Preview." Then it went on to say: Amongst the fabulous art on display at this year’s Art Basel in Miami you’ll find an oasis of delicious FRENCH CHEESES. Now I like my cheese as much or more as anyone else, but this read like something from The Onion. The cheeses can been seen in two pop-up events, which I'm sure will be fun, … [Read more...]

The Knoedler Case: What About Those Gaps?


The Art Newspaper -- i.e., correspondent Laura Gilbert -- has been reading the legal documents in the case against Knoedler Gallery following the admission of guilt by Long Island dealer Glafira Rosales, and they are juicy. Knoedler and its former director Ann Freeman face five lawsuits in federal court. These papers highlight the gap between what Knoedler paid for works and what it charged for works -- the very question I had back in August, when Freeman asserted that she was the "central victim" of the fraud. At the time, I … [Read more...]

Auction Houses, Too, Are Taking Up Themes


Like art museums (see here), auction houses are increasingly "curating" their sales to themes. On November 5, Swann is presenting a sale called "The Armory Show at 100," for example. And soon Phillips in London will offer "The Architect," a sale of furniture and other objects created by architects, Christie's South Kensington will present "The Art of Food and Drink," and Sotheby's will have "The Courts of Europe: From the Renaissance to the Rococo." Expect more. As Marc Porter, chairman of Christie's Americas, told me of themed sales, "They … [Read more...]

The Pinta Fair’s Great Idea


PINTA NY -- the six-year-old Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art Fair -- is more than a month away, but I'm writing about it now because it has what I think is a unique part called the Museum Acquisitions Program. Through it, a group of museums chosen each year work with PINTA NY and exhibiting galleries to select and acquire artworks by artists represented at the fair, and -- the good part -- PINTA NY provides matching funds to the museums to make the deal. According to PINTA, participating museums so far have included: The … [Read more...]

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