Cancel Culture and Fine Art

Fellow appraiser Kirsten Smolensky, JD, ISA CAPP sent me an interesting NY Times article asking the question, “Is it time to stop looking at Gauguin altogether?”

The NY Times reports
LONDON — “Is it time to stop looking at Gauguin altogether?”

That’s the startling question visitors hear on the audio guide as they walk through the “Gauguin Portraits” exhibition at the National Gallery in London. The show, which runs through Jan. 26, focuses on Paul Gauguin’s depictions of himself, his friends and fellow artists, and of the children he fathered and the young girls he lived with in Tahiti.

The standout portrait in the exhibition is “Tehamana Has Many Parents” (1893). It pictures Gauguin’s teenage lover, holding a fan.

The artist “repeatedly entered into sexual relations with young girls, ‘marrying’ two of them and fathering children,” reads the wall text. “Gauguin undoubtedly exploited his position as a privileged Westerner to make the most of the sexual freedoms available to him.”

Born in Paris, the son of a radical journalist, Gauguin spent his early years in Peru before returning to France. He took up painting in his 20s, while working as a stockbroker, a profession he would soon give up — along with his wife and children — to make art full time. He set sail for Tahiti in 1891, searching for the exotic surroundings he had known as a boy in Peru. Gauguin spent most of the 12 remaining years of his life in Tahiti and on the French Polynesian island of Hiva Oa, cohabiting with adolescent girls, fathering more children, and producing his best-known paintings.

In the international museum world, Gauguin is a box-office hit. There have been a half-dozen exhibitions of his work in the last few years alone, including important shows in Paris, Chicago and San Francisco. Yet in an age of heightened public sensitivity to issues of gender, race and colonialism, museums are having to reassess his legacy.

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A couple of decades ago, an exhibition on the same theme “would have been a great deal more about formal innovation,” said Christopher Riopelle, a co-curator of the National Gallery show. Now, everything must be viewed “in a much more nuanced context,” he added.

“I don’t think, any longer, that it’s enough to say, ‘Oh well, that’s the way they did it back then,’ ” he said.

Mr. Riopelle described Gauguin as “a very complicated person, a very driven person, a very callous person,” and said he was “disappointed” that his overwhelming urge to make art “led him to hurt or use so many people badly.”

The show was co-produced with the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and opened in Ottawa in late May. A few days before the opening, the museum’s newly appointed director, Sasha Suda, and the exhibition’s curators decided to edit some of the wall texts after touring the show. Nine labels were changed to avoid culturally insensitive language, according to the museum’s press office.

In Ottawa, the title “Head of a Savage, Mask” was shown with an extended label explaining that the words ‘savage’ and ‘barbarian,’ “considered offensive today, reflect attitudes common to Gauguin’s time and place.” Elsewhere, his “relationship with a young Tahitian woman” was changed to “his relationship with a 13- or 14-year-old Tahitian girl.”

Ms. Suda said that out of 2,313 feedback cards submitted by visitors at the Canadian exhibition, about 50 were complaints about Gauguin and about the museum programming.

The show should “have addressed these issues in a more open and transparent way that connected with contemporary audiences,” Ms. Suda said in an interview. Addressing “blind spots” in the work of historical artists “could make those artists more relevant,” she added.

To other museum professionals, re-examining the lives of past artists from a 21st-century perspective is risky, because it could lead to the boycott of great art.

“The person, I can totally abhor and loathe, but the work is the work,” said Vicente Todolí, who was Tate Modern’s director when it staged a major Gauguin exhibition in 2010, and is now the artistic director of the Pirelli HangarBicocca art foundation in Milan.

“Once an artist creates something, it doesn’t belong to the artist anymore: It belongs to the world,” he said. Otherwise, he cautioned, we would stop reading the anti-Semitic author Louis-Ferdinand Céline, or shun Cervantes and Shakespeare if we found something unsavory about them.

Yet Ashley Remer, a New Zealand-based American curator who in 2009 founded girlmuseum.org, an online museum focused on the representation of young girls in history and culture, insisted that in Gauguin’s case the man’s actions were so egregious that they overshadowed the work.

Ms. Remer questioned the constant exhibitions of Gauguin and the Austrian artist Egon Schiele, who also depicted nude underage models, and the ways those shows were put together. “I’m not saying take down the works: I’m saying lay it all bare about the whole person,” she said.

Gauguin remains a tourist draw in Polynesia and the South Pacific. There is even a luxury cruise line that tours the region that is named after him. But to many locals, the painter’s clichéd representations of lush, exotic islands full of dusky maidens with no voice or identity are tiresome.

“Gauguin, you piss me off,” begins “Two Nudes On a Tahitian Beach, 1894,” a poem by the New Zealand poet and academic Selina Tusitala Marsh.

You strip me bare
assed, turn me on my side
shove a fan in my hand
smearing fingers on thigh
pout my lips below an
almond eye and silhouette me
in smouldering ochre.

The anonymity of his Tahitian portraits is another cause of frustration. In the 2009 photographic series “Dee and Dallas Do Gauguin,” the New Zealand-born Samoan artist Tyla Vaeau has cut out the faces in Gauguin reproductions and inserted photos of her own sister and friend.

Gauguin’s art is a problem “if it continues to be used to frame the Pacific in this timeless, semi-damaged past, when actually there’s so much going on,” said Caroline Vercoe, a senior lecturer in art history at the University of Auckland who is part Samoan and is participating in the National Gallery in London’s talk and film program. “It’s such a lively and dynamic culture within the indigenous context as well.”

