October 5, 2012 8:54 pm

The Art Market: Movers and fakers

Lehmann Maupin in Hong Kong, Sotheby’s gets green light in China, Qatari art hunters unveiled and more forgery in Germany
'Monkey Train' (2007) by Jeff Koons

'Monkey Train' (2007) by Jeff Koons, part of the Royal Academy's 'RA Now' show

The gold rush to the East continues with the arrival in Hong Kong of New York’s Lehmann Maupin gallery, which has bagged space in the oh-so-sought-after Pedder Building and will open there in early spring 2013.

“It became clear to us after attending the last two Hong Kong art fairs that we needed to do something in Asia for our Asian artists,” said Rachel Lehmann, just back from a trip to Hong Kong and Seoul. The firm has recently taken on the Chinese artist Liu Wei, as well as representing the Korean Do Ho Suh, the Japanese Mr and the Vietnam-based Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba. “But it’s all about dialogue, we will not just showcase our Asian artists,” she said. Her partner David Maupin has joined the selection committee of Art Basel Hong Kong and says they will also show their western artists, such as Tracey Emin or Hernan Bas, in the new gallery, which will be directed by Courtney Plummer.

Lodged in what was formerly Hanart’s space, along with an adjoining shop, the gallery is being revamped by Rem Koolhaas’ OMA team. The first exhibition will feature one of Lehmann Maupin’s Asian artists and then, to coincide with the next Art Basel Hong Kong (May 23-26 2013), it will present a show curated by Hervé Mikaeloff.

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Ready, steady ... go! Sotheby’s and its Chinese partner, the massive GeHua company, have now got the green light for their joint venture, Sotheby’s (Beijing) Auction Co. The news, which came in too late for last week’s column, gives them the right to hold sales in mainland China. It came just in time for the ceremonial auction – of a single work of art – in the Beijing Art World Museum. From now on the joint venture will be able to hold auctions anywhere but not of “cultural relics” (ceramics and traditional ink painting), which will remain out of bounds. GeHua is developing a tax-free zone in Beijing’s Tianzhu Free Trade Zone, where sales will not attract the punishing customs and sales taxes, of 26 per cent, as long as buyers do not take the works out. But, points out Sotheby’s Asian chief executive, Kevin Ching, mainland buyers often buy for investment, so may be happy to leave works in the port. And it is not impossible, he continues, that the authorities may in future grant other areas – such as a five-star hotel – free trade status.

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In an extraordinary press release, the art data company Artprice has lifted the lid on searches of art prices carried out by Qatar – currently considered to be the biggest buyer in the art market. The Gulf state is reliably thought to have given the highest price ever for a work of art: $250m for Cézanne’s “The Card Players”, last year.

The firm says in the release that it is “respecting the principle of absolute confidentiality for its many Qatari subscribers” but it then goes on to list users, including “almost all the royal family” as well as cultural institutions who are “upscale subscribers”, such as Qatar Museum Authority SIC, Mathaf Museum, MIA, National Museum of Qatar Q.M.A ... etc”

“Requests from Qatar, which are of course perfectly legal, prove unambiguously ... that we are dealing with top-level international experts who are looking for works of art, with values systematically above the €100,000 threshold, and who are at the origin of numerous bids above the €1m line,” continues the release. But the study also claims that Qatar is paying “about 40 to 45 per cent above ‘market prices’.”

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Could Gagosian be considering opening another space in London? A spy tells me that he has his eye on a two-floor building in Grosvenor Hill, off Berkeley Square. I checked with the gallery and they said that “there is nothing to report at this stage”.

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'Enchantresse' (2007) by Allen Jones

'Enchantresse' (2007) by Allen Jones, part of the Royal Academy's 'RA Now' show

To add to the wealth of other events in London’s Frieze Week, the Royal Academy is showing works by 121 of its academicians in RA Now, which starts on Thursday. All the works are for sale, with 40 going up for auction on Tuesday at Burlington Gardens. The aim is to raise funds for the RA’s expansion into Burlington Gardens. Works at auction vary from a typically spread-eagled Tracey Emin drawing (£2,000-£3,000) to Kiefer’s giant “Des Meeres und der Liebe Wellen” (2011, £160,000-£200,000).

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The massive faking scandal in Germany that rocked the art world last year has not ended with the imprisonment of master counterfeiter Walter Beltracchi. He and his accomplices were found guilty and he was sent down for six years, but the Cologne court took only 14 works into account. German police think another 39 fakes are out there, of expensive works by the likes of Derain, Ernst and Lhote, and there may be far more still unidentified.

Now, one of the victims, a Maltese company called Trasteco, has won €2m in damages from the German auction house Lempertz, which sold it a fake Campendonk (“Rotes Bild mit Pferden”, 1914), for €2.9m in 2006. Lempertz agreed to pay back its €800,000 commission but not the total sum. Trasteco took Lempertz to court and the tribunal was highly critical of Lempertz, saying the firm had not been careful enough when it sold the work, which was “attributed to Campendonk without any credible reasons”. Lempertz is appealing the decision, saying that: “One organised gang had managed, with immense criminal energy, to deceive renowned experts, museum directors and auction houses in, amongst others, Paris, London, Cologne, Berlin and New York.” Certainly, we have not heard the end of this affair.

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

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