Art Attorneys Discuss the Doig Decision

artnet news spoke with 4 art attorneys about the recent authentication trial for Peter Doig and the decision of the court.  Some interesting insight and well worth taking a minute or two to read. As art authentication becomes more and more important to appraisers, we should all be aware of these types of decisions and what legal experts think of the cases and decisions.

artnet news reports
This week saw the dramatic close to a bizarre, lengthy legal saga in which Scottish-born artist Peter Doig was called upon in court to defend his rejection of a work that a Canadian collector wanted attributed to him.

Former corrections officer Robert Fletcher and Chicago dealer Peter Bartlow sued Doig, with Fletcher insisting that Doig painted a landscape in 1975 while the artist-to-be was supposedly serving time as a young inmate at the Thunder Bay Correctional Center in Northwestern Ontario. Doig maintains that the work is not his, that he was never incarcerated, and that he’s never even been to Thunder Bay. What’s more, the work was curiously signed Peter Doige (with an “e”). In the end, Judge Gary Feinerman, of the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, decided that the painting was not by Doig.

Could the decision set a precedent with consequences for the art market and the courts in years ahead? To find out more, we spoke to four prominent art lawyers and legal experts. They brought up two previous cases they say are relevant to, or comparable to, the Doig trial. For instance, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court ruled against the artist Balthus in 1995 after he denied that a painting was by him; the court ruled that he wanted to drive the work’s value down, since it was in his ex-wife’s hands. And Gerhard Richter has disavowed some of his early works, apparently simply because he doesn’t think they’re up to snuff.

As for the case of Fletcher v. Doig and what it means, here’s what our lawyers and experts said.

John Cahill of Cahill Partners LLP
It’s unfortunate that this artist was forced to defend himself based on the wishful thinking of a man who claimed to have found the art equivalent of a winning lottery ticket.

Artists, like scholars and other experts, are—and should be—able to express their opinions about the authenticity of art works without fear of being sued—and, if they are sued, without having to mount an expensive defense that includes a full-blown trial.

The extremely limited exception to that rule arises only in cases of intentional, egregious misconduct by artists. The only cases that I am aware of have happened in a VARA [Visual Artists Rights Act] context, de Chirico’s “back-dating” paintings, and a case in which it appeared that Balthus disavowed his authentic work out of spite towards his ex-wife. (In that case, the judge pointed out in his conclusion that a Metropolitan Museum of Art curator believed that Balthus was “acting from personal animus against his former wife. He suggests that Balthus has repudiated some of his works in the past “to punish former lovers or dealers with which he has had disagreements.”)

The evidence was thin to nonexistent in this case, with the only “expert” opinion being offered by someone with a financial stake in the outcome—not exactly an indicia of reliability.

The judge’s determination that Doig “absolutely did not” paint the work is likely little more than codification of what the art market would have determined given the artist’s disavowal of it.

Amy Adler, law professor, New York University
While many people are shocked that this case went to trial in the first place, the reason it did is that the judge thought there was an actual factual question about whether Doig had made the painting. People might wonder whether the Visual Arts Rights Act, which artists like Cady Noland invoked to disavow works even she says she made, comes into play, but that law doesn’t apply to works made before its effective date, which was 1990; the work in question was painted long before that.

For most of us this seems galling because we all assume that an artist has the last word about whether a work is his. Even if the judge had declared the work authentic, the art market would have disregarded the court. Everyone understands that Doig has the last word in the art market, and the market will never treat it as a Doig. The law is, in a sense, irrelevant here. Oddly, that’s something that a lot of lawyers don’t understand. That’s the fundamental disconnect that this case exposes—there are different understandings of what authenticity means in the art world and the legal world.

But let’s say Doig had lied. I don’t think VARA gives you a right to disavow a work you actually created, unless it’s been significantly modified. In defense of the theory of the lawsuit, there may be circumstances where an artist does lie and could with one word wipe out $10 million of value; what recourse does an owner have under those circumstances? We might be sympathetic to a plaintiff in the case of a different set of facts.

In terms of what precedent this sets, you might wish Doig could get his legal fees covered, in order to discourage other cases like this from coming to trial, because what feels so galling about this case is that it creates the potential for a nightmarish scenario in which artists feel vulnerable to being sued and having to defend themselves against anyone who wants to misattribute a painting to them. But it’s hard to get attorney’s fees covered. Many people have been unfairly sued and had to spend a lot of money defending themselves. Doig isn’t the first.

Virginia Rutledge, art historian and attorney
This outcome is of no help to artists, generally. Basically the case highlights a surprisingly murky situation: the fact that there is very little art-specific law around questions of authenticity and attribution. This may seem counterintuitive given that the name of the artist is fundamental to much of our understanding of aesthetic meaning and value.

This case got so weird because it played out almost exclusively in the realm of the marketplace, and the question of economic value dominated the discussion. But the ultimate stakes are even higher—the right of the artist to “own” or disclaim a work. And, remember, the reputations of two artists were involved here, although only one had his say, so to speak.

These are fascinating questions, and actually many of them have been raised by early conceptual art makers.

Robert Morris’s Document (1963) is a statement by the artist intended to withdraw “all aesthetic quality and content” of a previous work he’d sold to architect and collector Philip Johnson, for which Morris hadn’t been paid in a timely way. Then, over 50 years ago, even when there was some dispute about appropriate behaviors, the status of the artist allowed him to negate the value of his own work, and because the transaction occurred within—I’d propose—a much smaller art world, there wasn’t even a market problem. Of course Johnson was going to accept Morris’ gesture; and Morris’ follow-on gesture allowed Johnson to recoup both aesthetic and market value, if you will, because Johnson was able to acquire the statement, too.

