Sotheby's Divine Comedy

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Alexandra Peers has a review of the Sotheby's Divine Comedy exhibition which recently opened at the auction houses NY headquarters. The exhibition is a mix of art based around Dante's poem of afterlife including Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.

As reported early in an AW Blog post, the exhibition is offering many of the items for sale.  Many of the pieces have originated from art galleries.  This continues with the blurring of lines between auction houses and retail galleries.  Sotheby’s has the exhibition prominently displayed on its website home page.   In this instance there almost seems to be partnership between the two.  Thinking outside the box.

Peers reports

Many of the works on view are actually on loan from art galleries—Sperone Westwater and Paul Kasmin among them—seeking to use Sotheby's client list and contacts to market art privately. While it was originally announced that about half of the "Divine Comedy" art is for sale, virtually everything is, Sotheby's later confirmed. Commissions and split of the profits is being decided on a deal-by-deal basis.
London dealer Johnny Van Haeften has lent Franz Francken's 17th-century masterpiece Mankind's Eternal Dilemma—The Choice Between Vice and Virtue, which sold at a European auction for about $7 million; he hopes to flip it for $10 million here.
The show appears designed to generate controversy and attention—a kneeling Hitler is thrown in for good measure, along with that crucified frog, which is a work by Martin Kippenberger that the Pope actually declared blasphemous in 2008. The auctioneer's celebrity client list was used for the opening party. (The resulting "gets" were Julianne Moore, Emily Mortimer and Alan Cumming.)
Ms. Dennison granted the financial motives for the show—"We are an auction house," but said the show had provided viewers the opportunity to see "remarkable works" that otherwise would never have been on public view. As for courting controversy, Ms. Dennison said that's not the case, but "we couldn't ignore art that comments outside established traditions."

To read the full NY Observer article on the Sotheby’s exhibition, click HERE.

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