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Christie’s staged a stunning entry into mainland China this week, literally with a bang as artist Cai Guo-Qiang made a live performance of one of his “gunpowder” drawings.
The explosion was just one event in a three-day carnival in Shanghai that started with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and cavorting red-and-gold lion dancers, and ended with a mixed auction of 40 lots of wine, watches, jewellery and modern and contemporary art – the categories that the auction house is allowed to sell in mainland China.
Christie’s obtained the licence to operate in the mainland almost six months ago, and organised the auction just as Shanghai launches its 29 sq km free-trade zone in the Pudong area of the city. The sale was held after we went to press, so I will report on that next week.
Christie’s splurged on the opening, flying in 80 of its top clients and its top brass and 150 staff from around the world to mark what chief executive Steven Murphy described as a “watershed moment, as important as our opening in New York in the 1970s”. Guests were shuttled around from cultural visits to smart parties, while Christie’s name blazed over the Pudong river at night. “The future of Christie’s here is very important,” its owner François Pinault told me.
The firm is still barred from selling “cultural relics” (works produced before 1911 or 1949, depending on the category) – the juiciest segment of the market here. But it is taking the long view. “We are patient,” Murphy said, “We are hoping it will open up at some point.” And, he promised, “Christie’s will be in China for hundreds of years.”
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In Hong Kong, the Fine Art Asia fair returns to the Convention Centre for its ninth year, and opens next Thursday. With 100 exhibitors, a slim majority of them western, the fair is the main event for traditional antiques in Hong Kong, although a growing number of modern works is on offer.
This year it struck a deal with London’s Masterpiece fair and a few Chinese galleries came to Chelsea: now the fair is hosting a “pavilion of European treasures” with furniture, paintings and works of art from Masterpiece exhibitors. So as well as Chinese ceramics, visitors can admire European furniture, a Giacometti lamp or a Fabergé seal (until Monday).
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Colombian-born London-based artist Oscar Murillo is just 27 years old, and the hottest market darling around. Prices for his large abstract canvases, which incorporate dirt and other media, have rocketed from a few thousand pounds just a couple of years ago to a stunning $401,000, made at auction at Phillips New York on September 19, over an estimate of just $30,000-$40,000.
Murillo hit the headlines in Florida last year. The Rubell foundation gave him a residency where he made 50 works, all of which they acquired. Then this autumn Murillo made the leap to being represented worldwide by mega-gallery Zwirner. He also has his first solo show at the South London Gallery (until December 1).
In this show he is organising an “active component” in the form of a lottery. The A3-size tickets cost a cool £2,500, and each is screen-printed, over-painted by Murillo or his uncle, and calligraphed with the name of the buyer. Any number can be made – so far 30 have found buyers – and are being exhibited publicly before October 18, when three winners will be drawn.
So, I asked, what are the prizes? And where will the money go, since this in a not-for-profit gallery? All will be revealed just before October 18, says the gallery, which explains that the project is an “exposé of people who invest in his work and a comment on the private versus the commercial world”. Hmmm.
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Artist Ahmed Alsoudani, who left the Christie’s-owned art gallery Haunch of Venison when it closed earlier this year, has joined the Barbara Gladstone gallery in New York. An Iraqi expatriate, Alsoudani makes dark, turbulent canvases depicting scenes of war and violence and is collected by (among others) Christie’s owner François Pinault. Some will be on display in Triple Locked, the first exhibition of Pinault’s private collection, being held in the Conciergerie prison (from October 22 to January 6 2014). Alsoudani will be present on Gladstone’s booth at Fiac in Paris, which opens two days later. Dealer Robert Goff, who represented Alsoudani before also moving to Haunch, has joined Gladstone as a director.
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Oops! The start-up saleroom Theauctionroom.com was hit with a technical glitch just as final bidding started on its Middle Eastern art auction last week. Founder (and Sotheby’s director) George Bailey was supposed to bang the hammer online on each lot on September 19, but, he says, so many people logged on that the system crashed. The sale went ahead, but only online; the firm said it totalled £235,348, rather short of its £400,000 expectations. The top lot, Hayv Kahraman’s double portrait “Carrying on Shoulder 1+2” (2008), made an overestimate £57,100.
But Bailey is unfazed: “[The glitch] was hugely frustrating but I am assured that this can be sorted so we can continue with the way we conduct auctions,” he said.
