11/21/2017

Looking at Last Week's Sales


AsI mentioned earlier this week, if I saw an interesting post  article on the various NYC auction sales from "gigaweek" I would post. The following is an interesting article from The Telegraph in the UK, which notes total sales from gigaweek reached $2.18 billion. What is interesting beyond the da Vinci at $450 million is the performance of the Impressionist and modern sales being stronger than the contemporary art sector. The Imp/Mod sales outperformed the Contemporary sales at both Sotheby's and Christie's. Also, the article notes the strength in Asian collectors and bidding.

The Telegraph reports
Last week was what the Americans call “gigaweek” in the sale rooms because New York hosts the high value Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art sales. These biannual series (May and November) reached a peak in May 2015 at $2.75 billion , but sunk a year later to just over $1 billion. Since then, they have been edging back up again, reaching $1.6 billion this May. 

For the auction houses – and market confidence in general – it was important that this November’s gigaweek maintained the upward momentum – one good reason for Christie’s to include a Leonardo da Vinci (usually the terrain of the Old Master sales) valued at $100 million .

As it was, Salvator Mundi made $450 million, lifting the week’s takings to $2.18 billion. But to assess the real performance of the core Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary markets we need to disregard the Leonardo because it is an Old Master, so reducing the gigaweek total to $1.7 billion.

This still represents a healthy 30 per cent increase from last November’s $1.3 billion sales, but when broken down reveals an unexpected imbalance between the two categories of Modern and Contemporary art.

Not only did Impressionist and Modern art exceed the normally superior Contemporary art total at Sotheby’s and Christie’s in New York, but the upward curve for Modern art (up 75 per cent since last November) was far greater than for Contemporary art (up nine per cent, excluding the Leonardo, since last November).

At Christie’s Impressionist and Modern sale, impressive record prices were set for an early, 1913 abstraction by Fernand Leger ($70 million); a surreal landscape by Magritte ($20.6 million); and a classic, densely patterned Vuillard interior ($17.7 million).

The most conspicuous buying pattern was the strength of Asian bidding, which accounted for about 40 per cent of the value of Christie’s $479 million sale, one of its best ever in this category. Asian buyers won top lots by van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir, Chagall, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

The van Gogh of a field worker sold well above estimate for $81.3 million, close to a record a price. The Hepworth, a mahogany carving of an abstracted female figure, sold for $1.6 million – an increase in value by an average 13 per cent each year since 1993, when it last sold, for $57,500.

At Sotheby’s equivalent $270 million modern art sale, Asian bidders contributed to nearer 50 per cent of the total, buying top lots by C├ęzanne, Chagall, Monet and Gauguin. For the top lot, the Chagall classic, Les Amoureux, an Asian bidder pushed a patriotic Russian collector (Chagall was Russian) into paying a record $28 million.

At Phillips, which straddles the modern and contemporary in one sale, the strongest performer was a drawing by Picasso owned by the family of Elvis Presley’s music publisher, Julian Aberbach, which sold for $9.3 million (eight times the estimate), to an Asian buyer.

Apart from a $32 million Warhol of Mao, a $14.7 million bronze spider by Louise Bourgeois, and a record $8.9 million for an ebullient late work by the abstract expressionist Hans Hofmann, Asian buyers for high-end contemporary material were hard to detect at any of the evening sales.

There were numerous records lower down the price scale, though. African American artists continue to enjoy increasing interest with new records for Jack Whitten (fresh from a sell-out at Hauser & Wirth in London), and Kerry James Marshall, both represented in Tate Modern’s recent exhibition Soul of a Nation.

As a testimony to the queue of buyers at Marshall’s last show at Jack Shainman’s gallery in New York, a painting that was bought two years ago, reportedly for $750,000, had nine different telephone bidders and sold for five times its $5 million estimate. Also shown by Shainman is Britain’s Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, who joined the winners with a six-times estimate record of $1.6 million for a lively dance scene.

All-American stars benefitting from recent and current exposure at the Whitney Museum of American Art included Laura Owens (an eight-times estimate $1.75 million for a swirling mixed media abstract at Sotheby’s), and Shara Hughes, an artist in whom Charles Saatchi has made profitable investments, whose record shifted up to $85,000 for painting of a room with a view of boats sailing, estimated at $10,000 by Phillips.

