Multiple reports about new museum acquisitions ranging from small, 12th century English champlevé enamel plaque depicting Saints Peter and Andrew to a riotous, 18th century floral still by Jan van Huysum still life. According to ArtDaily, the van Huysum still life acquired by the National Galleries of Scotland is the artist’s largest work on copper. The museum’s press announcement notes the acquisition was made:
… through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. It is the first Dutch flower still life to enter the Scottish National Gallery’s collection. The tax settlement value of the painting is £2.45million.
The painting is the first work by this artist to enter the National collection. Indeed, no painting from this period of van Huysum’s career is in any Scottish public collection.
The Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme allows a deceased person’s estate to gift significant items to the nation and satisfy more tax than by selling items on the open market. This also allows the nation to acquire important works of art at favourable prices.
The enamel surfaced at an auction organized by De Baecque & Associés in Lyon, France. According to the auction catalogue, this “previously unheard of … plaque can be added to the seven others kept in French and foreign museums,” including one in the Met. ”These eight plaques adorned the facing of the same object, a large altarpiece or reliquary casket, which was broken up during the XIXth century. They show the lives of Peter and Paul, the two patron saints of Rome. The plaque presented here is the first showing the life of Peter when, fishing with his brother Andrew, he was enlisted by Christ.” The work sold for €680,000, well in excess of its € 50,000-200,000 estimate.
Meanwhile, LACMA picked up two paintings – a sinuous Daniel Crespi Mocking of Christ and an eloquent Francesco Trevisani Pieta.
The Crespi is from Giovanni Sarti gallery in Paris. It was at Sarti’s booth in Maastricht in 2007 and is currently in their Caravaggism exhibition. According to the Art Tribune account: “A student of Giovanni Battista Crespi, known as Il Cerano, Daniele Crespi reveals here Caravaggio’s realism … [and] the influence of three Milanese painters who made the transition between Mannerism and the Baroque, Cerano himself, Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli, known as Il Morazzone and Giulio Cesare Procaccini.”
The Trevisani was also seen at Maastricht with Adams Williams Fine Art in 2013. From the Art Tribune: “This is a small copper by Francesco Trevisani … a painter who trained in Venice then arrived in Rome in 1676, spending the rest of his life there. His masterpiece is the décor of a chapel in the church of San Silvestro in Capite (1696), done in a “tenebrist” style he would later abandon.”
Finally, the Meadows Museum in Dallas has acquired a striking early 18th century polychromed terra cotta sculpture of Saint Paul by the Spanish artist Juan Alonso Villabrille y Ron.
This is an exquisite example of late Spanish Baroque naturalism and the only known terra cotta work by the artist who typically worked in polychromed stone and wood. The subject, as the Art Tribune reports, is “Saint Paul, the first Christian anchorite, often represented as here dressed in a cloth of woven palm leaves.”
The June 19, 2013, 784-lot auction at Munich-based Gorny & Mosch features hundreds of antiquities that lack a pre-1970 provenance. The ”pre-1970″ refers to the date of an international UNESCO convention aimed at halting the looting of antiquities. As the New York Times reported, ‘In 2004 the Association of Art Museum Directors declared “member museums should not acquire” any undocumented works “that were removed after November 1970, regardless of any applicable statutes of limitation.”’ Numerous American museums – including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Boston’s Museum of Fine Art and the Getty in Los Angeles – have been forced to return looted antiquities to their host countries.
In a bid to assuage any concerns bidders might have, the sale catalogue states: “Gorny & Mosch have retained the Art Loss Register to check all uniquely identifiable items offered for sale in this catalogue that are estimated at more than the equivalent of 1,000.– € against the Art Loss Register‘s computerized database of objects reported as stolen or lost.” Unfortunately, most looted works have not previously been documented and reported as stolen, so this check is largely ceremonial. All of these works may have been legally excavated and sold, but the auction house has not provided that information.
The sale include Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Middle Eastern, Pre-Columbian and other antiquities, including this “familiar face” – a pair Roman bronze attachments (one show, below) that appeared in a previous entry about auctions with antiquities lacking pre-1970 provenance. The pair were at Christie’s in October 2012 and carried an estimate of £100,000 – £150,000 ($160,200 – $240,300). Bidding stopped at £65,000 and they failed to sell.
Also noted in that same previous post - the New York Times reports collectors are having a harder time disposing of works – either through sale or donation – of non pre-1970 works:
Alan M. Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor, is … [a]n antiquities collector … eager to sell an Egyptian sarcophagus he bought from Sotheby’s in the early 1990s. But he is stymied, he said, because auction houses are applying tighter policies to the items they accept for consignment.
Maybe he should try Gorny & Mosch.
According to Catherine Hickley at Bloomberg News, a Dutch government panel has declined to restitute three of four paintings to the heirs of Richard Semmel, a Jewish industrialist persecuted by the Nazis and the heirs are “outraged.” The four works are: Stag Hunt in the Dunes by Gerrit Claesz Bleker in the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, Madonna and Child with Wild Roses by Jan van Scorel in the Centraal Museum in Utrecht, Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well by Bernardo Strozzi in Museum de Fundatie in Heino/Wijhe and The Landing Stage by Maerten Fransz van der Hulst in the Groninger Museum’s collection (only the fourth work will be restituted). According to the article:
The Dutch Restitutions Committee dismissed claims by Semmel’s heirs for three of four paintings they say he sold at auction in 1933 after fleeing Nazi Germany. Though the committee found that Semmel sold three works under duress as a result of persecution, it said in an e-mailed statement that the heirs’ interest in two “carries less weight” than the museums’.
The claimants are the granddaughters of Grete Gross-Eisenstaedt, an old family friend who became Semmel’s companion in New York after his wife died, according to Ossmann. Semmel, who had no children, left his estate to Gross-Eisenstaedt. Her granddaughters live in South Africa, Ossmann said.
“The committee finds that the grandchildren of Semmel’s heir’s interest in restitution carries less weight” than the museums’ interest, the Restitutions Committee said in a statement sent by e-mail. “These grandchildren are not related to Richard Semmel, never knew him and have no recollections of the paintings.”
“The decision runs counter to existing inheritance law,” Olaf Ossmann, the Winterthur, Switzerland-based lawyer for the heirs said in a statement. “These decisions give museums support for rejecting restitution claims. This cannot be summarized as ‘fair and just.”’
Dozens of Antiquities lack dated pre-1970 provenance at Christie’s and Sotheby’s June 2013 sales-UPDATED with sale results
This week, several hundred Greek, Roman, Egyptian and other antiquities will come up for sale at Christie’s and Sotheby’s in New York with many lacking a dated pre-1970 provenance – at Christies’s, that applies to the vast majority of lots on offer.
More than thirty lots in the June 5, 2013 sale of antiquities at Sotheby’s in New York – approximately one-third of the 93 lots in the sale – either lack a pre-1970 provenance, such as Lot 18 (above), one of the top five by estimate; have a provenance that consists of a previous owner’s birth and death dates (e.g. Lot 8, Provenance: Nicolas Landau (1887-1979), Paris, Galerie J. Kugel, Paris, and Axel Vervoordt, Belgium); have a provenance that is speculative (e.g. Lot 9, Provenance: probably Azeez Khayat (1875-1943), Haifa and New York Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, May 8th, 1976, no. 41, illus.); or other issues that make a dated provenance difficult to establish.
Meanwhile, over at Christie’s, more than 145 of 194 lots in the June 6, 2013 antiquities sale have similar issues, including three of the five top lots,by estimate (below):
ORIGINAL POST:Pieter Brueghel the Younger, as I’ve written before, was the Warhol of his day, but his “Factory” differed in that it pumped out hundreds of paintings based on (copied from) the work of his more talented and original father. Parables, the four seasons, fights and marriages are among the images that repeatedly show up. Sotheby’s has a couple of works by Younger in their June 2013 Old Masters sale in New York. Neither is particularly compelling (and the estimates reflect that).
The first, and the top estimated lot in the sale is Lot 29 (above), depicting spring. From the lot notes:
Although many versions of this subject by Pieter Breughel the Younger are recorded, this previously unpublished picture appears to be one of the finest to re-emerge on the market in years. Extant versions are known from as early as 1621, and it seems he continued to produce the composition on a consistent basis, as four further examples are dated from 1622, 1624, 1633, and 1635. As with so many of Pieter Breughel the Younger’s pictures, the design originates with his father, in the form of a finished drawing, now in the Albertina, Vienna.
This is one of those rare compositions from Younger that he actually created instead of cribbing from his father – and there are only two other autograph versions. According to the lot notes:
One signed picture was formerly in the Metropolitan Museum Art (sold New York, Christie’s, 6 June 2012, lot 74, for $686,500); and the other, also signed, is in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Gemäldegalerie, Dessau. [Brueghel scholar Klaus] Ertz lists ten further versions for which he reserves judgement or doubts.
This version of The Whitsun Bride is absent from the relevant Brueghel literature, a fact which can be explained by the fact that it has remained in private hands since 1974, and because of its misattribution during its entire modern history.
Rounding out the top five are a French picture and two by artists from Antwerp.
These four paintings by Vrancx, datable to circa 1618 and all clearly depicting different times of the year, appear to represent the Four Seasons. These types of allegorical pictures, where each month or season is characterized by the varying phases of the landscape and the associated human activities, were very popular in Flemish painting in the late 16th and early 17thcenturies and were clearly in demand. Series of twelve panels of individual months, of six panels each representing two months, as well as sets of the four seasons were produced by a number of artists.
This is a very pleasant and evocative oil sketch. From the lot notes:
Les Baisers maternels, also known as Les Jalousies de l’enfance, was painted during a period in Fragonard’s career when he had turned away from hedonistic depictions of courtly dalliances and embraced rustic scenes of domestic harmony. This shift was inspired by Fragonard’s own familial bliss: the artist married Marie-Ann Gérard in 1769 and the couple had a daughter, Rosalie, who later became one of her father’s favourite models.
The catalogue notes say this work shows the artist at the “height of his powers” – I’m not so sure about that. The workmanship is capable an competent, but also workman-like:
Previously unknown, it can be dated to the 1650s, a period of great productivity and prosperity for the artist. In 1652 he painted a series of eleven magnificent floral still lifes on copper, presumably for a Spanish patron, which are generally considered his greatest achievements in this genre. Three years later he was doing well enough to buy De Witte en de Rode Roos, a house near the Sint-Joris cemetary in Antwerp.
Tulips, roses, peonies and other flowers in a roemer is one of Van Kessel’s largest flower paintings apart from those in the 1652 series, an indication of its value and importance at the time. It was most probably conceived as one of pair, for a painting of roughly the same size (52.4 by 35.6 cm.), also showing the flowers in a roemer rather than a vase, was included in a sale at Christie’s, London, 10 December 2003, lot 12. It also had additions at the left and right and, except for two pictures from the 1652 series, they are the only paintings we know of in which Van Kessel uses a roemer rather than a vase. The size and elegance of Tulips and roses in a roemer and its pendant would suggest it was an important commission for Van Kessel.
Here’s a detail:
Finally, though not in the top five (by estimate), there is a delightful oddity (below) by Herri Met De Bles, a 16th century Netherlandish painter known for combining religious subjects with atmospheric landscapes. Other notable painters in this genre include Joachim Patinir (who may have been his uncle), Hieronymus Bosch, Jan Mandyn, Pieter Huys and Jan Wellens de Cock. This is not a terribly large or compositionally ambitious picture, but I find it entertaining nonetheless.
UPDATE: The Christie’s sale is over and the restituted Honthorst sold for a hammer price of $2.9 million, within its $2-3 million estimate (estimates do not include the buyer’s premium) – $3,371,750 with the buyer’s premium. The other major lot in the sale, Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s Wedding Dance, which also carried a $2-3 million estimate, tanked at $1.5 million. Here are the complete results.
ORIGINAL POST: A recently restituted work by the Dutch Caravaggisti Gerrit van Honthorst leads Christie’s June 5, 2013 sale of Old Master paintings in New York. The work, which has been in the possession of the Montreal Museum of Art since 1969, was returned in April 2013 to the heirs of Bruno and Ellen Spiro from whom the painting was taken in 1931 by the Nazis.
The painting is characteristic of the artist’s interpretation of Caravaggio’s dramatic chiaroscuro style and dates to four years after his return to Utrecht after a sojourn that included five years in Rome where he first encountered what was then contemporary art by Caravaggio.
Musical subjects were popular in Utrecht painting of this period. Pictures of half-length musicians and singers illuminated by a concealed light source first appeared in the Netherlands in the works of Utrecht artists around 1620, such as Abraham Bloemaert’s innovative The flute player of 1621 now in the Centraal Museum, Utrecht (inv. 6083b; Judson 1999, op. cit., p. 16). From the 16th century, the subject of music-making had been commonly associated with love and harmony, and 17th-century Dutch artists embraced this trope with gusto (see E. Buijsen et al., The Hoogsteder exhibition of music & painting in the golden age, The Hague and Zwolle, 1994).
The estimate of $2-3 million seems a bit low.
The remainder of the top five works (be estimate) include two by Pieter Breughel the Younger and two French pictures.
As with many of Pieter II’s works, The Wedding Dance belongs to a tradition largely established by his father, Pieter Bruegel I (c. 1525-1569), of which a celebrated example is the Wedding Banquet in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna … Scholars have long debated how best to interpret such images, discussing them alternately as records of daily peasant life in the 16th-century Netherlands and as genre scenes rife with allegorical and symbolic meanings. While some view the present composition as a straightforward account of a contemporary celebratory event, others focus on its moralizing overtones, which some believe warn against drinking, overindulgence, and lust. Do the figures surrounding the bride, eagerly observing and recording her wedding gifts, provide a realistic glimpse into an outdoor wedding in 16th-century Antwerp? Or are their hunched backs and frowning visages meant to warn against the ugliness of avarice? And are the boisterous dancers, whose raucous activities engage our eyes and bring a smile to our faces, intended only to communicate the cheerful mood of the occasion? Or do their suggestive stances and expressions reflect a darker message about human nature? These questions have been asked for generations, and continue to provoke lively debate. They certainly apply to this scene, described by Marlier as “one of the most popular of all subjects in Flemish painting at the beginning of the 17th century,” and a high point of Pieter Brueghel II’s oeuvre (G. Marlier,op. cit., p. 188).