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Commodities trader Marc Rich, controversially pardoned by President Clinton after being indicted for tax evasion in 2001, died in Switzerland earlier this year. He left both a sizeable property portfolio and an art collection that includes Léger, Picasso, Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh and Miró, among other works. Now his son-in-law, dealer and curator Kenny Schachter has been mandated to sell the collection “systematically and privately” over the years, he tells me. Details aren’t forthcoming for the moment, but Schachter is currently curating a show at Pace gallery in London, devoted to the American artist Paul Thek, Nothing But Time: Paul Thek Revisited 1964-1987 (until November 9).
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And finally ... Talk about the merchants in the temple! This weekend the small Japanese photography fair Tokyo Photo has moved to the most attractive of locations, the huge Buddhist temple of Zojo-ji, once the family sanctuary of the Tokugawa shogunate, and admirably placed in the city centre. The fair, now in its fifth year, attracts some major names: Tate Modern’s curator of photography and art, Simon Baker, is curating a show, Pictures from Moving Cars, during the fair, and among the 30 exhibitors is Gagosian, presenting Ed Ruscha images, Taka Ishii and Tomio Koyama (ends September 30).
Georgina Adam is market editor-at-large of The Art Newspaper
Art fairs around the world
LAPADA Arts and Antiques, September 25-29, Berkeley Square, London
A one-stop shop of carefully authenticated fine arts, furniture, jewellery, carpets, antiques, ceramics and silver from £500-£500,000.
(e)merge, October 3-6, Capitol Skyline Hotel Washington DC
An event that welcomes unrepresented artists. Nancy Daly’s knot sculpture that grows each time someone tweets #LookingForLove.
SWAB, October 3-6, Barcelona
This year the revamped international art fair premiers BAR* for galleries with less than five years’ experience.
KIAF/13, October 3-7, Hall A&B COEX, Seoul
South Korea’s largest art fair. The lecture series “Contemporary Art in Germany” provides European flavour but the core is proudly domestic.
Fine Art Asia, October 4-7, 1 Expo Drive, Wanchai, HK
Museum quality treasures from East and West. Expect a sophisticated crowd as Sotheby’s auctions are held at the same venue.
Vienna Fair, October 10-13, Messe Wien, Vienna
The leading Central, Eastern and South-Eastern European art fair showcases institutions from Albania, Georgia, Kosovo, Lithuania and Serbia.
Art Verona, October 10-14, Exhibition Centre, Verona
A fair exclusively for Italian galleries that is so cutting edge it presents “the art of tomorrow” alongside modern and contemporary movements.
1:54, October 16-20, Somerset House, London
The first international fair dedicated to modern and contemporary African art. An educational artistic programme curated by Koyo Kouoh runs concurrently.
Frieze Masters, October 17-20, Regent’s Park, London
A selection of 120 exhibitors present works ranging from ancient eras to 2000. (See Madonna and Child, c1410, from Julius Böhler.) In the Talk programme, contemporary artists engage with art through the ages with an impressive roster of directors and curators.
Frieze Projects, October 17-20, various sites, London
Nicola Lees curates seven playful commissions for this year’s Projects. Gerry Bibby leaves piles of oyster shells in public places and Emdash award winner Pilvi Takala even hands over the reins to a committee of 12-year-old children to realise her final installation. Just outside is Angelo Plessas’ Family Spaces, a bespoke tent where children can enjoy performances, creative workshops and screenings.
Frieze Sculpture Park, October 17-20, Regent’s Park, London
Claire Lilley curates an outdoor display of medieval to modern and contemporary sculptures from Frieze London and Frieze Masters. Free entry.
Moniker Art Fair, October 17-20, Brick Lane, London
An art fair that “challenges the establishment”. D*face and Shepard Fairey hang alongside emerging artists and secondary market pieces in this celebration of counterculture and urban environments.
FIAC, October 24-27, Grand Palais, Paris
A distinctively European leading international fair. Satellite hors les murs shows include an “ephemeral creation” collaboration with the Louvre and installations along the Left bank.
Affordable Art Fair, October 24-27, Battersea Park, London
Offering contemporary art from £40-£4,000: paintings, original prints, sculpture and photography from new talent and famous names. (See Anna Barlow’s “Vanilla Geigers’’ at Bucha Gallery.)
Art Toronto, October 25-28, Metro Convention Centre, Toronto
Canada’s only modern and contemporary fine art fair. The lecture series that runs alongside the fair mixes practical tips with academic discussion.
The International Fine Art Antique Dealers Show, October 25-31, The Park Avenue Armory, New York
An international show offering a range of strictly vetted pieces, “everything from antiquity to contemporary art”.