In the end, it was superior material and Asian bidding that lifted the Impressionist and Modern sales above Contemporary. There was no real difference between Sotheby’s and Christie’s in the Contemporary sales, and had the Leonardo been sold in an Old Master sale, the slow recovery of the Contemporary market would have been clearer for all to see.
Source: The Telegraph 


11/20/2017

Marketing Da Vinci


Bloomberg has an interesting article on Christie's and their marketing approach of placing the Da Vinci  “Salvator Mundi”  in a postwar and contemporary sale, instead of the more traditional approach in an Old Masters auction. The record breaking $450 million sale certainly shows the plan worked well.

I was in NYC and tried three times to view the sale, each time being met with long lines, and once with a Christie's rep stating those at the end of the line probably would not get in before closing.

Bloomberg reports on the marketing initiative
The vision came to Loic Gouzer when he was free diving in the Caribbean: Da Vinci and Warhol, together, on sale.

The Renaissance painter was on Gouzer’s mind because his colleague Alex Rotter was trying to secure Andy Warhol’s Da Vinci-inspired “Sixty Last Suppers” for Christie’s to put under the hammer. Wouldn’t it be something, Gouzer recalled thinking, if he landed Leonardo’s “Salvator Mundi” and the two, the very old and the fairly new, were presented at the same auction?

“It was a wild idea,” said Gouzer, 37, who is co-chairman with Rotter of Christie’s postwar and contemporary art department in the Americas. “But it felt very natural.”

At least, it did to Gouzer. He’s known for pushing the art-marketing envelope. “He hatches these brilliant, creative plans that at first sound kind of nuts,” said Sandy Heller, the art adviser to Dimitry Rybolovlev, the Russian billionaire who owned the Da Vinci before it sold on Nov. 15 for a record-shattering $450.3 million.

The 1986 Warhol went for a respectable $61 million, by the way, not that anyone was really paying much attention. All eyes and astonished gasps were on “Salvator Mundi,” Latin for “Savior of the World.”

Believed to be the last Da Vinci in private hands, it commanded four times what Christie’s had projected. The buyer still hasn’t been identified. Some skeptics question whether it’s the real deal. Rybolovlev is suing the Swiss dealer from whom he purchased it as part of a 40-plus collection of works, claiming he was overcharged by about $1 billion for the lot.

And “Salvator Mundi” was offered in a postwar and contemporary sale, rather than an Old Masters auction. The painting, thought to date to around 1500, was presented alongside a one-year-old installation consisting of a flock of balloonfish. (That fetched $516,500.)

‘Tapping Into The Moment’

Gouzer was one of several Christie’s staffers who pursued the Da Vinci, and Rotter, in fact, placed the winning bid on behalf of the mysterious client. “It has been incredible teamwork that led to this result,” said Christie’s Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Cerutti. But Gouzer, he said, was the catalyst.

Heller said he recognized the wisdom behind the unusual auction plan after he had lunch with Gouzer at Cipriani in Manhattan in May. “The painting deserved that kind of context, to be seen by the most committed art collectors, with the most money -- you have to go where money is.”

Christie’s Old Master specialists worked with Gouzer and Heller over the summer to hatch a strategy for promoting the work: hiring the ad agency Droga5, putting the canvas on a world-wide exhibit tour, lining up scholars who vouched for its brilliance. As luck (or planning) would have it, the efforts coincided with the release of Walter Isaacson’s new Da Vinci biography.

“We were tapping into the moment,” Heller said.

By the time “Salvator Mundi” made it to New York for display in November, people lined up around the block, in the rain, to see it. A video of their reactions, circulated by the auction house, shows some with tears in their eyes.

Gouzer, who grew up in Geneva and earned an art history degree from University College London, has made waves before. Soon after he arrived at Christie’s from rival Sotheby’s in 2011, he won a rare Yves Klein painting by persuading the owner to donate some of the proceeds to Oceana, a conservation nonprofit on whose board Gouzer sits.