In today’s very different art world/market, we can’t count on everyone sharing the same values.

Flash forward to Cady Noland and the controversy over the artist’s ability to withdraw her name from work she determined had been compromised. That right to disclaim has limited legal protection in the US. Many otherwise savvy artists and collectors are unaware for example that the Visual Artists Rights Act, which covers rights of attribution and integrity, wouldn’t even apply in this case. And should a law that only affects works created after a certain date control such rights? That seems very arbitrary.

The legal gray area is signaled by the plaintiffs’ request for “declaratory judgment,” essentially asking in advance for legal guidance when it’s not entirely clear whether one has the right to do something. But we didn’t get an answer here as to what would have happened if the judge had found the painting was a “Peter Doig,” but the artist wished to erase his signature.

This is an area where it looks like it has become appropriate to expect the law to provide more certainty. How would we do this? It could come from articulating and then legislating a more robust attribution right, possibly as an expansion of VARA, which technically is connected to copyright. That itself raises issues. Who should get to exercise rights of attribution and authentication, and for how long? VARA can be invoked only by the artist, and only under certain conditions. Is the right of attribution so personal that we let it die with the artist, or should we allow artists to bequeath the right of attribution just as they can bequeath copyright ownership, typically for another 70 years after the artist’s death?

Do we care that the market may end up valuing work even when a dead artist might be rolling in his grave (“What? That’s the wrong light fixture/video monitor/color of paint!”)? Are heirs any better authenticators than anyone else other than the artist? There’s no art-specific law regulating this.

There are many more questions here, and few certain legal answers.

Any right of attribution should in my opinion come with some responsibilities for the artist, too, so that if an artist frivolously withdraws his name from an artwork just to spite someone—and this is not a hypothetical scenario—there should be some cost. When can an artist make such a gesture, and when does the artist have to be very careful about repudiating work that someone invested money in, someone who feels their investment should be protected?

How often will this kind of case happen? It could happen any time someone thinks there is money to be made. And in hot markets, it may begin to happen more often. Recently I’ve had two very successful artists ask whether they can be compelled to authenticate works circulating outside their studios. The stake are clear, the legal remedy—on other side of the question—is not.

Frank K. Lord IV, partner, Herrick’s Art Law Group

This was an unusual case because traditionally suits like this have not dealt with the word of a living artist but rather the judgment of an expert or a decision by an authentication committee. I can’t think of another instance in which a judge has been forced to determine the authenticity of a work by a living artist.

Had this gone the other way, artists would have reason to be concerned, as that outcome might have prompted others to bring similar lawsuits. Hopefully this is something artists will not have to be concerned with.

Ultimately, the market’s evaluation of the painting, not the judge’s, would have been the final determination of its value.

One thing that was especially intriguing was the special arrangement to bring the painting into the judge’s chambers after testimony had ended, which raised the specter of the judge trying to determine whether it was a Doig by using the kind of visual examination typically performed by trained experts.
Source: artnet news 


Gallery Shift from the Traditional to the Contemporary

The Financial Times just posted an interesting article on changing tastes and how it is impacting the art market in general and galleries in particular. The article points out due to changing tastes in art collecting and investments, as well as escalating rents, that the traditional fine art galleries are now making way for contemporary art galleries.

The Financial Times reports
Changing tastes and rising rents are squeezing traditional fine art and antique dealers out of Mayfair, as global fashion brands and contemporary art mega-galleries take over expensive locations.

Agnew’s, founded in 1817, and Colnaghi, the world’s oldest commercial art gallery, have been edged out in favour of larger, more international dealers such as Gagosian, which opened an 18,000 sq ft space in Grosvenor Hill, near Berkeley Square, at the end of last year.

Next year Eden Fine Art, which specialises in pop art, will open on New Bond Street. Thaddaeus Ropac, a leading European dealer, is set to take over five floors of Ely House on Dover St, replacing 151-year-old Mallett Antiques, which will move to Pall Mall. According to Levy, the property consultants, the building was on offer for an annual rent of £550,000.

Earlier this year, Steve Lazarides, graffiti artist Banksy’s former agent, announced he would use a “seven-figure investment” from a Qatari backer to move his Fitzrovia gallery to Mayfair.

Seven international galleries have opened branches in the area since 2011, according to Savills, including Dominique Lévy and Skarstedt, both of which have moved into upper floor galleries in Old Bond Street.

Additional pressure from fashion brands seeking flagship stores in Bond Street in particular has forced average rents to rise by more than 50 per cent between 2010 and 2015, according to EY, the professional services firm.

Matthew Hall, a partner at Panter & Hall, based in Pall Mall, said rents had risen inexorably higher, forcing many smaller players to reconsider whether they wished to remain.

“Last recession, [rents] hardly murmured,” he said. “There was a slight adjustment for a minute, and then they went rocketing up again. In the old days of boom and bust, you used to wait for the bust and then you could find a really good rent somewhere central.”

Pall Mall, in St James’s to the south of Piccadilly, has now emerged as the new centre for fine arts, despite being “historically a no-go area” for the art world, said Matt Paulson-Ellis, head of retail at Levy. “It’s about availability and affordability — and the proximity to Christie’s [auctioneers],” he said.

Cork Street, traditionally the heart of the capital’s art world, is undergoing redevelopment. Landlord The Pollen Estate said it was committed to re-establishing the street’s reputation as a magnet for collectors and artists. Including galleries in east Mayfair, the redevelopment will “more than double the amount of gallery space on Cork Street”, said David Shaw, Pollen chairman.

Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, the Gagosian’s landlord, also said it was keen to encourage “opportunities for smaller galleries and studio space for craftsmen and artists” in the area.

Named after Richard Boyle, the second Earl of Cork, Cork Street first became synonymous with the art world in the early 20th century, following the Royal Academy’s move to Burlington House, situated at the southern end of the street, in 1868.

Yet for some galleries, the limitations of some of the smaller, older buildings in the area have become apparent.

“It isn’t a question of me being squeezed out,” Alan Cristea said of the move of his eponymous gallery from Cork Street to Pall Mall. “It is a question of me needing more space.”

However, many smaller galleries say space is less important than rent considerations, leading many to abandon their shop fronts and move upstairs.

John Martin, owner of an eponymous gallery in Albemarle Street, moved one floor up last summer. “I’m in a very lucky position, as I can stay in the same building,” he said.

His plan is to sit out the next two or three years, and then to look to relocate to Cromwell Place, a new art hub forming in South Kensington.

“We can cruise for a bit, and then look at other options,” he said. “But ultimately, I’ll look to move.”
Source: Financial Times 


Peter Doig Wins

artnet news reports on the convincing win of Peter Doig, where he was accused of disavowing a painting he stated was not his.  The judge agreed that Doig was not the artist, and that outside of stating to the plaintiffs not to sell the painting as a Peter Doig, there was no interference as claimed.

Take a few minutes to read, but I think most of the art-world is pleased with the decision. If it would have gone the other way, artist authentications would be in doubt.

artnet news reports on the court's decision
Peter Doig has won the bizarre authentication trial in which he was accused of disavowing a painting that the plaintiffs, art dealer Peter Bartlow and a former corrections officer Robert Fletcher, claimed he had painted as a teen. Bartlow and Fletcher were seeking $7.9 million in damages, but speaking at the Federal District court for Northern Illinois on August 23, Judge Gary Feinerman said Doig “absolutely did not paint the disputed work.”

“I have rarely seen such a flagrant example of unethical conduct in the US courts nor a case that inflicted such needless burdens on a defendant,” said Matthew S. Dontzin, the lawyer representing Doig and Michael Werner Gallery, another defendant in the case, in an email to artnet News. “Artists should be grateful to Peter for having the ethical and financial fortitude to fight tirelessly to ensure that justice prevailed in today’s verdict.”

Doig himself and most of his legal team, which included Dontzin and Tibor Nagy, were conspicuously absent in the courtroom as the interested parties in his case reconvened one week after closing arguments to hear Judge Feinerman’s verdict in the case. Co-plaintiffs, former corrections officer Robert Fletcher and Chicago gallerist Peter Bartlow, were present, as well as their lawyer, William F. Zieske, as the contested painting emerged from a cardboard box and took its place on the tripod where it had stood throughout the weeks-long trial.

“Today’s verdict is the long overdue vindication of what I have said from the beginning four years ago: a young talented artist named Pete Edward Doige painted this work, I did not,” said Doig in a statement. “That the plaintiffs in this case have shamelessly tried to deny another artist his legacy for money is despicable. The deceased artist’s family and my family and friends have suffered mightily. Thankfully, justice prevailed, but it was way too long in coming. That a living artist has to defend the authorship of his own work should never have come to pass.”

Doig’s team was represented in the courtroom by one lawyer, Suyash Agrawal. Dontzin, Nagy, and Doig stood by on speakerphone.

Judge Feinerman broke the silent anticipation by saying that “Most narratives in law and life have gaps. Very few narratives are airtight. This is especially true when considering events from 40 years ago, and all the more so when the events are routine quotidian events of daily life.”

“While most narratives have gaps,” Feinerman went on to say, “and certainly both narratives have gaps, the evidence conclusively demonstrates that despite some gaps, Peter Marryat Doig absolutely did not paint the disputed work.”

Feinerman then reviewed all the details of the case, painstakingly going through the evidence and repeatedly stating that Peter Doig and his mother “testified credibly” about Doig’s whereabouts, employment, education, where they were backed up by “more than ample evidence.”

As for the contradictions between the timeline Doig initially sent to his own gallery, stating that he didn’t go to high school in ’76/’77, Feinerman called this a “hiccup” in the narrative and underlined that this “understandable mistake that does not harm Mr. Doig’s credibility because it was 40 years ago,” citing his own imprecise memories of being a counselor at Camp Ojibwa decades ago. Feinerman took a similar position on Doig’s lack of tax records, pointing out that not many teens even file taxes for part-time employment, much less keep records for decades afterwards.

Saying that glitches in Doig’s statement would have had more significance if it wasn’t for the “unmistakable and unimpeachable evidence” that supported his final timeline, including a letter from the summer of 1977 from Mary Doig to her own mother in Great Britain saying that “Peter phoned from Edmonton.” Reading aloud that “Peter’s hair is long and messy and if you smell his hat, it smells of oil,” Feinerman emphasized how Mary would have had no conceivable motive to invent these details, which corroborated her son’s timeline about where he was when the painting was made.

In describing the evidence that Peter Doige “almost certainly painted the work,” Judge Feinerman described the deceased man’s sister’s testimony as “the third cherry on top of the sundae.”

