Last updated: April 14, 2012 12:16 am

The Art Market: Spring in the air

Fresh starts for Thomas Seydoux and Guy Jennings, Sotheby’s spring Hong Kong sales on a high, and online site 1stdibs’ first fair

Christie’s chairman of impressionist and modern art, Thomas Seydoux, is leaving the firm “to pursue other opportunities in the art world”, according to its press release. And with the art world’s habitual game of musical chairs, coming back into Christie’s is its former specialist, Guy Jennings, who becomes deputy chairman, impressionist and modern art, and who was previously dealing privately with Simon Theobald. “It’s like coming full circle, but I am looking forward to the challenge of going back to Christie’s,” says Jennings. “Perhaps I am fundamentally more at home in the auction world, and the auction houses are really very powerful now, just look at the coming sale of Munch’s ‘The Scream’.”

The surprise might be that Seydoux is not going to Qatar – where a number of former Christie’s colleagues have ended up. So what are his plans? He defines himself as a salesman: “I sell, therefore I am.” So he is taking three months off, then setting up independently, bringing in one or two colleagues to work together. He gives this tantalising answer to rumours that he will work for Russia: “I will become a private dealer, chasing treasures for clients – who could be in Russia or from elsewhere ...”

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Sotheby’s spring Hong Kong sales ended on a high note just before Easter with the sale of a small, 900-year-old ceramic dish dating back to China’s Song dynasty, known as the Ruyao dish, which doubled its estimate at US$26.7m. It is one of very few such pieces in private hands; its pair is now in the British Museum, donated by Ivy and Alfred Clark. This piece was consigned from a Japanese collection, but had also belonged to Ivy Clark. Its appearance caused great enthusiasm: several bidders chased it up to US$18m and the final battle pitted the long-established Japanese firm Mayuyama, who had previously handled it, against the unidentified successful bidder on the telephone to Patti Wong, Sotheby’s Asia chairman.

The total tally of US$316m surpassed the expected US$244m for the whole series. While the sale of contemporary Asian art was selective, the Indonesian-Chinese collector Budi Tek was reported to have taken the two top lots for a private museum he is building in Shanghai: Zhang’s “Bloodline – Big Family: Big Family No.2” (1993), which sold for US $6.69m, and Fang Lijun’s, “1993 No. 4” for US$3.67m.

Last year, Sotheby’s spring sales produced a bigger total of US$447m, and this time around Wong noted that prices for the more average material have softened. She also said that persuading owners to sell was tougher this year than in 2011, which was “the most successful year we have ever had in Asia.”

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One of the most successful online sites for selling art and antiques is 1stdibs, which offers everything from vintage fashion and Fabergé jewellery to art, antiques and modernist design, proposed by 1,200 dealers. They all have to have a real world presence (meaning a shop) and this weekend in New York they also have their own real world fair: the inaugural NYC20. This brings together 40 mid-20th-century design dealers, all of them 1stdibs members, exhibiting in a tent at the Lincoln Centre. While most are based in the US, there are also a smattering of foreigners including London’s Trinity House and the Silver Fund (fair ends on Sunday). And in Europe 1stdibs is also extending its reach to the Benelux region, adding 25 dealers to the site, from Amsterdam, Antwerp and Brussels (online from April 18).

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'The 7 Legshow' by Eric Neveu

'The 7 Legshow' by Eric Neveu at the Crazy Horse Pin'Up sale

“Porno chic” is the Gallic way of describing the material on offer at Paris’s renowned Crazy Horse salon’s Pin’Up sale on Sunday. Organised by the French auctioneer Cornette de St Cyr, the 438-lot sale includes 25 works specially made for the event by artists such as David LaChapelle, Greg Hildebrandt (two paintings estimated at €12,000-€15,000) and photographs by Antoine Poupel of Crazy Horse dancers (€3,000-€4,000). Alongside these are a host of pin-up paintings, posters and even furniture from the Crazy Horse – a red leather sofa is estimated at €800-€1,000. Prices start at a modest €30 but rise to €30,000 for Helmut Newton’s “Nude in the Villa d’Este”, a life-size photograph printed by Marc Bruhat and dedicated to him by Newton.

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Tayeba Begum Lipi's 'Bizarre and Beauty' (2012)

At the Dhaka Art Summit, Tayeba Begum Lipi's 'Bizarre and Beauty' (2012)

Leading Bangladeshi collectors Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani are launching the first Dhaka Art Summit this weekend (ends on Sunday). It is an initiative of their non-profit Samdani Art Foundation, and aims to bring Bangladeshi artists more international exposure. With a weak gallery system in the country, many artists are unrepresented, and the Summit gives them a platform to show their work, sell it, or at least make fruitful contacts. More than 200 artists will be participating and there is a lecture programme and three public exhibitions of Bangladeshi artists, one by the Britto Arts Trust, which organised the country’s first appearance at last year’s Venice Biennale.

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

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