The round format of the panel reflects its original purpose as a painted plate. It is an example of a tradition that was well-known in the Netherlands at the time and in which specialists, called teljoorschilders, were recorded among the members of the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke from 1570 to 1610. Approximately 70 survive from the 16th century, of which 20 are discussed by De Coo (‘Die bemalten Holzteller, bekannten und neuentdeckte ihr Schmuck und seine Herkunft’, Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch, XXXVII, 1975, pp. 103-104).
Simultaneously a charming vignette of peasant life and a humorous illustration of a Flemish proverb, the composition was popularized through engravings by or after Jan Wierix (1549-1618), as well as through painted versions by Pieter Brueghel II’s workshop and his circle. Wierix’s engraving … which dates from 1568, seems to have been made directly from the original painting by Pieter I, which was sold at Christie’s, London, 10 July 2002, lot 37 (£3,306,650/$5,125,308) and is now in a private collection. The popularity of the composition can be judged from the number of publishers’ names found on the engraving’s various states. First issued by Merten Peeters van Ghelle (b. c. 1500), called Martinus Peri, versions are also recorded by C.J. Visscher and P. Goos. There is also a rectangular engraving, in reverse, with the addition of a landscape background and the inscription ‘P. Breughel invent: C. Visscher excudebat’ … the absence of Wierix’s monogram suggests that this latter engraving dates from after his death in 1618.
Rather saccharine and cloying to my taste. From the lot notes:
The genesis of this spirited, life-sized, full-length portrait of the celebrated dancer and courtesan Marie-Madeleine Guimard (1743-1816) involved two of the greatest painters in the history of French art, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Jacques-Louis David, although the precise nature and extent of their participation in its creation has long been the subject of confusion. The sitter, Mlle Guimard, made her debut at the Comédie Française, but soon thereafter joined the Paris Opéra, where she remained a star for several decades, acquiring well-placed lovers and considerable wealth along the way.
Again, not exactly my taste, but more appealing than the David. The works are characteristic of Boucher and his studio and were created as ornamental overdoor decoration and depict traditional allegorical settings. For the money, there are many other works I’d prefer to own, but they are amusing.
More about other works in the sale from Christie’s press release.
Big, Blue $43.8 million Newman “Zip” Painting leads Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Sale – UPDATED with sale results.
UPDATE: Sotheby’s pulled in more than $293 million at the evening sale of Post War & Contemporary (total reflects hammers prices plus buyers’ premiums). Here’s a portion of the excellent coverage from Judd Tully at Artinfo.com:
NEW YORK — Fueled by a handful of outstanding offerings, the contemporary art market maintained its upwardly momentum on Tuesday at Sotheby’s, racking up $293,587,000. Impressively, 44 of the 53 lots that sold hurdled the million dollar mark. Of those, five exceeded $20 million.
Four artist records were set, including for Barnett Newman’s magisterial, electric blue hued zip painting, “Onement VI” (1953), which sold to an anonymous telephone bidder for $43,845,000 (est. $30-40 million). It eclipsed the record set in November (2012) at Christie’s New York when “Onement V,” from the same iconic series, made $22.3 million.
This example is freighted with considerable history, including a Coca-Cola spill on the surface that required expert (though now largely invisible) restoration as well as a role in a complex tax evasion case and civil lawsuit in 2003 that involved at least two art world luminaries. The baggage couldn’t deter the masterpiece from making its mark.
Eleven of the 64 lots offered failed to find buyers, making for a decent buy-in rate of 13 percent by lot and 18 percent by value. The tally rates as Sotheby’s fifth biggest contemporary art evening sale and easily exceeded last May’s $266,591,000 result.
Still, the evening felt like a mild roller coaster as two of five works by Jeff Koons were bought in, most surprisingly, the one offered by mega-collector Peter Brant, “New Hoover Celebrity IV, New Hoover Convertible, New Shelton 5 Gallon Wet/Dry, New Shelton 10 Gallon Wet/Dry Double Decker” (est. $10-15 million). Brant bought the 1981-86 sculpture, which — logically — consists of the four titular vacuum cleaners, at Sotheby’s New York in April 1991 for $137,500.
ORIGINAL POST: A big, bold, blue Barnet Newman “zip” painting, estimated at $30-40 million, leads Sotheby’s May 14 Evening Post War & Contemporary Art Sale. If you love Newman’s “zip” paintings, you’ll be all over this one – if not, you’ll wonder what the fuss is all about. One thing is for certain, it has a third party guarantee, so it will definitely be sold. According to the catalogue notes: “By far the most momentous in scale of the six paintings of the Onement series, Onement VIis also one of only two of this title to be held in private hands.”According to the catalogue notes:
In 1968 Richter received a major commission from the Siemens Corporation for a large painting to install in its Milan offices and, working on a scale unprecedented in his photo-painting mode and anxious to deliver an outstanding feat, the artist primed two canvases so as to be ready to start over if it became necessary. Indeed, his first attempt at this scale proved a failure, and Richter was forced to cut that canvas into nine smaller paintings that thereafter became independent works. He then composed and executed Domplatz, Mailand, one of the most assured essays of his photo-painting style to date which was to hang in the Siemens Milan offices for 30 years between 1968 and 1998. Adopting as his source a composed snapshot of the famous view of the Piazza del Duomo in front of Milan’s Cathedral, Richter determinedly yet meticulously blurs the image of the bustling concourse. The composition is dominated by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which juts in from the left edge and recedes dramatically through the center of the canvas, leading the spectator’s eye from left to right towards the straight-on view of the Cathedral itself.
The catalogue contains this intriguing entry about the sitter and his relation to Bacon:
The first of Bacon’s posthumous homages to Peter Lacy, the present work conveys the immediate memory of the man who dominated the artist’s life for the prior decade. In 1952, having met Peter Lacy in Soho’s Colony Room, Bacon embarked on what was to become “the most exalted and most destructive love affair he was ever to know.” (Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon in the 1950s, London, 2006, pp. 57-58) The former Battle of Britain pilot was described by Bacon as always being “in a state of unease…this man was neurotic and almost hysterical.” Bacon had fallen in love in large part because Lacy knew how to dominate and hurt him. Tough, to the point of cruelty, Lacy’s demeanor held Bacon perpetually in an emotional and physical vice and although Lacy was the love of his life, this tempestuous affair was ultimately calamitous. Bacon later lamented in conversation with Michael Peppiatt that “Being in love in that way, being absolutely physically obsessed by someone, is like an illness.” (Ibid., p. 40).
The Pollock was first shown at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery, which with it curved walls reflected Guggenheim’s eccentricity. As noted in the catalogue: “The association of Pollock and Peggy Guggenheim was the engine behind this rise in prominence, and as such was essential to the history of contemporary art.”
The Klein, which has a third party guarantee, has an impressive provenance as noted in the catalogue: “Showcased in Iris Clert’s legendary 1959 Paris exhibition Bas-reliefs dans une forêt d’éponges, SE 168 was acquired in the year of its execution by the collectors Mr. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine, without question among the most revered connoisseurs of Modern and Contemporary art of their time.”
Below are two other notable works, a Cy Twombly from the Bolsena series and a large scale Robert Ryman painting from 2002.
Silvery $58.3 million Jackson Pollock painting leads Christie’s $495 million Record Breaking Contemporary Art Sale
UPDATE: Last night’s sale of Post War and Contemporary yielded a whopping $495,021,500, $200 million more than the Sotheby’s sale the night before – and broke the record for the highest total for any auction – the $491.4 million that was set at Christie’s Impressionist & Modern sale in November 2006. According to a Christie’s press release issued at 12:38 AM, 16 new artist records were set, 3 works sold above $40 million, 9 above $10 million, and 59 above $1 million.
The first major mega-bucks work, lot 10, Jean-Michel Baquiat’s 1982 Dustheads, estimated at $25-35 million, trounced the artist’s previous auction of $26,402,500 (set just last November), and sold for a hammer price of $43.5 million ($48,843,750 with the buyer’s premium). The Jackson Pollock, sold by Washington, DC-based collector Mitchell Rales, blew past its $25-35 million estimate and sold for a hammer price of $52 million ($58,363,750 with buyer’s premium).
Judd Tully’s Artinfo.com coverage of the sale includes this about the bidding war for the Pollock:
A dozen artist records were set, led by the ravishing cover lot, Jackson Pollock’s small but mighty “Number 19, 1948,” a stunning drip painting in oil and enamel on paper mounted on canvas, which sold to an anonymous telephone bidder for a whopping $58,363,750 (est. $25-35 million). The epic bidding battle for the Pollock began at $18 million and quickly escalated at million-dollar increments to a point where three bidders were still competing at the $40 million plus mark, including dealers Jose Mugrabi and Dominique Levy.
Described in the catalogue as the property of an American foundation, the shimmering painting, which last sold at auction at Christie’s New York in May 1993 for $2,422,500, subsequently entered the collection of Potomac, Maryland billionaire Mitchell Rales and his Glenstone Foundation. The price obliterated the mark set by “Number 4,” a 1951 canvas that made $40,402,500 at Sotheby’s New York last November.
Later in the sale, Roy Lichtenstein’s Picasso-inspired Woman with a Flowered Hat, which was begin sold by the New York-based investor Ronald Perelman, sailed through its unpublished $30-40 million estimate to sell for $50 million ($56,123,750 with the buyer’s premium) to London-based Laurence Graff, who purchased the painting as a present to himself in advance of his 75th birthday. According to Tully’s article:
“I got a masterpiece and I’m very lucky, because it’s one of four ladies Lichtenstein did and this is the best example,” said a still-elated Graff, buttonholed outside Christie’s Rockefeller Center headquarters. “There are fewer and fewer masterpieces coming to market and I love this painting.” Graff also cracked that it is just weeks away from his birthday, “so it’s going to be my birthday present.”
The painting mashed the previous high set a year ago at Sotheby’s New York when Lichtenstein’s “Sleeping Girl” (1964) sold for $44,882,500.
ORIGINAL POST: Christie’s May 15, 2013 evening sale of Post War and Contemporary Art features a pu-pu platter of styles among the top lots including Abstract Expressionism, Pop, Neo-Expressionism and more. Among the sale’s 72 lots (estimated to yield some $300 million), are works by art world luminaries (and box office gold) including Francis Bacon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.
One of the most expensive is a dazzling and wondrous silvery Jackson Pollock from 1948 (above), smack in the middle of the period when he created a series of paintings that revolutionized Post War art and helped establish New York and Abstract Expressionists as the center of the contemporary art world. According to the catalogue notes:
Number 19, 1948, was singled out as one of the finest of Pollock’s achievements to date by the great pioneering champion of Abstract Expressionism, Clement Greenberg, when it was first shown at the artist’s second solo exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery in January 1949. “The general quality that emerged from such pictures,” Greenberg wrote, “especially (Number) Nineteen, seemed more than enough to justify the claim that Pollock is one of the major painters of our time” (C. Greenberg, The Nation, 19 February, 1949, reproduced in J. O’Brian (ed.), Clement Greenberg, The Collected Essays and Criticism, Vol. 2 Arrogant Purpose, 1945-1949, Chicago, 1986, pp. 285-6).
Given the auction houses’ penchant for aggressively estimating top lots, this painting’s $25-35 million estimate actually seems tame.
The Basquiat, which has a third party guarantee (meaning it will be sold), was created when the artist was becoming an international star. The catalogue entry includes this about the title some context from the artist:
The title itself refers to the street slang for habitual users of angel dust, the drug also known as PCP. Abused for its psychotropic qualities, the iconography of this particular painting–the vivid colors, rapid sense of frenetic movement and even the dilated eyes on both figures–lead to the drawing of clear parallels between the hallucinogenic properties of the angel dust and Basquiat’s own unique visual aesthetic. Looking back on 1982, Basquiat himself recognized the tensions that he felt between the draw of his humble beginnings as a graffiti artist and his meteoric rise to become the wunderkind of the New York art world. “I had some money,” he recalled of that important year, “I made the best paintings ever. I was completely reclusive, worked a lot, took a lot of drugs. I was awful to people (J. Basquiat, in R. Marshall (ed.), Jean-Michel Basquiat, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1992, p. 241).
The Lichetenstein, which also has a third party guarantee, was created only two years after the artist settled on his signature Pop style based on commercial art and comics. According to the catalogue entry:
Between 1962-63, Lichtenstein produced four paintings based on Picasso’s portraits of women: Femme au chapeau(1962, Private Collection), Femme d’Alger, (1963, The Eli and Edyth L. Broad Collection), Femme dans un fauteuil(1963, Nationalgalerie, Berlin), and the present work. Woman with Flowered Hat was the fourth in the series, and it is based on a reproduction sent to Lichtenstein by Morton Neumann, a Chicago businessman and art collector who owned the original Picasso painting and had lately begun acquiring Pop Art as well. The subject of Woman with Flowered Hatis Dora Maar, Picasso’s muse and lover from 1936 to the mid-1940s.
Out of all the genres Lichtenstein turned his hand to it was Picasso who perhaps made the most natural target as his work was so well-known that it essentially was already Pop: “a Picasso has become a kind of popular object,” he stated, “one has the feeling there should be a reproduction of Picasso in every home” (R. Lichtenstein, quoted in J. Hendrickson, Roy Lichtenstein, Cologne, 2000, p. 59).
According to the catalogue entry, this painting was acquired by the present owner from Marlborough in 1983 and presuming it hasn’t been on the market privately (and shopped out), it is fresh material and should do well. The catalogue includes this section:
The principal image in Study for Portrait is of a seated, nude George Dyer. Variations of Dyer’s cross-legged pose had first been employed by Bacon in Portrait of George Dyer Staring at Blind-cord and Portrait of George Dyer Talking, in 1966, utilising John Deakin’s photographs of Dyer, taken in Bacon’s Reece Mews studio, circa 1965. Bacon would continue to paint variations on the theme of a nude male figure, seated and with crossed legs, up until 1990, latterly transposing the ‘sitter’s’ identity, at least facially, to John Edwards.