“The owner didn’t want to sell,” he said. “He said, ‘No, I don’t need the money. I would not know what to do with it.’ I said, ‘How about saving the world?”’

Gouzer said he likes to test conventions, such as when he marketed an auction with a video of a skateboarder riding among the riches at Christie’s. In May 2015, he devised an uncommon hybrid event combining works from early 1900 to the contemporary era, called “Looking Forward to the Past.”

“I don’t think art should be sold on a horizontal, generational plane,” he said. “Once in a while it’s interesting to hit on a vertical.”

The 2015 sale at Christie’s marked the peak of the last market cycle and included Pablo Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O).” Its sale price was $179.4 million -- and it remained the most expensive work of art sold at auction until this week.
Source: Bloomberg 


11/19/2017

Getting Back on Track


Last weekend I headed to NYC for the AAA annual conference and had a great time. I did a short post while in New York on the large turn-out and excellent presentations.  For appraisers the timing of both AAA and ISA annual conferences are perfect, you can attend AAA in the fall and then in spring attend the ISA conference. Between the two organizations and excellent programs you should be able to gain specialty knowledge as well as building networks with fellow appraisers.

I spent an extra day in New York and went to the Met before coming home, and also found time to visit the MoMA.

Upond coming home I had some work to catch up on, attended the TAFAC meeting and prepared for our auction at the Potomack Company. With all of that going on I took a bit of a break in posting. I missed posting on the big NYC sales, but I am sure most appraisers have seen the various results. I will post some post postmortem reports when I spot them.

I will get back to regular posts this week, as I have David Maloney's 8th Edition of Appraising Personal Property: Principles & Methodology to review. From my preliminary scan of the new edition, it just keeps getting better and better, and as in past editions, it is written to conform with 2018-2019 USPAP.

This book, in my opinion is the best non-affiliated work on personal property available for PP appraisers. Each new edition should be in every appraisers library, regardless of skill or experience level. I have relied on my version for many years. Dave has been authoring this guide for years and it performs well as a stand alone book on personal appraisal principles and methodology or for an independent viewpoint as a supplement to augment publications issued by appraisal associations.  I will post more details on the new edition in a few days as I get back into the swing of posting.

Also, as I mention a week or so ago, Cindy Charleston Rosenberg, ISA CAPP and past president of ISA will be presenting an International Society of Appraisers webinar on art market trends. The webinar is scheduled for November 21st.

The one hour webinar is only $40.00 for ISA members and $50.00 for non-members on November 21, 2017. If you are interesting in current trends in the art market, as an appraiser, dealer, collector or allied professional. Cindy's webinar presentation should give good details and fill many of the gaps in understanding current art market trends.

The ISA webinar Leveraging Art Market Trends to Build Your Appraisal Practice is scheduled for Tuesday Nobember 21st at 1:00 pm EST (2:00 pm CST).

For more information and to register click HERE.

The International Society of Appraisers reports on the webinar
Shifting collecting patterns, goals and objectives can present powerful business opportunities for appraisers. What are the emerging trends in the management of art as a tangible asset class? How reliable are art market reports, and how can the appraiser use these statistics to build relationships with tax, wealth and legal advisers?

Learn how to educate wealth managers, attorneys and tax professionals about the seven key questions they should be asking their clients about their collections, and how these discussions can generate repeat sources of high-level appraisal assignments.

Participants are encouraged to email Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg at info@artappraisalfirm.com in advance of the webinar with any challenges they’ve encountered accessing and interacting with the wealth management community.

*This webinar will take place from 2:00-3:00pm CST.

Fees

Members
$40.00 before November 21, 2017
Non-members
$50.00 before November 21, 2017]

Source: International Society of Appraisers 



11/12/2017

Full House at AAA Conference



The first day of presentations is almost over and the AAA conference is off to another great start.  I left the conference a bit early to post and then visit the Impressionist/Modern/Contemporary exhibition at Christies.  From what I hear the lines are long to get in.

Unfortunately I was not able to attend art law day, but all of the feedback I heard is that it was an excellent day of presentations and useful content.

