4 July 2016 § Leave a comment
“I want there to be a human presence without having to depict it in full” – Cecily Brown
Located mid way on the short stroll between two of St James’ art heavyweights – Christies, King Street and White Cube, Masons Yard – are the two spaces of the Thomas Dane Gallery. It is always well worth dropping by to see the latest exhibition and with artists like Walead Beshty, Michael Landy, Hurvin Anderson and Steve McQueen on the roster there is a good chance you will find something very special.
Showing for the first time at the gallery, we found the wonderful Cecily Brown. She has recently jumped ship from Gagosian no less, a move that shows the growing power of Thomas Dane. Brown is, and has been throughout her career, one of the most engaged and distinctive painters of our time. Her preoccupation has always been the Body – in all its various guises and narratives, fleshy shapes and forms appearing from her many layered works.
Brown’s paintings are immersive and her passion is contagious. She reminds us how great it is to look at art unhurriedly: the pleasure of contemplation and examination. Her paintings reveal themselves slowly, almost ‘continuously’.
Brown often talks about ‘Sublimation’, paraphrasing Francis Bacon who craved “the grin without the cat”, the “sensation” without the “boredom of its conveyance”. Something she calls a ‘Breaking-down’ process.
Recently we discover that Brown has been (re)looking at a particular painting, and has fallen in love with it all over again: Degas’ Young Spartans, from 1860, at London’s National Gallery. She brings Degas’ very recognisable, cluster of bodies, postures and composition into some of the work here.
Crowds are indeed very present for example – in the enigmatic Madrepora, 2015. The ghoulish assembly of The Smugglers, 2015, too could have sprung out of a James Ensor painting.
A series of ‘Dark’ paintings are reminiscent of the Spanish Masters and brings together Brown’s taste for the slightly macabre, or forbidden, with more risqué reclining male nudes.
Spanning both spaces of the gallery, the exhibition includes some of works from the past. These are cleverly hung alongside her sketches and allows us to add some history and context to her work. Her star must surely continue to rise.
Cecily Brown – Madrepora runs until 23 July 2016
For more information visit www.thomasdanegallery.com
6 November 2015 § Leave a comment
Online auctions are big business. We all know of course about Ebay which started as a local experiment and astonished even its founder as it evolved to cover almost anything that anyone could imagine. Many other online-only sale platforms as well as proprietary auction house live bidding sites have appeared on the web since but many have assumed that the online auction model would never work for big ticket items like blue chip fine art or collectable automobiles.
They were wrong. Despite being late to the party the major auction houses have now all realised that you can indeed sell anything of any value on the web and they too have jumped on the bandwagon. The whole panoply of art, culture and design from $1 to $100 million is now available online.
Naturally with choice comes complication. A search for a photograph by, say, Terry O’Neill could easily take hours via checks upcoming auctions at multiple houses and still be incomplete. It was this growing problem that actually led a Swede, Christian Barnekow, to develop a way to search easily across multiple auctions. barnebys was the result and is now the biggest of its type in the world. It now covers hundreds of thousands of lots from over 1000 auction houses – a number increasing daily – and makes a complex search achievable in seconds – it is an invaluable resource that we use here almost daily.
Another familiar problem for potential buyers is that once you’ve found a Terry O’Neill you need to know its value? Up to now expensive subscriptions to companies like Artnet and Mutualart were needed for, not always satisfactory, access to their databases. A free search at barnebys ‘realised prices’ instantly supplies over a hundred full Terry O’Neill auction records between 1998 to now and allows a quick and easy comparison of other similar works. How brilliant is that?
The auctions, and results, are subdivided in to around thirty different categories across the world of art, design and culture and include for example Fashion & Vintage, Jewellery & Gems, Photographs, Sculpture and Furniture & Design and its a great place to search for affordable designer furniture or perhaps a designer handbag. You can search by any key word, product or select individual auction houses and sales to browse through.
There are many other useful features accessed via the barnebys site including access to a blog with trends, news article and ideas. Last but not least is a free valuation service – simply send details of your item via an online form (here) – and details are forwarded to auction house experts for an appraisal.