George Dyer had died in Paris on October 24, 1971, two days before the opening of Bacon’s major retrospective at the Grand Palais.
Here are the additional top estimates lot followed by two works by Cy Twombly:
Both of the Twomblys (below) have third party guarantees.
The Getty has recently acquired, though has not yet taken possession of, a small but powerful Rembrandt van Rijn self-portrait from 1628 according to Jori Finkel at the Los Angeles Times. Also acquired, and now hanging on their walls, is a Canaletto view of the Grand Canal in Venice From Palazzo Flangini to Campo San Marcuola. Purchase prices were not announced, but the article cites experts who speculate the price for the Rembrandt runs into the tens of millions.
From the article:
Painted on copper plate, the work the Getty is buying is tiny — not quite 9 by 7 inches. It shows the artist in his early 20s in mid-laugh, with his head thrown back.
It first came to public attention at the English country auction [in 2007], which identified it as work by “a follower of Rembrandt.” The auctioneers estimated its value at around $3,000.
But scholars suspected this joyful image was the real deal, so a bidding war erupted. The painting sold for about $5.2 million to an unidentified bidder before it was even properly authenticated.
The painting has been authenticated by “the leading Rembrandt scholar Ernst van de Wetering.” Though not specified, it’s believed the seller was the London-based gallery Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, which means an export license will needed:
The exact price could be revealed when the Getty applies for an export license from the British government, which gives museums there a chance to match the price for an artwork of “outstanding significance” historically or artistically and keep it in the country.
These purchases mark the first high-profile acquisitions under Potts, who began as museum director in September 2012 with a mandate from Getty Trust President James Cuno to make ambitious purchases. Potts said of the Rembrandt that the museum “had been aware of it as something we would love to have” for some time, but that “the pursuit” began upon his arrival.
Heritage Auction’s May 10, 2013 American Indian, Pre-Columbian & Tribal Art Signature Auction in Dallas features nearly 200 pre-Columbian with ZERO listed provenance on either the company’s Web site of the pdf version of the print catalogue. Really? By contrast, there are numerous works in the American Indian and Tribal sections that have a dated provenance. What are we to conclude from this?
My feature article about the Magoon Sculpture Garden in Aspen, Colorado has just been published in the May 2013 edition of Landscape Architecture magazine. The collection – and the collectors – are a delight – and the location, a two-acre site at 8,000 feet above sea level with magnificent views, well that’s hard to beat – here’s the link to the article: Magoon Sculpture Garden Complete Article.
This image, courtesy the excellent design-oriented Web site Dezeen, features the work of architect Kengo Kuma – a bamboo and stone landscape architectural installation created in concert with the annual furniture and design orgy in Milan known as the Salone del Mobile. Hundreds of thousands of attendees turn out to see and be wowed by the latest in design. This topographic wonderland is definitely a showstopper. Here are a couple more images – the rest at Dezeen:
Breaking news from the New York Times:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has agreed to return to Cambodia two 10th-century Khmer statues that Cambodian officials had declared were looted from a jungle redoubt and given to the Met in stages more than 20 years ago.
On Friday the museum confirmed accounts from Cambodian officials that it intended to repatriate the statues, known as the “Kneeling Attendants,” life-size sandstone masterpieces that flanked a doorway in the Met’s Southeast Asian galleries.
No timetable has been set, but the museum told Cambodian officials in a letter last month that it hoped to send them as soon as “appropriate arrangements for transit can be mutually established.”
Thomas P. Campbell, the director of the Met, said the agreement — one of the more significant in a recent spate of often controversial cultural repatriations — followed new documentary research by the museum that corroborated Cambodian claims that the works had been improperly removed from their site at the Koh Ker temple complex.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Israel Museum have jointly acquired a rare 15th century Mishneh Torah from Michael and Judy Steinhardt, according to Bloomberg News. The intricately illustrated work on leather and parchment was scheduled to be sold this morning at Sotheby’s, the top estimated lot at $4.5-6 million of 386 from the Steinhardt’s collection of Judiaca. The Bloomberg article included this statement from Michael Steinhardt:
“The acquisition of this remarkable manuscript by the Israel Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art is poetic given Judy’s and my longstanding involvement with both institutions,” Michael Steinhardt said in an emailed statement. “It is particularly meaningful that this event marks the first significant collaboration between the two museums.”
According to the lot notes:
The groundbreaking and all-encompassing Mishneh Torah, completed in 1180 [by Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides), also known by the acronym Rambam], became the first comprehensive post-Talmudic code of Jewish law to be arranged according to subject matter. Comprising the full range of Biblical, Talmudic and Rabbinic legislation, it was organized into fourteen discrete books. So that it could provide layman and scholar alike with an authoritative compilation of normative rulings, it was written in a lucid and concise Hebrew. The Mishneh Torah functioned as the authoritative code for Jewish communities across the diaspora and served as a model for subsequent codifications of Jewish law, such as the Tur by Rabbi Jacob ben Asher and the Shulhan Arukh by Rabbi Joseph Karo. To this day, the Mishneh Torah remains a “living” text, studied and referred to by rabbis and scholars alike.
The present manuscript was originally conceived in two volumes. The first part, now in the Vatican, comprises books I-V, and is lacking book VI. The present volume consists of Books VII-XIV.
While the purchase price was not disclosed, Bloomberg did report who made the acquisition possible:
The Israel Museum acquired the volume with support from the Steinhardts, Zurich collectors Susanne and Rene Braginsky, co- founder of Incentive Asset Management AG; Renee and Lester Crown, chairman of Henry Crown & Co, Chicago-based private investment group; philanthropist Lynn Schusterman of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and one anonymous donor, the museum said in an announcement.
Cézanne, Modigliani and hyperbolic auction notes lead Sotheby’s May 2013 Impressionist and Modern Sale – UPDATED with sale results
UPDATE: This sale was a bit of endurance test but it did gross $230 million (hammer prices plus buyer’s premiums). Judd Tully at Artinfo.com provides good coverage:
Thirty-seven of the 60 lots that sold made over one million dollars and of those, four made over $15 million. Just eleven of the 71 lots offered failed to find buyers for a respectable 15.5 percent buy-in rate by lot and just percent by value. (Though brisk, the sale lagged behind last May’s $330.5-million result, super-charged by Edvard Munch‘s “The Scream,” which sold for $119.9 million.)
Two artist records were set, including Georges Braque’s stunning, color-saturated Fauve-period landscape, “Paysage a la Ciotat” (1907), which sold to New York dealer Emmanuel DiDonna of Blain DiDonna for $15,845,000 (est. $10-15 million). The work last sold at auction at Sotheby’s New York in November 2000 for $3,085,750, and tonight was one of just two works that carried so-called third-party guarantees, assuring a sale, no matter what the outcome.
The engine that drove the evening was a fresh-to-market group of 20 works from the estate of New York collectors Alex and Elisabeth Lewyt, whose time capsule trove of paintings primarily acquired in the 1950s made $88.6 million of the overall total, compared to pre-sale expectations of $58.9-84.7 million. (Estimates do not include the chunky buyer’s premium that is added to the so-called hammer price, after the auctioneer knocks down the lot.)
The Lewyts’ exceptional and rare cover lot, Paul Cezanne’s gravity defying and perfectly composed still life, “Les Pommes” (1889-90), sold to an otherwise anonymous telephone bidder for $41,605,000 (est. $25-35 million) and the couple’s early Amedeo Modigliani masterwork, “L’Amazone” (1909), featuring a confident woman dressed in an orange riding jacket and black gloves, made $25,925,000, selling to another telephone bidder (est. $20-30 million).
ORIGINAL POST: The Sotheby’s May 2013 Impressionist and Modern auction is packed with big names that bring big prices … along with some entertainingly boastful auction catalogue essays. The lot notes for this simple still life with a rather aggressive estimate begin on a slightly over exuberant note: “Painted in 1889-90, Les Pommes encapsulates Cézanne’s artistic achievement, and displays the brilliance and economy which characterize his best work.” Indeed! I personally would want a little more “umph” in a painting estimated at $25-35 million. However, according to the provenance, this work was last sold by Wildenstein in 1953 – provided it hasn’t been offered around on the market lately, being “fresh material” makes this desirable. Here are the remaining of the top five lots by estimate.
The Modigliani (above) is a bit more strident than the sinuous ovoid compositions from the teens, but this is an early work that has all of the artist’s hallmarks. According to the catalogue entry:
The subject of this painting is Baroness Marguerite de Hasse de Villers, a glamorous socialite and the lover of Paul Alexandre’s younger brother Jean, who commissioned this portrait of his girlfriend in 1909.
One of the notable features of the present work is Modigliani’s approach to rendering the potent sensual appeal of a woman who was far removed from the artist’s own social realm. The Baroness was introduced to the artist by her lover Jean Alexandre, the younger brother of Modigliani’s patron Paul Alexandre … who acted both as a patron and guardian figure for the wayward artist. Jean was charged with supervising Modigliani’s progress while Paul was out of town, since Modigliani was too often distracted by drink and debauchery to complete projects by his own accord.
The catalogue entry for this lot begins on a more hyperbolic note than that for the Cézanne:
Picasso’s dynamic, three-dimensional rendering of Sylvette is among his most powerful interpretations of the human face.
Admittedly, “among his most” gives the auction house some room, but there are a significant number of more “powerful interpretations of the human face” in the artist’s oeuvre. This, however, is more helpful:
19-year-old Sylvette David was Picasso’s neighbor in Vallauris who had caught his eye from afar during the spring of 1954. When she arrived at his house one afternoon with some of her friends, he allegedly exclaimed “it’s you!” and began a series of nearly forty paintings and drawings and four sculptures, including the present work, that would occupy him for over two months. Picasso met Sylvette at a critical period in his personal life, just when his relationship with Françoise Gilot was coming to an end. Sylvette’s boyfriend was a constant presence when she posed at the artist’s studio between April and June, and the fact that she was unattainable perhaps fueled Picasso’s obsession with her.
Again with the auction house oversell: “Braque’s magnificent depiction of La Ciotat in the south of France is a seminal image of the Fauve revolution at the beginning of the twentieth century.” No, those seminal images came in 1905 with the first exhibition of Fauvist works by Matisse, Derain and others. This is a splendid picture, but not an art historic game changer. The entry does note: “In the present work, which was painted in the summer of 1907, Braque depicts the rolling hills near La Ciotat and L’Estaque – an area that figures prominently in his production through his Cubist landscapes.”
According to the provenance, the present owner purchased this painting in 2008, only five years ago. One wonders if this has been on the market more recently.
The lot notes begin as follows: “Rodin’s Le Penseur has become one of the most recognizable sculptures in art history.” This is, in fact, an iconic image – the catalogue entry includes this intriguing portion:
The figure was discussed by the artist shortly before his death, when he described his desire to personify the act of thinking: “Nature gives me my model, life and thought; the nostrils breathe, the heart beats, the lungs inhale, the being thinks and feels, has pains and joys, ambitions, passions, emotions… What makes my Thinker think is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes” (quoted in Saturday Night, Toronto, December 1, 1917).
UPDATE: The evening totaled $158,505,000 with 44 of 47 lots sold (an additional 4 were withdrawn from sale). Judd Tully at Artinfo.com provides good post-sale coverage including this bit about one buyer’s “on camera” moment:
Overall, the sale was 35 percent higher than last May’s tally of $117 million but lagged far behind its arch rival Sotheby’s Tuesday evening sale, which made $230 million. Of course, Sotheby’s had a big leg up thanks to choice estate property from the collection of Alex and Elisabeth Lewyt, which pumped $88.6 million into the tally. No such luck here, with just a smattering of estate property, such as Pablo Picasso’s Surrealist, index-card-sized “Composition (Figure feminine sur une plage)” (1927), which sold from the Andy Williams collection for $1,443,750 (est. $800,000-1.2 million).
Still, bidders were game for big prices, such as for a sleeper Amedeo Modigliani, the early and fetching “La Juive” (1907-08), featuring the mysterious American sitter Maud Abrantes— most likely the artist’s lover — which soared to $6,843,750 (est. $2-3 million).
The buyer, seated on the aisle towards the back of the salesroom, recorded the bidding battle with his iPhone, holding it in one hand while bidding with his other, even taking a self-portrait shot after his winning hammer bid of $6 million. Later on, he declined to give his name though he admitted he was French, living in Switzerland, and the proud owner of other Modiglianis.
ORIGINAL POST: The two works with the highest pre-sale estimates at Christie’s May 8, 2013 Impressionist & Modern Evening Sale in New York are not by the usual suspects – i.e., Modigliani, Monet, Cezanne or Picasso (though works by Picasso round out the top five). According to the extensive lot notes, Chaim Soutine painted the top lot, a 1927 oil on canvas depiction of a Parisian pastry chef that is last of six paintings of pastry chefs the artist created during nearly a decade. A similarly-themed earlier painting was purchased by Dr. Albert Barnes, an event that fundamentally changed the artist’s life – he went from ignored and poor to celebrated.
The Derain (below) was likely painted in August 1905 when the artist and Henri Matisse were working in Collioure. According to the lot notes:
The products of this spectacular Collioure summer were seen in the fabled salle VII of the 1905 Salon d’Automne, on whose walls hung a group of the sun-drenched paintings by Matisse and Derain as well as some by their friends–Vlaminck, Manguin, Camoin, Marquet–and a few fellow travelers … These brash paintings–whose “colours became sticks of dynamite…primed to discharge light,” as Derain later characterized them … sorely challenged, exasperated and even outraged viewers and commentators alike. The critic Louis Vauxcelles called these hot young painters “les fauves”–”the wild beasts”–a sobriquet, or epithet depending on one’s point of view, that has withstood the test of time.
Here are the remaining lots in the top 5 (by estimate):
According to the lot notes, the Miro (above) was sold at Sotheby’s (New York, 1 May 1996, lot 52) to Helly Nahmad, who was recently indicted and arrested for his role in an illegal gambling and money laundering operation. Nahmad sold the painting to the current owner.
