September 7, 2012 7:41 pm

The Art Market: A whole lot of Warhol

There’s brio in Rio, a China crisis and a Pop art sell-off in New York
Liza Minnelli, by Andy Warhol (1977)©The Andy Warhol Foundation

Liza Minnelli, by Andy Warhol (1977)

Andy Warhol has been the bedrock of the postwar and contemporary art market for years, fuelled by his global fame and a rich supply of work: some 200 works a year sell through auction alone. And the estate, run by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, still holds a considerable inventory: 350 paintings and 1,000 prints, plus drawings and photographs.

Now the foundation has cut a deal with Christie’s to sell it all off, over a number of years, through auction, online sales and private treaty sale, starting in New York on November 12. That day no fewer than 350 works will be sold in three separate sales. On offer will be “Three Targets” (1985-86) with an estimate of $1m-$1.5m and a red-white-and-black “Jackie” from the 1960s, looking for $200,000-$300,000.

As part of the deal, Christie’s is creating a special site for the sales, within its own website, which launches in October. The foundation will use the proceeds of the sale to increase its $225m endowment and make more art-related grants.

All this cannot come as good news to the Mugrabi family of dealers, who in recent years have dominated the market and who are thought to own at least 800 works by the Pop artist.

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To date, São Paulo has been the centre of Brazil’s art market and the established Sp-Arte fair, held in May, is now eight years old. But the stripling ArtRio, whose second edition kicks off next week in Rio de Janeiro has triumphantly snared the biggest dealer out there: Gagosian. The mega-gallery is going in strongly, with a stand at the fair, plus a sculpture exhibition in a warehouse. Gagosian says the whole shebang tots up to $130m, and “signals a major commitment to Brazil” – even if, for now, it denies having any plans to open its 13th art space in the country.

Last year ArtRio had 83 exhibitors – this year it boasts 114 galleries with a line-up of major names, including David Zwirner, White Cube, Sadie Coles and Hauser & Wirth. “They are all new to the fair this year,” says fair director Brenda Valansi: “Everyone is watching the Brazilian market at the moment.”

In addition, the punitive 43 per cent tax on art imports into Brazil has been reduced to 23 per cent for the period of the fair.

Andy Warhol and Truman Capote, 1977©Courtesy of the Andy Warhol Found

Andy Warhol and Truman Capote, 1977

A key factor is the concurrent São Paulo Biennial, the world’s second-oldest after Venice, as well as the overall strength of Brazil’s economy. Forbes lists 37 Brazilian billionaires in 2012; plus there’s mining magnate Bernardo Paz, who has poured money into one of the world’s biggest art/ sculpture parks at Inhotim, near Belo Horizonte.

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The two employees of a Chinese shipping group who were imprisoned in Beijing in March this year over allegedly undervaluing art imports to the mainland are out of jail but remain under house arrest.

Torsten Hendricks, director of Integrated Fine Art Solutions (IFAS) confirmed that the German Nils Jennrich and his Chinese colleague Lydia Chu have been released on bail. “However, since they are not yet free of all accusations, we do not wish to make any kind of statement to endanger their freedom,” Hendricks added.

The employees were accused of evading about €1.2m in customs dues, and potentially faced long jail sentences. Another art handling company, Noah, was also investigated, with Sotheby’s and Christie’s in Hong Kong asked to provide client lists and information about sales and prices.

The fallout of the affair continues to make itself felt. According to one Beijing-based art dealer, dozens of Chinese art collectors have been investigated and this is giving them very cold feet: “I have had four deals cancelled since the arrests,” he said. “The collectors say, ‘it’s just not the time to be buying art’.”

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London’s Saatchi Gallery is hosting the final leg of a tour of artist-designed chess pieces. This started in 2003 with five artists, and more were added as the show went around the world. All 16 creations are on view at the gallery, including designs by Tracey Emin, Barbara Kruger (whose pieces talk), the Brazilian Tunga, Damien Hirst and the Chapman brothers. Prices range from £15,000 to £250,000.

These sets will probably be better for showing than for playing. Writing in next month’s Standpoint magazine, author (and chess player) Dominic Lawson is unconvinced by the show in his brother-in-law’s gallery: “The sensuousness of a piece in the hand lies partly in its correspondence with the geometry of the moves it will make,” he says. “Sorry, but Damien Hirst’s lumpy chess pieces as medical bottles don’t inspire.”

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

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