There were in fact many such cherries, but here are a few: Ernie Adams, the art teacher at the Thunder Bay Correctional Center, had identified Peter Doige as the person who made the painting, testimony Feinerman said he found “especially credible” in part because Adams would have been incentivized to claim he had started Doig’s career. The signature on the painting, besides bearing Doige’s name, also looked like Doige’s other signatures. Feinerman said, “You don’t need graphologists to see the similarities between the signature on the work and two of Peter Doige’s signatures.” Furthermore, Peter Doige’s court records were found at Thunder Bay Courthouse, and Doige would have been 21 when the painting was made, exactly the age Fletcher himself said the painter was.

The judge ruled against the plaintiffs on both counts, ruling that the painting wasn’t by Doig, and that this “unjustified interference” in the painting’s sale at auction was, in fact, justified. Underlining the fact that Doig’s representatives had threatened suit only if the painting was sold “as a work by Mr. Doig,” Feinerman stated that “An artist is well within his rights to ensure that works he did not create are not sold under his name.”

Addressing the vexing issue of burden of proof, Feinerman said that in fact Illinois courts hadn’t been entirely clear in cases like this but that, “In the end it doesn’t matter; the plaintiffs didn’t meet their burden, and the defendants met the burden not just by preponderance of evidence but by clear and convincing evidence.”

“Peter and his family have endured an untold amount of stress and public scrutiny as a result of this senseless lawsuit,” said Gordon VeneKlasen, co-owner of Michael Werner Gallery in a statement. “The court has ruled in his favor, although we are deeply disappointed that it has taken so long to do so. It is our hope that this verdict will have at least one good outcome—that artists maintain the unfettered right to authenticate their own work.”

Speaking after the verdict, Bartlow maintained that “the truth will come out sometime in the future that Mr. Doig painted the painting.” Fletcher, for his part, reaffirmed his personal affection for the painting no matter who made it, and observed earnestly that he had “never known a judge as fair as Judge Feinerman.” Neither man would specify their plans for the painting itself, which they had agreed to collect from the court the following day.
Source: artnet news 


Classic Car Market Sputtering?

Hagerty, the classic car insurer posted a review of the recent Monterey car auctions, which were down in total sales by $45 million, and the sell through rate was also lower. This is a large percentage as total sales were $288 million. The article states the top quality cars did sell, but there were also many reasonable reserves, and only a few misses. See the results below in the block quote.

Hagerty reports
Gooding & Company joined the fray on day three in Monterey, while Mecum, Russo and Steele, and RM Sotheby’s closed out their events. So far, sales have amounted to $288M, which is $45M less than last year, and the sell-through rate is three points lower than in 2015. Given the recent shift in the market, setting realistic reserves has proven to be difficult—depending on the type of car, 65%-75% of cars were bid to realistic amounts.
Following in line with the previous day, nearly all of the top cars sold. RM Sotheby’s star car for the day—the 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider—sold for an impressive $19.8M, establishing a new world record for a prewar car at public auction. Gooding inspired another amazing result for a Ferrari Cal Spider—this one a LWB Alloy car—at $18.15M, and also sold a 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB comp car at $13.5M after it went unsold on the block.

A few of the big cars did miss, of course, including RM’s Cal Spider—also a LWB car—at $9.4M, RM’s Ferrari 268 SP race car at $12.5M, and Gooding’s Porsche 550A roadster at $4.2M. Even still, results thus far confirm that buyers at the upper reaches consider now to be a fine time to add to their collections.

Prewar cars and cars from the 2010s saw rising sell-through rates versus the first two days. At a model level, later Porsche 911s have sold low compared to their conditions, including 930s, 964s, and 993s. Early C through J series (1969-77) 911s, on the other hand, fared very well. C2 Corvettes recorded subpar prices, as have Mercedes-Benz 280SLs. Conversely, Ferrari Testarossas, Advanced Design Chevy pickups from 1947-55, and Maserati 3500GTs all realized strong prices relative to their conditions.

Gooding gets the spotlight all to itself on Sunday, as far as the auctions are concerned. Attendees from the nearby Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance will walk over after Best In Show is announced, and settle in to watch how much excitement a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB, a 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza, and a 1932 Bugatti Type 55 Roadster can generate.

Listed below are the raw results witnessed by Hagerty during the live auctions and may not factor in any post-sale deals that have occurred. These numbers include the appropriate buyer’s premiums.

Overall through Saturday from all auction companies
Cumulative Total: $288.0M
644/1,221 lots sold: 53% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $447,332
Median Sale Price: $88,000

2015 Cumulative Results through Saturday
Cumulative Total: $332.9M
755/1,326 lots sold: 56% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $440,906
Median Sale Price: $89,100

Overall Top 10 Sales from all auctions through Saturday:
1. 1955 Jaguar D-Type Roadster (RM Sotheby's) sold for $21,780,000
2. 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider (RM Sotheby's) sold for $19,800,000
3. 1959 Ferrari 250 GT California LWB Alloy Spider (Gooding & Company) sold for $18,150,000
4. 1962 Shelby Cobra 260 Roadster (RM Sotheby's) sold for $13,750,000
5. 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Competizione Coupe (Gooding & Company) sold for $13,500,000
6. 1956 Ferrari 250 GT TdF Coupe (RM Sotheby's) sold for $5,720,000
7. 1950 Ferrari 166 MM Berlinetta (Gooding & Company) sold for $5,445,000
8. 1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spider (RM Sotheby's) sold for $5,225,000
9. 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari Coupe (Mecum Auctions) sold for $5,170,000
10. 1979 Porsche 935 Coupe (Gooding & Company) sold for $4,840,000

Saturday total: $76.8M
70/80 lots sold: 88% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $1,096,664
Median Sale Price: $330,000