UPDATE: Bloomberg’s Katya Kazakina reports the Helly Nahmad Gallery has reopened following Nahmad’s April 16 indictment and subsequent arrest for his part in an illegal gambling and money laundering operation:
Hilel Nahmad, 34, known as Helly, was charged April 16 by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara with racketeering, money- laundering conspiracy and other charges. Nahmad was among 34 people charged with operating two overlapping gambling rings.
“We do not believe that Mr. Nahmad knowingly violated the law and we anticipate that he will be fully exonerated,” Benjamin Brafman, Nahmad’s co-counsel, said in an e-mailed statement. “This case will not in any way impact the continued lawful operation of the Nahmad Gallery.”
ORIGINAL REPORT: The New York Times and Forbes reported this shocker – the Helly Nahmad Gallery on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side was raided this morning as part of an investigation into illegal gambling and money laundering … and then there’s the Russian mob dimension. According to Forbes:
As part of a massive case against illegal gambling rings operating by Russian organized crime, FBI agents made arrests at numerous locations in New York and elsewhere in the U.S. this morning. And the famed Helly Nahmad Gallery on Madison Avenue, a longtime tenant of the luxury Carlyle Hotel, was among them.
The Nahmad family is one of the richest and most powerful art-dealing dynasties in the world. Forbes estimated the family’s fortune at $1.75 billion as of last month (down from $3 billion in 2011).
According to the New York Times:
During the raid, which began early Tuesday morning, agents executed a search warrant at the Helly Nahmad gallery, which is inside the Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue and is owned by one of the men charged in the case, the people said. The owner of the gallery was one of those arrested, the people said.
The Nahmad family members, Lebanese art dealers with galleries in New York and London, are well-known and powerful players in the art world. In recent years, they have been among some of the most prolific buyers at high-end auctions around the globe, buying and selling millions of dollars of art.
Most of the defendants in the case were arrested in New York, but among those charged were people who live in Miami, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and elsewhere. The charges include gambling and money laundering.
The case features a wide cast of characters, including a man described as a Russian gangster accused of trying to rig Winter Olympic skating competitions in Salt Lake City and a woman who once organized high-stakes poker games for some of Hollywood’s most famous faces. In all, 34 people were charged on Tuesday with playing a part in what federal prosecutors described as two separate but interconnected criminal groups — one operating overseas and the other in the United States. Together, they are accused of laundering more than $100 million in gambling money.
Here’s a portion of the complete indictment:
(Racketeering Conspiracy: Nahrnad-Trincher Organization)
The Grand Jury further charges:
25. At all times relevant to this Indictment, ILLYA
TRINCHER, HILLEL NAHMAD, a/k/a “Helly,” NOAH SIEGEL, a/k/a “The
Oracle,” JOHN HANSON, JONATHAN HIRSCH, ARTHUR AZEN, and DONALD
MCCALMONT, the defendants, and others known and unknown, were
members and associates of the “Nahmad-Trincher Organization.”
The Nahmad-Trincher Organization was a criminal organization
whose members and associates engaged in crimes, including
conducting an illegal gambling business, money laundering, and
26. The Nahmad-Trincher Organization, including its
leadership, membership, and associates, constituted an
“enterprise,” as that term is defined in Title 18, United States
Code, Section 1961(4) — that is, a group of individuals
associated in fact. This enterprise was engaged in, and its
activities affected, interstate and foreign commerce. The
Nahmad-Trincher Organization was an organized crime group with
leadership based in New York City and Los Angeles, and that
operated throughout the United States, including in the Southern
District of New York, and internationally. The Nahmad-Trincher
Organization constituted an ongoing organization whose members
functioned as a continuing unit for a common purpose of
achieving the objectives of the enterprise.
27. The criminal conduct of the Nahmad-Trincher
Organization was directed principally, though not exclusively,
by its leaders: ILLYA TRINCHER, son of VADIM TRINCHER, a/k/a
“Dima,” HILLEL NAHMAD, a/k/a “Helly,” and NOAH SIEGEL, a/k/a
“The Oracle,” the defendants, who were based in New York City.
ILLYA TRINCHER, NAHMAD, and SIEGEL worked together to lead
multiple related criminal ventures including an illegal gambling
business, money laundering, and other crimes. TRINCHER, NAHMAD,
and SIEGEL were assisted by numerous criminal partners and
associates throughout the United States, Europe, and elsewhere.
28. The Nahmad-Trincher Organization was a highstakes
illegal gambling business run out of New York City and
Los Angeles that catered primarily to multi-millionaire and
billionaire clients. The Nahmad-Trincher Organization used
online gambling websites, operating illegally in the United
States, to operate an illegal gambling business that generated
tens of millions of dollars in bets each year.
29. The Nahmad-Trincher Organization laundered the
proceeds of the gambling operation through a host of American
bank accounts and Titan P & H LLC (“Titan”), a plumbing company
in the Bronx that the Nahmad-Trincher Organization acquired a
fifty percent interest in as repayment of a gambling debt.
30. The Nahmad-Trincher Organization was financed by
a number of different individuals and entities, including the
Helly Nahmad Gallery in New York City, an art gallery operated
by HILLEL NAHMAD, a/k/a “Helly,” the defendant, in the Carlyle
Hotel in New York City; NAHMAD’s father, a billionaire art
dealer located in Europe; and JH Capital Inc., an investment
firm run by JOHN HANSON, the defendant.
31. ILLYA TRINCHER, the defendant, was a participant
in the enterprise, the Nahmad-Trincher Organization, and was a
leader of the enterprise. In that capacity, TRINCHER
participated in and profited from various crimes, which he
committed along with other members and associates of the NahmadTrincher
Organization. Among other things, TRINCHER oversaw a
high-stakes illegal gambling business.
32. HILLEL NAHMAD, a/k/a “Helly,” the defendant, was
a participant in the enterprise, the Nahmad-Trincher
Organization, and was a leader of the enterprise. In that
capacity, NAHMAD participated in and profited from various
crimes, which he committed along with other members and
associates of the Nahmad-Trincher Organization. Among other
things, NAMHAD worked with TRINCHER to launder tens of millions
of dollars on behalf of the illegal gambling business.
33. NOAH SIEGEL, a/k/a “The Oracle,” the defendant,
was a participant in the enterprise, the Nahmad-Trincher
Organization, and was a leader of the enterprise. In that
capacity, SIEGEL participated in and profited from various
crimes, which he committed along with other members and
associates of the Nahmad-Trincher Organization. Among other
things, SIEGEL worked with TRINCHER to oversee a high-stakes
illegal gambling business.
34. JOHN HANSON, ARTHUR AZEN, JOHN HIRSCH, and DON
MCCALMONT, the defendants, were also participants in the
enterprise, the Nahmad-Trincher Organization. In this capacity,
these defendants participated in and profited from various
crimes, including operating an illegal gambling business and
money laundering, which they committed along with other members
and associates of the Nahmad-Trincher Organization.
UPDATE: Assuming the results listed online are correct, this was a disaster of a sale – two-thirds or 60 of the 90 lots failed to sell – and the first half of the sale was particularly bad. By the mid-point – lot 45 – only seven lots had sold, which must have had auction house officials squirming. The second half of the sale saw considerably more activity (indeed, almost any activity would have been “considerably more”), but not enough to keep this from being an embarrassment for Binoche et Giquello. The cause or causes: Overly aggressive estimates? Lack of provenance? Works that were shopped out? Works that might not “be right”?
ORIGINAL POST: The controversial Barbier-Muller collection sale is barely over and another provenance-challenged pre-Columbian art auction is scheduled for April 24, 2013 at Paris-based Binoche et Giquello. The online catalogue for the sale features 90 lots, most from a handful of private collections – only one lot has a pre-1970 provenance, an additional 16 lots list a previous collection (but no date), and the remaining 73 lots have no provenance at all. Again, my standard disclaimer: All of these works may have been legally exported from their respective source countries; and, if that’s the case, why not list that information? Will Mexico, Guatemala and Peru attempt to halt this sale as they unsuccessfully did with the Barbier-Mueller sale?
Below are four more works from the sale – as can be seen from the estimates, these are not inexpensive pieces. One item, lot 46, has an undated provenance, the remainder, like a majority of the sale, have no provenance at all. No way of knowing if they were legally exported or looted. No indication of when or where they were found and any history of ownership they might have had.
Iffy Attributions for some Old Master paintings at Dorotheum’s April sale – UPDATED with Sale Results
The April 17, 2013 Old Master paintings sale at Dorotheum, the Austrian auction house, has a fair number of works by well known and lesser known artists that have not been previously published or are newly attributed. Recently discovered or previously mis-attributed works that come to auction are frequently sale highlights, or at least they help energize interest, and in the past Dorotheum has been the source of some wonderful finds (including Frans Francken’s delightfully wacky Mankind’s Eternal Dilemma – The Choice Between Virtue and Vice).
But, I’m skeptical about some of the new attributions, at least based on illustrations in the online and printed catalogues. Lot 643, The Adoration of the Shepherds is attributed to Guido Reni (above), but the figuration is very awkward and clumsy at best and the painting lacks the skill and finesse characteristic of the artist. It comes with the blessings of Nicholas Turner and the late Sir Denis Mahon, but I remain unconvinced (UPDATE: Clearly there was a buyer who disagreed with me. That said, I still believe this is not legit). I’m equally suspect of Lot 639, a Madonna and Child (below), a previously unpublished work purportedly by Guercino that also has Turner’s blessing.
Then there’s lot 569, a Madonna and Child (below), which may or may not be by Parmigianino. It last appeared at auction 11 months ago (Sotheby’s, May 2, 2012, Lot 31), given to “Parmese School of the 16th century.” There was no provenance or history of previous attributions. The work was estimated at ₤7,000-10,000 and sold for ₤34,850 (or $56,537, including the buyer’s premium). Since then, it has gotten a bath and a round of endorsements as an autograph work, yet it’s still catalogued as “Circle of.”
We are grateful to Professor Mina Gregori, who has endorsed the present work as a fully autograph work by Parmigianino after examining the present painting in the original after recently cleaning (written communication). We are also grateful to Dr. Emilio Negro and Dr. Nicosetta Roio for independently identifying the present picture as a fully autograph work by Parmigianino (written communication). Professor David Ekserdijan has reconfirmed his opinion, already expressed in 2012, that the present painting is probably based on a lost model by Parmigianino.
Again, I don’t think it’s quite right. The physiognomy of Parmigianino’s Mannerist figures was characteristically elongated, but not clumsy, as I find several passages in the present picture to be.
Also in the newly discovered category is Lot 602, The Mocking of Christ (below), given to Jusepe de Ribera and executed 1620-24. According to the lot notes: “The attribution of this previously unpublished painting to Jusepe de Ribera has been confirmed by Professor Nicola Spinosa. The present canvas is an important and significant addiction to the oeuvre of the Spanish master.” Stylistically, it very Caravaggesque and the figure sticking out his tongue is reminiscent of similar imagery by Hendrick ter Brugghen. However, the painting is obscured by dirt and grime making it difficult to read the details. Consequently, I reserve judgement.
The catalogue entry says: “The present painting can be compared to Ribera’s composition of the same subject, the Mocking of Christ and Crowing with Thorns (below), which was executed by Ribera after he left Rome for Naples in 1616,” and is in the Casa d’Alba collection in Seville, Spain.
The catalogue notes include the following:
As in the Mocking of Christ from the Alba collection, the present painting shows the extraordinary juxtaposition between a theatrical interpretation and the use of realism. The figures are placed within a narrow space in order to allow a stronger emphasis on the facial expression of the boy in the centre. The figure of Christ, with an accentuated powerful effect of strength and his expressive intensity, closely resembles the Ecce Homo in the Real Academia of San Fernando in Madrid also painted by Ribera around 1620. Even though the figure of Christ is represented in different positions in the other compositions, they all share a physical resemblance that may be due to the repeated use of the same model for the paintings. The image of Christ in the present painting, his face dripping with blood and intensely concentrated in pain, looking straight at the viewer, may have been influenced by Titian, with whom the Spanish artist was very familiar.
Complete coverage of the sale here: Silvery $58.3 million Jackson Pollock painting leads Christie’s $495 million Record Breaking Contemporary Art Sale
The Wall Street Journal’s Kelly Crow reports that London-based collector Tiqui Atencio is selling Jean-Michel Basquait’s Dustheads at Christie’s May 2013 Post War & Contemporary Art sale in New York. The 7-foot tall painting, which Atencio purchased in 1996 from dealer Tony Shafrazi, is estimated at $25-35 million. The current record for a Basquiat at auction is $26.4 million.
According to Crow:
The Basquiat’s chances at auction could be helped by the fact that Ms. Atencio hasn’t shopped the painting privately, dealers said, so collectors may be surprised to learn it is up for grabs now. Christie’s also said it has secured an outside investor who has agreed to bid at least $25 million for it.
The article also contains this entertaining observation by a Christie’s specialist:
Christie’s specialist Loic Gouzer said Basquiat enjoys an enviable, global following, particularly among Baby Boomers and Generation X collectors who can’t afford a $50 million abstract expressionist masterpiece by Jackson Pollock yet crave a work with more gestural vigor than Pop provides.
If I’m reading this statement correctly (and somewhat cynically), the essence of this marketing pitch is: “there, there Mr./Ms. multi-millionaire … we know you can’t afford a $50 million trophy, so why don’t you buy this $25 million consolation prize … feel better now?”
Madonna is auctioning off a painting by Fernand Leger, which she bought in 1990, with benefits going to Ray of Light Foundation, according to myMDNA.com. The sale of the 1921 work will be held by Sotheby’s during their May 7, 2013 Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale. According to a Sotheby’s press release:
Proceeds from the sale … will benefit the Ray of Light Foundation to support girls’ education projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries. In Afghanistan, just 12% of women are literate and it is estimated that only seven girls to every ten boys are able to attend school. In Pakistan, which has one of the largest populations of out-of-school children in the world, it is estimated that there are more than 3 million primary school-aged girls unable to attend school.
