The art market: Phillips’ slick “Bric” auction

Phillips de Pury continues its series of “themed sales” in London this week with its first “Bric” auction. Bric is an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India and China, the economic powerhouses that are predicted to out-produce the G7 industrial nations within 20 years. Phillips – which now belongs to a Russian luxury-goods company – has thrown a promotional juggernaut behind this sprawling, 450-lot sale, which is estimated at up to £13m and includes photography, design and prints along with paintings and sculpture. The auction house sponsors free entry to the Saatchi Gallery and so the whole shebang will be held there, temporarily evicting the current exhibition of Indian art, The Empire Strikes Back.

The event kicks off on Saturday night with a super-hip DJ-ed party hosted by Simon de Pury, Roman Abramovich’s partner Dasha Zhukova and Hong Kong’s Sir David Tang. The view is from Sunday, with the auctions held next Friday and Saturday. Higher-priced lots from all four countries are grouped in the Friday evening sale, which includes two works by the Indian artist TV Santhosh being sold by the Manchester-based collector Frank Cohen, who is deaccessioning them to buy other works. “Counting Down” (2008) consists of 30 silver guard dogs bearing digital clocks and is estimated at £50,000-£70,000, while “Enemies’ Enemy II” (2008) is a painting in Santhosh’s solarisation technique (est. £100,000-£150,000).

The other sales are thematic, and it will be interesting to see how the Brazilian segment fares, as New York is the traditional core of the market for Latin American art. Offerings here vary from a typically swirling Beatriz Milhazes screenprint, “O Sábado” (2000), estimated at £7,000-£9,000, to an aluminium sculpture by Lygia Clark, “Bicho”(c1960), estimated at £180,000-£220,000.

A new Russian art gallery, Aktis, has just opened in the heart of St James’s, London, the brainchild of two young Russians, Iana Kobeleva and Anna Chalova. Kobeleva comes from an art background – she previously worked for the Moscow World Fine Art Fair – while Chalova comes from a financial background. While London now has a few Russian art galleries, they mainly specialise in very contemporary art; Aktis will show more established artists who have worked in exile since 1900, covering two periods, 1920s-1940s and 1960s-1980s. The gallery opened this week with a show of drawings, paintings and constructed works by the non-conformist artist Vladimir Yankilevsky, born in 1938.

The gallery will also show secondary market works by names such as Poliakoff, Chagall, Soutine and Lanskoy. “We will focus on Russian artists with an established place in the history of art,” says Kobeleva, “and we hope to enable the Russian audience to rediscover its roots.”

What long-term impact has Christie’s stratospheric Yves Saint Laurent sale had on the French art market? At the time of the €342m sale there was much fighting talk about it re-establishing Paris’s position in the art market, after decades of decline. Well, a year on, a number of top foreign dealers are opening in the capital. Work continues on Gagosian’s new gallery in the upscale Rue de Ponthieu, right beside Christie’s Paris, opening in September, while the Brussels dealer Guy Pieters has recently moved into a fine townhouse almost opposite. The leading Italian dealer Tornabuoni has taken space further up the same avenue, and Paris is buzzing with rumours that Pace will be the next to arrive.

I asked Pace president Marc Glimcher about this. “I hear this about lots of different places, but it’s not impossible,” he said. “The Parisian art market is strong because the city is creating a context for people to come and engage in the art world, and one of the ways of doing that is buying art. The Yves St Laurent sale could have acted as a catalyst.”

Pace recently announced it was amicably ending its 17-year association with the Wildenstein gallery, and Glimcher added enigmatically: “The split does make a difference, and we are seeing all kinds of interesting new things to do; the net result is that a plan that was brewing is now hatching.”

The tiny Gulf state of Bahrain seems set to revive its plan to build a contemporary art museum designed by the Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid. The project is sited close to the National Museum, and is designed with Hadid’s trademark sinuosity, looking a little like a cobra’s head jutting out over the gulf facing the main part of Bahrain’s capital, Manama. “Because of the financial crisis, the project had been in abeyance, but now things are going ahead again,” said Sheikh Rashid Al Khalifa, a member of the ruling family, high government official, and also one of Bahrain’s best-known artists. He said that the museum – which was originally destined to be completed in 2012 – would be acquiring art from the Middle East, and that buying international contemporary art was also under consideration.

On the subject of the Middle East, plans are afoot for another satellite art fair to be held during Frieze week. The ambitious Dubai-based publisher Ali Khadra, whose Canvas magazine covers art from the Middle East and Arab world, is scouting for a location for a fair with 30 dealers showing Middle Eastern and Arab art, to be held in October next year. And London is, says Khadra, just the beginning: he also wants to establish a Middle Eastern art fair alongside Art Basel Miami Beach. “There are some enormously wealthy Middle Easterners in that part of the US,” he says, pointing out that the Mexican Carlos Slim Helú, the world’s richest man in 2010, according to Forbes, originally comes from a Lebanese family.

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

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