We particularly like the website layout which is clear, nicely arranged and easy to use. All in all barnebys should be saved on any everyone’s ‘favourite’ websites. Now, maybe I’ll just put a sly bid on that Picasso ‘La Gommeuse’ at £38 million or perhaps the Warhol Marilyn Monroe instead – a snip at around £100k?
For more information visit www.barnebys.com
28 October 2013 § Leave a comment
For anyone who feels that they might be a dab hand at art investment its well worth taking a look at the new ArtTactic Forecaster – an online ‘guess the art price’ website. Yours Truly is of course competing assidously and is sitting comfortably and tactically at 6th overall (as absolutbargain!) – waiting to make a move for the top when the others aren’t looking. I’ll keep you updated!
Sign up (for free) and every few days the site is updated with works each from a few new auctions. Auctions are worldwide, from the major auction houses and are categorised in to such area as Contemporary Photography, Contemporary Painting, Prints and Sculpture for example. Images, details and estimates are given for the works and using a slider you enter your own prediction for the sales price or estimate as a ‘No Sale’. After the sale you are marked school-style – a point for correct or a half point for close. ArtTactic then draws up league tables in each category as well as overall.
It is of course ‘just for fun’ and is a very appropriate and sobering reminder of just how difficult it is to accurately forecast auction results. Get more than 2 of the 5 right and you’re probably moving up the league table! The difficulty is most clearly brought home by the fact that the auction houses themselves would be well down the tables if their estimates were counted as their entries in the competition. They might say that their estimates are often tactical rather than necessarily accurate – but then again they would wouldn’t they!
There is a more serious aim to the competition of course as ArtTactic presumably aim to attract investors and collectors to their product. ArtTactic after all is an art market analysis firm that offers research and commentary on the ever-changing art world. As new markets emerge and tastes shift, ArtTactic wants to offer the expertise for your to keep a close eye current and future art investments supported by ‘up to the minute information from all corners of the globe.’
It has competition of course, all with slightly differing angles and priorities. Here are the main – and pretty much only – contenders: MutualArt (my personal favourite) , ArtPrice (French, and appropriately awkward to use), Blouin Art Sales Index (and online magazine), Artnet (a US company who also run online auctions), Artfacts (includes a very useful and pretty accurate free-to-use artist ranking guide), Artfact (no ‘s’ – where you can also bid on various online auctions) and Gordons Print & Photography Prices (now part of Blouin, produce annual printed guides).
Anyone who doesn’t plan to use an advisor or consultant when buying art (in truth by far the wisest way to invest) it would be very foolish indeed not to sign up to one of the premium packages available from one or more of these companies. A full auction record of any artist you are investing in is an absolute must and along with various guides to the performance of individual artists or different sectors allows an insight not otherwise available.
A final word of warning beware the free to use companies – some of whom like Artsy are very professional indeed, who purport to offer a guide to prices, when they are in reality more like a selling platform for art of very varying quality.
- Artsy Launches Free Auction Results Service (galleristny.com)
- artnet Auctions Presents: LONGO (prweb.com)
- If Wall Street Worked Like the Art Market – Bloomberg (go.bloomberg.com)
- What Happened at the First Phillips Digital Art Auction (animalnewyork.com)
30 January 2012 § 1 Comment
The contemporary art auction market in London has in recent years been a bitter slug-fest between the two ‘big boys’ – Sotheby’s and Christies. Last year Christies won on points with their total for the three sales – in February, June and October – reaching £167m, only about £3m ahead of Sotheby’s. A distant third is Phillips de Pury whose three sales grossed only (!) £36m.
The new kid on the block is Bonhams but this sounds a strange thing to say since they have been around since 1793. However it is only since 2001, when they came under new ownership that they have started expanding significantly and have steadily eaten in to the larger houses share of the auction market. Contemporary art has never been their strong suit and, following some dabbling in the contemporary market in their hit and miss Vision 21 auctions they have now launched a full-scale assault on the hegemony of the bigger houses. Following the inaugural sale by the new Contemporary Art Department last October – only grossing about £2m but largely successful and 70% sold – thay are offering another closely curated sale of 20 lots with a modest mid-estimate total of around £2.5m.
