- •Contact us
- •About us
- •Advertise with the FT
- •Terms & conditions
© The Financial Times Ltd 2013 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
November 25, 2011 10:25 pm
The leading French art dealer Yvon Lambert has donated a €100m collection of 450 works, by artists such as Cy Twombly, Brice Marden, Daniel Buren, Sol LeWitt and Basquiat, to the French state. Most of the works were already on loan to the city of Avignon, and are displayed in the 18th-century Hôtel de Caumont, run by the city on a budget of some €440,000 per year.
But last year Lambert threatened to withdraw his collection after publicly criticising the city fathers for allowing the building to fall into disrepair. On top of this, a furore broke out after Lambert celebrated the space’s 10-year anniversary with an exhibition entitled I believe in Miracles, which included Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” (1987), a photograph of a crucifix plunged into urine. This and another of Serrano’s works were defaced, while the Avignon bishopric and local church groups fulminated and demanded its withdrawal from display.
Peace is now restored. Lambert, who closed his New York space earlier this year, is retiring, leaving his Paris gallery in the hands of Olivier Bélot. The Avignon space will be doubled, by adding an adjoining building. “I did have problems with the local municipality, but all is well now,” Lambert told the French online daily Le Quotidien de l’Art: “They realised that the museum was a real bonus for their city.”
. . .
London dealer Harry Blain and former chief executive of Saatchi online Robert Norton are the founders of a new website selling art that buyers can download on to their phones, iPads or any screen they own. The art only exists virtually: there is no material presence. Prices start at a very affordable £5 (and rise to £500) for limited edition “artworks” conceived by a number of leading British names, including Hirst, Emin, Mat Collishaw (whom Blain represents) and Michael Craig-Martin. Buyers get a certificate of authenticity, which itself is purely virtual, and kept by the company for the owner. The site, seditionart.com, is extremely well designed and easy to use, and the artworks are undemanding – an example is a pink Emin neon proclaiming “I Promise to Love You” for £50, edition of 5,000.
Once an edition is sold out (and, as in the physical world, the works get more expensive as the edition gets shorter) the owners can resell, although it will probably take some time to sell all 2,000 of the most expensive, the £500 Hirst image of a baby’s skull studded with diamonds, or for the 10,000 editions by other artists to run out. And I doubt anyone will make a fortune selling on a £5 Wim Wenders of a New Mexico shop front (edition of 10,000).
Some of the works are original, created specifically for the site, and others are retreads of existing works (for example the Hirst skull), but Blain says that, going forward, artists will increasingly produce original works for the site. Whether buying these works will “drive people into museums” or into galleries to buy physical works of art, as Blain believes, is another matter.
. . .
So what is the position with another Hirst, the adult-size diamond-and-platinum skull “For the Love of God” (2007) that will be exhibited at Tate in the artist’s solo show next year? Famously hyped, at £50m, as the most expensive work of art ever made by a living artist, the piece was quickly declared “sold” before it emerged that the buying consortium included Hirst himself, plus his dealer Jay Jopling.
In 2008 Hirst told the French newspaper Le Figaro that he would put the pricey bauble into auction “in eight years’ time if it failed to find a buyer”. Asked how the work would be designated during next year’s show, a spokesman for Tate said: “[The work] will be credited to a private collection when in the gallery” and that it was not for sale. “As with any work on loan to Tate, we would require that it not be available for purchase while on display here.”
Museums do not like to exhibit works that are openly for sale, for fear of putting emphasis on the monetary, as opposed to the aesthetic, significance of the piece. And they know that exhibition in a major gallery or museum generally increases the value of a work of art – something that lenders are inevitably aware of.
Hirst initially intended the skull to travel to major museums, including the Louvre and the Hermitage, but a number of institutions declined for various reasons. Now Jude Tyrrell, director of Science, claims that a world tour would be “inappropriate” in the current financial climate.
An interesting aspect is the sponsorship of the show by the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA), which is the world’s biggest buyer of modern and contemporary art, albeit very secretively. Qatar owns Hirst’s “Lullaby Spring” (2002), for which it paid £9.7m in 2007, but firmly denies being the owner of the skull.
. . .
African art is to gain new status at London’s Tate with the appointment of Elvira Dyangani Ose, a specialist in the field, as curator of international art, and the launch of an African Acquisitions committee, led by curator Kerryn Greenberg. Tate already owns about 100 African works of art, mainly from North and South Africa, and with the help of a fund from Guaranty Trust Bank, (Tate won’t disclose how much) will be boosting its holdings from sub-Saharan Africa.
African art is generating more and more interest, although the lack of a strong gallery infrastructure in many countries is a handicap. One of the most acclaimed parts of the recent Paris Photo fair was that devoted to African photography, with images from this year’s Bamako photography festival and from the Walther Collection, a German gallery largely devoted to African portraiture.
“A commitment such as Tate’s [to African art] is very meaningful,” says Joost Bosland, a partner in the Cape Town gallery Stevenson. But, he adds, for a market to thrive, it needs collectors: “The quick rise in values of Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern and Latin American contemporary art is to a significant degree attributable to the growth of the number of serious collectors in these regions. Africa has not witnessed such a growth.” Still, he says: “Just look at what Tate’s focus on Latin America has done for that region. It gives a real reason for optimism.”
Correction: Oops, last week I muddled my auction houses. The Nat Tate sold at Sotheby’s. And the totals for the Modern British sales were £23.6m for Sotheby’s and £8.5m for Christie’s.
Georgina Adam is editor-at-large of The Art Newspaper
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.