The Art Market: an auction-packed week

After New York, Hong Kong and Venice, and before the High Mass of Art Basel, it’s time for a stop in London. The auction houses are geared up for the coming weeks’ major auctions, from Old Masters to contemporary art, so Sotheby’s and Christie’s are to remain open all this weekend and into next week, and will be plastering their London premises with highlights from the sales.

Sotheby’s has taken a “compare and contrast” strategy in its preview by making unexpected juxtapositions such as El Greco’s “The Crucifixion” (1600; est. £3m-£5m) with a 1959 Soulages (est. £2m-£3m), or a Hockney with a Vernet (rather less convincing). It is also displaying an early 14th-century ivory triptych from the Gustav Rau collection (est. £2.5m-£3.5m) and a 12th-century manuscript.

Christie’s is showing everything from a George II silver coffee pot (est. an astonishing £3.5m-£4.5m) to Basquiat’s 1982 “Untitled” work with an “on request” estimate in the region of £15m, along with furniture, manuscripts and paintings by Burne-Jones, Canaletto and Kandinsky. The auction house will prolong the party next week with a selection from its coming postwar and contemporary sales presented as a “Homage to Chillida” in its “new” exhibition space in Bond Street, aka its former Haunch of Venison gallery.

The summer London fair season opened this week with Pinta, a niche event that specialises in Latin-American art and was held in the sprawling Olympia exhibition centre. With 65 galleries from 12 countries, the fair was neatly placed to catch Latin-American buyers stopping off between Venice and Basel.

Early 14th-century ivory triptych from the Gustav Rau collection, at Sotheby’s

On offer was a considerable amount of abstract and kinetic art, and some of the stands were reserved for established “celebrated artists” such as the 97-year-old Argentine Luis Tomasello, being shown by Ascaso Gallery from Miami. Tomasello was close to the Zero group of artists, but with far gentler prices: works on offer at the fair ranged from $21,000 to $168,000.

Carlos Duran of Barcelona’s Senda Gallery, exhibiting in the Projects section with a solo show of drawings by Sandra Vásquez de la Horra, sold a group of the works (tagged at €16,250) to author and collector Catherine Petitgas – who curated the section – within the first five minutes of the opening. “I am here to connect with collectors I don’t see in Spain,” he said.

Emma Molina of the eponymous Mexican gallery said she had come because “London is where everything is happening in Europe right now.” She was exhibiting a hanging “dress” by Miriam Medrez, “Threads of Identity” (2013), tagged at $10,000. “Her work, using textiles, is in the same vein as that of Joana Vasconcelos, representing Portugal in Venice – but far cheaper!” she said.

At auction, the Latin-American market softened a bit in the second half of 2012 and is “selective”, according to a new report published at the same time as the fair.

Meanwhile in New York, Sotheby’s sale on May 28 raised $19.5m with a poorish 68 per cent sold; Christie’s sale in the same category over the following two days did slightly better, making $21.3m with 72 per cent sold.

$€X spells – well, you’ve got it. The giant illuminated sign that once beckoned passers-by above a shop in London’s Soho is up for sale at auction next Saturday, and estimated at £500-£700. It is one of almost 500 lots of reclaimed architectural pieces ranging from garden statuary, furniture, mirrors and mantelpieces to other curiosities on offer.

Also up for grabs are French boiserie panelling (£12,000-£18,000), Victorian stained-glass windows (£1,200-£1,800); carved oak cresting from Christopher Wren’s Temple Bar gate (£8,000-£10,000) and even taxidermy – for instance, a mounted wild boar’s head (£200-£300).

The sale is being held in London, at Brunswick House, an 18th-century building that nestles at the foot of the high rises of Vauxhall, and houses the London Architectural Salvage & Supply Company (Lassco), which is supplying the auction. “We’ve accumulated so much stuff over the years, we’re clearing the decks and having a good purge,” says Adrian Amos, the company’s founder and owner.

A lot has been written about the threat to London’s Cork Street, one of the centres of the city’s art trade. Seven galleries are looking for new homes during a four-year-plus redevelopment of numbers 22 to 27 after the block was sold to Native Land, a Malaysian developer, backed by Qatari money.

El Greco’s ‘The Crucifixion' (1600), paired with ‘Peinture, 21 novembre’ (1959) by Pierre Soulages at Sotheby’s

One dealer, Waterhouse & Dodd, is moving to Albemarle Street in early July, and meanwhile the Mayor Gallery is holding its last show in its current space. The Nature of Women (until July 26) features six female abstract artists, among them Agnes Martin, Aurélie Nemours and Lisa Corrine Davis.