Even to his admirers, Gauguin invites questioning. The African-American painter Kehinde Wiley — who described Gauguin as one of his idols in a 2017 interview, but also as “creepy” — recently painted a series in Tahiti inspired by Gauguin that depicts the mahu, a nonbinary community considered a “third gender” in Polynesia.

“I love his paintings, but I find him a little bit strange,” Mr. Wiley says in a National Gallery film. “The ways we see black and brown bodies from the Pacific are shot through his sense of desire. But how do you change the narrative? How do you change the way of looking?”

To ensure that Gauguin’s artistic legacy is not besmirched by his “marriages” to underage girls, these relationships should be covered in exhibitions, said Line Clausen Pedersen, a Danish curator who has put on several Gauguin shows. With each exhibition, “another layer is peeled off the protection of history that he has somehow enjoyed,” she said. “Maybe the time is ripe to take off more layers than before.”

“What’s left to say about Gauguin,” she added, “is for us to bring out all the dirty stuff.”
Source: The NY Times 


A Look at the NYC Contemporary Art Sales

Baron's has a good recap on the NYC contemporary art sales from Sotheby's, Christie's and Phillips. Noting biding was active, buy-through rates strong, but lacking the high dollar trophy works as in some past sales.

Overall sales were down 31.5% from 2018 sales for a total of $581.8 million, which according to ArtTactic is the lowest Nov Contemporary sale results since 2011. They also note sales were down over 30% from the 2019 Spring sales. Guarantees coming late in the auction cycle also had an impact.

Baron's reports on the sales
The auction houses saw brisk bidding, and strong sell-through rates in the contemporary art auctions in New York this week, yet a dearth of major estate sales or huge-ticket contemporary works on the scale of a $90 million Jeff Koons ’ Rabbit pushed overall results lower.

According to ArtTactic, sales of contemporary art at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips, in New York this fall fell 31.5% from last November’s results to a total $581.8 million. That’s the lowest result since November 2011, the London-based art market analysis firm said in research released Friday morning.

The fall sales were also 31% lower than the total sales achieved in May in New York, ArtTactic found.

“We’re finding people still want to buy, but the level has come down and the auction houses reflect that,” says Morgan Long, head of art investment at the Fine Art Group in London. “The appetite for pieces in the $50-million-plus range has lessened slightly.”

Still, the auction houses proved buyers were out there for a wide range of art, a fact that was supported by effective pre-auction selling that led to high percentages of lots sold for the major evening sales. ArtTactic’s analysis, in fact, showed a 3.3% average gain in the sell-through rate to 91.9% overall.

“If you are around the 90% level, that’s considered a very healthy market,” says Todd Levin, of Levin Art Group in New York. “Both sales [ Christies and Sotheby’s] for the most part had reasonably constructive healthy bidding. It was a competitive field for the desirable works.”

Sotheby’s sold $271 million of contemporary art at its evening auction on Thursday, including fees, against a pre-sale estimate range between $213.7 million and $300.3 million, with 92% of the lots sold, while Phillips saw a 22% gain in its contemporary evening sale over last year, realizing $108 million, with 95% of lots sold. On Wednesday, Christie’s raised $325.3 million with 89% of lots sold. 

At Sotheby’s, some of the most exciting moments of the evening were not the big-ticket top lots—like Willem de Kooning’s Untitled XXII, 1977, which sold for $30.1 million, with fees—but for works that set new benchmarks for long-established artists.

That storyline began at the evening’s outset with a bidding battle for Charles White’s charcoal on illustration board work, Ye Shall Inherit the Earth, 1953, which hammered at $1.45 million—nearly $1.8 million with fees—easily double its high estimate of $700,000. Norman Lewis ’ Ritual, 1962, later sailed past a $1 million high estimate to hammer at $2.3 million—$2.8 million with fees. Both results were auction records for the artists.

There was also a 15-minute-long volley for bids largely between specialists on the phone for Clyfford Still’s PH-399, 1946, a key work in the history of abstract expressionism, which hammered at $21.1 million, achieving $24.3 million, with fees. Also noteworthy: Wayne Thiebaud’s Encased Cases, 2011, hammered for $7.2 million, nearly $8.5 million with fees, achieving a new auction record for the artist, who turns 99 on Friday.

Overall, the bidding throughout was strong, with at least three bidders on average participating in each lot, according to Sotheby’s. That was despite the fact that 20 of the 49 lots carried guarantees, meaning the sale of works were secured. Guarantees are pre-arranged sales at a fixed price with the consignor and the auction house or a third party, while an irrevocable bid is a promise to bid at a price to sell during the auction.

Many of the guarantees by the auction houses, and third parties, came late in the auction cycle once it became clear that demand was stronger than initially anticipated when the auction houses were consigning works, says Evan Beard, national art services director at Bank of America Private Bank. At that time, about six months ago, worries about a pending recession were more prevalent. 

That meant fewer guarantors were around to support super-high price tags on trophy works. ArtTactic found that the value of guarantees had dropped 33% in the fall to $360.5 million, down from $537.2 million a year earlier. Overall, 52.1% of the lots were guaranteed this fall, down from 52.7% last year.

“The market for auction guarantees (risk appetite among guarantors) is now pretty much deciding the outcome at the top end of the art market, and it looks like the guarantors are increasingly getting jittery,” ArtTactic said.