At first glance this sale could be dismissed as a sale of little importance in the London Contemporary market, but a look at the catalogue shows something more interesting. The catalogue is a beautifully and expensively produced whopper. One hundred and sixty-four pages. For twenty lots. Every lot gets loads of attention and space lavished upon it. Take a nice Alan Davie Little Tut’s Wagon (lot 5) modestly estimated at £25-35k – the artist gets a double page spread for his photo and a couple more devoted to his work, the painting has a double page plus a fold-out – the equivalent to about 8 pages! At Sotheby’s or Christies it might have got a half a page – in the day sale. There are other modestly-priced works – expect them to go well above estimate – and some very interesting higher rated works too – notably Urs Fischer’s Untitled 2006 (lot 10), Frank Auerbach‘s Head of Lucien Freud (lot 6) and Richard Prince’s Untitled (Girlfriend) (lot 15).
The modest number of lots and total value of the sale is, at least in part, deliberate. I was told that Bonhams wish to establish themselves with very successful sales of low to mid value lots, before going full tilt at the market. I wish them every luck, and with such commitment as they show here who would bet against them becoming a major player in the contemporary market in the coming years. Meanwhile, if you have a contemporary work to sell there looks like only one sensible place to put it at the moment. With such attention and quality of presentation and, dare I venture, some negotiation of commission for good works, Bonhams will be hard to beat.
London Contemporary auction scehdule February 2012
13/14 Feb Bonhams One/Two eve/day
14/15 Feb Christies eve/day
15/16 Sothebys eve/day
17/18 Phillips de Pury eve/day
- Lucian Freud drawings to go under the hammer (telegraph.co.uk)
29 May 2011 § 1 Comment
Blain|Southern have announced that they will be moving from their rather cramped Dering Street premises in to a new gallery at 5 Hanover Square in May 2012. It is big too. The 12,400 sq ft area is one of the largest in London – only Hauser & Wirth are more extensive. Just behind them in the size chart incidentally, is Haunch of Venison, Harry Blain‘s old gallery which he recently left. Both have excellent current exhibitions well worth seeing – my reviews hopefully to come soon.
So how is the downturn affecting London galleries? Hauser & Wirth’s huge new space only opened the end of last year, Halcyon Gallery are opening a new gallery soon at 144 New Bond Street, SumarriaLunn have just had their opening at 36 South Molton Lane and Gazelli hint at a new space in St James. There are pop-ups galore plus other new galleries and yet few seem to be closing.
8 February 2011 § Leave a comment
The next few days sees the first big art auctions of the year. Today, the 8 February Sothebys kick off with their evening Impressionist & Modern sale followed by their day sale tomorrow when Christies also have their evening sale. Looking Closely is an extra Sothebys evening sale on Thursday 10 February which follows Christies day sale. The major Sothebys & Christies Contemporary sales follow on the 16 & 17 February.
Georgina Adam in the Financial Times (link to article) summarises this weeks sales nicely (so that I dont have to!), but it is the Looking Closely sale that Sothebys have slipped in to the schedule that really catches the eye. This is an exquisite private collection from the estate of Swiss collector George Kostalitz, who died last year. Collected carefully in the period 1960-90 it is a beautifully formed collection, made with a great eye for the best work.
An exquisite Dali portrait of Eluard is one of the most important surrealist works to come up at auction for years, estimated up to £5m – but dont be surprised if it goes for £10m. Two portraits of Lucian Freud are included, the first being a 1964 triptych painted by Francis Bacon estimated at up to £9m, while amonst three Freuds on offer is a self-portrait painted when staying at Ian Fleming’s Jamaican villa, Goldeneye. Five stunning Marc Chagall feature, two of which were commissioned directly from the artist. They are all estimated at £2m or so and surely will go for much more. The sale estimate is £39-55m, but it will be surprise to me if it does not soars much higher.
The highest estimated work in all these sales is at Sotheby’s evening sale Picasso La Lecture at £18m – a tender portrait of his muse Maries Therese it is ‘only’ a small oil on board, but it is still unlikely that the estimate will prove to be too elevated.