“I have a great passion for art and a great passion for education. In conjunction with Sotheby’s, I would like to share these two passions. I have chosen to auction this painting called “Three Women” by Fernand Léger and donate all the proceeds to support girls’ educational projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries where female education is rare or nonexistent. I cannot accept a world where women or girls are wounded, shot or killed for either going to school or teaching in girls’ schools. We don’t have time to be complacent. I want to trade something valuable for something invaluable – Educating Girls! Knowledge is power. Let’s change the world!” commented Madonna.
Thank you Madonna.
Mexico and Guatemala join Peru in claims against Barbier-Mueller Pre-Columbian art collection – UPDATED WITH SALE RESULTS
UPDATE3 : It’s over – the endurance test that was Sotheby’s auction of Pre-Columbian artifacts from the Barbier-Mueller collection ended as inauspiciously as it began – in the final session, 79 of 151 lots failed to sell. A smattering of bidders in the room and on the telephone purchased multiple lots, frequently for less than the low estimate (the final lot, estimated at €15,000-18,000 sold for a hammer price of €2,800!). The little Snood-like Mochica figure below (Lot 293), sold for a hammer price of €45,000 against a €20,000-25,000 estimate – one of the few works that elicited bidders’ interests.
A post-sale press release included the following:
Guillaume Cerutti, President-Directeur General, Sotheby’s France, said: “With a final total of more than €10 million, this sale established a new world record for a sale of Pre-Columbian Art. Despite having achieved less than expected, these results are good considering the context in which the sale unfolded [emphasis added]. High prices were achieved for the many iconic pieces which reflect the extraordinary quality of the collection.”
Perhaps potential buyer saw through Sotheby’s attempts to gloss over provenance issues with phrases like “this magnificent, century-old collection” and the “Collection has been widely exhibited and published.” Sotheby’s can claim a small victory for having sold the two highest estimated lots. However, in the end 165 of 313 lots failed and the sale will likely be judged a mess.
UPDATE 2: The second part of the sale concluded with 27 of 63 lots unsold. One telephone bidder purchased the two most expensive lots in the sale - Lot 137 and Lot 160 - along with Lot 144. Collectively those lots made a hammer price of €3.275 million (or €3,936,500 with the buyer’s premium).
UPDATE 1: The first part of the sale has just concluded. Results: of the 109 lots on offer, 59 failed to sell. Buyers are staying away in droves. Negative pre-sale publicity, specifically calls from three countries to repatriate works they allege to be looted, didn’t help. In addition, Mexico claims more than 50% of the works sourced from their country are “handicrafts” – i.e. fakes.
Sotheby’s March 22-23, 2013 sale in Paris of Pre-Columbian works from the Barbier-Mueller has gotten more controversial. Following Peru’s request for 67 items set to be sold, Guatemala, according the Agence France-Presse, has laid claim to 13 artifacts and Mexico, says el Regio, is calling for the return of 51 objects.
This is on top of the fact that nearly half the lots in the sale do not have a dated, pre-1970 provenance, according to the Chasing Aphrodite Web site.
A dated, pre-1970 provenance is slowly becoming a collector’s benchmark and is already recommended by the American Association of Museum Directors as a cut off date for acquisitions (though there is wiggle room). However, there are also individual national statutes with widley varying cut-off dates that govern the legal export and/or sale of antiquities. Nor does that pre-1970 criteria settle long term disputes about the acquisition of the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles and the Benin Bronzes.
According to the Financial Times:
[The sale's] 313 lots, expected to realise about €20m, constitute one part of the Geneva-based Barbier-Mueller Collection, an extraordinary collection of collections begun by Josef Mueller (1887-1977) and then honed and expanded by his daughter Monique and her husband Jean Paul Barbier. It is a rare opportunity to acquire works of art that, in some cases, are the finest known – or only – examples of their type.
Here are a few more of the dozens and dozens of lots lacking a dated, pre-1970 provenance:
UPDATE: The first half of this sale, which concluded with lot 1210, was a huge success for Christie’s and the Springfield Museums, which deaccessioned dozens of works that drew great interest and active bidding – especially lot 1183 (below), a pear-shaped vase that blew through its $300,000-500,000 estimate to sell for a hammer price of $3.3 million ($3,819,750 with the buyer’s premium). Only one lot did not sell and many lots sold well beyond their high estimate. The sale continues on March 22. 2013.
My most memorable class as a college undergraduate was Connoisseurship in Chinese Art (and I was getting a political science degree!), during which half of our class time was spent in a store room of the Freer Gallery of Art, an elegant oasis on Washington, DC’s National Mall and a jewel of the Smithsonian Institution. Ever since then, I’ve been particularly fascinated by Neolithic Chinese pottery and works from the Great Bronze Age.
Christie’s will be offering some impressive treasures in their March 21, 2013 sale of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, among them a large assortment of bronzes, including a group from the Raymond A. Bidwell (1876-1954) Collection, which are being deaccessioned by the Springfield Museums in Springfield, MA – this should assuage concerns about a lack of dated pre-1970 provenance (other works, including Lot 1220 – below – with an “Estimate on Request”, do not have a dated pre-1970 provenance – we’ll see how the market reacts to that one).
Part of my fascination with ancient Chinese bronzes is the exceptional iconography, among them the nearly ubiquitous taotie mask (left) on the fangyi above. According to the catalogue notes for this lot:
The decoration on all fangyi is arranged in registers, with a large taotie mask on the body, small dragons or birds on the foot and above the mask, and either a large taotie repeated on the cover or, in at least one instance, a bird.
For those not familiar the taotie device, here’s an explanation courtesy Britannica.com:
The taotie characteristically consists of a zoomorphic mask in full face that may be divided, through the nose ridge at the centre, into profile views of two one-legged beasts (gui dragons) confronting each other. A ground pattern of squared spirals, the “thunder pattern” (lei-wen), often serves as a design filler between and around the larger features of the design.
Typical features of the mask include large, protuberant eyes; stylized depictions of eyebrows, horns, nose crest, ears, and two peripheral legs; and a line of a curled upper lip with exposed fangs and no lower jaw. The name taotie (“glutton”), which came into use by the 3rd century bc, was probably inspired by the fact that the monster is usually portrayed as an ever-devouring beast. The function of the taotie motif has been variously interpreted: it may be totemic, protective, or an abstracted, symbolic representation of the forces of nature. The motif was most common during the Shang (18th–12th century bc) and early Zhou (1111–c. 900 bc) dynasties. After the early Zhou period, thetaotie mask motif was supplanted by a monster that was similar but depicted with diminished power and in a more literal manner.
One determined bidder – with the lucky paddle #888 – purchased lot 1125 (above) for a hammer price of $80,000 ($99,750 with the buyer’s premium). The bidder came back a few minutes later and pushed the price on lot 1137 (below) from an estimate of $60,000-80,000 to a hammer price of $550,000 ($663,750 with the buyer’s premium).
And late in the sale, the bidder with paddle #888 purchased lot 1192 (below).
According to the lot notes: “Only one other Qianlong-marked vase of this rare combination of shape and decoration appears to have been published … [and is now] in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England.”
The remaining lots are from various collections.
According to the lot notes: “Vessels of this unusual addorsed owl form appear to have been made primarily during the Shang dynasty, and are of two different types; those covered all over with dense decoration and those of more austere, simplified design, exemplified by the present magnificent example.”
The second, plain group, which includes the present you, shares the same basic form, but has a smooth surface decorated only with simplified wings and facial details cast in crisp relief creating an elegance of form devoid of unnecessary distractions.
The closest comparable you to the present vessel appears to be one of approximately the same size (25 cm. high) in the Hubei Yingcheng Wenhuaguan which is illustrated in Zhongguo Qingtongqi Quanji – 4 – Shang(4), Beijing, 1998, p. 152, no. 156. Like the present you, the heads of the owls on the Hubei Yingcheng example exhibit unusual ‘eyebrows’ with a combed, hair-like texture. Another unusual feature of the present vessel is the inclusion of the pair of confronted dragons behind the owl heads, rather than the more usual C-shaped horns that appear on most of the other published examples. A smaller (18.5 cm. high), but other otherwise very similar you to the present vessel and the Hubei Yingcheng example, but lacking the ‘eyebrows’, as well as the pair of confronted dragons behind the owl heads, is in the Shanghai Museum and illustrated ibid., no. 157.
According to the lot notes:
Lavishly decorated bells, such as the present example, were an important component of larger ceremonial functions within Shang and Zhou dynasty ritual culture. Signifiers of wealth and power, bronze bells served as markers of cultural sophistication and erudition. Archaeological excavations have found sets of bells placed within elaborate burial chambers accompanying prominent figures. Sumptuary laws determined the number of bells alotted to the deceased.
Unlike the suspending zhong bells from the tomb of the Marquis Yi of Zeng, nao bells, such as the present bell, would have been mounted on the tubular shank with its mouth open to the player.
Here’s a portion of the lot notes:
[T]he origins of the dou shape can be traced back to shallow ceramic tazza of the Longshan culture in the late Neolithic period. The ceramic form continued to be used throughout the Shang and Zhou periods, but in the Western Zhou period attempts were made to give the modest ceramic form a more ornamental appearance by fashioning it from lacquer over a wood core or casting it in bronze. Early in the Eastern Zhou period the dou shape acquired a lid, and by the sixth century BC it had acquired lug handles on the bowl.
New York’s Museum of Modern Art has purchased the late Mike Kelley’s large scale stuffed animal installation Deodorized Central Mass with Satellites, according to the Wall Street Journal, for $4.15 million. The work was sold at Philips in 2006 to Peter Brant for $2.7 million and more recently was on the market for $5.5 million. Kelley was a multi-talented Los Angeles-based artist currently the subject of a retrospective that last opened December at Amsterdam’s newly renovated Stedelijk Museum and will open at Paris’s Centre Pompidou in May before continuing on to PS1 in New York and finally LA MOCA. His life, final days and suicide are covered in the compelling and beautifully written Wall Street Journal Magazine article The Escape Artist.
London-based sculpture dealers Tomasso Brothers, in announcing the opening of their new Duke Street location, revealed details about the sale of a significant work by William Theed the Elder to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, according to ArtDaily:
Thetis returning from Vulcan with the armour of Achilles by William Theed the Elder (1764-1817) … was unveiled at the inaugural Frieze Masters in October 2012. This remarkable, almost life-size, bronze depicts the ‘divine Thetis of the silver feet’, most famous of the Nereids in Homer’s Iliad, kneeling by the shield of her son Achilles with the hero’s armour in a giant cockle shell.
This spectacular sculpture, described by Sir Timothy Clifford as ‘undoubtedly Theed’s most ambitious work’, was almost certainly originally supplied to the author, philosopher, interior designer and art collector, Thomas Hope (1769-1831) for Duchess Street, London, or his country house Deepdene in Surrey. William Theed was born in London and entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1786. He went to Italy in 1790, returning in 1796. He began his artistic career as a painter but was befriended by the sculptor John Flaxman whilst in Rome and took up sculpture. Flaxman’s designs for Homer’s Iliad clearly made a powerful and lasting impression on the young Theed.
The Mauritshuis in The Hague has announced the acquisition of Paul Bril’s Mountainous landscape with St. Jerome from London-based Old Master dealer Johnny van Haeften. The acquisition was finalized in Maastricht at TEFAF, one of the world’s leading art fairs. Bloomberg reports the initial asking price of £1 million was reduced to £750,000 (which, as a commenter to this posting noted, is decent profit since the picture was purchased at Christie’s December 2012 for £505,250).
According to a press announcement posted on museum’s Web Site:
The painting is the earliest known easel-painting by Bril, painted in a meticulous style on copper.
Emilie Gordenker, director of the Mauritshuis: “The Mauritshuis has wanted to acquire a representative work by Bril for a long time, but only now the chance arose to buy one of his best works. Because of its refined painting technique, the attractive composition, the intimate character and the good condition, this 16th-century landscape is an outstanding addition to the collection.”
The work by Bril has recently been offered to the Mauritshuis. The museum could acquire the painting thanks to the willing attitude of art dealer Johnny van Haeften. The new acquisition has been made possible by generous support of the BankGiro loterij and a private individal. The painting will be on view in the temporary exhibition Masters from the Mauritshuis in the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. From 2014 onwards the painting will be part of the presentation in the then newly renovated Mauritshuis.
They make for good Indiana Jones-type stories, but the ancient, “Aztec” crystal skulls in the British Museum and the Smithsonian Institution are fake – it was all a hoax. A new report from the British Museum details extensive analysis that concludes the skulls were not made by Aztecs. In fact, based on chemical analysis: “ The Smithsonian crystal skull appears to have been made shortly before it was bought in Mexico City in 1960.”
According to the Museum’s press statement:
The British Museum skull was extensively worked with lathe-mounted rotary wheels (jeweller’s wheels), which were unknown in the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans. The research also shows that the large block of rock crystal suitable for the British Museum skull did not come from a source within the ancient trade network of Mexico. It is likely to have originated from a source in Brazil or Madagascar.
[N]o quartz crystal skull has ever been found on any of the many well-documented official archaeological excavations of ancient sites.
The skull was purchased by the Museum from Tiffany and Co, New York in 1897. At the time of its purchase, the skull was said to have been brought from Mexico by a Spanish officer before the French occupation (in 1863). It was sold to an English collector and acquired at his death by Eugène Boban, a French antiquities dealer, later becoming the property of Tiffany and Co. The skull was exhibited for many years at the Museum of Mankind in Piccadilly (which housed the British Museum’s Ethnographic collection), it is currently on permanent display at the British Museum in the Wellcome Trust Gallery.
The Aztec crystal skull craze began in the 19th century, according to Archaeology Magazine:
Museums began collecting rock-crystal skulls during the second half of the nineteenth century, when no scientific archaeological excavations had been undertaken in Mexico and knowledge of real pre-Columbian artifacts was scarce. It was also a period that saw a burgeoning industry in faking pre-Columbian objects. When Smithsonian archaeologist W. H. Holmes visited Mexico City in 1884, he saw “relic shops” on every corner filled with fake ceramic vessels, whistles, and figurines. Two years later, Holmes warned about the abundance of fake pre-Columbian artifacts in museum collections in an article for the journal Science titled “The Trade in Spurious Mexican Antiquities.”