But the fact more guarantors stepped in just ahead of the sales could be a sign of renewed market strength. Those who put up guarantees—and that includes many long-time collectors—share in the amount a work fetches above the guarantee level, a gamble collectors comfortable with owning the works seem more willing to take now, according to Beard. 

At Bank of America, “we did a lot of deals ahead of the sale to ensure and enable some of that buying,” he says.

It’s that demand that could bode well for the spring, when Beard says “a couple very exciting large estates” are likely to hit the market.

Among them will be the more than $700 million art collection owned by the billionaires Harry Macklowe and Linda Macklowe, who are divorcing. According to artnet News, a court is ordering the sale of the collection, and it is expected to be handled by one of the major auction houses.

Generally, the estates include “a few higher-value works than we saw this season,” which Beard says, “could create an umbrella effect for the market.”

But then again, he adds, “who knows?”
Source: Baron's 


Declining Sales

Although the sales were not expected to generate nearly as much as the Fall 2018 sales, the NY Times reports on some significant declines in sales totals. I viewed many of the lots at both Christie's and Sotheby's, and there was some really good art, but I dont think many considered it, with a few exceptions, a top sales season. Many trade publications were predicting a rather steep decline in sales performance. Sales were down compared to the May auctions as well.

The NY Times reports on the sales
Fall Art Auctions See Significant Declines
In a “season with few trophies,” auctions see a falloff from spring’s bonanza.

  • Ed Ruscha’s ”Hurting the Word Radio #2” sold for $52.5 million at Christie’s contemporary art auction Wednesday.

What a difference a season makes. Back in May, a $91.1 million Jeff Koons sculpture and $110.7 million Monet created the impression that business at top-end art auctions was booming.

But this week, against a backdrop of presidential impeachment hearings, Brexit and other geopolitical distractions, numbers at New York’s marquee fall sales of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art were significantly down. The change in mood was clear on Monday and Tuesday evening as sales of Impressionist and modern art dipped 52 percent at Christie’s and 40 percent at Sotheby’s over their equivalent sales last May.

By Wednesday, Christie’s fall auction of contemporary art raised $325.3 million, versus the $539 million it achieved in the spring, when the Koons and other pieces from the S.I. Newhouse collection were included. In the absence of a prestigious estate, and with owners reluctant to release blue-chip masterworks, there was little to whet collectors’ appetites.

“This was a season with few trophies,” said Thomas Danziger, an attorney specializing in art law at the New York firm Danziger, Danziger & Muro, LLP. “The auction houses did the best with what they had.” From the seller’s point of view, he added, “The mood is not good, but the art market as we know it is not coming to an end.”

Here at Christie’s, in front of a packed auction room, the critically admired California artist Ed Ruscha created the main excitement when his rare, early word painting “Hurting the Word Radio #2,” dating from 1964, sold for $52.5 million with fees, an auction high for the artist. It was bought by one of three determined telephone bidders, after it had been guaranteed to sell for at least $30 million.

Entered from the celebrated Beverly Hills collection of Joan and Jack Quinn, who had acquired the work directly from the artist, this five-foot-high sky-blue canvas depicted the word RADIO in bright yellow letters, tugged and pinched by metal C-clamps.

The enigmatic fusions of Pop and conceptual art, centered on texts, produced by Mr. Ruscha in California in the 1960s, are now considered ahead of their time. But these early paintings rarely appear for sale. Another, titled “Smash,” from 1963, sold at auction in 2014 for $30.4 million.

“He did very few of these clamped pictures where the letters are torqued,” said Todd Levin, a New York-based art adviser. “It was an early painting with a great provenance in excellent condition. If you are a Ruscha collector it ticked all the boxes.”

David Hockney’s rediscovered canvas, “Sur la Terrasse,” showing the artist’s then-lover, Peter Schlesinger, on the balcony of the couple’s room at the Hotel La Mamounia in Marrakesh in 1971, had been the most highly-estimated lot of the night, at $25 million to $45 million.

With the painting being from an unnamed European collection, and last seen in public in 1973, the seller might have hoped to capitalize on the interest generated by the $90.3 million price at Christie’s last November for Mr. Hockney’s 1972 “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)”. But bidding was measured, two telephones slowly pushing the price to $29.5 million, just above estimate.

Demand was similarly sluggish for other highly valued lots of the night. Gerhard Richter’s 1967 photo-based painting of a ship, “Vogelfluglinie,” brought $20.5 million against a low estimate of $18 million and Yves Klein’s 1960 abstract “Barbara (ANT 113),” painted using a female body as the brush, sold for $15.6 million against a low estimate of $12 million.

As ever, Christie’s hoped to energize bidding by front-loading the sale with on-trend younger artists who have waiting lists of buyers. Dana Schutz’s 2016 canvas, “Shooting on the Air,” inspired by the on-air murder of two television journalists, sold for $1.1 million against an estimate at $600,000 to $800,000. It had been purchased just three years earlier at a gallery in Berlin, in the same exhibition as “Open Casket,” whose evocation of the body of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old black boy who was lynched by two white men in Mississippi in 1955, which caused a furor at the 2017 Whitney Biennial.

That controversy has not hampered the artist’s auction prices. In May, a large painting by Ms. Schutz titled “Civil Planning” sold for $2.4 million, her best price.

  • David Hockney’s “Sur la Terrasse,” painted in 1971, was rediscovered. It sold for $29.5 million.