Overall I am sure that we will see as very strong result at the sales continuing the ‘recovery’ in the market suggested by good results in 2010 – including Christies recent announcement of its record-breaking year. There will be a high proportion of lots sold, some broken records and sale estimates exceeded – especially at Sothebys – and let’s hope that this signals a good start to 2011!
- Brooding self-portrait of the young Lucian Freud up for sale (telegraph.co.uk)
- Picasso muse painting up for sale (bbc.co.uk)
- Magritte on Magritte: letters reveal surrealist Damien Hirst (guardian.co.uk)
17 November 2010 § Leave a comment
In the wake of the strong sales results in New York contemporary art sales last week the Art Market Monitor has made some very interesting comments.
They looked at the day sale market separately from the evening sales. Not only do the evening sales represent the fantasy-land of the art world but due to low lot numbers they are prone to being skewed by expensive individual works. The day sales have a larger number of lots and represent the core of the market and the majority of the collectors. Having removed the evening sales world inhabited by the super rich and potentially those least affected by the boom and bust cycle we can possibly look at current state of the wider art market. The AMM noted:
Last week’s strong day sales posted very similar numbers to the Spring’s sales. Total volume in the day sales was $121 million in May and $122.6 million in November. The May sales had 800 lots find buyers and the November sales had 831 lots succeed. The average price for the day sales was slightly higher in May (at $151,318) than in November (at $147,572) but hardly a significant difference.
From 2007 to mid-2008 there was a dramatic rise in the average price of day sale works. The average price last week, however, was 40% below the bubble peak of Spring 2008. There seems to be a consolidation at the this 40% decline from the all-time highs. This should be seen as good news especially within the context of average prices having moved above the median level for the last five years for both sales cycles in 2010.
They also observe that by removing those boom and bust years from 2007 to 2009 we are left with a market that, from 2006 to 2010 looks remarkably similar.
Coming after reassuring signs over the last six months one feels that we can now confidently say that we have reached the end of any ‘bust cycle’ and can look forward to a stable market with steadily increasing prices and renewed confidence in the market.
There has been some recent nonsensical talk of a move away from contemporary art and towards, for example, ‘modern masters’ but these results confirm further that this analysis was premature. The market for contemporary art is as strong as it has been in recent years, having felt the same stresses as other parts of the art market.
- Investors renew passion for modern masters (guardian.co.uk)
- The Great Contemporary Art Market Cock-Up – artmarketblog.com (artmarketblog.com)
- Art Sales Crack $1 Billion, Again (online.wsj.com)
12 October 2010 § Leave a comment
This October, in what is undoubtedly the most important week in the London Contemporary Art calendar, Christie’s is taking advantage of the international interest generated by Frieze to create their own ‘Fair’ – Multiplied – showcasing Contemporary Art in Editions. Around forty dealers ranging from major dealers like White Cube down to relative tiddlers like Black Rat Projects are taking advantage of the relatively low-cost stand space to sell low to moderate-priced works that appeal to new collectors. The works will include not only prints but, for example, editioned photographs and sculptures and will reportedly start at a just a few pounds with the aim of tempting new clients in to the world of buying art.
Over thirty London galleries have temporarily dropped their objection to Christie’s muscling-in on to what is traditionally dealer territory. Christies tell us that “Multiplied will be the perfect place to scope out the vibrant contemporary editions scene, featuring young, emerging talent alongside eminent contemporary artists. With prices from £50 to £10,000, and editions in all shapes and sizes, from prints and photographs, to artist’s books and 3-D multiples, you may just spot ‘the next big thing’. An initiative of the Christie’s Prints and Contemporary departments, Multiplied aims to support contemporary publishing by providing a much needed platform to exhibit editions during this significant week; and to nurture a wider appreciation of editions amongst the art buying public.’
Multiplied is not the only effort the auction houses are using to move away from traditional auctions. Phillips de Pury are co-operating with Saatchi at his Chelsea gallery and feature selling exhibition of works in the top floor gallery – their latest is Korean Eye. Sotheby’s in New York is holding the exhibition Divine Comedy – around eighty widely varied works ranging from Cattelan to Brueghel, some for sale.