The first Mexican crystal skulls made their debut just before the 1863 French intervention, when Louis Napoleon’s army invaded the country and installed Maximilian von Hapsburg of Austria as emperor. Usually they are small, not taller than 1.5 inches. The earliest specimen seems to be a British Museum crystal skull about an inch high that may have been acquired in 1856 by British banker Henry Christy.
Two other examples were exhibited in 1867 at the Exposition Universelle in Paris as part of the collection of Eugène Boban, perhaps the most mysterious figure in the history of the crystal skulls. A Frenchman who served as the official “archaeologist” of the Mexican court of Maximilian, Boban was also a member of the French Scientific Commission in Mexico, whose work the Paris Exposition was designed to highlight.
As the British Museum study notes: “Eugène Boban … had previously also been involved in the sale of three other rock crystal skulls, one which is around 11 cm high and two small ones (which are less than five cm high), currently in the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris.”
The Aztec’s did create works using skull imagery, according to the Museum’s press statement:
“Skulls and skull imagery featured in Aztec art at the time of the first contact with the Spanish in 1519. They were worked by Aztec, Mixtec and even Mayan craftsmen, and a human skull covered with turquoise mosaics is displayed in the Mexican gallery of the British Museum. Skulls and skull imagery also feature in architectural elements, carved in relief in basalt or limestone, but objects of this kind were not produced in rock crystal or white quartz.”
Well … that didn’t go as planned.
A Florida pastor arrested for trying to sell a fake Damien Hirst spin painting through Sotheby’s has been indicted in New York, according to Zoë Lescaze at GalleristNY:
Kevin Sutherland, the Florida pastor who was arrested last month for allegedly attempting to sell counterfeit work by artist Damien Hirst, has been indicted, according to an announcement today from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. The defendant was charged with attempted grand larceny in the second degree after bringing a piece he claimed was a spin painting by Mr. Hirst to Sotheby’s. The auction house determined that the signature on the back of the work, which would have been worth thousands of dollars if authentic, did not match that of the artist. Mr. Sutherland also reportedly attempted to sell counterfeit works to an undercover detective.
In his statement, Mr. Vance said:
“Over just the last three years, my Office has prosecuted the thefts of valuable paintings, including pieces by Salvador Dalí, Claude Monet and Fernand Leger, as well as a multi-million dollar art fraud scheme. New York’s art scene has long been an important part of the city’s culture and economy, and my Office will continue to rigorously protect the integrity of our city’s art market.”
Here’s the Manhattan DA’s press release.
Hirsts – whether real or fake – aren’t worth what they used to be worth, as The Telegraph reports. Hirst works purchased between 2005 and 2008 have lost 30% of their value and: “One third of the 1,700 artworks by Hirst that have gone under the hammer since 2009 have failed to sell at all.”
The big freebies at today’s Armory Show VIP opening were large-scale Brillo boxes in homage to Andy Warhol. Visitors were encouraged to take one box from Babel (Stockholm Type), a creation of artist Charles Lutz, interviewed in this Artinfo video, who was on hand to sign each one.
And people snarfed them up. One woman in deciding not to take more than one was overheard to say: “If I have to pick up my mother’s prescription, I won’t be able to carry more than one Brillo box.”
The first 92 lots in the March 13, 2013 archaeology-themed auction at Paris’ Néret-Minet Tessier & Sarrou – antiquities from ancient Egypt, Etruria, Rome, Greece, Persia, Luristan and China including the two illustrated here – have no listed provenance. This is not to just to conclusions and say the works are all looted – I don’t know – but to not provide any dated provenance for antiquities at auction is, to be charitable, unwise. UPDATE - There was a high buy-in rate for these works – 38 of the 92 objects sold.
As noted in an earlier posting, increasingly, major museums are following the American Association of Museum Directors guidelines and are limiting their antiquities acquisitions to those works only with a pre-Nov. 1970 provenance, a date coinciding with of the ratification of a UNESCO accord on cultural property protection (this is not to say that works with a pre-1970 provenance are not subject to repatriation claims because several source countries have laws preventing the export of patrimony that were enacted years and decades prior to the UNESCO action). And, latest Art Newspaper details how museums are dealing with pieces that may be problematic.
Perhaps officials from source countries will have to bear down on smaller auction houses, as they have with Christie’s and Sotheby’s, to bring about broader change.
Peru claims artifacts in upcoming Sotheby’s auction were “obtained in an illicit manner” – UPDATED WITH SALE RESULTS
UPDATE: Additional sales coverage here.
The Sotheby’s March 22, 2013 auction of 313 lots of pre-Columbian artifacts from the Barbier-Muller collection has gotten the attention of Peruvian officials who claim that some 67 works in the sale were illicitly removed from Peru. According to the Wall Street Journal:
Peru’s government believes that some Pre-Columbian pieces of art to be auctioned by Sotheby’s (BID) in Paris in March were taken out of Peru without proper permission decades ago.
The Peruvian government says that it has no information about how the pieces left Peru for the collection.
“It is possible to deduce that their exportation must have been clandestine, given that from April 2, 1822 Peruvian regulations prohibit the removing of archaeological goods without government authorization,” the Ministry of Culture said.
The government said it plans to “act rapidly to place charges that these goods were presumably obtained in an illicit manner.”
The article continues:
Sotheby’s said in an email that it has not been contacted by Peru’s Culture Ministry, “but as is our practice, we would give careful consideration to any inquiry.”
“The works in the Barbier-Mueller collection have long ownership and exhibition histories, and matters like this relating to ancient artifacts typically depend on precise facts about the historical background of individual pieces,” the auction house said.
In an interview with Sotheby’s magazine, Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller said that he has long collected Pre-Columbian art.
The fate of a 10th Century Khmer statue from Cambodia, which Sotheby’s attempted to auction in March 2011 for up to $3 million, took another turn this week when Sharon Cohen Levin, the chief of the United States Attorney Office’s Asset Forfeiture Unit, and a second federal lawyer, Alexander Wilson, visited the site from which the statue was allegedly stolen during Cambodia’s murderous political turmoil in the 1970′s. According to the New York Times:
The unusual four-day trip is the latest development in a court case involving the auction house and United States officials, who are trying to help Cambodia gain possession of the statue, which it contends was looted from the temple during the chaos of that country’s civil war.
Though United States officials have intervened on behalf of foreign governments in patrimony cases, experts on cultural heritage law said it was rare for federal lawyers to visit an archaeological site abroad as part of such an effort.
In 2011, Cambodian officials raised concerns about the work’s provenance and it was pulled from the sale. Federal officials confiscated the work in April 2012 and Sotheby’s is now involved in litigation over the statue’s ownership. Cambodian officials claim the statue, and possibly a companion piece now in the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA, was looted during that country’s 1970′s-era civil war. Sotheby’s counters there’s no proof, the statues could have been removed any time in the past 1,000 years and they were legally exported into the US. However, some anecdotal evidence has the statues in situ in the 1960′s.
Last month, Cambodian officials requested that Jane Levin, a Sotheby’s executive, recuse herself from the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, which advises the US State Department about import restrictions for Cambodian antiquities, amongst its duties.
Of the lawyers’ visit this week, the Times noted: “Cambodian and United Nations officials said the lawyers were there to collect evidence to bolster arguments that the statue was stolen in the early 1970s from a ransacked temple site in a complex known as Koh Ker.”
A federal judge is scheduled to rule in weeks on whether the government’s case to seize the statue can proceed to trial. In earlier arguments District Judge George B. Daniels has pressed prosecutors on what proof they had that the statue, called the Duryodhana, was taken in the 1970s.
The repatriation of looted antiquities has been successfully undertaken by Italy, Greece, Turkey and others, and the issue of looted Cambodian antiquities has been in the media for years. But, it’s unclear if those arguing for repatriation will succeed in this instance. According to the Times:
Some experts saw the move as a sign that the United States government is worried about its ability to prove how and when the statue was taken.
“They are very invested in this case, and it would be humiliating to lose,” said William G. Pearlstein, an arts lawyer in New York and a former member of the American Bar Association’s International Cultural Property Committee. “I think they underestimated the requirements of the judge in proving actual theft and Cambodian ownership.”
Others said the trip had a diplomatic component and showed the United States’ commitment to an important matter for the Cambodian government.
Evan T. Barr, a former federal prosecutor and now a partner with the New York law firm Steptoe & Johnson, said Ms. Levin’s trip, while not routine, made sense. “She is literally eyeballing the scene of the crime, so when she presents the case in court, she can speak from firsthand knowledge,” he said.
David L. Hall, an assistant United States attorney in Delaware who has handled many cultural heritage claims, said going abroad to looted sites had helped him win tough cases.
In one continuing case, in which federal lawyers in Missouri are trying to seize an ancient Egyptian mask known as the Ka-Nefer-Nefer from the St. Louis Art Museum, the lawyers did not travel overseas, according to Jan Diltz, a spokeswoman for the United States Attorney’s Office in St. Louis.
Experienced cultural property lawyers, many of whom disagree over the merits of the Sotheby’s case, agreed that the trip’s high profile underscores the State Department’s view that cultural heritage issues are a major part of public diplomacy.
State Department officials had no comment on the visit.
The Art Tribune reports that the Louvre has recently acquired an eloquent 13th century ivory diptych depicting the Nativity, the Crucifixion and 18 prophets. The Byzantine work features the Nativity in the upper register of the left panel and the Crucifixion in the upper register of the right panel. Below each scene are the prophets that correspond with each event, their names inscribed in Greek lettering. The article notes: “[T]he decor of the cross on the reverse and the inscriptions are found on two other diptychs, one preserved in the Treasury of the Cathedral of Chambéry and the other in the Museum of Warsaw; [t]hese three pieces could come from the same workshop.”
According to the Tribune, the international audit and consultancy Mazars Group largely contributed to the acquisition of this work, as it had already done for Nicolas Poussin’s The Flight into Egypt in 2007 (deposited at the Museum of fine arts of Lyon), Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ Portrait du Comte Molé in 2009 and Lucas Cranach’s The Three Graces in 2010.
The BBC reports an archaeological dig in a remote section of Saudi Arabia has yielded evidence of a previously unknown civilization – and most significantly, “a large, stone carving of an “equid” – an animal belonging to the horse family.” Precise dating has yet to be determined, thought the site is believed to be about 9,000-years-old. According to Ali bin Ibrahim Al Ghabban, vice-president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities: “It could possibly be the birthplace of an advanced prehistoric civilisation that witnessed the domestication of animals, particularly the horse, for the first time during the Neolithic period.”
Some 300 stone objects, including “traces of stone tools, arrow heads, small scrapers and various animal statues including sheep, goats and ostriches” have been discovered. But it’s the equid figure that’s generating considerable news:
While archaeologists and other experts have held that horses were first tamed and exploited by man some 6,000 years ago in west Kazakhstan, experts are now starting to consider whether both location and date should be revised in light of these remarkable finds.
Archaeological evidence indicates that Al Magar, which means gathering or meeting place, has seen human habitation over a considerable period:
Traces of other stone tools such as scrapers have been estimated as dating back more than 50,000 years. They were found at the site and suggest that Al Magar was a hospitable place for humans to settle in over thousands of years. In part this is due to its topography, or terrain.
Michael Petraglia [professor of human evolution and prehistory at the University of Oxford] says that in the past, the spot must have been a lush river valley: “There is a major valley across the area which once was a river running westward forming waterfalls and taking water to the low fertile lands west of Al-Magar,” he explains.
Other finds made beyond the large and well-preserved Al Magar dovetail with current Arabian passions. Of particular interest are canine remains that resemble one of the oldest known domesticated dog breeds, the desert saluki, as well as traces of a dagger.
“It is an amazing discovery that raises all sorts of questions about when man stopped tracking down wild horses and began taming and exploiting them for transport,” Mr Al Ghabban says.
An Ongoing Problem – Indian and Southeast Asian Antiquities with Iffy Provenance – UPDATED WITH SALE RESULTS
The upcoming Indian and Southeast Asian art auctions in New York contain numerous beautiful works and numerous works without a pre-1970 provenance. The lack of that pre-1970 provenance is a problem especially if wish to abide by the antiquities acquisition guidelines established the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD). As the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported:
guidelines established by the Association of Art Museum Directors … stipulate that museums generally should avoid buying antiquities unless they were documented as being outside their likely country of origin before 1970, the date of an international UNESCO convention aimed at halting the looting of antiquities, or were legally exported thereafter.
Here are a selection of works from Christie’s sale on March 19, 2013 that lack a pre-1970 provenance, but the sale contains many more – and the sale catalogue does not state if the works were legally exported from the country of origin after the implementation of that UNESCO accord. This is a recurring problem – as noted in a previous blog, 70% of the top ten stone sculptures in Christie’s September 2012 sale also lacked a pre-1970 provenance. Will this affect the sale of these works? We’ll see.
Greek shipping heiress Aspasia Zaimis is suing in Swiss court to discover the whereabouts of what Bloomberg says is a “billion-dollar collection” of art amassed by her uncle Basil Goulandris and his wife Elise and once kept in their chalet in Gstaad. Zaimis, “contends that one- sixth of the collection should be hers after her aunt’s death.”
“I am determined to find the paintings which were in the Gstaad home before my aunt’s death,” Zaimis said by phone from Greece. “I believe with all my heart that the paintings were part of my inheritance.”
Swiss prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into the Elise Goulandris Foundation — Elise’s main heir — and the executor of her will, the art historian and curator Kyriakos Koutsomallis, on suspicion of falsifying titles of ownership, passing on false documents and duplicity in executing the will, the people said.
When Elise Goulandris left Gstaad for the summer, the paintings were packed up and stored in a depot, according to the two people familiar with the case. Zaimis said she hasn’t seen them since Elise’s death [in 2000].
The critical sentence in Elise’s will is that all her personal property that is not antique and fit for a museum should go to her nieces and nephews, said the two people, who have seen the will. Zaimis says the paintings aren’t antiques and should be part of her inheritance.