At least there’s something to look forward to. Next year the auction houses will compete to sell the collection of Harry and Linda Macklowe, whose divorce proceedings have dragged on for several years as they battle over assets that include an art collection valued at $700 million.

“It will be better next season, quite apart from the Macklowes,” said Evan Beard, the national art services executive at Bank of America Private Bank. “There are bigger estates in play at the moment, and people will want to take advantage of the last auction season before the election.”

As ever, death, divorce, debt and demand dictate numbers in the art market.

  • Dana Schutz’s “Shooting on the Air,” which was estimated at $600,000 to $800,000, sold for $1.1 million at Christie’s on Wednesday evening.Credit...via Christie's
Source: The NY Times 


AAA Art Law Day

Just back from a great visit to NYC and AAA/Art Law Day. I had a great time between the pretensions, programs and events as well as visiting the Impressionist/Modern/Post War/Contemporary sale previews. Saw some friends and business associates I have not seen in some time, and had some great meals.

Art Law Day was to a full house, I enjoyed all of the presentations(which for me is unusual) and I learned much. Even though the presentation hall was full, I was surprised that I did not see more appraisers that I knew.

There were some interesting discussions on the state of the market, how many of the new tech firms getting into the art market only have about a year to establish, succeed or fail, some very interesting presentations on reparations, as well as the intersection of finance and art. Some of the topics dont apply directly to my appraisal practice, but I always enjoy learning more and understanding the growth of art and technology and finance.

I highly recommend appraiser to start planning to attend next years sessions. A big shout out to all AAA staff in running such an excellent event.


Fine Art and Selling Real Estate

I posted a similar article a few weeks back on the fine art and the sale of real estate. Below is an article from the Seattle Times about how fine art properly displayed can assist in selling homes and creates a value added atmosphere. The article also has notes on collecting.

The Seattle Times reports
Art helps make a sale.

Everyone has an opinion about what clinched the deal.

For Christine Neptune, a collector and co-owner of Gallery Neptune & Brown, “it was the art that sold the apartment. Other than that my tiny New York studio was a small white box. The interior came alive because of the art.”

“Art creates the impression of a more valuable home. If you think about a beautifully designed home with strong architecture, you can appreciate it for what it is, but without art it’s not finished. It’s missing an important component. Art rounds out the impression of living there,” said Theo Adamstein, a sales associate with TTR Sotheby’s International Realty.

Art can enhance the value of the house but a real estate agent can’t pinpoint a number or percentage.

“It doesn’t work like that,” Adamstein said. “You can’t say by how much because that implies there’s a formula and if you spend a certain amount then the house goes up a certain amount. Art embellishes a home, it adds to a home’s character, it adds color and rhythm and makes it more interesting than it may otherwise be, and that absolutely adds value.”

Chris and Beverly With live in a two-floor District of Columbia condominium packed with works on paper. Hundreds of framed pictures plus sculptures cover every square inch of wall space.

“No space goes untouched. The guest bathroom is our photography gallery,” Beverly With said. A print hangs on the small area below the wall cutout between the kitchen and dining room inches above the dining room floor. The walls lining two staircases — one from the entry door to the main living area and a second from the living room up to the bedrooms — are covered chock-a-block.

“We don’t want empty space so there’s no place we don’t put art. If you want to find a spot, you will. In the kitchen or bathroom or wherever. Nature abhors a vacuum,” Chris With said.

Paula Amt, owner of Framesmith DC and a collector, lives in a 400-square-foot space. “My art is hung floor to ceiling. I minimize the space between works to fit in another piece because I want to see what I can see,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter if your home is large or small, if you rent or own. Don’t stop collecting because you think you don’t have any more room. Just make the spaces between the pieces smaller,” she said.

Anthony Gyepi-Garbrah and Desirée Venn Frederic’s home in Northeast Washington’s Trinidad neighborhood is distinguished by dozens of paintings and prints hanging salon-style on the walls and doors, sculptures lining the floors, and antique furnishings all around.

“Art in our home makes a place for us and provides benefits. It enhances our design perspective, it helps bring our attention to certain parts of the apartment, it provides accents, invokes emotion and adds clarity,” Gyepi-Garbrah said.

Joy, not investment
Robert Brown, the other co-owner of Gallery Neptune & Brown and a collector, recommends collecting for joy, not investment. “Buy pieces you can’t live without. Something that gives you pleasure and a thrill every time you look at it,” he said.

You and your partner’s tastes may differ but that shouldn’t create tension, he said. Instead celebrate and broaden your assemblage with works that appeal to both of you. “Buying art isn’t a competition,” he added.

“When you start buying, accept that your taste will evolve and you may not like a piece in 10 years. When that time comes, sell or give it away,” Chris With said.

“Buy what you love. That’s the most important thing. Then the art will move around all your real estate,” Neptune said.

Go to galleries and museums around town.

Ask questions and ask to see work not in view. Galleries have rooms in the back with files holding many pieces. Owners will work with your budget and show you art in a range of prices. You can buy on credit and often on installment. Sometimes you can take a piece home “on approval” to see how you like it.

“Don’t be embarrassed or shy. That’s why we’re here,” Brown said. “It’s our job to talk about art in a way that makes you feel comfortable and teaches you.”

“Some people approach art as decoration as opposed to collecting. That’s a short-term solution. Collecting art is long term. It doesn’t make sense to waste your money on the short term. Take a little longer to decide what you love and to save money to buy it,” he said.

