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Christie’s second online-only sale of works drawn from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts ended last week. Bidders from 20 countries, including the US and Kuwait, logged on for the 158-lot sale. A gelatin silver print from 1984 (“Central Park and Manhattan Skyline”), which fetched $10,625, was the most competitive lot, attracting 21 bids. The 2013 web auction realised $2.3m with sell-through rates of 99 per cent by lot and value; this year’s sales statistics were not available at the time of going to press.
Amelia Manderscheid, Christie’s head of eCommerce postwar and contemporary art, explains that buyers can simply give a set limit to Christie’s. “A maximum bid is like an absentee bid: the system will bid up to a pre-designated amount on the client’s behalf as competitive bids come in,” she said.
The Munich- and London-based dealer Daniel Blau says he is “troubled” by the lack of transparency in the process but a Christie’s spokeswoman defended the procedure, saying that it was “as transparent as possible”.
Works will be sold with a certificate of provenance – very important, in the case of this artist, where authentication has proved a knotty problem in the past. Crucially, “Christie’s will maintain a database of these purchases which will substantiate provenance in the future and supply relevant information to the Andy Warhol catalogue raisonné,” she added.
New York gallerists Marian Goodman and Michael Werner are among the heavyweight newcomers participating in the 10th edition of the modern and contemporary SP-Arte fair, which opens in São Paulo’s Bienal Pavilion next week (April 2-6). A total of 136 dealers (78 Brazilian and 58 international) are hoping for healthy returns from Brazil’s solid community of collectors. Hiroshi Sugimoto (“Manatee”, 1994, $200,000) and Zhang Huan (“Sea No. 8”, 2012, $250,000) are among the artists on show at Pace Gallery. Homegrown artists and dealers will include Vik Muniz’s “Sandcastle (Chateau de Chambourd)” (2013), available with Nara Roesler at $55,000.
However, there are reports that some blue-chip galleries are lowering their price points this year as spending power may be limited after three years of sluggish economic growth in Brazil. And the country’s cumbersome taxes are still a thorny issue for some blue-chip dealers: on top of an 18 per cent VAT rate enforced by states within Brazil, art at SP-Arte is also subject to an import tax of 4 per cent and other federal contributions that total about 10 per cent. The organisers of the ArtRio and SP-Arte fairs have persuaded state authorities to make purchases at the fairs exempt from state taxes until 2015. “Making the exemption permanent is a key factor to further Brazil’s presence in the international market,” said Fernanda Feitosa, director of SP-Arte.
Are works displayed at biennials worldwide bound for the market – or museums? The Venice Biennale is ostensibly a non-commercial event but art world professionals consider the world’s oldest and most prestigious art exhibition a “shopfront” for works by critically acclaimed artists (expect a jump in prices for art by Sarah Lucas, the UK’s representative at the 2015 Venice Biennale).
Meanwhile, a number of pieces in the 19th Sydney Biennale (until June 9) are meeting with commercial, as well as critical, acclaim. Turner Prize winner Douglas Gordon’s ambitious “Phantom” installation (2011), comprising the remains of a burnt Steinway piano and a mesmerising film of a piercing, slow-moving kohl-encrusted eye, is a biennale talking point. Gordon’s dealer, Olivier Belot of Galerie Yvon Lambert in Paris, explains that, “The role of the gallery is to contact potential collectors, foundations or museums that could acquire the installation. It is also important to bring curators on board.” The work, an edition of three, “starts at $500,000, [with the] equipment not included”, he added.
Meanwhile, Israeli artist Yael Bartana’s apocalyptic “Inferno” video (2013, edition of eight) is a lavish co-production funded by the Pérez Art Museum Miami, the Petzel Gallery in New York and the Sydney Biennale, among others. “The price is €125,000; we are working with several museums on acquisition of the artwork,” said a spokesman.
A new series of sculptures by the Australian artist Benjamin Armstrong, priced between A$9,000 and A$18,000, would be available for sale after the biennale closes, said Jan Minchin of Melbourne’s Tolarno Galleries. Armstrong funded the production of his sculptures, she pointed out. Juliana Engberg, the artistic director of the biennale, which is a non-profit organisation, said: “I’m all for artists thriving through commercial processes.”
China is still the art-market cake of which most western dealers want a slice, even in the face of numerous challenges. Photo Shanghai, billed as China’s first fair dedicated to photography, is the latest foray into the Asian art market. Dealers including Flowers Gallery in London and James Danziger of New York have signed up for the event, which runs from September 5-7 at Shanghai Exhibition Centre. A spokeswoman for Vanguard Gallery in Shanghai, a fair participant, admitted that the collector base for photography in China was limited, but that “some new collectors are beginning to pay attention [to the medium]”.
Photo Shanghai will be managed by the World Photography Organisation, a subsidiary of the trade show company Montgomery, which also runs the Art14 fair in London and the India Art Fair in Delhi. Alexander Montague-Sparey, former head of the photography department at Christie’s in London, is the fair director.
Mega-dealer Larry Gagosian’s latest venture has set tongues wagging. He is to open two new galleries in New York: a pop-up venue on Delancey Street, Lower East Side, and a 1,000 sq ft ground-floor space at Park Avenue in uptown Manhattan – to add to his existing four Manhattan galleries. A two-part exhibition devoted to the Swiss artist Urs Fischer launches in both new spaces on April 3.
The New York-based art adviser Candace Worth said she was “surprised” by Gagosian’s move downtown, as “there is a less market-driven, more risk-taking approach in the programming of many of those galleries [there].” And what does it say about the state of the market? James Fuentes, a Lower East Side dealer, quipped: “That it can function at the highest level even on the Lower East Side.”