Suspect drips already flipped

April 25, 2007

The controversy over newly discovered works claiming to be by the world’s most expensive paint splatterer has gotten even more interesting. We reported a few months ago about the fallout from paint tests showing that a miraculous find of unknown Pollocks were fresher than his crash-test corpse. Now the IHT reports that Alex Matter, the owner of the trove of 32 small works found in his father’s storage locker might have already sold some of them (which should surprise nobody).
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Alex Matter with some possible Pollocks that he may or may not own anymore
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Christie’s: Yo, European Museums, we’re coming for your artworks!

February 26, 2007

It used to be back in the good old days of Duveen & Co. that the insatiable NY market would have top artworks smuggled out of Europe in false-bottom suitcases. Now Christie’s has struck upon a new tactic: providing legal support to heirs with restitution claims for artworks in European public collections. Since such procedures can take decades, it’s an expensive investment of resources for the auction house, but the strategy is now starting to pay enormous dividends.

Auction records for three Central European expressionists have all been set by restituted art works:
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Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Street Scene-Berlin ($38 million); Egon Schiele’s View of Krumau ($24 million); Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II ($87 million)
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Plot for da Vinci Code II revealed in Busted-up Boston Baptist

February 19, 2007

Marietta Cambareri, assistant curator of decorative arts and sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, made the sort of discovery that folks in her business dream about: taking that backroom collection of shards and through the skills of her trade, turning it into a serious art object of wondrous benefit to scholarship, and…lest we not be blunt about it…turned an item of negative value (it had to be stored and insured without being enjoyed or even understood) to something now worth millions of dollars. Yeah I’m sure they really gave her a compensatory bonus for that one… NOT.

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attr. Giovanni Francesco Rustici St. John the Baptist, early 16th Century
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Canon is becoming very predictable

February 17, 2007

Once Willi Bongard created his Kunstkompass, the methods for predicting someones ascendancy became reliably methodical. Or maybe he just made it a self-fulfilling prophecy. His system of points was based on the pillars of canonization: display in major museums and inclusion in essential texts. Now a new company has refined the research, allowing machines to tell us what is our most valuable art. Brilliant idea! This woulda saved them all soooo much trouble back in the 19th Century.

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historical values for Any Old Shit from some guy in the 70s
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Christie’s is wooping Sotheby’s butt because of better management, financing, brownnosing

February 8, 2007

Both major auction houses have announced their year-end results for 2006, and, surprise, surprise, Christie’s did way better: $4.33 billion in sales, compared to $3.66 for Sotheby’s.

I point to the single clearest reason for Christie’s success, and it’s that the firm is run as a single-proprietor entity.
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France caves in to Arab cash, sells half of Louvre

January 29, 2007

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The French government has struck upon a truly brilliant method to dump their underutilized art objects on the culture-starved, status-craving gulf statelet of Abu Dhabi. The dynamics of the relationship are not that different than what Duveen realized in the late 19C when he saw that Americans had a lot of money and Europeans had a lot of art. Primary difference nowadays is that the relationship is between states and their public collections, but the dynamics work just the same as it did between private sellers (impoverished aristocrats) and buyers (American robber barons) in Duveen’s time. And of course, these days it’s the gulf states that have a lot of cash.
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Romans locate suspected site of ancient she-wolf suckle

January 28, 2007

Underfunded Italian archaeologists have discovered a vaulted chamber on Rome’s Palatine Hill that they believe may be the grotto worshipped as the site where Romulus and Remus suckled the she-wolf. The AP article explains that Italian archaeologists are extremely short of funds, and may have trouble fully excavating their new finds, which are part of the area around Augustus’ palace. I find this very profound, because Palatine Hill is ground zero for the birth of the Art Market, where Popes started digging up statuary in the 15th Century and began art collecting as we know it.
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Duveen Rembrandt not worth mentioning, sells for $25.8 mil.

January 28, 2007

Sothebys is trumpeting their recent sale of a Rembrandt, St. James the Greater, which went for $25.8 million at a recent Old Masters Auction, but could it be that the sale was actually a disappointment?
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The painting comes to us through a Who’s Who of art dealing in the last 2 centuries, and such a provenance should have pushed prices to the stratosphere, but instead St. James came up 3 million short of the high end of its estimate. In many ways, the pieces serves as an Exhibit A1 for what’s problematic with Rembrandts.
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“Tomb Raider” True: Getty knew all about my shopping habits

January 21, 2007

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Marion “Tomb Raider” True is accusing her former employers, the Getty Museum, of acting all like they didn’t know nothing about her buying habits. Although she officially served as their Curator of Antiquities from 1986 – 2005, in fact, True was a super high-end picker of Greek and Roman loot with the Spending Budget of the Century. NYTimes reports that, in her legal defense, she delivered a copy to the Italian court of her own letter she wrote to the Getty directors back in December, in which she accused them of leaving her to “carry the burden” of the institution’s collecting practices, even though her superiors at the museum and the trust had “approved all of the acquisitions made during my tenure.”
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“Tomb Raider” True bought looted Greek wreath cheap

January 17, 2007

Getty Museum antiquities curator Marion “Tomb Raider” True’s legal struggles have now extended in to Greece where she faces charges for having knowingly purchased a looted 4th Century BC golden funerary wreath. Among many points of interest in a fabulously juicy story (see NYTimes article) is the claim that she bought the piece through a Swiss middleman for the staggeringly cheap price of 1.1 million USD. Geez, you can’t even get a half-way decent Csontvary for that kinda money. I mean get a load of this thing:

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Funerary Wreath, Greek c.320-300 BC. Gold, with blue and green glass-paste inlays.
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