Punching Paintings, Climbing on Sculptures, Vomiting, Passing Out, Urinating: Hey, Maybe Art and Booze Don’t Mix

Just say no

Today’s story about a drunk woman who punched a painting at the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, then urinated, might serve as yet another reminder that art and booze often don’t mix.

The Observer’s favorite example of this phenomenon was a little shindig called Martinifest that the Milwaukee Art Museum allowed Clear Channel Radio Read More


Going Mobile: What Is Next for the Heirs of Sculptor Alexander Calder?

Alexander Calder standing outside his home next to several of his stabile structures. (1968) (Photo courtesy of Gjon Mili//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Alexander Calder, the Pennsylvania-born sculptor who died in 1976, is, it’s safe to say, one of New York’s, and the world’s, better known artists. One of his famous abstract mobiles turns meditatively near the high ceiling in Terminal 4 at JFK, a balm to weary travelers. A signature stabile sculpture is parked in front of Lincoln Center. And the piece of his that is likely most revered by children, his circus made from tiny puppets constructed out of humble materials like wire, cork and string, just went back on view at the Whitney Museum, complete with a film of the artist manipulating the dolls into action. Read More

occupy art

The Art of Noise: Is Occupy Wall Street Shaming Sotheby’s?

Jason Ide, left, with members of the Local 814.

Tobias Meyer, the fastidious German auctioneer at Sotheby’s, stood at the podium in the beige auction room two weeks ago, sweating gently in an uncreased suit and violet collar. Sotheby’s had a strong lineup of 73 lots, including four paintings from the “triumphant period” of Clyfford Still, an early proponent of Abstract Expressionism. But the Dow was down three points, the Italian prime minister had just announced his resignation over economic turmoil, and there was a mob of about 150 protesters outside the auction house’s glass facade, heckling the buyers and collectors on their way in.

“Shame on you! Go home!” protesters shouted as the likes of Eli Broad, Larry Gagosian and Jose Mugrabi scurried past the picket line before being sucked through the revolving door into the marble vacuum of the auction house. A small brass band outside Sotheby’s pumped out a zippy rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” as a pair of girls clapped and two-stepped on the sidewalk. An older gentleman leaned over the metal barricades placed by the police and gave a zealous thumbs-down. “Boooo!” he taunted, then turned to Gallerist. “This is fun, isn’t it?”

The protesters were picketing on behalf of the Teamsters Local 814, the union that represents the 42 art handlers at Sotheby’s. When the union contract came up for renewal in July, Sotheby’s hired the infamous union-busting law firm Jackson Lewis and proposed changes to overtime, benefits and restrictions on the use of temporary laborers, a package the union says amounts to a pay cut and a ploy to avoid paying benefits. The negotiations stalled, and on Aug. 1, Sotheby’s told the art handlers not to come back to work. Since then, protesters at Occupy Wall Street have seized on the juxtaposition of Upper East Side art buyers versus blue collar art movers, giving what might have been a routine picket line an unexpected jolt.

One protester gave the Sotheby’s clients the finger, provoking a gray-haired buyer with a checkered scarf. “Fuck you! Fuck you!” he shouted in a French accent. Once inside, he stood behind the glass window like a kid at the zoo, sticking out his tongue, mouthing obscenities, zealously grasping an imaginary phallus and pumping it a few times into his mouth before he grew bored or realized how many cameras were around. “He’s in Sotheby’s a lot,” one of the locked-out art handlers told Gallerist as he aimed a flashlight at arriving clients’ eyes. One picketer hoisted a cutout of Sotheby’s CEO Bill Ruprecht’s head on the end of a long pole. “I’m Bill the CEO,” the back of the sign said. “I gave myself a 125% raise, HA.”

The real Mr. Ruprecht was inside with “a big African American bodyguard,” said one veteran art adviser, who noted that it was the first time they’d seen Mr. Ruprecht with a detail. “Sotheby’s had staff beyond, beyond,” the adviser noted. “It was like a hand-off. It started many feet ahead of the building, and as you got to the corner, a guy came and walked you a few feet to the next, who walked you a few feet to the next, so you’re not alone for a step.”

Sotheby’s was worried about protecting its clientele, but it likely was more worried about protecting the art. “I’m just always amazed that nothing hideous has happened,” the adviser said. “What’s to stop a Tony Shafrazi from coming in with a spray can, which is what he did to Guernica? The thing is, he never went to jail for it and it actually gave him some business credibility in the art world!” Read More


Qatari Royal Family, Suspected of Buying Stills, May Have Guaranteed Them Too

"1949-A-No.1" (1949) by Clyfford Still. (Courtesy Sotheby's)

As Gallerist reported last weekend, rumors are swirling that, at Sotheby’s last week, the cash-rich Qatari royal family snapped up two of the four Clyfford Still canvases on offer—one for $61 million, the other for $19.7 million—and a $9.3 million Joan Mitchell, for a princely total of about $90 million, and that guarantees were widespread at the contemporary auctions (about half of the lots at Phillips de Pury & Company had a third-party backer). Read More


Who Bought the $61 Million Clyfford Still Painting at Sotheby’s? Not Israel Englander

"1949-A-No.1" (1949) by Clyfford Still. (Courtesy Sotheby's)

Ever since a 1949 Clyfford Still painting, 1949-A-No.1, was hammered down last Wednesday evening for the record-breaking price of $61 million at Sotheby’s, the art world has been alive with speculation as to who bought the painting. This much is known for certain: whoever bought that painting by Still also bought a second Still painting two lots later, for $19.7 million, as well as a Joan Mitchell painting, for a world auction record price for Mitchell of $9.3 million. (A group of four Still paintings that totaled $114 million at Sotheby’s was being offered by his family, to benefit the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, Colorado) The bidder on all three paintings was bidding anonymously, on the telephone through Sotheby’s. Read More


Clyfford Still Painting Sells for $61 M. at Booming Sotheby’s Contemporary Sale


Against the backdrop of Wednesday’s dramatic three-percent drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and economic turmoil in Italy, Sotheby’s contemporary auction netted a whopping $315.8 million, over a high estimate of $270 million, bolstered by impressive returns for Clyfford Still, Joan Mitchell and Dan Flavin, as well as Gerhard Richter and a number of other living artists, and seemingly unhindered by the whistling Teamsters and their supporters just outside the building’s glass facade. Read More


With Just Four Clyfford Still Paintings, Sotheby’s Could Net $70 Million in November

"1949-A-No. 1'' (1949) by Clyfford Still, is the highest estimated of the four paintings and may sell for fetch between $25 million and $35 million. (Photo: Sotheby's)

Prepping for its Nov. 9 contemporary art evening sale, Sotheby’s has released details of the four Clyfford Still paintings that it will sell on behalf of Denver, which is home to the Still Museum, which will open in November. The works are expected to fetch between about $50 million and $70 million, well more than the $25 million that the museum has said it wants to raise for its endowment. Read More