Paul Klee, Insula dulcamara, 1938, 481
Paul Klee’s 1938 work ‘Insula dulcamara’

David Zwirner now represents the family of visionary artist Paul Klee (1879-1940), who until now have never officially joined forces with a commercial gallery. Aljoscha Klee, grandson of the artist, says that the partnership aims to direct his grandfather’s work “towards a new generation of artist and collectors”. Klee’s auction record currently stands at £4.2m for his Divisionist work “Tänzerin” (“Dancer”, 1932), a much lower level than his contemporaries, including Pablo Picasso (auction record $179.4m), Wassily Kandinsky (£33m) and the lesser-known Alexej von Jawlensky (£9.4m).

Zwirner, who describes Klee as “the quintessential artist’s artist”, will bring a solo booth of his work from the family’s collection to the Tefaf New York Spring art fair (May 3-7), and plans a mostly selling show in his New York gallery in September. This will coincide with the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus art school — where Klee taught for 10 years between 1921 and 1931 — and will focus on the artist’s late works. “Klee’s mature work overlaps directly with some of the brightest and darkest moments of 20th-century history and art history,” Zwirner says.

The Paul Klee Family is a separate entity from the Zentrum Paul Klee collection, though their works are often displayed together at the Zentrum’s museum in Bern, Switzerland.

There has been a flurry of activity at Artory, a blockchain-based art registry that essentially date-stamps validated records of transactions. A first round of official investment this month, known as Series-A funding, has raised $7.3m. It’s not the biggest of investments but in the field of blockchain-plus-art — which is very early-stage and unproven at best — is certainly a commitment to the cause. Nanne Dekking, Artory’s founding chief executive and also chairman of the Tefaf art fairs, describes it as a relatively “huge amount”, particularly given the support from outside the art market. Backers include tech investor 2020 Ventures, which has bought into Spotify and, closer to the art market, 1stdibs, an online platform for high-end lifestyle goods.

Also, at the end of March, Artory acquired Auction Club, a large database of auction sales that was recently used as a source by art economist Clare McAndrew for her annual report on the market.

Traffic has been mostly one-way between China and the west in the art market: the big-name western galleries tend to pick up one or two artists from Asia to promote through their worldwide operations. For Gillian Ayres, the British abstract artist who died this time last year, the reverse dynamic has been fruitful and may prove a welcome trend. Her work is now represented by Beijing’s Pifo gallery, which is currently supporting an Ayres solo show at the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Centre in Latvia called I see nature like paint (until September 29). The gallery took work by Ayres to the West Bund Art & Design fair in Shanghai at the end of last year, when it also opened the artist’s first commercial show in Asia.

Gillian Ayres, Nimbus, 1961, oil and Ripolin on canvas (est. L40,000-60,000)
‘Nimbus’ by Gillian Ayres (1961), sold for £75,000 in November

“If you want to leave a trace in China, then you’re best off working with the Chinese,” says Philip Dodd, chairman of cultural agency Made In China, who helped introduce Ayres and her family to Pifo’s team.

Ayres’ auction record was set in November when “Nimbus” (1961) sold for £75,000 at Sotheby’s.

Alan Cristea gallery continues to represent Ayres’ printed works, and currently has a show in its London space (Song Beneath the Stars, until May 11). Later this year, Tate Britain will dedicate one of its Spotlights displays to Ayres (June 3-January 19 2020). Meanwhile Sprüth Magers has added Chinese multimedia artist Cao Fei to its roster, the first gallery to work with her in the US and Europe. China’s Vitamin Creative Space continues to represent Cao in Asia.

As art lawyers prove increasingly in demand, two specialists from Boodle Hatfield — Tim Maxwell and Rudy Capildeo — have decamped to Charles Russell Speechlys. They join Ludovic de Walden as partners this month to initiate an art-focused team based in London that aims to expand to seven people this year.

One area of growth that they identify is art owners who want to borrow money against their paintings alongside their wine and luxury car holdings. “As the market gets bigger, people can’t operate on a handshake any more. They need to paper their art deals as they would any high-value property,” Maxwell says.

Meanwhile, the latest shake-up in the business of lending against art is that Athena Art Finance, founded in 2015, has been sold for about $170m out of its private equity owners Carlyle to YieldStreet, an investment firm backed by billionaire George Soros.

“Chapeau” to France’s wealthiest collectors: François Pinault and family, powerful luxury business owners and art collectors, swiftly announced a €100m donation towards the repair of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris while it was still being ravaged by Monday night’s fire. “It has to be a collective endeavour, like it was when it was built [between 1163 and 1345] . . . It’s going to be long, it’s going to be expensive but we have to do it,” Pinault’s son, François-Henri, told the BBC. He is president of Artemis, whose family holdings include Christie’s auction house. Meanwhile the Pinaults’ business rival and fellow art collector Bernard Arnault announced a €200m donation on behalf of his family and the LVMH luxury goods group.

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