After she filed suit, [Koutsomallis' lawyer Jean- Christophe] Diserens produced a contract dated 1985 showing that Basil Goulandris sold 83 masterpieces to a Panamanian company called Wilton Trading SA for $31.7 million, the people said. The company belonged to Goulandris’s sister-in- law Maria Goulandris, according to testimony given by her son Peter John Goulandris, the two people familiar with the court case said. Maria Goulandris died in 2005.
Yet a report commissioned by the Lausanne prosecutor found that the contract was printed on a type of paper that didn’t exist before 1988, according to the two people, who have seen the report. Zaimis also said she doubts that Basil Goulandris, who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, would have been capable of signing the contract after 1988.
Among the artworks in the list of 83 attached to the disputed sales contract are 11 by Picasso, three by Braque, five Cezanne paintings, three by Marc Chagall, two by Degas, two Gauguins, two Max Ernsts, two Manets, two Miros, two Monets, three Renoirs, two Jackson Pollock oils, a Matisse, a Klee and a Kandinsky, two people familiar with the document said.
An evaluation of a third of the works by Armand Bartos, Jr. Fine Art Inc., put their worth at $781.4 million. That evaluation includes a Van Gogh painting of olive pickers which Bartos said could alone be worth $120 million, and a Cezanne self-portrait that he valued at $60 million.
Peter John Goulandris, the son of Basil Goulandris’s brother, told the court his uncle wanted to raise money to pay debts and was therefore happy to agree to the $31.7 million price for the entire collection, two people familiar with the suit said.
No doubt, this will go on for sometime. Should Zaimis win, the Bloomberg article contains this clue about what may become of the paintings: ’Zaimis’s legal action is being partly financed by a New York art dealer, Ezra Chowaiki, who described himself as a friend and said that in return for his aid he has “a right of first refusal to purchase paintings that she might obtain.”’
The present appeal of 17th century Italian painting owes much to the late Sir Denis Mahon, a tireless collector, promoter and proselytizer for the likes of Domenichino, Luca Giordano, Guercino, Guido Reni and many others. In 1999 he promised several dozen paintings to various British institutions and now, two years after his death, the terms of the bequest have been made public. According to the Guardian:
A collection of 57 old masters worth around £100m – some bought for as little as £100 apiece in the mid-20th century – are to be formally given to the nation, with strings attached. If any attempt is made by the host museum to charge for admission; or any item from their collection is put up for sale, the Art Fund, the charity that is donating them, can take them back.
The article later says: “Mahon, heir to the Guinness Mahon banking fortune, built an extraordinary collection of mainly Italian 17th-century paintings, without ever spending more than £2,000 per picture.” It’s unclear if this ersatz-Caravaggio, for which he paid £50,400 in 2006, figures into the story.
The collection is well regarded and includes works by Luca Giordano, Salvator Rosa, Guercino, Donato Creti, Francesco Solimena and many others.
And though it initially seem unusual, the Mythological Landscape by the Antwerp-born painter Paul Bril is entirely appropriate. Bril spent his career in Rome where many of his frescoes can still be found.
Here’s a breakdown of the recipients:
- National Gallery, London: 25 works
- Ashmolean Museum, Oxford: 12 works
- Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh: 8 works
- Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge: 6 works
- Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery: 5 works
- Temple Newsam House, Leeds: 1 work
The controversy over an allegedly looted 10th century Khmer sculpture has gotten a little more complicated. Cambodian officials, according to the New York Times, want a Sotheby’s executive, “who sits on a State Department panel that advises that agency on cultural property issues [to] recuse herself from its deliberations on import restrictions for Cambodian antiquities.”
A quick recap of the situation: Sotheby’s planned to sell the statue in New York for an estimated $2-3 million during a March 24, 2011 auction. Cambodian officials raised concerns about the work’s provenance and it was pulled from the sale. Federal officials confiscated the work in April 2012 and Sotheby’s is now involved in litigation over the statue’s ownership. Cambodian officials claim the statue, and possibly a companion piece now in the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA, was looted during that country’s 1970′s-era civil war. Sotheby’s counters there’s no proof, the statues could have been removed any time in the past 1,000 years and they were legally exported into the US. However, some anecdotal evidence has the statues in situ in the 1960′s.
According to the Times:
Him Chhem, Cambodia’s minister of culture and fine arts, said the executive, Jane A. Levine, faced a potential conflict because her auction house is embroiled with Cambodia in a lawsuit over the ownership of an ancient Khmer statue that Sotheby’s hopes to sell on behalf of the statue’s owner.
The panel, known as the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, held closed-door talks in October on the regulation of Cambodian and Khmer Empire cultural artifacts in Washington. It is scheduled to meet again this month and next.
State Department officials would not discuss whether Ms. Levine had recused herself. Susan R. Pittman, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said the fall meetings had been closed sessions. “As a result, we have no information to provide to you, including the attendance at the meeting,” she said.
In 1999 the State Department imposed emergency restrictions on cultural imports from Cambodia, which, beginning in 1970, had suffered catastrophic looting from its prized temples during decades of war, genocide and civil upheaval. The department negotiated a two-nation agreement in 2003 and renewed it in 2008. The agreements are reviewed every five years, and Cambodia hopes to extend the agreement from 2013 to at least 2018.
The existing agreement does not affect the Sotheby’s statue because the statue is known to have left Cambodia before the 1999 accord. Cambodia is seeking its return based on its own laws, which it says have banned the unauthorized removal of items like the statue for more than 100 years. Sotheby’s calls the laws “hopelessly ambiguous French colonial decrees” that have no force today.
In his letter the Cambodian minister praised Ms. Levine’s expertise but said, given the dispute, his government felt her recusal was appropriate.
Did Sotheby’s blow it and downgrade an actual Caravaggio painting to being the work of a “follower”? That’s the subject of a new lawsuit according to The Art Newspaper:
Sotheby’s is being sued for damages over a work it attributed to a “follower” of Caravaggio that sold at auction in London to the late collector and scholar Denis Mahon in 2006, for a hammer price of £42,000. Mahon subsequently identified the painting as a work “by the hand of Caravaggio” and obtained an export licence for it that gave an estimated selling price of £10m, according to a claim filed at London’s High Court of Justice.
In December 2007, the Telegraph ran an article headlined: Caravaggio worth £50m discovered, and reported: ”Sir Denis, who has authenticated three other Caravaggios, decided that the painting was an early work by the Renaissance master himself, and dated it to 1595.” The article later noted: “Sir Denis, a prolific and scholarly art collector, said that the painting was a predecessor of the The Card Sharps that hangs in the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.”
It’s understandable that the claimant, Lancelot William Thwaytes, whose family had owned the painting since 1962, would be upset. However, the attribution is disputed by several scholars – from The Art Newspaper:
In a statement, Sotheby’s says that its “view that the painting is a copy and not an autograph work by Caravaggio is supported by the eminent Caravaggio scholar Richard Spear, as well as by several other leading experts in the field”. Other experts who have gone on the record in support of Sotheby’s view include Helen Langdon, the Italian Baroque scholar and the writer of Caravaggio’s 1998 biography, and Sebastian Schütze, a professor of art history at the University of Vienna. In reference to Mahon’s The Cardsharps, Schütze writes in his 2009 catalogue of Caravaggio’s paintings that “the quality of the execution… rather suggests the painting to be a copy”.
The claim filed by the Thwaytes lists scholars who support the attribution:
The claim lists the experts in support of Mahon’s attribution as the Caravaggio scholars Mina Gregori and Maurizio Marini; Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums; the curator and Bolognese art expert Daniele Benati; Thomas Scheider, a writer and restorer; and Ulrich Birkmaier, the chief conservator of the Wadsworth Atheneum.
A new exhibition at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem about King Herod, whom the New York Times described as, “the lionized and demonized Rome-appointed king of Judea, who reigned from 37 to 4 B.C.E. and is among the most seminal and contentious figures in Jewish history”,features 250 artifacts weighing some 30 tons (requiring the museum to reinforce its foundation) … and plenty of controversy:
The Palestinian Authority says the exhibition is a violation of international law because much of its material was taken from near Bethlehem and Jericho, both in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. An Israeli group of archaeologists and activists complains that the museum, however unwittingly, is helping the Jewish settlement movement advance its contention that the West Bank should be part of Israel and not a Palestinian state.
Of Herod, The Jerusalem Post noted:
He masterminded and engineered the Jerusalem Temple – among the most magnificent temples in the ancient world; the fortress-complex at Masada – the most-visited site in Israel; Caesarea – in its day, the largest all-weather harbor built in the open sea; imposing cities, aqueducts and, finally, Herodium – the most spacious palace known to us in the Greco-Roman world before the common era.
He might have been a great builder, but he had his downside as the Guardian reports: “During his bloodthirsty tyranny, he executed at least one of his wives and three of his sons as well as countless rabbis, opponents and people who simply got in his way. According to Matthew’s gospel [in the Bible's New Testament], he ordered the killing of all newborn babies following the birth of Jesus, although some scholars say his son, also called Herod, was responsible for the butchery (and others dispute it happened at all).”
According to the Washington Post, the exhibition has been three years in the making:
[T]he exhibit was conceived by Ehud Netzer, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who directed excavations at Herodium. In 2007, after a decades-long search, he announced that he had found the tomb of Herod, the ruler of Judea from 37 to 4 B.C., whose colossal building projects included the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple.
Netzer wanted the finds exhibited at the Israel Museum, Snyder said. But while surveying the site with museum staffers in 2010, he fell to his death when a safety rail he was leaning on gave way. The exhibit is dedicated to his memory.
Of the controversy, the Guardian says:
Hamdan Taha, a [Palestinian Authority] official responsible for antiquities, said the Israel Museum had not consulted it on the excavation and exhibition. Herodium is located in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control, and the site is administered by the Israeli Parks Authority.
The exhibition was an attempt to use “archaeology to justify Israel’s political claims on the land”, Taha said. The site, along with Jericho, was “an integral part of Palestinian cultural heritage”, he added.
The Israel Museum said that Israel was given temporary control over archaeological sites in the West Bank under the 1993 Oslo accords, and that the museum had co-ordinated with the Israeli Civil Administration, which governs Area C.
“We have this material on loan, and it will be returned to the site after the exhibition,” said James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum. “Everything is here on an authorised basis. If we had left [the artefacts] as they were, there was no way of understanding or interpreting them. We are not about politics or geopolitics; we are trying to do the best and the right thing for the long-term preservation of material cultural heritage.”
The Prado continues on its streak of brilliant acquisitions with the addition of an early French panel painting to their permanent collection. French paintings from this period, according to the museum’s Web site, are extremely rare; and all the more so is the exceptional quality of this work which may be by Colart de Laon (documented 1377-1411).
When purchased, the panel had substantial passages of overpaint the covered the donor and Saint Agnes (lower left) and other portions of the work. X-radiography and Infra-red reflectography revealed the overpainted figures, and nettles on the donor’s sleeves allow “this figure to be identified as Louis d’Orléans.” The attribution to Colart is made because he was …
painter and valet de chambre to Louis d’Orléans from 1391 until the Duke’s death in 1407 then maintained this position in the service of Louis’ son, Charles d’Orléans. Although his paintings are now lost, documentary research confirms Colart de Laon as one of the most important painters working in early 15th-century France and the creator of numerous works for the 1st Duke of Orléans.
According to the Web site:
The panel’s small size indicates that it may have been intended for a private devotional space rather than a public one such as a church or cathedral, perhaps for the chapel of one of the Duke’s residences. The fact that Louis d’Orléans is not accompanied by his wife or children, as would be expected if this were a single panel, must be for a particular reason. The subject of The Agony in the Garden and the inclusion of the opening words of the Psalm Miserere mei on the scroll that Louis holds are to be found in works of art with a funerary context. Such a context would explain why Louis is depicted without his wife or children. If this were the case, the panel would not have been commissioned by the Duke but by his wife or eldest son Charles d’Orléans. They commissioned the Duke’s tomb after he was murdered on the orders of John the Fearless in November 1407 and also retained in their service the artists who had worked for Louis.
The key to discovering the identity of the donor lay in the gold nettle leaves on the sleeves of his long, fur-lined houppelande, which was a very fashionable garment from around 1400. Nettle leaves were one of the emblems of Louis d’Orléans (1372-1407), son of Charles V of France and brother of Charles VI, whose periods of madness meant that Louis acted as Regent for his brother, competing and collaborating with his uncle the Duke of Berry and his uncle the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Bold. The latter died in 1404 and was succeeded by his son John the Fearless.
An item at Art Media Agency says recent carbon-14 analysis of the so-called Earlier Version Mona Lisa – allegedly created at least a decade before the version in the Louvre and currently with the Mona Lisa Foundation in Zurich - dates the painting to the early-to-mid 15th century. A Foundation press release quotes Dr. Markus Frey, President of The Mona Lisa Foundation, as saying: “The results of these further tests are very convincing. They confirm our conclusion that this painting is indeed Leonardo’s ‘Earlier Version’ of his Mona Lisa.”
Alfonso Rubino, a specialist in the geometry of Leonardo, has recently presented his latest findings which show that Leonardo worked the geometry found in his design of the Vitruvian Man (1487) into his paintings. According to Rubino, the ‘Earlier Mona Lisa’ portrait embodies the intermediate stage of Leonardo’s geometric constructions, and therefore must be by Leonardo.
The carbon 14 dating findings are considered significant because an earlier test suggested the work could be a 17th century copy:
[T]he latest carbon 14 dating test (performed by ETH – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich) dates the canvas to be between 1410 and 1455 (95,4% probability) or between 1425 and 1450 (68,2% probability). Thus it is highly unlikely that the canvas was executed beyond the turn of the 16th century.
Hold it! Earlier Version?
This painting was discovered in 1913 by Hugh Blaker, an “art connoisseur and curator of the Holbourne Art Museum in Bath, England.” Blaker had the painting at his studio in Isleworth, London (and it has subsequently been referred to as the “Isleworth Mona Lisa”). No surprise, for the past four decades has been under intense scrutiny. The Foundation has already published a book documenting previous testing, scholarly opinions and “historical evidence”, which is summarized in a factsheet, and an exhibition is forthcoming. The Foundation’s homepage also features a 21-minute video about the painting.
