You might have heard that Instagram has taken over the art world. Yes, I’m on it, and I follow several people, not because I want to, but because I feel I have to. Everyone must follow artists like Richard Prince, Wade Guyton and Alex Israel, as well as all the sundry dealers, advisers and collectors trying desperately to be cool. Read More
SellYouLater.com is the best art website to come along in some time. Since starting in early February, it has been rebranded as ArtRank.com, but the old name seems more appropriate. They rank artists as “buy” or “sell” based on a secret mathematical formula (don’t you love that!). They claim to use algorithms to identify “prime emerging artists based on qualitatively weighted metrics, including Web presence (verified social media accounts, inbound links), studio capacity and output, market maker contracts and acquisitions, major collector and museum support, gallery representation, and auction results.” Read More
Barbarians at Sotheby’s Gate?: Activist Investor Daniel Loeb Is Shaking Up the Centuries-Old Auction House
Last week, Daniel Loeb’s activist hedge fund, Third Point Partners, which weighs in at a hefty $15 billion, increased to 9.3 percent its share in Sotheby’s (aka BID) stock. Another activist fund, Marcato Capital Management, owns about 6 percent of the auction house, and billionaire Nelson Peltz of Trian Fund Management owns another 3, putting about 19 percent of the company shares in “hostile” hands.
Right on cue, Mr. Loeb wrote one of his classic letters excoriating BID Chairman Bill Ruprecht for his extravagant perks and salary while demanding that he step down in favor of a new management team and a few Third Point appointed directors. Read More
What’s the hottest thing in the art world today? Forget the artists and the famous dealers. Today, it’s the celebrities.
The art world has officially joined the rest of the world in a maniacal obsession with celebrity culture. Sure, Warhol did it long ago with his 1960s “screen tests” of Warren Beatty and Dylan, and by hosting the likes of Mick Jagger, Jackie O, her son John John and sister Lee Radziwill in Montauk in the ’70s, then hanging with Halston and Liza Minelli throughout the ’80s. But these days, celebrities and art are hooking up in a whole new way. Read More
Is bigger art always better art? Certainly in the age of Instagram, anything monumental is hard to discredit; people are easily impressed and love to obsess over questions like “How did it get here, how was it made and how much does it cost?” Somehow they forget the basic questions: “What is it and why is it?” Wouldn’t you have expected that after the financial crisis of ’08-’09, we would return to that classic art buyer’s rule of thumb: “If it doesn’t fit over the mantel, don’t buy it!” We’ve all felt the shift. The days when private museums were buying up sprawling installations by living artists seem to be behind us; a respected owner of a private Miami museum recently said to me, with a straight face, “If it doesn’t look like an auction lot, I won’t buy it.” The really big art is rarely in the art fairs, and meanwhile living-room-friendly pieces are being offered just about everywhere. Read More
La Serenissima’s Circus of Art: Milla Jovovich in a Box Took the Tiramisù, but Manet Beat the Biennale
The opening of the 55th Venice Biennale two weeks ago was the third leg of a month-and-a-half-long art marathon that started with the young and fun Frieze New York in early May, followed by Art Basel Hong Kong, which I’ve called “the fortune cookie art fair,” and continuing on through the four-day Art Basel, Switzerland’s well-established mega-art fair (the one that motivates most dealers to finally pull out their good stuff) and the London auctions at the end of June. Venice’s fabled and, this year, ill-timed Biennale welcomed jaded and jet-lagged dealers, collectors and curators with a week of cold and rain and spiffy water taxis that had tripled their regular rates. With a perky “ciao” and “prego,” taxi pilots ferried well-heeled passengers to swanky restaurants like Harry’s Bar for €90 plates of pasta. Read More
Inside Out, Round and Round…: From Out-of-Whack Values to Artist Defections, This Art World Is Looking Topsy-Turvy
Hey, do you feel like the art world is upside down? In her disco standard “Upside Down,” Diana Ross sings about how her boyfriend is unfaithful, but she looks the other way because “no one makes me feel like you do.” Unlike Diana, I’m not comfortable when things are upside down, and I never look the other way. New year, new beginning, time to think about what doesn’t make sense. Here are just a few of the sundry art-market realities that just don’t add up. Read More
Last week, London hosted three major art fairs and several smaller and younger ones, enough to make any sane person wonder: have we reached the point of art fair overkill? I’ve often thought—and written—that the art fair scene has gone overboard, and now I’m not alone. On his Facebook page New York magazine’s art critic Jerry Saltz recently lamented the explosion of art fairs and the new custom among hungry galleries to send out email blasts from them announcing how many works they’ve sold. “We’ve built a worm into the system,” Mr. Saltz wrote. “The system is self-supporting and draws its power from everyone.” The point is timely, because London’s annual Frieze art fair—the highlight of a week of art parties and hobnobbing in British style—has sprouted a second fair, Frieze Masters, for more “historical” artworks. I was there for the opening of Masters, and it forced me to change my tune. And so, in the words of the great Marcel Duchamp, I will now “force myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.” Read More
The Metropolitan Museum’s “Regarding Warhol” exhibition groups artworks by 60 artists around works by Andy Warhol, as an homage to his far-reaching influence in the art world. The result is closer to a mob scene than to any semblance of meaningful dialogue, and it wasn’t hard to predict that critics would slam the show—slamming this show was, from the beginning, an easy layup. By this point, it’s almost de rigueur in New York’s smarty arty circles to wrinkle your nose at “Regarding Warhol,” which, as you can imagine, makes me want to like it. And so I do … but still, I don’t. Read More
Deitch-quake in Los Angeles: Jeffrey Deitch Has Become a Lightning Rod for Criticism of MOCA but Is the Former Dealer Really to Blame?
In early 2010, when the news broke that a respected art dealer, Jeffrey Deitch, had been named director of the financially struggling Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the museum’s decision was widely considered a controversial one. This had, of course, happened before: back in the early 1960s, Walter Hopps left his partnership in Los Angeles’s fabled Ferus Gallery to head up the Pasadena Art Museum, where he went on to a successful museum career that included a now-famous Marcel Duchamp exhibition. But who ever said the art world has a long memory? In fact, there have been many role changes in the past few years, including Guggenheim Museum director Lisa Dennison’s departure from the museum to work for Sotheby’s, and Picasso guru John Richardson and, more recently, the Museum of Modern Art’s chief curator emeritus John Elderfield joining the ranks at Gagosian Gallery. As well-financed galleries regularly put on blockbuster shows that are ballsier and more spontaneous than slow-moving museums could ever manage, the role of today’s art institution—and its staff—is at risk and thus up for grabs. Veteran curators are not immune to the smell of money, so it’s no surprise that some of them deservedly want to cash in a few chips. What made the MOCA appointment unusual in this context was that Mr. Deitch went in the opposite direction, giving up his eponymous commercial gallery in order to run a nonprofit institution that needed reinventing. Ironically, instead of receiving praise for his decision to focus on art instead of art commerce, he has been dogged by suspicion, accusations and mistrust from the beginning of his tenure. Read More