Art Auctions

Next Art Boom Could Be on the West Coast

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iMac - 015, oil and acrylic on canvas, 23 x 25 x 9 inches, $18,000

iMac – 015, oil and acrylic on canvas, 23 x 25 x 9 inches, $18,000

Now head of his own art consultancy, the London-based American observed that attendance at this year’s contemporary art fair proved Hong Kong was now firmly on the map of the art world’s jet set – representatives from a record 78 international art institutions attended the fair, according to Art Basel. But Murphy is also watching keenly watching an emerging market on the other side of the Pacific ocean.

“The next big boom is going to be the west coast USA. The trajectory of what’s happened here in Asia shows that the market potential has always been here. It just took enterprises to see Asia as a coherent, integrated part of their businesses. The same will happen on the west coast,” he says. Read More

Auction House Buzzwords

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Menu, acrylic on five stretched canvases, 12.5 x 13.5 x 13.5 inches (each), $40,000

Menu, acrylic on five stretched canvases, 12.5 x 13.5 x 13.5 inches (each), $40,000

As a share of the population, the number of people who participate in fine art auctions is miniscule. To an outsider (that is to say, most human beings), the rituals of an auction—from paddle waving to forking over thousands for a work of art—are intimidating enough. And then there’s the language, a lexicon with its own nuances and auction-specific meanings. While we may not be able to get you a seat to the evening sales at Christie’s or Sotheby’s, we can help you understand what they’re talking about. Here’s a breakdown of a few terms to know and, more importantly, what they tell us about how the auction market operates, so you can understand what exactly is going on when an auctioneer bangs his or her gavel.

Chandelier Bid 

What does it mean?

A chandelier bid is a phantom bid, acknowledged by an auctioneer who often pretends to see someone raise a paddle in the back of the room, pushing up the price in an effort to stimulate interest in a lot. Read More

How to Assess Contemporary Art

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Porky Chanel_48 x 48 inchesAs a budding collector the choice of artworks available to you at galleries and art fairs is overwhelming. Paintings, sculptures, multi-media work, limited editions, you name it. Here are a couple of tips from our art advisors to get you to start looking at art like a pro. This is not an exhaustive list so if you need more help give us a call.

First, you need to know the difference between emerging, mid-career and established artists. There are no hard-and-fast rules in this regard (for example age is not necessarily relevant here). Emerging artists are just starting out and their first exhibitions tend to be group shows, whereas mid-career artists have achieved a level of recognition through a solid body of work and a number of solo exhibitions and publications. In addition to that, established artists have built a stable career over many years and are well-known internationally. Read More

The Market Is Dictating Art

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Southeast-Gallery copyOn Friday at The Armory Show, a panel of art insiders gave their thoughts on the future of the market to a packed house. Moderator Kelly Crow of the Wall Street Journal was joined by auctioneer Simon de Pury, art advisor Todd Levin, collector Alain Servais, CEO of Athena Art Finance Andrea Danese, and gallerist Dominique Lévy of Lévy Gorvy.

Crow opened the discussion by prompting the audience members to do the near-impossible: truly use their imaginations.

“Close your eyes and try to conjure a color that you have never seen before,” said Crow, admitting that when asked to do the same thing she failed—only familiar colors came to mind. That reflex is “an apt metaphor for trying to understand the art market,” she said, before diving into a conversation that at times tried to conjure the future, but largely consisted of parsing more familiar recent market trends. That’s not to say there weren’t valiant attempts at prognostication, up to and including the use of props: A smiling Levin at one point pulled out a Magic 8-Ball when asked how he decides if a work of art is a good purchase. Read More

New Collectors: How to Discover Your Taste in Art

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douke installation 1Tens of thousands of galleries across the globe, representing hundreds of thousands of artists, deal art everywhere from Düsseldorf to Dallas. You can bid on a painting at auction from your iPad in your PJs. To say there is a lot of art at your fingertips is an understatement.

So while it is perhaps easier than ever to buy a work, navigating the commercial art world is understandably daunting for the inexperienced collector. How does one go about finding their taste? What separates true quality from the hype? What potential pitfalls should one watch for when stepping out into the vast world of collecting? The answer will be different for everyone, but here are a few key points to remember. Read More

How Long Do You Need to Look at a Work of Art to Get It?

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stremmel-1This is an easy one: Scientists have determined that the exact amount of time one should look at a work of art in order to understand it is four minutes and eight seconds.

Just kidding. Like almost every question asked in this series, the answer is highly subjective and dependent on the work of art, as well as how well-versed one is in parsing visual images. But it is safe to say that, generally speaking, we’re not looking at works of art for long enough. The exact numbers vary, but studies have determined that the average time a person spends gandering at a piece in a museum is between 15 seconds and 30 seconds. That’s plenty of time to figure out what the image is attempting to represent (or not, if you’re looking at abstraction). But that’s not nearly enough time to fully experience the work.

