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Bouvier Shenanigans, Chapter Two: Steve Cohen

When I cited that article in Le Temps, a newspaper in Geneva, to identify the buyer of Leonardo's Salvator Mundi (Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev), I hadn't read far enough: Yves Bouvier (pictured), the broker-dealer who sold the Leonardo to Rybolovlev--allegedly committing fraud (which his lawyer denies)--also may have used the same tactic when he sold a Modigliani nude owned by Steve Cohen to the Russian. Here's how it worked, supposedly: Rybolovlev paid Bouvier $118 million for the Modigliani, but Cohen received $93.5 million for … [Read more...]

Adrien de Vries Sculpture Fetches Record $27.9 Million

A record was set at Christie's today for an Adrien de Vries sculpture--one that was withdrawn from sale in 2011 because it lacked an export license--and the winning bidder was the Rijksmuseum. The Mannerist sculpture, which is widely recognized as a masterpiece by the 17th century artist known as the “Dutch Michaelangelo”, was won by the museum after a tense three-way phone bidding battle that lasted four minutes and captivated the audience at Christie’s Rockefeller Center saleroom in New York. The final price, including the premium, … [Read more...]

Perelman Vs. Gagosian: A Decision

Well, it turns out, the court agrees with me on at least one case filed by billionaire Ron Perelman about the art market. As I wrote here in October, in a legal match-up between art dealer Larry Gagosian and financier Ronald Perelman, neither is a sympathetic character. But I thought then, and still do, that Perelman's suit about his purchase of a Cy Twombly painting was probably a frivolous case. Some RCA readers disagreed. Last week, the New York Supreme Court dismissed a Perelman suit against Gagosian filed in 2012 in which he said he had … [Read more...]

What To Make of The Turner Record?

While much of the art world was in Miami Beach last Wednesday, Sotheby's in London sold a J.M.W. Turner for a record $47. 4 million, or £30.3 million, including the premium, against a presale estimate of $24.1- to $32.1 million. That's huge! Turner, whose biopic Mr. Turner opens in the United States on Dec. 19, painted the work, Rome, from Mount Aventine, in 1835, and exhibited it the following year at the Royal Academy. Four bidders wanted to picture, Sotheby's said, mentioned that the sale "coincided with a wider moment of Turner mania, … [Read more...]

Spalding Takes On Art’s “Self-Congratulatory In-Group”

I suppose I first became aware of Julian Spalding, the British art museum director, when I went to Glasgow some years ago and visited Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. I hated it, and I blamed Spalding, who was then the director of art galleries for Glasgow. Kelvingrove's collections--which include Dali's  Christ of St John of the Cross, Rembrandt's A Man in Armour, and works by van Gogh and Monet, among other things--had been reinstalled for maximum tourist appeal, in themed galleries with dumbed-down labels. The lobby was like a playground … [Read more...]

Sotheby’s Roars Back In American Art

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...]

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