In recent years of course the two main auction houses have ventured in to dealership – Christies has bought Haunch of Venison, while Sotheby’s choice was the Old Master dealer Robert Noortman. But there is more – New York Sotheby’s opened a wine retailer in New York and also offers retail diamonds and jewellery in New York, Hong Kong and London. What next – groceries and insurance!?
Exhibition Viewing Times:
15-18 October 2010, 10am-5pm
- Art market news for Frieze week (telegraph.co.uk)
- Inside Art: ‘Divine Comedy’ Exhibition At Sotheby’s (huffingtonpost.com)
- UK’s Frieze fair puts art market recovery to test (reuters.com)
- Frieze Art Fair 2010: Get ready for British art’s biggest week (independent.co.uk)
19 August 2010 § Leave a comment
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There is litle need to introduce Frieze – now firmly established as the premier art fair in the London calendar – the 2010 Fair should be inked in to your calendar for the 13 – 16 October. However, year on year an increasing number of events are piggy-backing on the fair looking to take advantage of the temporary influx of potential buyers. Last year’s satellite Zoo Art Fair is not taking place this year clearing the field for these new entrants. Here is what we know:
Deep down in the bowels of the University of Westminster the subterranean Ambika P3 is hosting Sunday (14 – 16 October), a fair for young international galleries. It is being organised by London gallery Limoncello, the Brussels-based Tulips & Roses and Croy Nielsen from Berlin and will feature about twenty galleries, some of which appeared in the Frame section in last years Frieze which hosted galleries under six years old. Initially launched as a one-day event in Berlin it here seems to be a competitor to the Frieze ‘Frame’ section for solo shows from young galleries. Henrikke Nielsen of co-organiser Croy Nielsen Gallery notes that “Frame does not have the capacity. The focus in London will be more international, with galleries from New York “. Participants are selected on an invite-only basis. The low-cost has parallels with the Independent fair held during the NY Armory Show. Nielsen says “There are similarities, such as having open stands, but Independent is a bigger project.”
Over at Christies in South Kensington they are taking advantage of the move of the October Contemporary sale’s move to King Street by launching Multiplied – ‘an exciting new fair in the field of contemporary art’. The fair will be held 15-18th October ‘providing a platform to promote emerging talent in two and three-dimensional contemporary editions’. According to Richard Lloyd, Head of Christie’s Print department, when he attended the Editions and Artist’s Book Fair in New York last winter: “I was inspired to stage something similar in London and help to create a buzz and a platform for the very best in contemporary publishing”. He states that Christie’s are not taking any percentage of the sales; stands are competitively priced and fair entry to is free.
To assuage worries that they are in true competetion to the dealers at Frieze he adds “Previous divisions between the primary and secondary market are no longer particularly relevant. There will be no direct competition between participating galleries and Christie’s. Only five to ten per cent of what will be on show at the fair would have come up for sale at a Christie’s auction.” He says that “We will benefit simply from people visiting South Kensington. It is now a great space in which to view contemporary art, and we want people to feel comfortable just dropping in to see what’s on.”
Despite his comments Christie’s action is sure to put the backs up of the dealers at Frieze who will feel that they are, since buying Haunch of Venison, further intruding on dealer’s traditional ground.
Meanwhile, way over east at Village Underground there is a new urban art event, the Moniker International Art Fair (14-17 October). The fair ‘highlights the work of a generation of artists often overlooked in British mainstream fairs. These artists, extensively collected transcend various genres, readily exploring high and low aspects of visual language.’
Their spokesman says “The event will consist of six international galleries and six project spaces showcasing individual artists that will reflect the finer side of urban art with artists who have shown in major institutions and galleries.” Participants include New Image Art of Los Angeles and Galleria Patricia Armocida of Milan and admission is free.
There will be other smaller events and gallery tie-ins. Last year the wonderful Museum of Everything had a great pop-up exhibition – no doubt there will be more initiatives from the galleries year yet to be anounced… I will keep my ear to the ground and letyou know in due course!