“People will come in and tell us they have a spot in mind. ‘I have a spot behind my couch,’ they say. A year later, they move or get a new couch. Especially in Washington because moving is common. Instead think about what you love so that when you move you want to take it along,” Neptune said.

“Many people fill their living spaces with sentimental mementos rather than fine art,” Larry Kirkland, an artist and collector, said. Sentimental can be fine, but it can also mean insipid prints, anodyne landscapes, calendar still lifes and pastoral photos.

“If you really are an art collector some of your art may bring up a memory but you buy a piece because it challenges you emotionally and intellectually,” he said.
Source: Seattle Times 


Some Major Forgeries

Fellow appraiser Marcus Wardell sent me an interesting article from the Daily Mail on a group of paintings (17), including a Picasso, a Monet and a Dali, on view in one of Prince Charles' homes, Dumfries House, once considered authentic with many now identified as forgeries. American forger, Tony Tetro claims to have painted several of the works, and sold them to businessman James Stunt who loaded them to Dumfries House for an exhibition.

I recommend you read the full article, really very interesting.

The Daily Mail reports

  • A £50m Monet water lily painting, a £42m Picasso and a £12m Dali are in doubt
  • They are among 17 paintings on loan to Dumfries House from James Stunt
  • Convicted US art forger Tony Tetro said he painted them and sold them to Stunt
  • All 17 pictures have been taken down and returned to the bankrupt businessman 
  • But the former bullion dealer insists: 'None of my stuff is fake'

Prince Charles has become embroiled in a major art scandal following allegations that a painting at one of his favourite stately homes is an audacious fake – and not the £50 million Monet it was claimed to be.

An American forger says he, not the 19th Century French impressionist, painted the image of water lilies that hung at Dumfries House, the headquarters of The Prince's Foundation. It has now been removed from public view.

This newspaper has also seen evidence that two other artworks there – purporting to be a £42 million Picasso and a £12 million Dali – are also counterfeit.

They are among 17 paintings on loan to the house from bankrupt businessman James Stunt, the former husband of Formula 1 heiress Petra Ecclestone.

A Prince's Foundation spokesman last night confirmed: 'Dumfries House accepts artwork on loan from time to time from individuals and organisations.

'It is extremely regrettable that the authenticity of these particular paintings, which are no longer on display, now appears to be in doubt.'

Yesterday American artist Tony Tetro, who was once sentenced to six months in prison for art forgery, told The Mail on Sunday he had painted the pictures and sold them to Mr Stunt.

Mr Tetro today makes a legal living replicating masterpieces for private use by clients in their homes and offices, and said Mr Stunt acquired 11 such pieces.

He said: 'You can impress your friends with my pictures, decorate your home with them, but they would never pass expert scrutiny.'

Of the pictures on loan to The Prince's Foundation, he said: 'I don't want any part of this. It has got to be stopped now rather than later. I'm told these pictures went to Dumfries House. There is no question about it: James knew they were mine.'

When approached by this newspaper, Dumfries House said there had already been concerns about the disputed 'Monet', and that it had been removed from public view. All 17 pictures loaned by Mr Stunt have now been taken down and returned to him.

However, this version of events is disputed by the former bullion dealer, who insisted: 'None of my stuff is fake.'

This newspaper has seen loan agreements between Mr Stunt and Dumfries House for the three 'fake' paintings complete with purported insurance valuations for a total of £104 million.

The documents also include a claim that the prestigious Wildenstein Institute in Paris had authenticated the pieces. The institute is a globally acknowledged art authority unrivalled in its expertise on Monet. No one there could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The 'Monet' is entitled Lily Pads 1882; the 'Picasso' depicts two stylised figures on a beach and is called Liberated Bathers; while the 'Dali' is a crucifixion scene entitled Dying Christ.

All 17 of Stunt's pictures were on a ten-year, free lease to Dumfries House, with the loan agreements signed by Michael Fawcett, Charles's former valet who is now the £95,000-a-year chief executive of the Prince's Foundation. A spokesman for the foundation said all decisions about artwork are made by the charity, not Prince Charles personally.

Tony Tetro: The altar boy who became one of the world's top forgers
Perhaps it was the Lamborghini. Or maybe it was the Rolls-Royce and the two Ferraris – but Tony Tetro's neighbours were convinced that the man with no discernible day job was a drug dealer.

The truth, however, was much more fascinating and, when the police finally came for him in 1989, they weren't searching for drugs but paintings.

Tetro, a former altar boy from New York, was arrested for art forgery involving works by Dali, Rockwell, Joan Miro and Marc Chagall that had been sold at a Los Angeles gallery for £75,000.

In court, he admitted painting the artworks but said he believed that they would be sold as reproductions, not originals.

After a four-and-a-half-year trial, which left him penniless, he was found guilty of attempted theft and six counts of art forgery and in a plea deal agreed to serve six months in prison.

But he was allowed to keep working providing it was made clear the works were fake. Now 70, he has reinvented himself as an art expert, even appearing on BBC1's Fake Or Fortune.

But a recent trip to see how Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel frescos had been restored left him disappointed. 'I preferred the original,' he said.

Mr Fawcett has enjoyed an extraordinary rise to influence, despite having been forced to resign from royal service twice.

The first time was in 1998 amid allegations of bullying, the second was in 2003 when he was found to have been selling off official gifts on Charles's orders. He was accused of pocketing a percentage of the proceeds but cleared by an internal inquiry of any financial misconduct.

