WORST AUCTION RESULTS FOR 10 YEARS
Carol Vogel reports in the New York Times on the recent auctions which were ‘easily the worst two weeks of high-end Impressionist, modern and contemporary art auctions in more than a decade’. The sales were put together in the summer, well before the financial picture darkened, and were overloaded with works from sellers trying to cash in on the last several seasons’ wave of inflation. To win their business the highly competitive auction houses bankrolled them with guarantees, undisclosed sums promised to sellers regardless of a sale’s outcome. Sotheby’s, a public company, reported that it had lost $28.2 million from guarantees at its contemporary art auctions last week. That brought its total losses to about $52 million this fall, all from guarantees. Executives at Christie’s, which is a private company and therefore not obligated to release its finances, also admitted to having lost millions of dollars. Tobias Meyer, head of Sotheby’s contemporary-art department and the company’s chief auctioneer, said prices for contemporary art had fallen to around 2006 levels and in some cases 2004 and 2005 levels. “Over the past 18 months we’ve had a super market due to the new buyers from Russia and other parts of Europe who hadn’t bought art before,” he said. “But it’s a new world now.” Going forward, he said, “works are going to be priced far differently.” In trying to determine the new price levels for sales next year he and other auction house executives said they were beginning to evaluate the history of prices artist by artist. Edward Dolman, Christie’s chief executive, said his company would, for the most part, give guarantees only in “exceptional circumstances”. Both auction houses said they would be cutting back on general expenses like lavish dinner parties for clients, extravagant catalogs and travel that takes art around the world. Staff cuts are inevitable too, auction house executives said.
TOP 20 SELLING ARTISTS 2007-2008 – 11 FROM CHINA
The auction tracking site Artprice and the Axa insurance company have published their annual survey of the global art market which lists the 500 top-selling artists at 2,900 auctions between July 2007 and June 2008. The top four contemporary artists at auction were the Western superstars Jeff Koons, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst and Richard Prince, while 13 of the top 20 selling artists are from Asia, 11 of those from China. These include Zhang Xiaogang, Zeng Fanzhi, Yue Minjun, Takashi Murakami, Wang Guangyi, Liu Xiaodong, Cai Guo-Qiang, Yan Pei-Ming, and Anish Kapoor. “The total auction revenue generated by 100 Chinese artists in 2003-4 amounted to £860,000,” the report says. “The same 100 generated total revenue of £270m over the last 12 months. Of these 100, three are striking for having each generated more than £26m.”
LA MOCA FACES SERIOUS FINANCIAL CRISIS
The Los Angeles Times has been reporting on the fiscal crisis facing the prestigious but chronically underfunded Museum of Contemporary Art. Museum Director Jeremy Strick said MOCA is seeking large cash infusions from donors, and this week he did not rule out the possibility of merging with another institution or sharing its collection of almost 6,000 artworks. Federal tax returns show that even before the current national crisis, MOCA had been draining its reserves to pay operating expenses. In the meantime, the museum’s staff has grown. MOCA receives minimal government funding. Its annual budget has grown to exceed $20 million, but it relies on donors to pay about 80% of its expenses. When the gifts have fallen short, as they have more often than not during Strick’s nine-year tenure, the museum has gone into its savings. Its federal tax returns show that early in this decade the museum had spent all $20 million of its unrestricted funds to meet routine operating costs. MOCA’s investment portfolio was worth $20.4 million in mid-2007, down from $36.2 million in mid-2000. This month, in a bid to shave 10% off operating costs, the museum announced a six-month closure of its Geffen Contemporary exhibition space, which is leased from the city for $1 a year. Strick insisted that a dissolution or takeover of MOCA by another institution was not an option.
ELI BROAD PLANS NEW MUSEUM FOR BEVERLY HILLS
Bloomberg reports that Eli Broad, the billionaire art collector and philanthropist, wants to build a public museum in Beverly Hills, California, almost a year after he decided not to give his collection to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The gallery would display works from his charitable foundation and personal collection, an attorney for Broad wrote in an Oct. 20 letter to Beverly Hills City Manager Roderick Wood. The proposal includes offices for Broad’s art foundation, which along with a second Broad foundation has assets of $2.5 billion. Broad would like the new museum and offices for the Broad Art Foundation to open in about three years, Joanne Heyler, director and chief curator of the foundation, said in an interview.