Top 10 Saturday Sales:
1. 1959 Ferrari 250 GT California LWB Alloy Spider sold for $18,150,000
2. 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Competizione Coupe sold for $13,500,000
3. 1950 Ferrari 166 MM Berlinetta sold for $5,445,000
4. 1979 Porsche 935 Coupe sold for $4,840,000
5. 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 Coupe sold for $3,245,000
6. 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV Coupe sold for $2,255,000
7. 1930 Packard Speedster-Series 734 Roadster sold for $2,090,000
8. 1955 Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider America sold for $2,007,500
9. 1961 Maserati 5000GT Allemano Coupe sold for $1,677,500
10. 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe sold for $1,430,000

2015 Results through Saturday
Total: $69.5M
63/69 lots sold: 91% sell through rate
Average Sale Price: $1,103,056
Median Sale Price: $462,000

Saturday total: $57.9M
43/48 lots sold: 90% sell through rate
Average Sale Price: $1,345,523
Median Sale Price: $682,000

Top 10 Saturday Sales:
1. 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider sold for $19,800,000
2. 1956 Ferrari 250 GT TdF Coupe sold for $5,720,000
3. 1964 Ferrari 500 Superfast SI Coupe sold for $2,750,000
4. 1973 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider sold for $2,475,000
5. 1957 BMW 507 Roadster sold for $2,145,000
6. 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Coupe sold for $2,090,000
7. 1934 Mercedes-Benz 500K Cabriolet A sold for $1,870,000
8. 1930 Cadillac Series 452 Fleetwood Roadster sold for $1,457,500
9. 2005 Maserati MC12 Coupe sold for $1,430,000
10. 1931 Duesenberg Model J Tourster sold for $1,320,000
10. 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster sold for $1,320,000
10. 1939 Bentley 4 1/4-Litre Sports Coupe sold for $1,320,000

Cumulative Total: $123.1M
85/100 lots sold: 85% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $1,448,565
Median Sale Price: $572,000

Overall Top 10 Sales:
1. 1955 Jaguar D-Type Roadster sold for $21,780,000
2. 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider sold for $19,800,000
3. 1962 Shelby Cobra 260 Roadster sold for $13,750,000
4. 1956 Ferrari 250 GT TdF Coupe sold for $5,720,000
5. 1955 Ferrari 750 Monza Spider sold for $5,225,000
6. 1966 Ford GT40 Mk I Road Coupe sold for $2,900,000
7. 1964 Ferrari 500 Superfast SI Coupe sold for $2,750,000
8. 1973 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider sold for $2,475,000
9. 1957 BMW 507 Roadster sold for $2,145,000
10. 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Coupe sold for $2,090,000

2015 Cumulative Results
Total: $167.2M
126/149 lots sold: 85% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $1,328,401
Median Sale Price: $420,750

Saturday total: $33.6M
84/199 lots sold: 42% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $399,542
Median Sale Price: $121,000

Top 10 Saturday Sales:
1. 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari Coupe sold for $5,170,000
2. 1966 Ford GT40 Mk I Road Coupe sold for $4,840,000
3. 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO Coupe sold for $3,300,000
4. 2014 McLaren P1 Coupe sold for $2,035,000
5. 2005 Porsche Carrera GT Coupe sold for $1,155,000
6. 2011 Ferrari 599 SA Aperta Spider sold for $1,155,000
7. 2006 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Coupe sold for $1,100,000
8. 1965 Shelby Cobra 289 R&P Roadster sold for $1,045,000
9. 1968 Lamborghini Miura P400 Coupe sold for $869,000
10. 2011 Ferrari 599 GTO Coupe sold for $748,000

Cumulative Total: $45.8M
294/698 lots sold: 42% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $155,693
Median Sale Price: $51,975

Overall Top 10 Sales:
1. 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari Coupe sold for $5,170,000
2. 1966 Ford GT40 Mk I Road Coupe sold for $4,840,000
3. 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO Coupe sold for $3,300,000
4. 2014 McLaren P1 Coupe sold for $2,035,000
5. 2005 Porsche Carrera GT Coupe sold for $1,155,000
6. 2011 Ferrari 599 SA Aperta Spider sold for $1,155,000
7. 2006 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Coupe sold for $1,100,000
8. 1965 Shelby Cobra 289 R&P Roadster sold for $1,045,000
9. 1968 Lamborghini Miura P400 Coupe sold for $869,000
10. 2011 Ferrari 599 GTO Coupe sold for $748,000

2015 Cumulative Results
Total: $41.2M
335/657 lots sold: 51% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $122,941
Median Sale Price: $49,500

Saturday total: $5.8M
30/80 lots sold: 38% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $192,133
Median Sale Price: $121,000

Top 10 Saturday Sales:
1. 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe sold for $1,155,000
2. 2004 Ford GT Pre-Production Prototype Coupe sold for $836,000
3. 2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series Coupe sold for $418,000
4. 1970 Ferrari 365 GT Coupe 2+2 sold for $346,500
5. 1988 Lamborghini Countach LP5000 Quattrovalvole Coupe sold for $321,750
6. 2000 Ferrari 550 Maranello Coupe sold for $194,700
7. 1955 Facel Vega FV1 Coupe sold for $181,500
8. 1967 Jaguar E-Type SI 4.2 Roadster sold for $176,000
9. 1970 Chevrolet Corvette 350/370 Convertible sold for $159,500
10. 1967 Shelby GT500 Fastback sold for $155,100

Cumulative Total: $8.3M
96/228 lots sold: 42% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $86,514
Median Sale Price: $45,375