Before being put in charge of Charles's entire charity empire following a reorganisation last year, Mr Fawcett – who once reputedly squeezed toothpaste on to the Prince's toothbrush after he broke his arm playing polo – was chief executive of Dumfries House Trust for five years.

The Palladian mansion in Ayrshire was saved for the nation by Prince Charles in 2007. He headed a consortium which bought it for £45 million, of which £20 million was a loan borrowed against his charitable foundation.

The house had a sparse art collection so has borrowed works from established collections including the Scottish National Gallery and the Bute family, the Scottish aristocrats who owned the 2,000-acre estate before its acquisition by the Prince's consortium. The long-term loan of artworks is standard practice at many historic houses.

Mr Stunt is a well-known art collector and has previously boasted of having sent works by Monet, Van Dyck, Dali, Picasso, Velazquez, Constable and Chagall to Dumfries House and a number of other leading institutions.

It is understood the three 'fakes' were all accepted in good faith and that The Prince's Foundation was not responsible for verifying the authenticity of the paintings.

Mr Stunt was made bankrupt with debts of up to £14 million in June this year, with the judge calling his behaviour towards his long list of creditors 'appalling'. He has long been known for his colourful and extravagant lifestyle. In 2011, he and Petra bought a 123-room mansion in Los Angeles – said to be the city's largest private home – for £67.5 million and at one time he had a fleet of 200 supercars and a wine cellar worth £400,000.

Mr Stunt married Ms Ecclestone in 2011, after meeting on a blind date five years earlier, and they have three children. However, their marriage foundered and they settled a £5.5 billion divorce in October 2017. Mr Stunt said of the pictures he loaned to Dumfries House: 'None of these pictures have come back, they are all there. No Monet has come back to me because it is not real.

'None of my stuff is fake. When it comes to art, when it is in Wildenstein, it cannot be fake.'

The £50million conundrum: Where IS the 'fake' Monet painting that hung at Prince Charles's Dumfries House?
The walls of the Picture Gallery in Prince Charles's Dumfries House are a vivid emerald, an appropriate colour given the artistic gems it holds.

There are Dutch masterpieces from the 17th Century and one of world's most dazzling collections of Chippendale chairs. A series of antique clocks bought after the Prince suggested the great Palladian mansion in Ayrshire 'lacked a heartbeat' add to the sense that this is a place where art matters.

Yet Dumfries House has now been revealed to be at the centre of some of the most audacious claims of art fakery in royal history.

For it was into this illustrious company of artworks that James Stunt, the bankrupt, bling-loving former husband of Formula 1 heiress Petra Ecclestone, is claimed to have inserted three replica paintings.

They had allegedly been knocked up on a kitchen table in California by Tony Tetro, a man who once served a prison sentence for art fraud.

Tetro ages his canvases with splashes of black coffee and bleach. 'With the coffee you can smell it sometimes,' he says. 'If you put your tongue on to it you can even taste it.

He dips the copper tacks which stretch the canvases over wood in vinegar to make them look antique. And it's his expert application of a brown pigment called umber, diluted with linseed oil, which finally gives the paintings the yellowed appearance of an old masterpiece.

Tetro claims three of his pieces hung in Dumfries House, including the fake Monet, designed to look like one of the 250 studies the great French impressionist made of the water lilies in the garden at his home in Giverny in Normandy, all blues and greens and shots of lemon. 'I was very proud of that,' says Tetro. 'It was a good Monet.'

There was a striking 'Dali', glossy and dark, of the crucified Christ. And finally there was an unmistakeable 'Picasso' of people at the seaside, resembling the artist's 1937 masterpiece On The Beach.

It is a different style to Picasso's famous paintings of people's faces with their features rearranged. That, Tetro says, is much more difficult to replicate. 'Picasso can be hard, you know, all those faces and eyes. Cubism is complicated.'

The paintings were on a ten-year loan to Dumfries House from Mr Stunt's extensive collection in an apparent act of philanthropy organised by Prince Charles's controversial aide Michael Fawcett. The three works in question had been valued for insurance purposes at £104 million in total.

The 'Monet' was first identified as likely to be a fake, then suspicions cast on the other two. The Monet was withdrawn from display and sent back to Stunt.

Now Dumfries House and the Prince's staff are urgently investigating how this could have happened. Stunt sent 17 pictures up to the property, but they have now all been returned to Stunt, Dumfries House says.

The scandal leaves many questions to be answered.

First, how could three fakes have slipped into a collection so closely associated with the Royal Family? Dumfries House is the headquarters of Prince Charles' charitable venture The Prince's Foundation, launched last year. He famously saved the stately home for the nation, stepping in with a £20 million loan when it looked set to be sold to pay off death duties in 2007. Ironically, he led the consortium buying the property because he believed so passionately in the artistic integrity of the stately home and its contents.

Second, why was the heir to the throne accepting art on loan from a disgraced bullion dealer who was declared bankrupt in June amid claims he owed up to £14 million.

Stunt has long courted controversy with his fleet of 200 supercars, his £400,000 wine cellar, his high-profile security detail and the kind of gambling habit which meant he could boast of a £5 million credit line at every casino in London, Monaco, Las Vegas and Macau. His godfather is Terry Adams, head of Britain's most notorious crime family.