ARTIST PAYS £1.7 MILLION IN DAMAGES TO MANCHESTER CITY COUNCIL
Thomas Heatherwick, the creator of ‘B of the Bang’, has agreed with subcontractors to pay £1.7 million in damages to Manchester City Council over the failure of what was supposed to be one of the country’s most exciting pieces of public art, reports The Times. Heatherwick’s 180-tonne starburst of metal spikes, which was designed to reflect the explosion of energy at the starter’s pistol, was built three years ago to dominate Manchester’s eastern gateway. It was hailed at the time as confirmation of the city’s growing status. Yet two weeks after the Olympic medallist Linford Christie unveiled it in January 2005 parts began to drop off as it swayed alarmingly in the wind. Further spikes exhibited defects and had to be removed, including nine that were lopped off and taken down for testing in April this year. For a time the road next to it had to be closed because it was thought to be so dangerous.
NEW YORK GALLERIES AXE STAFF
It has been confirmed that both Pace Wildenstein and Matthew Marks have made staff cuts in the last week. PaceWildenstein has laid off 18 employees out of a total of 146; and Matthew Marks has let go 4 of its 24 employees.
WHITECHAPEL UNVEILS EXPANSION AND INAUGURAL PROGRAMME
The Whitechapel Gallery has unveiled its ambitious expansion following a £13.5 million capital campaign, due to open to the public in April 2009. The Heritage Lottery Fund supported project has transformed the former library building next to the Gallery, increasing gallery space by 78%. Designed by leading Belgian architects Robbrecht en Daem (with London practice Witherford Watson Mann Architects), the expanded Whitechapel Gallery provides new galleries dedicated to presenting collections and new commissions; a permanent gallery and research room for the Whitechapel Gallery’s historic archive, and an Education and Research Tower including study and creative studios. These beautiful spaces for art have been designed by the architects in collaboration with leading artist Rachel Whiteread CBE. The original exhibition spaces in the Whitechapel Gallery have been renovated and will be the site for a landmark exhibition of German sculptor Isa Genzken, the first major retrospective of her work. The Bloomberg Commission, a new platform for an annual art commission, launches with a site-specific artwork by Goshka Macuga, who has been inspired by Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ coming to the Whitechapel Gallery in 1939 on its first and only visit to the UK. The Whitechapel Gallery’s 100-year-old archive is brought to life with displays of rare documents and artists’ letters. The first exhibition, ‘The Whitechapel Boys’, looks at the moment when artists David Bomberg, Mark Gertler and Isaac Rosenberg contributed to forming the Vorticist movement in the former Whitechapel Library. Two new project galleries show the work of Mexican artist Minerva Cuevas and the primary schools education project Archive Adventures. Exhibition highlights for 2009/10 include: painter Elizabeth Peyton (summer 2009); the return of the East End Academy (summer 2009); Sophie Calle (autumn 2009); a major exhibition looking at photography from south Asia from the 1840s to the present day (winter 2010); changing displays from the British Council collection and from the Gallery’s archives; and project gallery exhibitions by Julie Ault and Melanie Manchot.
FORMER HEAD OF MCDONALDS TO DIRECT ITALY’S MUSEUMS
According to the Guardian, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government has appointed the former manager of McDonald’s Italy as the new general director of Italian museums and their development. Mario Resca, 62, ran McDonald’s Italy for 12 years and is currently the director of the large, state-run Casinò di Campione. In an interview with La Repubblica on the occasion of his new appointment, Resca likened the Italian cultural heritage to “oil reserves that cost nothing.” “We must use the resource of our cultural heritage to generate earnings,” he said. Asked whether he had ever before focused on cultural matters, Resca answered that he hadn’t, but that it doesn’t matter. “I didn’t know anything about the restaurant industry, and for 12 years I directed McDonald’s Italy. I didn’t know anything about gambling and now I direct the Casinò di Campione,” he said. He added that his job was to increase cultural tourism in Italy and “to work on the [country's] image, do marketing, [and] circulate our artworks around the world.” Italian heritage groups and opposition politicians have decried the appointment.