Overall Top 10 Sales:
1. 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe sold for $1,155,000
2. 2004 Ford GT Pre-Production Prototype Coupe sold for $836,000
3. 2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series Coupe sold for $418,000
4. 1970 Ferrari 365 GT Coupe 2+2 sold for $346,500
5. 1988 Lamborghini Countach LP5000 Quattrovalvole Coupe sold for $321,750
6. 2000 Ferrari 550 Maranello Coupe sold for $194,700
7. 1955 Facel Vega FV1 Coupe sold for $181,500
8. 1967 Jaguar E-Type SI 4.2 Roadster sold for $176,000
9. 1970 Chevrolet Corvette 350/370 Convertible sold for $159,500
10. 1967 Shelby GT500 Fastback sold for $155,100

2015 Cumulative Results
Total: $8.5M
112/209 lots sold: 54% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $75,920
Median Sale Price: $38,500

Overall total: $34.1M
99/115 lots sold: 86% sell-through rate
Average Sale Price: $344,526
Median Sale Price: $121,000

Overall Top 10 Sales:
1. 1931 Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix Roadster sold for $4,000,000
2. 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari Coupe sold for $3,685,000
3. 1904 Mercedes-Simplex 28-32HP Rear Entrance Tonneau sold for $2,805000
4. 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO Coupe sold for $2,112,000
5. 2014 McLaren P1 Coupe sold for $2,090,000
6. 1955 Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider America sold for $1,402,500
7. 1930 Duesenberg Model J Murphy Town Car sold for $1,254,000
8. 1989 Ferrari F40 Coupe sold for $1,155,000
9. 1956 Porsche 356A Carrera GS Speedster sold for $891,000
10. 1965 Shelby Cobra 289 R&P Roadster sold for $880,000

2015 Cumulative Results
Total: $45.7M
96/109 lots sold: 88% sell through rate
Average Sale Price: $476,048
Median Sale Price: $198,000


On Investing in Fine Art

CNBC recently posted a short article and video about investing in fine art and some of the recent issues and declines in total sales. Follow the source link to view the video.

CNBC reports
The stock of assets for sale on agents' books is plumbing desperate depths in a sector popular with luxury investors. And this time it's not London property.

The high-end art market has seen sales plummet this year as rising demand from Asia has been unable to compensate for a precipitous drop-off in activity in the West.

A large number of auction house clients are often multimillionaires or billionaires and have enough financial firepower to pick and choose when they bring pieces to market.

Given current global economic weakness and turbulence seen in financial markets in recent periods, "Some of the big owners of art are not confident enough to put their major works on the block," says Philip Hoffman, Founder and Chief Executive of The Fine Art Group, an art advisory and investment house.

According to Hoffman, the market would benefit from an unfortunate event such a death, divorce or bankruptcy that would bring a forced sale. And it seems an impending tragedy for some could bring some relief to art intermediaries, with Hoffman hinting, "November could be an interesting turning point where some interesting estates are going to come on the block."

Hoffman, a long-term industry veteran and former Deputy CEO of Christie's Europe, claims buyers are raring to go as soon as attractive assets land on the auctioneers' blocks: "There is a huge amount of cash sitting in deposit accounts and there is a lot of interest in finding the right work of art."

Fresh from a trip to China, Hoffman emphasised the buoyant interest from Chinese investors in the Western art market. The company has recently moved into a new line of business to satisfy a niche demand. According to Hoffman, Chinese investors want credit to be arranged and to borrow money against art.

"Leverage into the art market will bring a whole new game into the art market and I think we'll see a big growth over the next five years."

And it's not just the Chinese who are buying. The post-Brexit hit taken by the British pound has also driven a recent surge of interest from Middle Eastern and American buyers. Hoffman says there's evidence of a positive effect for "anything priced in sterling and any international art, for example, impressionism or international contemporary."

But for those of us whose disposable income falls a few zeroes short of the average high-end art market investor, is there any way to step on to the ladder?

Hoffman suggests those less financially footloose and fancy-free should look at British artists, such as Bridget Riley or Frank Auerbach. He claims a small piece of Riley's can be acquired for around $50,000, a level which the he advises investors not to dip below as selecting a winner can be compared to finding "a needle in a haystack."

And there's a lesson to be learned from Hoffman's dealing: After buying a piece for $40,000 in 2008 and reselling it for $100,000 two years' later, he was pleased with his gain – until he saw the same piece go at auction in 2012 for a cool $2 million.
Source: CNBC 


Conservators on Display

The NY Times recently posted an interesting article on the growing popularity of allowing visiotrs to watch conservators at work.  Some are building glass enclosed cubicles with conservators working inside and museum patrons walking through and observing. According to the article, conservators on display has become a very popular attraction for the public.

The NY Times reports
PARIS — It’s showtime at the Musée d’Orsay — the electric moment when visitors pause in the grand public art galleries here, all to watch varnish dry.

They gather in silence to gawk at the paint whisperers — small teams of conservators poised on scaffolding and encased in two glass cubes. From these makeshift stages, they swipe away centuries-old dark grime on precious works — from Gustave Courbet’s enormous oil painting of his crowded studio to Auguste-Barthélemy Glaize’s violent battle of a stone-throwing female revolt against Roman invaders, “The Women of Gaul.”

Ordinarily such a delicate task is carried out in the tranquillity of a laboratory. But the once mysterious craft is increasingly turning into a high-end reality show — long-running spectacles that appeal to donors who lavish money on makeovers, but trouble some conservators accustomed to quiet and absolute concentration.