And third: where's the Monet now? At Stunt's bankruptcy hearing in June his barrister Timothy Higginson said he was set to sell an unnamed Monet worth £2.1million through the Sotheby's auction house at a private sale in Hong Kong to help pay his creditors. It was said to have previously been loaned to Dumfries House.

Judge Clive Jones told the court he was 'extremely sceptical' the auctioneers would have completed their provenance checks on the painting, establishing its authenticity and history, having received it just a week before the hearing.

If that's the Dumfries House picture, it would have then had the cachet and credibility of Royal association. But if so it also raises a discrepancy between the value given in court and the £50 million Stunt said he had obtained as an insurance value.

The super wealthy often keep acquisition and ownership of expensive artwork secret for security reasons. Many things are opaque.

But what is clear is that the Prince is an unwitting victim, accepting the loan at face value.

Charles has written several letters to Stunt – and never a man to miss an opportunity, Stunt has had them framed and put on display in his office.

When he becomes King, Charles, of course, will preside over The Royal Collection, the most significant art collection in the world.

Yet, thanks to Stunt, his life has now intersected with that of Tetro, the world's greatest living art forger. Tetro's genius – if one can use that word – is his ability to replicate the work of any Old Master or modern artist. Only Pissarro has defeated him. 'Too fiddly, all those dots,' he admits.

Tetro's name and work might be familiar to viewers of the long- running BBC1 art detective programme Fake Or Fortune hosted by Fiona Bruce and art historian Philip Mould. They featured him in April 2015, seeking his opinion of a fake Marc Chagall picture. 'I know a lot about Chagall. I think I have painted more Chagalls than Marc Chagall ever did,' he says. By fluke, it was thanks to Fake Or Fortune that he met Stunt.

Tetro had bought a vintage Ferrari online from an Essex dealer. While it was awaiting shipping, it caught Stunt's eye. The dealer, knowing Stunt was an art obsessive told him the man who'd acquired it was an artist who had just been on TV. He offered to introduce them. Within a week Stunt was calling Tetro at his one-bedroom apartment in Newport Beach, California.

'James called me, he wanted a Picasso matador, he wanted me to make one up for his house, to show off. A Picasso had just sold for £138 million and elevated the price of every Picasso in the world. Picasso, Picasso, Picasso, it was what people wanted.

'He said it had to look real. I aged all his pictures artificially – that costs extra. If people are looking and they pick them up and they see a bright white shiny canvas and new stretcher bars then they know [it's a reproduction] – and he didn't want people to know. They would be able to tell in a second the pictures weren't real, they'd laugh at them. James's ambition was to hang them on his wall and impress his friends.

'I'm happy to do it. It's my job. It's like getting up in the morning and brushing my teeth and having breakfast, I get up and paint and age a masterpiece.'

The men developed a warm telephone relationship collaborating on the matador picture, which was based on a genuine Picasso image of a bullfighter and a woman. Tetro digitally manipulated the original, removed the female figure, and showed the new version to Stunt who loved it. 'We talked for hours on the phone before we met. He was generous, cordial but he goes on and off like a switch.'

Tetro then went to work at the small round table in his west-facing kitchen which catches the afternoon light. It's a peaceful place, painted in a shade he mixed himself which he nicknames 'Tetro taupe'. His own nudes hang on the wall. 'I don't use an easel. I prop the canvases up against a vase of the famous Three Graces statue which holds my paintbrushes. I do three or four hours a day. Any more and I get bored, burn out.'

They met for the first time in 2015 at the £67.5 million mansion Stunt and Petra had bought in Los Angeles. Tetro delivered the picture of a matador, along with a second Picasso, the Monet and a Rembrandt, all to be offered on spec to Stunt. Stunt took them all but Tetro was stunned when he paid not with cash but with a genuine painting – a portrait by Joshua Reynolds. Tetro auctioned it for £146,500 at Christie's in December that year.

Stunt would eventually purchase 11 Tetro replicas in total, including a Degas, a Van Gogh, a Chagall and a Rembrandt. Tetro also sold him a fake Caravaggio portrait of Leonardo da Vinci as a young man. It's actually a self portrait of Tetro when he was in his teens.

'Take 50 years off my face and you can see it's me. James still doesn't know it's me. I didn't tell him. Why would I?'

Tetro had even cracked the painting by hand, emulating the cracks which would exist in a real Caravaggio by now. 'You crackle a picture with two different varnishes, first a base coat and then a top coat, which goes on when it is still tacky. You let it sit at low humidity until it cracks and then I allow it to dry and fill in the cracks with umber.'

Tetro is clear that Stunt was only ever interested in the finished product, not the painting and ageing process. There was only one exception and that was when Stunt asked Tetro to amend a work he had on an office wall which resembled a Constable painting.

'He wanted me to put a rainbow on a Constable – Constable did a lot of rainbows but this was someone else's painting which just looked like Constable, some other Old Master.

'He was directing me, make that bridge darker, put a rainbow on. But you know, new paint on an old canvas, you shine a light on that and it's going to light up like a glow-in-the-dark poster. That was the only time he got involved. Other than that he never offered direction or showed an interest in how the fakes were produced.'

Tetro has never suggested his work would dupe art authorities. Modern pigments contain 21st Century chemicals and additives. New canvas is flexible but then becomes brittle with age. Stretcher bars usually come with an array of stamps from the galleries and collections which have housed the picture down the years.