The crowd at the AAA conference is large and  and the presentations excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed this morning's Judd Tully keynote and the following panel with Evan Beard of US Trust and Anders Petterson of Art Tactic.


We had a great dinner on Saturday evening with Linda Selvin, ED of AAA along with other AAA leadership and a few members of the ISA leadership team attending the conference. The food was great and the atmosphere and company was excellent.

The 9th floor lounge of the New York Athletic Club was full, and staff kept bringing extra chairs in. The vendor room was also full and I spent some time talking with Eric Kahan of Collector Systems and Mark Bench of Borro.

I am looking forward to the Monday presentation on the Kollsman case.  Overall I am having a great time seeing many appraisal friends, great presentations and taking advantage of what NYC has to offer in food and culture.





11/09/2017

Court OKs Sale of Rockwell Works


A Massachusetts court ruled that Sotheby's can proceed with the sale of works from the Berkshire Museum. The Judge stated that those involved in suing to stop the sale had no standing.

Bloomberg reports on the decision
Sotheby’s can go forward with next week’s auction of art from the Berkshire Museum, including a Norman Rockwell painting worth as much as $30 million, over protest by the late artist’s sons that their father donated them to remain on permanent display.

A Massachusetts state judge ruled Tuesday that the two paintings Rockwell gave to the Pittsfield-based museum, as well as works by Albert Bierstadt, Alexander Calder and Frederic Church, can go on the auction block Nov. 13. The art is valued at as much as $68 million, Sotheby’s has estimated.

Rockwell’s sons sued to halt the sale, arguing the paintings, known as “Blacksmith Boy--Heel and Toe” from 1940 and “Shuffleton’s Barbershop” from 1950, could be purchased by a private collector, never to be seen again.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and former and current museum members also joined the effort to stop the sale. The state argued that a sale not only violated general museum ethics but that the trustees chose an “exorbitant” revitalization plan and upgrades that could cost $60 million.

Judge John Agostini rejected their arguments, concluding that neither Rockwell’s sons, the state of Massachusetts, nor former and current museum members had standing to sue to halt the sale. While the museum’s decision generated debate about the rights and responsibilities of museums to sell off works -- called “deacession” -- Agostini said the sale would help boost the museum’s financial outlook, which he said is “otherwise bleak.”

Berkshire Artist

The judge also rejected the plaintiffs’ argument and testimony from a retired museum curator, who said the artist donated the paintings because “they were his favorite oil paintings and he wanted them to stay on display in the Berkshires.”

“This may very well mean that timeless works by an iconic, local artist will be lost to the public in less than a week’s time,” Agostini said. “No doubt many will be disappointed in this outcome, and they may take little comfort knowing that, in their loss, the rights of a charitable board to make thoughtful decisions to steer its charity through troubled times have been vindicated.”

Sotheby’s said in a statement it is “very pleased that the court reaffirmed that the board of trustees acted in good faith and fulfilled its fiduciary duties.”

“We are looking forward to successful auctions beginning next week that will ensure a bright future for the Berkshire Museum in support of the community of Pittsfield and Western Massachusetts.”

Elizabeth McGraw, the president of the Berkshire Museum, said she and the board were grateful to Agostini.

“We believe we acted consistent with our responsibility to this community and our collections, to keep this museum open and strengthen it for generations to come,” she said. 
Jillian Fennimore, a spokeswoman for Healey, and Michael Keating, a lawyer for the Rockwell family, didn’t immediately return voicemail messages left after business hours seeking comment about the ruling or if they would appeal it.

The museum dates back to a collection donated by Zenas Crane, whose family founded the Crane & Co. paper manufacturing company used to make U.S. currency, according to the museum’s website. The family has been in the paper business since 1770, when a paper mill it operated near Boston made the cotton paper used to make Colonial currency.

The case is Thomas Rockwell v. Trustees of the Berkshire Museum, CIV No. 17-0253, Commonwealth of Massachusetts Superior Court (Berkshires).
Source: Bloomberg


11/08/2017

Harassment Allegations at the Armory Show


The NY Times reports on complaints of inappropriate comments and touching at the Armory Show, Artnet and Blouin Media. Allegations come from over 15 separate complaints.

