The Art Market

February 28, 2014 6:37 pm

Where art is off the wall

‘Phantom @XI B-II’ (2007)

‘Phantom @XI B-II’ (2007) by Thukral and Tagra

Not everything by a budding young artist becomes a sure-fire winner, and major collectors sometimes offload works that, for one reason or another, they no longer love or don’t want to keep. The Manchester- and London-based Frank Cohen is the owner of 102 works currently for sale in an online-only auction at theauctionroom.com.

Acquired over the past 10 years or so, the works include well-known names such as Tom Friedman, Paul Pfeiffer and Rachel Feinstein but also some largely unknown artists who are appearing for the first time at auction. The proceeds will benefit Cohen’s Dairy Art Centre in Bloomsbury, which he opened last year.

Estimates start at a modest £180 for an “Underground tickets sculpture” (2005) by Lars Johannson and rise to £60,000 for Tom Friedman’s “Untitled (String Figure)” (2005). A £30,000-£50,000 target has been put on “Phantom @XI B-II” (2007) by the Indian duo Thukral and Tagra. The whole collection is online now and the sale ends on Wednesday at 7pm, when auctioneer George Bailey will actually bang the hammer down on the online bids.

Artnet, one of the oldest art websites in the business, and which has a popular price database, has just launched its own news service . . . mainly with hires from its arch-rival, the art portal Blouin Artinfo. Artinfo’s former editorial director Ben Genocchio is heading the new service, along with no fewer than seven other ex-Blouin employees.

Blouin Artinfo is the creation of Louise Blouin MacBain, the Canadian entrepreneur who was briefly with Phillips de Pury before buying the magazine Art+Auction and attempting to create a media empire focused on the arts. But it has been much in the news recently for all the wrong reasons: it is losing staff and a number of lawsuits have been filed in New York against the firm for alleged non-payment of services, including by the former publisher of Art+Auction, Kate Shanley, and its associate publisher, Wendy Buckley. Both have now joined Artnet.

Artnet – which is listed on the “Geregelten Markt” of the Frankfurt stock exchange – was the subject of a failed takeover bid last year; the Polish auction house/gallery/art fund/publisher Abbey House has now bought into the company, acquiring 8.29 per cent of it.

“An authentic Haring artwork can be worth millions of dollars in today’s art market,” says a complaint recently filed in New York. “However, without a certificate of authenticity from the Foundation . . . no major auction house is willing to sell [one].”

The complaint is the latest salvo in a conflict between a group of collectors and the Haring Foundation, which began last March. Then, all but 10 works in a 200-strong Keith Haring show in Miami were taken down after accusations they were fakes. Now, the owners of the works in question are demanding $40m from the Haring Foundation for saying they were counterfeit.

In their complaint, the nine owners, who include art dealer Lucas Schoormans and collector Elizabeth Bilinski, accuse the Haring Foundation, its members and the estate, of “wrongfully destroying the value of a series of [Haring] paintings” by “publicly labelling them ‘fake’ and ‘counterfeit’”.

Some of the works at issue had already been submitted to the Haring Authentication Committee in 2007 and rejected as “not authentic”. The committee was dissolved in 2012 but, before that, says the lawsuit, the collectors went to considerable trouble – and expense – to establish the provenance of the works. Despite being given new evidence, the foundation refused to consider the information, says the complaint, which alleges that “the Foundation will interfere with the sale of Haring works that have not been certified despite its claim to be out of the business of authentication”.

The collectors take another swipe at the foundation by alleging that it inflates the value of works it owns by rejecting other “authentic” Harings. They complain of “intentional infliction of economic harm and unjust enrichment” by the foundation, and say they lost millions of dollars in prospective sales at the Miami show as a result of its actions.

In a statement, the foundation said it believes the lawsuit is “without merit . . . [it] will continue to protect its intellectual property rights and pursue fakes and fraudulent activity involving Keith Haring.” “Violent threats” is the reason the founders of a new website, SellYouLater (SYL), give for remaining anonymous: they say the threats have come from “individuals passionate against the commodification of art”.

The three – who identify themselves as a data scientist, a financial engineer and an art professional – have published a chart of work by emerging artists with classifications such as “Buy Now”, “Sell now”, “Liquidate” and “Purgatory”. Their analysis is not always apparently logical – for example New York-based rising star Lucien Smith, who sprays canvases with a fire extinguisher, gets both a “buy now” and a “sell now” in the listings.

In an email exchange, a Mr S Lysell (hmm) explained that: “Our purpose-coded machine-learning algorithm extracts relevant metrics from over three million historic data points including auction results, representation, collectors, and museums.”

Hmm-hmm. Lysell confides that “Our site now is terrible, we know. We are working around the clock on a full-scale revision.” Which perhaps will clarify whether SellYouLater is a real business . . . or something else – a Banksy-type prank, for example?

And finally, dealer Darren Flook, who is co-organiser of the well-regarded Independent art fair in New York but whose London gallery Hotel went into liquidation in 2012, is joining London’s Max Wigram as a director. He will be responsible for the development of the gallery’s exhibitions programme.

Georgina Adam is art market editor-at-large of The Art Newspaper

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2014. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

Life & Arts on Twitter

More FT Twitter accounts
 
SHARE THIS QUOTE