POLICE SEIZE WORKS BY ARTIST OLEG KULIK AT FIAC
French police seized a number of works by the Ukrainian performance artist Oleg Kulik on the stand of Moscow’s XL gallery during FIAC, the contemporary art fair held in Paris in October, reports The Art Newspaper. The police were acting on a complaint of pornography brought by the French customs against photographs from the 1990s depicting Kulik performances, sometimes naked and sometimes simulating sexual acts with animals. Kulik is well known for his performances as a dog, notably ‘I Bite America and America Bites Me’ in 1997 at Deitch Projects in New York, when he spent two weeks living in a heavily secured dog cage in the gallery. While it is not illegal in France to show “zoophilia” (sex with animals), article 227-4 of the penal code states that it is illegal to show “violent or pornographic images… which could be seen by minors”. The French customs had seen the Kulik images on their arrival in France and informed the public prosecutor. “The police didn’t know which ones to take, so finally they took all the ones showing Kulik naked,” XL gallery’s director Sergei Khripun told the French newspaper Le Monde. He and co-director Elena Selina were taken to the local police station and handcuffed to a bench before being released a few hours later. Fiac’s director Martin Bethenod stayed with them and served as interpreter. Mr Khripun and Ms Selina have now returned to Russia. “There is no case against them and they are not being investigated,” Mr Bethenod told The Art Newspaper. The photo-graphs in question, some of which had already been sold, have now been given for safekeeping to FIAC. “I have them under lock and key and am awaiting the magistrate’s decision as to what to do with them,” said Mr Bethenod.
BARCELO UNVEILS $23 MILLION PAINTING AT THE UN
Associated Press reports that the Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo unveiled his lavish, $23 million ceiling painting at the United Nations this week, a project that has evoked controversy over its hefty price tag. In a ceremony with Spain’s King Juan Carlos and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Barcelo gave the world its first glimpse of the 16,000-square-foot (1,500-square-meter) elliptical dome full of bright colours and torn aluminium. The most striking element may be the hundreds of small icicle-shaped pieces that dangle down from the ceiling. The 50-year-old abstract artist used more than 100 tons of paint with pigments from all over the world. The ceiling took over a year to produce, and Barcelo worked with architects, engineers and even particle physics laboratories to develop the extra-strength aluminium for the dome. But the project has come under fire, and not for its unconventional aesthetics. The Spanish Foreign Ministry says the government is funding 40 percent of the costs, with the rest footed by private-sector donors. Of the public money, 500,000 euros (US$633,000) comes from a budget for overseas development aid and international organizations like the UN. Spain’s conservative opposition Popular Party complained that this means money was diverted from projects to alleviate poverty and boost health care in poorer countries, but the ministry insists the funding for Barcelo’s work was separate.
PRIZES AND AWARDS
Emily Jacir has won the Hugo Boss Prize, worth $100,000. Jacir, 37, will also be given an exhibition at the Guggenheim in spring 2009. Jacir, who is of Palestinian descent, makes photographs, videos, sculptures and drawings that address themes of belonging and displacement as they relate to Palestinian identity. Jacir, who divides her time between Ramallah and New York, also won the Golden Lion Award for an artist under 40 at the 2007 Venice Biennale.
Chinese artist Yao Lu has won the 2008 BMW – Paris Photo Prize for contemporary photography, worth 12,000 EUR. Born in 1967 in Beijing, the Chinese artist Yao Lu, is represented by 798 Photo Gallery in Beijing.
Sculptor Jesús Moroles is among the recipients of this year’s National Medal of Arts, awarded this week by president George W. Bush at the White House. Moroles’s most visible work, ‘Lapstrake’, 1987, is a sixty-four-ton, twenty-two-foot-tall sculpture in the plaza between the E.F. Hutton and CBS buildings in New York City, located across the street from the New York Museum of Modern Art.