The NY Times reports
Benjamin Genocchio, a prominent and influential figure in the art world, has been replaced as executive director of the Armory Show, a top international art fair, after five women who have worked with him over the years told The New York Times that they experienced unwelcome touching by him.

In interviews, a total of eight who had worked with him at the Armory Show, Artnet and Louise Blouin Media said he made sexually inappropriate comments to them, and an additional 11 people said they had observed or knew about Mr. Genocchio making these comments, often in the workplace.

“We have only recently learned of the allegations related to Mr. Genocchio’s previous employment,” the Armory Show said in a statement Wednesday after The Times had published an article about the accusations against Mr. Genocchio. “At this time, deputy director Nicole Berry has assumed the role of executive director.”

Mr. Genocchio had declined to be interviewed but on Tuesday issued a statement: “Launching start-up news websites definitely led to conflicts with a few employees, but I never intentionally acted in an inappropriate manner nor spoke to or touched a colleague in a sexually inappropriate way. To the extent my behavior was perceived as disrespectful, I deeply and sincerely apologize and will ensure it does not happen again.”

In one compelling account related by several women, more than 20 female employees gathered in August 2016 in the conference room at Artnet — the leading art-market information company — to discuss complaints about sexual harassment and the treatment of women in the office. As the director of human resources and other executives listened, women zeroed in on Mr. Genocchio, who had recently stepped down as editor of Artnet News to go to the Armory Show.

One of the women was Colleen Calvo, the marketing coordinator at the time, who began crying as she talked about encounters with Mr. Genocchio that she said had haunted her for months.

Ms. Calvo recounted those experiences in a recent interview. At Artnet’s 2014 holiday party at the Gramercy Park Hotel, as she was helping check in guests at the door, Mr. Genocchio ran his hand up her sequin pants, she said.

“Ben said, ‘Is this the only time I get to touch your ass without getting yelled at?’” Ms. Calvo recalled.

“He was predatory,” she added. “He was a bully.”

The accusations come in the wake of sexual assault allegations against the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, as well as sexual harassment accusations against Knight Landesman, a longtime publisher of Artforum magazine. Mr. Genocchio’s ouster was first reported by ArtNews.

Mr. Genocchio is not as well known as Mr. Weinstein and the complaints against him typically involve misconduct that is described as more verbal than physical. But in the tight-knit and clubby art world, Mr. Genocchio’s contacts give him outsize power in the business. The Armory Show had connected him with art professionals from all over the world. The casual forms of sexual harassment that he was accused of rarely make headlines but can be insidious because of their pervasiveness, and often goes unchecked.

Another complaint against Mr. Genocchio is laid out in an April 17 memo to Michelle Anastassatos, vice president for human resources at Vornado Realty Trust, which owns the Armory Show. In the memo, obtained by The Times, Deborah Harris, the Armory Show’s managing director, reports being “berated and humiliated” by Mr. Genocchio after chastising him for “frisky behavior” that included, she said, making “lewd comments about the bodies and dress” of staff members. (Ms. Harris declined to be interviewed.)

Amanda Coulson, the artistic director of the Volta art fair, an affiliate of the Armory Show, confirmed that one of her female employees asked to work elsewhere because of Mr. Genocchio’s behavior. “She did not want to work in the office because she felt the environment was hostile,” Ms. Coulson recalled. “So I immediately moved her out and got her another office.”

Several people who worked at the Armory described being present when Mr. Genocchio said he couldn’t have an employee in her 50s accompany him to a sponsorship event at a fashion house because he needed instead to bring “some arm candy.”

Vornado in May acknowledged in a letter to Ms. Harris that Mr. Genocchio had “referred to another female employee as arm candy and previously referred to others as sweetie.”

“However,” the letter continued, “multiple employees indicated that as soon as they told him that his comments were objectionable, he stopped making them, he was apologetic, and that no further comments have been made.” (Vornado, in the same letter, informed Ms. Harris that her job was being eliminated and suggested that “a skeptic might even think that the timing of your complaint to human resources was a strategic attempt by you to try to prevent the termination from occurring.”)