In Cincinnati, the city’s public museum featured its chief conservator, Serena Urry, last winter in a three-month exhibition, “Conservation on View: Zaragoza’s Retablo of St. Peter.” She worked in a white lab coat in the middle of a public gallery across from a cafe — her work table spread with tools and swabs to remove varnish and overpaint from a gilded, 600-year-old Spanish altarpiece.

“People were really enjoying it, but it’s not something I would do again, Ms. Urry said. “Conservation is not performance art.”

She was startled sometimes by loud voices across a simple wood barrier; one day, her pashmina scarf mysteriously vanished.

In the slow-moving drama of restoration, fishbone cracks vanish, figures that were muddy sepia become radiantly blush, and yellow clouds, thick with old varnish, transform into white gauze tinged with rose. The results are a publicity bonanza for museums; they tell a before-and-after narrative that attracts media attention and appeals to crowdfunding campaigns and companies that have never donated to art projects before.

One of the earliest attempts to offer the public a window on restoration dates to 1994, when Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring” was restored in a temporary studio at the Mauritshuis in The Hague, according to Ian McClure, director of Yale University’s Center for Conservation and Preservation. In 2006, the Smithsonian also added a window so the public could view restorers at work in their lab.

“Viewing painting conservators at work does counteract charges that conservators are ruining objects by careless over cleaning,” Mr. McClure said. But he added that it could also make restorers self-conscious — “thinking of your appearance, the impression you make to onlookers. This will affect your work.”

But the work itself is changing. Many art conservators are evolving into museum ambassadors — the subject of in-house blogs, videos and special lectures. And that even includes the taxidermists.

In France this year, small donors raised more than $23,000 in a crowdfunding campaign for the public makeover of Napoleon Bonaparte’s stuffed steed, Le Vizir. Over four weeks in July, Le Vizir got a tuneup in a gallery of the Army Museum in Paris: two taxidermists spread putty to mask a jagged shoulder crack and rehydrated and recolored the white Arabian stallion that was a gift to Napoleon in 1802.

The Musée d’Orsay, meanwhile, is carrying out a series of public restoration projects, with 150,000 euros (more than $180,000) raised in a crowdfunding appeal, to rejuvenate the Courbet masterpiece “The Artist’s Studio.” Bank of America Merrill Lynch is also helping to finance the project, which is expected to cost almost a million euros and take more than a year.

The Courbet restoration has proved so successful with donors that the museum is exploring its reserves for other works in need of repair, according to Olivier Simmat, director of sponsorship. But potential donors prefer famous names to salvage.

“They tell us they adore the idea and want to give money to restore a van Gogh,” he said. “Forget that. Those are fine.”

But the museum did have a number of deteriorating 19th-century paintings in the French Academy style that do not have the same cachet of Post Impressionist art. Since 1982, “The Women of Gaul” had languished in the museum’s reserves — too damaged to display. It was such a large painting that it was rolled up and stored for years in a city museum in Autun, France, where cracks and flaking developed.

Crédit Agricole, a French bank that had never contributed to art restoration before, donated 450,000 euros (more than $500,000) to repair three Academy style works. Nathalie Mourlon, who leads business development at Crédit Agricole d’Ile-de-France, said the makeover had a particular appeal.

“What we liked about it enormously is that the process is visible,” she said. “It makes the works more accessible to the public.”

For the conservators — a profession dominated by women — the attention to such a solitary métier is gratifying. But they were trained to use swabs and tools to thin and swipe away old varnish. Many found it difficult to cope with waves of noise, abrupt public announcements and, sometimes, rapping against the protective glass cube. Not to mention the limits on their use of chemical solvents because of their proximity to the public.

Laurence Didier, who leads the independent team of 13 conservators restoring “The Women of Gaul,” had never worked in public before. She said that it took time to become accustomed to an audience, even though conservators faced the canvas with their backs to visitors.

“Everyone is different and has their own style,” she said. “I need absolute calm, and so I have my headphones playing Baroque music or Vivaldi.”

Cécile Bringuier, who leads the second team on the Courbet restoration, also said she is not a fan of conservators on display. “Would you like to be watched while you work?”

Other museums are considering the same public approach, but with reservations.

Le Petit Palais, a Paris city museum, owns an enormous 1851 Courbet painting, “Firemen Running to a Blaze,” which is so dark with old varnish that firefighters have receded into the shadows. The museum estimates the cost of erecting a pop-up glass cube at about 200,000 euros — more than the cost of the actual restoration, said Christophe Leribault, the museum’s director.

“Is that price justified by the public show?” he said.

Instead, the museum settled on an unglamorous alternative: repaint the white walls of the gallery an oatmeal color to reduce contrast and install new lighting.
Source: The NY Times


Doig Case Goes to the Judge

artnet news reports on the final day of the trial which is now up to the presiding judge to decide.

The article summarizes the plaintiffs case and also the defense. It is interesting the plaintiffs want $7.9 million, as it was appraised by Victor Weiner if a Doig for between $6 and $8 million, and they want $100,000 if it is not found by the judge to be a Doig.  According to the article that is the amount Wiener valued the work if it were not a Doig, and the plaintiffs feel they are entitled to that amount because of Doig's interference with the sale.

The decision is pending, and I will post when it is announced.

artnet news reports
With labyrinthine rhetoric about uncanny convergences, induced coincidences, secret photos, and even “a Twilight Zone” of evidence caused by “too many records,” the closing arguments in the final day of the Peter Doig trial were as strange and unsettling as the case itself. At one point, the plaintiffs’ attorney William Zieske even declared, “My basic understanding of the rules of probability has been shaken.”