The Independent reports 75-year-old German artist Georg Baselitz has set off a fire storm with remarks in the German newspaper Der Spiegel about the artistic abilities of nearly all women artists:
Baselitz has dismissed centuries of female artists at a stroke – from Artemisia Gentileschi and Frida Kahlo to Bridget Riley and Paula Rego – in his claim that women lack the basic character to become great painters.
[He went on to say] they “simply don’t pass the market test, the value test”, adding: “As always, the market is right.”
This sentiment seems appropriate for an outlet like Dinosaur News or The Antediluvian Daily. The Independent continued:
Sarah Thornton, who wrote Seven Days in the Art World, said: “I disagree with him; the market gets it wrong all the time. To see the market as a mark of quality is going down a delusional path. I’m shocked Baselitz does. His work doesn’t go for so much.”
Baselitz is not alone in expressing such views about female artists. In 2008, Brian Sewell went further saying there has “never been a first-rank woman artist”. He referred to Bridget Riley and Louise Bourgeois as of the “second and third rank”.
Before the opening of Jenny Saville’s breakout show at the Saatchi Gallery, critic David Sylvester said he “always thought women couldn’t be painters” because “that’s just the way it’s always been”. In 1937, artist Hans Hofmann said Lee Krasner’s work was “so good, you would not know it was painted by a woman”.
Ivan Lindsay, an art dealer and writer, said: “This is a hugely contentious issue. Some people think women just generally aren’t as good, others believe they have been held back throughout history.”
He continued: “It is a fairly outrageous and provocative thing for Baselitz to say and we inevitably react against a comment like that. But he has got to an age where he doesn’t care. Others would probably agree but wouldn’t like to stick their head above the parapet.”
“Others would probably agree …”? Calling all dinosaurs …
Bacon, Basquiat, Doig, Hockney and Richter lead Christie’s Feb 2013 Contemporary Sale – UPDATE WITH SALE RESULTS
UPDATE: The sale began inauspiciously when the first lot, an untitled work by Toba Khedoori, estimated at £40,000-60,000, bombed at £32,000. But that misstep proved an anomaly – Lot 4, Mad Cow, by Christopher Wool, estimated at £700,000-900,000, soared to a hammer price of £2 million, powered in part by interest from 10 people on the sale telephones, and Lot 6, Pumpkin, by Yayoi Kusama, estimated at £150,000-250,000, blew through to a hammer price of £420,000, with 16 phones. Peter Doig’s The Architect’s Home in the Ravine set a new auction record for the artist selling for £7,657,25 (£6.8 million hammer price plus buyer’s premium) or $11,975,939. Complete results.
ORIGINAL POST:It’s not exactly déjà vu, but several of Christie’s top five lots in their evening sale in London, Feb 13, look a lot like the bunch at Sotheby’s – Bacon, Basquiat and Richter. The top five round out with an entangled 1991 tableaux by Peter Doig and an early and theatrical Egytpian-themed David Hockney painting (cue those elephants, Aida). Damien Hirst, whose market has apparently hit the skids, is represented by a couple of works, including a variant of Away From the Flock, featuring a white sheep divided laterally with each half suspended in a formaldehyde filled vitrine (I’ve always enjoyed the cheekiness of this work). According to Bloomberg, the Hirst last appeared at auction in May 2006 when it sold for $3.6 million.
Bacon, Basquiat and Richter lead Sotheby’s Feb 2013 Contemporary Art Sale – UPDATED WITH SALE RESULTS
With the Impressionist and Modern sales out of the way, it’s time to sell some Post War and Contemporary Art. On February 12, Sotheby’s kicks off the evening sales in London with works by the usual bankable artists – Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter and Jean Michel Basquiat, who account for eight lots in the 56-lot sale, with an additional four by Alexander Calder. The sale leads with a Bacon triptych, reasonably sized so as not to crowd one out of the pied-à-terre (estimate: £10-15 million). The top five (by estimate) include polar opposite Richters, an astringent abstract and a harmless realist image of clouds, followed by a pair of Basquiats.
Among the works to watch is an early Robert Ryman work on paper with the somewhat aggressive estimate of £550,000-750,000. The untitled 1961 oil, just over one square foot, features a frenzied patch of brushwork that suggests dozens of people racing for the same turnstile – a luscious bit of mayhem that also manages to prefigure the artist’s later, more ascetic balance of media and support.
The headline in articles by Agence France Presse and elsewhere trumpeted news that Pompeii, the world famous archeological site in southern Italy, will receive a much needed infusion of €105 million … Almost overshadowing mention that former site director Marcello Fiori, former restoration supervisor Luigi D’Amora, and a former contractor, Annamaria Caccavo, were under investigation for corruption.
According to the article:
One contract priced by Caccavo at 449,882 euros ended up costing the state 4.84 million euros, prosecutors said in court documents.
The works “were not essential” for preserving Pompeii and were geared towards holding stage performances in the ruins of the ancient city.
Pompeii, buried in 79 AD under volcanic ash from neighboring Mount Vesuvius, provides a remarkable snap shot of Roman life frozen in time. In a nation littered with amazing historic sites, it is a standout. However, as AFP notes:
The hugely popular site near Naples has come to symbolise the decades of mismanagement of many of Italy’s cultural treasures, as well as the fallout from recent steep cuts in budgets for culture because of austerity measures.
The repairs are aimed at reducing the risk of exposure to the elements, reinforcing the ancient Roman buildings, restoring Pompeii’s famous frescoes and increasing video surveillance at the site where security has been lax.
Descendants of Jewish industrialist Baron Mór Lipót Herzog are suing Hungary over the theft of Herzog’s art collection by the Nazis, according to Artlyst. Much of the collection now hangs in museums in Budapest. According to the article:
[T]he Herzog Collection was the largest private art collection in Hungary. It also held the largest number of paintings by El Greco, after the Prado in Madrid, among other priceless works by key artists such as van Dyck, Velázquez, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Francisco de Zurbarán, Courbet, Corot, Renoir and Monet.
Hungary, as a German ally, legislated its own anti-Jewish laws and In April 1944 the government issued a decree requiring that all Jews surrender luxury goods, including all works of art to the state. Hungarian restitution claims were regulated by the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947, which they signed. Unfortunately under Communism the restitution requirements of the Treaty was ignored, as it was by other Iron Curtain countries …
The family of Baron Herzog are determined to fight the case in the US courts and perhaps in the European Courts.
Last week a three-judge panel in a federal court in America heard brief oral arguments in what art experts say could be the largest Holocaust-era art restitution case ever mounted, however no ruling was issued. The case clearly states that the Hungarian courts acted unjustly by failing to return the paintings or pay restitution to Herzog’s relatives, the lawsuit seeks to use U.S. courts to press the claim against the government of Hungary, three of its museums and a university.
Picasso, Modigliani and other heavy weights in London’s Impressionist and Modern Sale – UPDATED WITH SALE RESULTS
UPDATE 2: Scroll down for updates about the Christie’s sale.
UPDATE 1: Sotheby’s 40-lot Impressionist and Modern sale posted some strong results, particularly for the Schieles unloaded by the Leopold Museum. The oddball Monet waterlilies (below) sold well below estimate, a thoroughly pedestrian Gaugin landscape completely tanked, while a Degas pastel from the early 1880′s, estimated at £2.5-3.5 million, provoked fevered bidding before selling for a hammer price of £6.9 million (£7,769,250 with the buyer’s premium). The buyer of the Schiele (below) also dropped another £700,000 (£825,250 with the buyer’s premium) for a Morandi still life; and one bidder picked up lots 8, 9 & 10, sculptures by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth (according to Artinfo’s Judd Tully it was London dealer Alan Hobart of Pyms Gallery in Mayfair). Two works that should have been casualties – portraits by Renoir and Matisse – ended up selling at hammer prices below estimate. The sale continued with 21 lots of Surrealist work.
ORIGINAL POST: A large scale image of the physically fit and frequently tormented Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso’s “golden muse”, is the lead work at Sotheby’s evening sale of Impressionist & Modern Art Tuesday, February 5, 2013. It’s a formidable painting with an estimate to match (and a slightly lugubrious video). There’s also an entertaining catalogue entry that must have left the writer hyper-ventilating:
His muse’s potent mix of physical attractiveness and sexual naïvety had an intoxicating effect on Picasso, and his rapturous desire for the girl brought about a wealth of images that have been acclaimed as the most erotic and emotionally uplifting compositions of his long career. Picasso’s unleashed passion is nowhere more apparent than in the depictions of his muse seated or asleep, the embodiment of tranquillity and physical acquiescence.
Here are the rest of the top five lots (by estimate), starting with a peculiar Monet waterlilies:
Another large scale work is this Miro completed shortly before the end of World War II, one from a group of canvases exhibited by his New York dealer Pierre Matisse and the only one still in private hands. According to the lot notes:
Matisse was keen to demonstrate to the American public the lively state of painting in Europe in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, and probably deemed this group of large oils to be among the most energetic and life-affirming works coming from Europe.
From the Leopold Museum in Vienna comes this Egon Schiele double portrait (along with two others – according to Judd Tully: The museum has been selling select works by the artist to settle restitution claims involving Schiele’s storied “Portrait of Wally.”). And from Sotheby’s comes this hyperbolic catalogue entry (and shaky camera pseudo documentary):
Few works by Egon Schiele are as psychologically penetrating, autobiographically revealing or as exquisitely executed as Liebespaar (Selbstdarstellung mit Wally). The subject of self-portraiture enthralled the artist, and by the time the present work was created Schiele was engaged in producing what is now arguably the most celebrated stream of self-imagery of the 20th century. The most potent of these works conflated his key artistic concerns with personal crises, expressed in highly innovative compositional arrangements and strikingly bold execution. In this transfixing double portrait, Schiele expresses the emotional turmoil involved in the ending of his relationship with his lover Walpurga (Wally) Neuzil.
The final of the top five is also a large scale work – a late double portrait by Max Beckmann. The painting was done in New York in 1949, two years after he had moved to the States and a year before his death. The catalogue entry does include this intriguing recollection:
In 1948 he delivered a lecture to the students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston which was attended by the young Ellsworth Kelly, who recalled that: ‘It was not long before his death, and he looked tired but was still jovial. At that time he was the most important painter that I had come in contact with. It was a very significant event of my life. […] Every time I see a Beckmann, I’m impressed by the content of his work, his structure, colour, and especially his brushwork. Even though my work is not Expressionist, Beckmann’s visual force has informed my painting and my admiration for his art only grows with time.’
UPDATE: Lot 20 (below), a late Kandinsky, one of the top five works by estimate, was withdrawn, whereas the early Kandinsky, lot 26 (below) made a hammer price of £6 million, though it could have sold for as low as £4 million. Lot 11 (below), an 1881 work by Berthe Morisot soared passed its £1.5-2.5 million estimate to hammer for £6.2 million (a new auction record for the artist tweets the Wall Street Journal‘s Kelly Crow) – the same bidder purchased lot 18 (below) Picasso’s “Incredible Hulk,” and lot 23 (below) the Aristide Maillol spending more than $24.6 million. Complete results from the sale.
ORIGINAL POST: Meanwhile, over at Christie’s, a portrait of another tormented lover leads Christie’s evening sale on February 6, 2013. This time, it’s Amedeo Modigliani’s common-law wife Jeanne Hébuterne. The catalogue notes predictably enough include exhortations about the painting’s greatness:
Modigliani used portraiture, especially of those in his immediate circle, as a means to explore an idealised aspect of humanity, an image of internal as well as external likeness. This is clearly the case in Jeanne Hébuterne au chapeau: while the hat and dress that Jeanne are wearing hint at the fashion of the day, the overall effect is one of timelessness. Jeanne has served as the Muse for an insightful and lyrical exploration of the human spirit, created using an incredibly subtle blending of colours that radiate a sense of health.
There is, however, a wonderful photo of the sitter (who appears to be part giraffe) taken the same year as the painting was executed.
Next up are two works by Wassily Kandinsky, one from 1909 and the other from 1942, two years before his death. The first picture reflects the influence of the French Fauves:
Of the latter painting, the lot notes offer this interesting insight:
Painted in January 1942, it is one of the very last large-scale works on canvas that the artist produced during the culminatory period of his art in Paris during the Second World War. Due to poverty and shortages caused by the war, and the Nazi Occupation of the city in 1940, Kandinsky was unable to procure canvas at this time. Between the summer of 1942 and his death in December 1944, he was compelled to work only on small-scale paintings made on cardboard. Balancement is one of only a very few large-scale works from this wartime period that Kandinsky chose to make on his rapidly diminishing supply of canvas, and one of only a very few works on canvas from this time to still remain in private hands.
Except for a few works, I’m not a fan of Renior’s oeuvre – and this insipid painting is not one of those exceptions. The catalogue tells us that, “L’ombrelle relates to a sequence of exuberantly painted canvases depicting women in garden settings that Renoir executed in the years immediately following the very first Impressionist exhibition of 1874.”
And of this Picasso nude, the sale catalogue says: “Painted on 14 February 1960 – Valentine’s Day - Nu accroupi shows a woman sitting with crossed legs against a verdant backdrop; she appears to be a modernised representation of that much-loved subject, the bather.”
I think it’s a different subject … the Incredible Hulk.
Georgina Adam at the Financial Times reports that Agnew’s, the London-based art dealership, will close on April 30. Adam writes that efforts to sell the firm had failed and they did not have the financial wherewithal to continue in business. According to the firm’s Chairman, Julian Agnew:
“I wanted to retire and there was no obvious successor,” says Agnew, whose daughter Gina left last year to start her own gallery. “We are not in a happy place: we are neither big like Sotheby’s and Christie’s, the ‘supermarkets’ of the art world, nor small enough. We were undercapitalised for today’s art prices.”
The firm’s legacy is significant. The 1967 catalogue produced in honor of their 150th anniversary includes photographs of dozens and dozens of major works by Simone Martini, Piero di Cosimo, Giovanni Bellini, Raphael, Titian, Robert Campin, Hans Memling, Gerard David, Mabuse, Rubens, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Velasquez, Goya, Poussin, and many others now in museum collections worldwide.