James O. Pawelski, the director of education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center, compared the way in which most people walk through a museum to the experience of strolling through library stacks. “When you go to the library,” he told the New York Times, “you don’t walk along the shelves looking at the spines of the books and on your way out tweet to your friends, ‘I read 100 books today!’” The contention here is that people can go to a museum, spend hours there looking at hundreds of works, and walk out not really having seen anything. When he was teaching, Pawelski would take students to Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation and ask them to spend 20 minutes in front of one single work. The resulting contemplation, he claimed, not only enhances one’s appreciation of art, but can also have the same beneficial effects as meditation. Read More

Elaine Wynn: Lover of Art

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Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud,” purchased by Wynn for a then-record-breaking $142.4 million/Courtesy: Christie’s

Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud,” purchased by Wynn for a then-record-breaking $142.4 million/Courtesy: Christie’s

When Elaine Wynn first laid eyes on Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” triptych, she says she was “gobsmacked.” Wynn had quietly slipped into the Christie’s building in New York in November 2013 — just two days before the set of paintings was to be auctioned off — cloaked in sweats and a baseball cap to discreetly inspect the masterpiece.

“First I was worried I’d want to buy it,” says Wynn. “Then I was worried I might not get it.”

Much to her delight, she won the auction with a bid of $142.4 million after commission. At the time, it was the highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction — a sum so staggering it could even bust a billionaire’s budget. “I had buyer’s remorse,” Wynn admits. “But only for 30 minutes.”

Read More

Gallerists Have Become Traveling Merchants

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artfairtokyo2008_1Describing what an art fair is seems simple: It is a marketplace where galleries from all over the world congregate under one roof to exhibit and sell artworks. But what’s behind the rising popularity of the fair format, and how has it affected the greater art market?

“One of the things that people point to a lot is the growth of the fairs, the importance of the fairs,” Art Basel director Marc Spiegler said at the Talking Galleries conference in Barcelona last year. “And I think part of that is because the fairs have done a good job of being a place where you can get an overview of a global market at a moment where the art world is internationalizing constantly.”

According to the TEFAF Art Market Report, art fairs made up 40 percent of gallery sales in 2015, compared to 48 percent of sales made in-gallery. The Financial Times estimates that some galleries make up to 70 percent of their annual turnover at the fairs. Read More

Is Public Art Beneficial?

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artfairtokyo2008_1Due to its cost and visibility, public art can be tough sell to, well, the public. So what are the benefits of public artworks, and when did the idea begin?

The production and introduction of artworks into the public domain started to be regulated and organized by national programs in the 1930s. Although state-sponsored institutions—such as the US Federal Art Project, the USSR’s Ministry of Culture, and the Chinese Communist Party’s art-related efforts—primarily pursued propaganda goals, this laid the foundation for public art programs worldwide.

As the movements of minimalism and pop art in the 1960s and 1970s changed the concept of what could be classified as art, the idea of introducing art into the public space gained traction in the US and elsewhere. In Germany, for instance, up to 1.5 percent of a public building’s construction budget is used for site-specific art. Other European countries have dedicated certain funds to public art as well, according to a Percent for Art report. Read More

Nostalgia for the Golden Age of Art Dealing

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Mike Berg at Stremmel Gallery.

Mike Berg at Stremmel Gallery.

The notion that collectors sit atop the hierarchy of today’s art world is axiomatic. They build private museums and control the boards of traditional ones. Through their acquisitions, they determine the fates of artists, and often overshadow curators, historians, and critics—all those ink-stained intellectuals who used to play a larger role in determining art’s value.

And yet, one must not discount the supplier. On the primary market—the placement of new work straight from artists’ studios—art dealers often shape collectors’ tastes. On both the primary and secondary, or resale, markets, they shepherd artworks onto collectors’ walls (or, as the case may be, into their freeport storage spaces in Geneva or Singapore). In a recent profile of David Zwirner in the New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten wrote that “one prominent collector referred to Zwirner as his top ‘go-get guy.’ To go and get, you have to know who owns what, how he or his heirs feel about it, how desperately they may need money.” Certain dealers are now celebrities. “Call Larry Gagosian, you belong in museums,” rapped Jay-Z, an art collector himself, and one of Gagosian’s high-profile clients.

But even as the world’s most powerful art dealers become household names, there is a pervasive sense that some of them have lost their aesthetic compass, if they ever had one, that they’ve abandoned the idea of taking an aesthetic position in favor of global domination. Today’s so-called mega-galleries have outposts in all the world’s major cities (16 shops and, quite possibly, counting, in Gagosian’s case); by necessity, they have taken on dozens of artists, being perhaps more concerned about having available product than a coherent program. “Now, they’re department stores,” as critic Dave Hickey put it ten years ago, when the mega-gallery phenomenon was ramping up. “Stables of artists once embodied the taste of the gallerist. Now everybody has one of each: your Iranian minimalist photographer, your elegant object maker, your Berlin pornographer.” Read More