Vornado, in a statement Tuesday, had been somewhat supportive of Mr. Genocchio, saying that its outside counsel last spring had conducted an investigation into the allegations contained in Ms. Harris’s memo and “found that while Mr. Genocchio on occasion made inappropriate comments, his conduct did not rise to the level of sexual harassment.”

The company declined on Wednesday to elaborate on the rationale for its decision to replace Mr. Genocchio or whether he will continue to work for it in another capacity.

Mr. Genocchio, who has a doctorate in art history, started his career as an art critic for The Australian, moving to New York in 2001, where he wrote about art for The New York Times. He is married to Melissa Chiu, the director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, making them something of a power couple in the art world.

Before Artnet, Mr. Genocchio served as editorial director of Blouin Media from 2010 to 2014. Orit Gat, the former senior editor of one of the company’s publications, Modern Painters, said, “He was incredibly aggressive; he would always touch women.”

“One time, he cornered me in the kitchen,” she added. “If I was at my desk, he would put his hands on my shoulders. He would tell me I should have married better, someone who made more money.”

Shane Ferro, who worked at Blouin’s Artinfo, said that Mr. Genocchio “loved to put his hands on my neck.”

“After the second time, I said: ‘I’m staying away from him. I never want to be alone in a room with him,’” Ms. Ferro added. “But he was the editorial director. He had a lot of power over whether I ever got promoted.”

“It was my first-ever job and the sexual harassment started immediately,” she said. “I’ve always been afraid of male bosses since then because of these small but important things that happened when I was 22.”

In an interview, Ms. Blouin said she was unaware of such behavior.

At Artnet, Jacob Pabst, the chief executive, said that the 2016 women’s meeting “was called to provide an open and comfortable forum for our women employees to discuss ways in which Artnet could further improve the work environment.”

But several women interviewed, who insisted on anonymity for fear of jeopardizing their current positions, said that nothing ever came of the meeting or earlier objections to Mr. Genocchio’s behavior, which included complaints that he gave women unwanted massages at their desks, commented on the size of women’s breasts and, in one case, ran his hand up a female employee’s leg in the elevator after asking if she was wearing tights.

A number of women reported their negative experiences with Mr. Genocchio to Susannah Wilson, who was then Artnet’s director of strategy. Ms. Wilson discussed these complaints with Mr. Pabst — the son of Artnet’s founder, Hans Neuendorf — in a 2015 memo obtained by The Times.

“You are aware of the issues around sexual harassment that have come up, specifically around Ben G, so I will not go into detail,” Ms. Wilson wrote to Mr. Pabst. “I have come to you several times not on my own behalf but because so many other people feel too afraid to speak up.”

Artnet should “have a very low tolerance for these offenses,” Ms. Wilson added in the memo. “Just because the cause of most of these problems is isolated to one individual does not mean that the effects are isolatable.”

In an interview, Mr. Pabst said he could not discuss the specifics of Mr. Genocchio’s tenure. “I have to treat certain types of information as confidential — this is his personal stuff,” he said.

“We have clear processes here at Artnet,” he added. “I can assure you, whenever there has been any issue, it has been dealt with.”

Ms. Calvo said she and her female superior complained to Mr. Pabst but that, when she was about halfway through her remarks, Mr. Pabst interrupted her by saying, “I’ve heard enough.” (Mr. Pabst did not respond to a query about this.)

Many in the company said they felt that Mr. Pabst did not take the complaints more seriously because he was friendly with Mr. Genocchio, with whom he played tennis. “I know you deny your closeness to people like Ben,” Ms. Wilson, the former director of strategy, wrote in her memo to Mr. Pabst. But “the perception is that there is a ‘boys club’ and there are factors that reinforce this perception, no matter how long it has been since you played tennis together.”

In the interview with The Times, Mr. Pabst denied that he and Mr. Genocchio were friends and that he was unresponsive to complaints. “It’s absolutely not true that people came to my office and I didn’t respond,” he said. “In terms of Ben Genocchio, I wasn’t aware of any serious claims by any employees.”