He says of his work: 'You can impress your friends with it, decorate your home with it, but it would never pass [as the real thing]. The value of art today is so high, the scrutiny so intense. I know more about that than anyone who is not a conservator. And the provenance of a painting is worth more than the picture itself. No one would purchase without provenance and I made that endlessly clear to James.'

Nonetheless, Stunt seems to have wondered what an expert might think of it.

In 2016 Tetro painted and delivered Dying Christ by Salvador Dali to Stunt. Tetro says Stunt hosted a dinner in London for the world's foremost Dali expert and after dinner showed him the Dali only for the expert to exclaim: 'That's by Tony Tetro.'

In September 2017 Stunt invited Tetro to London and put him up in his Belgravia town house for four days. Ostensibly it was to discuss further commissions but he says Stunt spent most of the days asleep, leaving the artist in the company of the servants and bodyguards who eventually drove him back to Heathrow.

When he returned to Los Angeles communication between them cooled and, although Tetro painted another Picasso for him, to order, it has never been delivered. 'He asked for a good Picasso so I did one of Dora Maar, Picasso's mistress. But he stopped returning my calls.'

It was about this time, he says, that he learned of the existence of loan contracts between Stunt and Dumfries House for the Monet, the Picasso and the Dali which he knew to be his.

Fearing he would be implicated, he has now decided to speak publicly about his relationship with Stunt.

'I don't want trouble, I don't want any part of this. This has got to be stopped now rather than later,' he said.

'James knew they were mine.'

Interestingly, in one final twist to this caper, Tetro reveals that Stunt paid for a second tranche of work with another picture by Joshua Reynolds. Tetro put it up for auction with Christie's. The day before the sale, the auctioneers called him.

They were pulling it. The reason? They thought it was a forgery.
Source: The Daily Mail 


Fractional Art Investments

Over the past several years I have posted on fractional art investments. The Art Newspaper has an interesting look at the state of fractional art investments. What was once thought of as a sure hit, now has some concerns that fractional art investment funds are not nearly as strong and as an important component to the art market as originally thought.

The Art Newspaper reports
Some two years ago, fractional investment in art was the hottest topic around. On panels in art market centres in New York, Basel or London, speakers enthused about how selling shares in works of art could transform and democratise the art market.

They said that even the small investor could own a share in, say, a multi-million-dollar Picasso. Further, the idea was that the shares could be traded, as derivatives, on an exchange, without the underlying asset being sold. The transactions would be recorded on a blockchain, another red-hot topic at the time.

Companies such as Feral Horses, Maecenas, Masterworks or Look Lateral were founded, later joined by start-ups such as ArtSquare (“the new art market, for everyone”) Malevich (“we make art accessible”) or Artopolie (“turns art into fractional shares”).

So where are we now?

One of the best funded of these firms is Maecenas, with more than $15m in investment. In 2018 it sold 31.5% of a tokenised work, Warhol’s 14 Small Electric Chairs (1980), for $1.7m, becoming the first company to do this. However, the amount fell well short of the 49% ownership that was on offer.

Payment was in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin or Ethereum, or Maecenas’s own ART. Cryptocurrencies have been volatile, and Maecenas is now rolling out a new “tokenisation vehicle”, with existing tokens migrating to the new structure. It is also operating an “airdrop”, giving away small quantities of tokens. According to its co-founder and chief executive Marcelo García Casil, the new token will “open up the market to non-accredited investors”. Asked about the departure of Maecenas’s head of marketing, Marc Garriga, Casil says: “Like every other company, we have staff changes.”

Meanwhile, what about the Warhol? It was sold by a London gallery, Dadiani Fine Art (in partnership with Maecenas), which has now closed. Eleesa Dadiani, the gallery founder, says she is still working as an art dealer, but has not yet decided on a new physical space. She says the Warhol is in storage in Switzerland and “we are set to tokenise the remaining 68.5%”.

Other start-ups in the same space have also had to make changes: some exchanges, often promised for 2019, have been pushed back to 2020, and Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) have mainly been superseded by Security Token Offerings, which are backed by real assets such as commodities or equities. For Maecenas, Casil says that Atex-exchange, which would allow holders to trade tokens, “should happen soon, within weeks”.

Opinions are divided as to the future of this field. For Frédéric de Senarclens, the founder of ArtMarketGuru, there is the difficulty of creating liquidity in this field and the lack of a big enough client base. “The desire for fractional investment in art is not clear,” he says, noting that “most of these ventures have been created by people with no background in art”.

The 2019 Deloitte Art and Finance report notes that only 19% of collectors and art professionals said they were interested in fractional ownership, although younger and newer buyers were far more interested than older and more established ones. For Deloitte’s global art and finance director Adriano Picinati di Torcello: “The future of fractional ownership could be bright, but a certain number of challenges need to be overcome to make it mainstream.”

There is no doubt that interest in all forms of investment in art is currently high, boosted by the immense prices realised for a few works. However, for me, fractional ownership poses multiple problems. The high prices are for a tiny fraction of works, and to imagine that all art is a good investment is simply wrong. The lack of homogeneity between different artworks is another obstacle and a Warhol can be worth ten, or 100, depending on a number of factors: art is not a fungible asset like gold or stocks. The founders’ lack of expertise in the art world must be a problem here. The promised exchanges have yet to materialise, and the use of tokens and cryptocurrencies poses problems for oversight, volatility and of possible wrong-doing. And finally, it is not clear, as De Senarclens says, that there is really much of an appetite for what is a very speculative field.
Source: The Art Newspaper