“If you want to look at is as a whodunit, the question is instead of a murder, who painted this painting?” Zieske declared, spelling out the basic plotline before the court.

The painting, signed “Pete Doige 76,” was made in Thunder Bay, Ontario in 1976, but that’s where the stories diverge. (Along with the pronunciation of Doige, with the defense saying “Doy-gee,” the Judge saying “Dough-idge,” and the plaintiffs saying “Doig with an e.”)

The plaintiffs, former Thunder Bay corrections officer Robert Fletcher and Chicago gallerist Peter Bartlow, assert that the Scottish painter, Peter Doig, made the painting as an incarcerated teen, and that as an early work of the now-famous artist, it is now worth $6 million–8 million.

Doig says he didn’t make the painting, and his lawyers are arguing that a now-dead convict named Peter Doige, with an e, made the painting.

Peter Marryat Doig, the living painter, was born on April 17, 1959. Peter Edward Doige, the deceased amateur painter, was born on April 7, 1955. It is rather odd.

The Argument for the Plaintiff
In Zieske’s telling, Peter Doig might be lying, or he may have just forgotten that he made the painting. Zieske admitted that many people had been asking him why, exactly, Doig would deny it? Saying there could be “myriad” reasons why Doig would refuse to accept the painting as his own, Zieske chose not to specify any of them, saying instead that he “couldn’t look into his soul.”

Instead, in court today, the lawyer took a strange detour into his own biography, telling Judge Feinerman his own mother was a painter—adding emphatically, but somewhat ambiguously, “that’s why I do this!” Zieske then told the court his mom had “an artist’s personality,” that she “got in trouble with the law,” and that her memory was often “extremely different” from his own.

Going further, Zeiske described how he had gotten to know “the artistic temperament” over the years, despite the fact that he was himself a rational and dependable person. “Every artist I know has destroyed their own work,” he declared ominously, “sometimes their best work.”

Implying that Doig was destroying this work by refusing to claim it, Ziekse also described Doig as “disowning” the painting in question. Without an “alibi” as to his whereabouts in 1976, Zeiske said Doig would have to accept the painting as his own.

If Doig had too few records to show, Zieske argued that the other candidate for the disputed painting’s authorship, Doige, had “too many records.” The criminal records that showed Ziekse’s various convictions and his transfer to Thunder Bay in 1975, don’t all add up, he said—literally: Doige’s grade averages on his transcripts didn’t add up, he noted, and Doige’s University ID could have been faked.

All of the inconsistencies put Doige in two places at once, and put Zieske in an evidentiary “Twilight Zone.”

As for Doige’s paintings, Zieske reiterated the fact that they weren’t presented physically in court. “Something’s being hidden,” he said darkly. The Doige signature was usually blocky and big, he said, unlike the script “Doige” on the painting in court. The fact that Doige made another painting with a knife led Zieske to point  at the painting in the courtroom and exclaim dramatically, “Did Captain Butterknife paint this?”

Zieske said that there was no evidence that Peter Doig wasn’t at Thunder Bay, but he didn’t present any hard evidence to place him there, either. To the crucial question of whether Doig was in Toronto or 15 hours north, the best Zieske could say was “there is no record of either.”

In the absence of any court records or fingerprints, the only thing placing Doig at Thunder Bay is that the co-plantiff, Fletcher, says he recognizes the artist from 40 years ago. Likewise, the main testimony linking the painting to Doig’s style is the “Bartlow Method” of visual analysis provided by the other co-plaintiff, Bartlow.

Zieske finished his closing argument on this not-very-solid ground, asking for a judgment of $7.9 million dollars if the judge ruled Doig made the painting, and $100,000 if he ruled he did not. (The plaintiffs’ appraiser Wiener had valued the painting at $6 million–8 million if it were by Doig and at $100,000 if it were not. Fletcher and Bartlow are asking for the difference if the judge rules it is the real deal, and for the $100,000 if he rules it is not, as they are contending that Doig interfered with the sale either way.)

The Argument for the Defense
Summing up the plaintiffs’ presentation, Doig’s defense lawyer, Tibor Nagy, said bluntly, “With that evidence, this case should have ended years ago.”

To the question of why Doig would say he didn’t make the painting, Nagy said he would deny it simply because he didn’t, in fact, make the painting. Nagy contrasted this with the plaintiffs’ motives, which Nagy said were clearly about money.

As for the evidence, Nagy declared, “The burden is squarely on [the plaintiffs]. Despite that, we’ve proven that Mr. Doig didn’t paint this painting.” Neither the name nor the signature were Doig’s, Nagy repeated, and the defense had provided school records, yearbook photos, and a list of 30 witnesses that could attest to Doig’s whereabouts in 1976.

Furthermore, Doige had a criminal record linking him to Thunder Bay; Doig did not. Responding to the plaintiffs’ allegation that Doig needed an alibi, Nagy repeated again and again that his client had no burden of proof as he was the defendant in the case.

When Will It End?
Earlier in the day, Judge Feinerman had said that he might issue a verdict at the end of the day, but as the two sides finished their remarks, the Judge demurred. Despite a request from Doig’s lawyers for Feinerman to render the decision immediately, and issue the rationale later, the Judge insisted that he needed more time.

His verdict will be given orally at an as-yet-undetermined point in the coming weeks.

Feinerman’s final request was to examine the artwork further, so an arrangement was made to keep the painting in his chambers during the day, and the US District Court for Nothern Illinois’s safe at night. At this, Zieske gleefully declared that if the Judge wanted to hang the picture, he had “plenty of clients who could do that for you.” The judge declined the offer.
Source: artnet news