“I would never treat anyone better than anyone else,” he said.

But others say Mr. Genocchio’s special status was obvious to everyone in the office.

“Ben got away with it,” Ms. Calvo said. “The company got away with it.”
Source: The NY Times 


11/07/2017

New Art Market Book


The UK Telegraph reports on a new book by Georgina Adam is out next month and titled Dark Side of the Boom.

The Telegraph reports
A new book by Georgina Adam, the former art market editor of The Art Newspaper and Financial Times columnist, is a “must-read” for anyone with an interest in the relationship between art and money. Although not gifted with the same eloquence as the late critic Robert Hughes, whose 1984 essay Art & Money is still the seminal text on the subject, Adam can pack in and organise the information like no one else.

Her last book, Big Bucks: The Explosion of the Art Market in the 21st Century, published in 2014, was a tour de force in chronicling the many aspects of the booming art market – from ambitious auctioneers, dealer rivalry and collector snobbery, to the obsession with online and the impact of emerging economies. Barely a box was left unticked.

No pushover for the market’s public relations teams, Adam is also armed with an underlying scepticism and a nose for scandal. This was apparent in the last chapter of Big Bucks, titled The Dark Side of the Moon, which Adam opened with a dealer saying, “after drugs and prostitution, art is the greatest unregulated market in the world”, followed by a consideration of the potential of market transactions for tax evasion and money laundering, mostly based on “hints and nudges rather than hard evidence,” she wrote. 

Georgina Adam's latest text on the relationship between art and money
Adam’s latest is intended as a sequel to Big Bucks, and takes up where she left off. Maintaining the Pink Floyd allusion, it is called The Dark Side of the Boom. On the cover is a 2001 sculpture by British artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster, of a light in the shape of a dollar sign, a work that rose from £38,000 in 2003 to over £220,000 in 2007, but which dropped this year to £62,500, making it an adroit symbol for the penalties of excess.

The new book, published next month, covers much of the same ground, but the story has been updated and is much more focused on secretive, behind-the-scenes events. Adam’s fondness for court cases and the insights they provide into the otherwise untold machinations of the art market, stands her in good stead in this respect. Over 45 court cases are cited in the book’s 200 pages, from copyright issues (Richard Prince and Jeff Koons’s appropriation art), to sales disputes between dealers and collectors, artists and dealers and advisers and collectors. Cases of forgery and authentication and especially those involving artist foundations such as the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board, which had to close down because of the cost of legal fees, are in the majority.

In the world of art finance, so much cash is floating around that it is perhaps inevitable some embezzlement occurs in the areas of art investment funds and loans for art. But the biggest case of all (and the one that I suspect was the trigger for this sequel) is the now infamous dispute between the Russian billionaire “fertiliser king”, Dmitry Rybolovlev, and Swiss Freeport storage magnate – and we discover, private art dealer – Yves Bouvier.

In a nutshell, over a period of 14 years, Rybolovlev coughed up some $2 billion for Bouvier to buy art quietly, then discovered how much profit Bouvier had made and sued him. You should read the book, though, because it is the most detailed account I have read of the affair, down to the mansion in Monaco where Rybolovlev staged his trap for Bouvier’s arrest in February 2015.

Recently, Rybolovlev has been losing money on sales of his art perhaps to prove the extent of the alleged rip-off, the latest development being the sale next week of one of his most expensive acquisitions, Leonardo da Vinci’s heavily restored Salvator Mundi, a highlight of Christie’s contemporary (yes, contemporary, because that is where all the money is!) art sale in New York, with a $100 million (£76 million) estimate and a guarantee that it will sell. The painting had been bought unattributed in 2004 by another dealer for about $10,000 (£7,600), but after extensive cleaning and research, found its way into the London National Gallery’s 2011 Leonardo exhibition as a genuine Leonardo. Bouvier then bought it through Sotheby’s private sales division for $80 million (£61 million) and sold it to Rybolovlev in 2013 for $127.5 million (£97 million).

Very little of that information, however, is in the Christie’s catalogue, and even less in the press release, which is why we need people like Georgina Adam to keep digging for the truth.
Source: Telegraph UK