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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Signatures can’t save lame pictures; Demand for Nazi painters weak

February 14, 2007

Recent sales of Impressionist and Modernist Art have confirmed two things:
1) Masterpieces sell
2) Big names alone don’t sell

For example a major work by Nabis painter Raoul Dufy fetched £4 mil.

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Raoul Dufy La Forie aux Oignons c1907
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Collectors: We don’t want this old grandma crap!

February 11, 2007

Bad time to be an antique furniture dealer, great time to be a buyer. The NYT reports that dealers can’t give the shit away. In particular, it appears that the market for antiques, i.e. furniture over 100 years old, is mightily depressed. Now to anyone who’s been doing business in this sector in the last few years, such news is like, No Duh!

We hear from Robert Couturier, an interior designer and architect in New York that:

“It’s very sad.” Bargains are particularly plentiful, he said, in 18th-century pieces.

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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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China: Sports more important than Culture

February 7, 2007

China is using the Olympics as the steamroller for a vast array of infrastructural developments that just happen to also be destroying a lot of artifacts. If Rome is the best place to currently ponder the eternal battle between Archaeology and the Art Market, then China is the best place consider the nexus of Urban Development, Cultural Destruction, and Wholesale Tomb Raiding.
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