Listen to this article
Sober times call for less celebratory art and there was a high-profile failure for boom-time artist Jeff Koons at auction in London in October when his “Cracked Egg (Blue)” sculpture (1994-2006), estimated to make between £10m and £15m, went unsold. Now New York gallerist Edward Tyler Nahem hopes that the uncracked “Smooth Egg with Bow (Magenta/ Orange)” (1994-2009), also from the show-stopping Celebration series and priced at about $10m, will have more success at Art Basel Miami Beach this week. “If this is a soft moment for Koons’s market — which I don’t happen to think it is — he is still and will always be a very significant artist,” Nahem says, describing the London estimate as “top heavy”.
Only one “smooth” egg sculpture (of five) has sold on the public market — a magenta egg with a violet bow that went for $7.4m (with fees) at Christie’s, New York in 2016.
Gagosian gallery, which represents Koons on the primary market, is also bringing one of his works to the Sunshine State this week: his later, but no less shiny, “Ode to Love” (2010-17).
Holy Hoaxes is the superb title of an exhibition coming to gallery of Medieval art Les Enluminures (New York, January 17-February 2). This will show part of the fakes and forgeries collection that belongs to William Voelkle, curator emeritus of the Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts department at New York’s Morgan Library and Museum.
Highlights include works by the so-called Spanish Forger, who was in fact based in Paris in the early 20th century but earned his name because of a work he attributed to a 15th-century Spanish artist. Voelkle believes there are more than 400 works by the Spanish Forger, exposed as such in the 1930s, including about a dozen in his collection. A large panel, “St Martha Taming the Tarasque”, that Voelkle bought for $300 in 1974 features at Les Enluminures.
It’s rare for Medieval copying to be so intentionally deceptive. “The line between fakes, forgeries, copies and facsimiles is much more blurred than for other periods,” says specialist Sandra Hindman, chief executive of Les Enluminures. She points to work by nuns at the Abbey of Maredret, Belgium, who learnt the intricate techniques of illumination to connect with their predecessors. There is also work by Caleb Wing, who recreated manuscripts for a London collector whose library was damaged by a flood in about 1846.
The works in the show are “emphatically not for sale”, Hindman says; it presents an “extraordinary collection” about an “intriguing topic”.
Pace Gallery, which has spaces dotted across the world, next year opens a headquarters building in its home base of New York that puts the “mega” into “mega-gallery”. Boasting eight stories and a total 75,000 sq ft at 540 West 25th Street, the new space, due to open in September, will be a significant part of a transforming Chelsea where, four blocks down, David Zwirner will also open a new flagship building in 2020 (50,000 sq ft). Nearby, the huge Hudson Yards development, including an ambitious cultural space called The Shed, is set to open in 2019.
The new Pace building, designed by Bonetti Kozerski Architecture, promises four high-spec galleries, while its sixth floor will be a partially covered, 6,000 sq ft outdoor space for sculpture. On the seventh floor, 2,200 sq ft will be dedicated to new media, live performances and other public events. Pace president Marc Glimcher is particularly proud of the planned 10,000-volume research library on the ground floor, which will be open to the public by appointment.
The Modern and contemporary gallery will keep its space down the road (where it owns the building) and on the Upper East Side, but its West 24th Street gallery will close next year.
In other gallery news, Lévy Gorvy, already established in New York and London, will branch out to Hong Kong in March, to coincide with the Art Basel fair in town. International galleries including David Zwirner, Pace and Hauser & Wirth opened in the new H Queen’s building in Central last year, while Lévy Gorvy has instead found a 2,500 sq ft space on the ground floor of the more historic St George’s nearby — which still offers high ceilings, something of a rarity in Hong Kong. “We wanted somewhere confidential and comfortable, so a tall building with many other dealers in it wasn’t appropriate,” says co-founder Brett Gorvy.
Hauser & Wirth, meanwhile, has founded a not-for-profit institute to support the legacy of modern and contemporary artists, including those who are not represented by the gallery. Initial projects include producing an online catalogue raisonné of Franz Kline’s 1950-62 paintings and providing the funds to catalogue and digitise the artist’s archive.
Business seems to be flowing in for ex-Christie’s auctioneer Tom Best, whose alternative selling platform for emerging, unrepresented artists, the Auction Collective, prepares for its third event in London since September. About 80 works, with an average value of £2,500, will go on show in the Saatchi Gallery from this Thursday (Abstract: Reality, in partnership with Presenza).
The works will then be auctioned by Best on December 13 — but without the buyer’s commission that an auction house would normally charge at this level. Instead, Best charges the artists 35 per cent of their work’s selling price.
The live, bricks-and-mortar element is vital for an experience-hungry crowd, Best says, but the latest technology also plays an important part. Buyer registration, bidding and payment are all done through phones — even the paddle is downloaded to a device.
Purists may balk at the idea of emerging artists selling swiftly at auction, but the participants seem pretty pleased. Of the latest show and sale at London’s Alon Zakaim gallery, at which the average selling price was £840, artist Adam Robinson writes on Instagram “A fantastic evening . . . and to crown it off my work sold!”
Get alerts on Collecting when a new story is published