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Last updated: April 28, 2012 1:05 am
New York is centre-stage for the market over the next two weeks, with a glut of art on offer, starting on Wednesday with Edvard Munch’s tipped-to-beat-the-world-record “The Scream”, continuing with Frieze’s inaugural US fair and ending after the weekend with a rich crop of contemporary art auctions.
Huge headlines have already been made by “The Scream” (1895), which is being offered by Sotheby’s on May 2 with an estimate of about $80m. Can Munch’s work shatter the world record, currently standing at $106.5m for a Picasso?
Arguments for a new price high hold that this iconic image, known worldwide, will trigger an immense bidding war – and that it is a “destination picture” that could put its new buyer (if it is a museum) on the world map.
Qatar, currently the world’s biggest buyer of art, with its apparently bottomless pockets and a massive appetite for top artworks, is tipped to be interested. Certainly, the $250m that Qatar is believed to have paid for Cézanne’s “The Card Players” (1892-93) has upped the ante: the art price sky is a lot higher than it was before. Curiously, the thought of Qatar could discourage other bidders, who may think it is hopeless to even try to go for it.
If “The Scream” does break the record, it will be the first time a pastel on board has achieved this feat – all the top art prices so far have been made by oils on canvas.
. . .
Then, two days later, Frieze launches its first New York fair on Randall’s Island. There is an immense buzz around the event, with everyone agog to see how the successful London formula will translate to the US.
“The location is the big unknown,” says Darren Flook of London’s Hotel, who knows New York well, as he organises the Independent fair in New York. Frieze is counting on curiosity and novelty to overcome the transport issue. Flook, who will be exhibiting there, says: “You listen to Amanda [Sharp] and Matthew [Slotover, the organisers] when they call, they have been right before”.
. . .
A painting by Ivan Aivazovsky, a 19th-century Russian painter of Armenian descent, hit the jackpot at Sotheby’s Orientalist sale this week. The artist is a favourite with Russians, and the work depicted Constantinople, thus also making it a magnet for Turkish collectors, who are an increasing force in the market. “View of Constantinople and the Bosphorus” (1856) sold for £3.2m, well over its top estimate of £1.8m (estimates don’t include commissions; final prices do). The result must have delighted the “gentleman” who had bought it in 1995 for the then-record £326,000, because he had tried and failed to sell it in November 2008 – during the depth of the financial crisis – with an estimate of £2m-£3m.
Overall, however, the sale was weak. The cover lot, a portrait of a scholar by the Turkish Osman Hamdy Bey, who was roughly a contemporary of Aivazovsky, was bought in under its punchy estimate of £3m-£5m. In all 10 of the 33 lots failed to find buyers and the Aivazovsky accounted for over half of the total haul of £5.6m.
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This will hardly come as a surprise: Art-Athina, the Athens-based contemporary art fair, has been cancelled. Generally held in May, the event was founded in 1993 by the Greek Art Galleries Association, making it one of the longest-running in Europe. Last year’s fair attracted 58 galleries, but, according to its director, Alexandros Stanas, “Art-Athina is reassessing its strategy, taking into consideration the latest facts in [the] economy and the country in general.”
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The Biennale des Antiquaires has decided to expand from its Paris home and go global. It intends to hold scaled-down versions of the grand Paris event in between its regular slot: this year, from 14-23 September. So far Hong Kong, Istanbul, Moscow and New York are mooted as destinations for the fair, with Hong Kong the first, slated for October 2013.
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Thanks to its tragic tale and the movie industry, items from the “Titanic” regularly appear at auction. But it is now illegal to sell items from inside the ship, explains Brian Badge of the specialist auctioneer Henry Aldridge in Wiltshire. “The wreck is a grave and so nothing can be sold,” he says. “But an enormous amount of material, souvenirs, trinkets were taken by visitors from the liner when it docked in Southampton, Cork and Cherbourg, before it even set sail on its fatal journey.”
There are also items from survivors: the firm recently got £76,000 for a first-class menu that had been kept in a passenger’s handbag.
Meanwhile in New York, 5,500 objects from the Titanic, collected from the debris field around it, have been put up for bids as a single lot through US auctioneer Guernsey’s, with an estimate of around $189m. They include a hair pin, gold-and-navy-blue china cups, a bronze cherub from the ship’s grand staircase – and a massive, 17-ton chunk of the ship’s hull.
These have been exhibited around the US by Atlanta-based Premier Exhibitions, but it has been involved with legal tussles with its own subsidiary RMS Titanic Inc, which has exclusivity on exploring around the wreck. The sale was ring-fenced with conditions: the collection had to be kept intact and made available to the public; the buyer had to be “acceptable” to a Virginia judge. Bids were due in by April 2: so far, no sale has been revealed. Guernsey’s says: “it’s a complicated situation: an announcement will be made”.
Georgina Adam is editor-at-large of The Art Newspaper
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