The Mayor Gallery was opened in 1925 by James Mayor’s father Fred with an all-male show, including Picasso, Herbin and Dufy, and has been in Cork Street since the 1970s. In a last-ditch legal action, Mayor and two other galleries are challenging the redevelopment plan with a pre-court hearing this week: the other galleries have now dropped out of the battle.

The Venice Biennale, although ostensibly a non-commercial event, is always an opportunity for collectors to get first dibs on art work, and Francesca von Habsburg quickly bought a new 35mm colour film by Mathias Poledna, entitled Imitation of Life, at the Austrian Pavilion last week. The film looks exactly like a 1950s all-singing, all-dancing cartoon, but in fact was completely created in the animation studios of Los Angeles. “It transcends all artistic boundaries,” Von Habsburg commented.

“Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost,” Henry James once recommended. So I was interested to dig out this titbit from an interview with the new director of Qatar’s Mathaf museum, Dr Abdellah Karroum, in the French Quotidien de l’Art. He said that the institution, generally thought to be for modern Arab art, is in fact an “Arab museum for modern art”.

The distinction could shed light on where the mighty Qatari art purchasing might go, if it is put on display one day. Maybe Mathaf could be a destination – particularly as there is a project for a new building (currently it is housed in a former school, and also uses the Al Riwaq building near the Museum of Islamic Art). But don’t hold your breath – “Everything will be unified in 2019-2020,” as Karroum said in the interview.

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

Upcoming art fairs

Olympia International Art & Antiques, to June 16, Olympia Exhibition Centre, London

This year’s fair has just opened in the stately surrounds of west London. There’s a huge amount to see (and buy – pieces range from £100 to £1m), from 18th- and 19th-century English furniture and 20th-century design to tribal art, ceramics, carpets, silver and jewellery. The programme of talks is equally wide-ranging, with a weighty panel debate on “The state of the art market” hosted by Sotheby’s Institute of Art on June 13 (booking required) and, on June 10, an introduction to “The art of maritime model-making”.

Art Basel, June 13-16, Halls 1 & 2, Messe Basel Messeplatz, Switzerland

The Art Basel empire may extend west to Miami and now east to Hong Kong, but its Swiss original remains the most respected, drawing all the big-name collectors and galleries – many of the latter reserve their best pieces for the fair. This year, some 230 modern and contemporary galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa are participating in what has been dubbed the “Olympics of the art world”. The fair’s “Unlimited” section – for large-scale work (sculptures, video projections, installations, performances) that cannot be shown in the modest booths – will feature 79 pieces, the largest number to date. Emerging talents including Esther Kläs, Emil Michael Klein, Oscar Murillo and Amalia Pica will be shown alongside Ai Weiwei, Martin Creed and Antony Gormley.

Affordable Art Fair, June 13-16, Hampstead Heath, London

With 100 galleries selling work for between £40 and £4,000, the Affordable Art Fair franchise (there is a fair in Battersea, south London, in October) is the antidote to the high-end art market circuit. Billed as a “summer day out”, it admits children free of charge and exhibitors are used to first-time buyers. Many of the galleries here are part of the Own Art Scheme, whereby buyers pay for artwork in instalments.

Masterpiece London, June 27-July 3, Royal Hospital Chelsea, London

This young fair – now in its fourth year – attracts a young, moneyed crowd. It incorporates art, design, antique furniture, precious jewels and vintage cars, and the food (Le Caprice, Scott’s Seafood & Champagne Bar, the Mount Street Deli, Urban Caprice) is top notch.

PhotoEspana, June 5-28 July, various locations, Madrid

The 16th edition of this popular, sprawling festival takes the meaty theme of “Body, Eros and Politics”. Exhibitions explore photography’s long fascination with the nude – and the questions it raises around eroticism, gender politics, race and sexual orientation. Círculo de Bellas Artes is showing photographs by the American masters Edward Weston and Harry Callahan, with 80 works whose nudes are more than mere objects of desire – the models being the artists’ wives and lovers.

London Art Week, June 28-July 5, various locations, London

Master Drawings and Sculpture Week (formerly Master Drawings London) and Master Paintings Week join forces as London Art Week. Galleries across Mayfair and St James’s co-ordinate their exhibitions with the season’s big auctions in a bid to attract specialist dealers. The works on show span the the 15th to 20th centuries.

Rencontres Arles, July 1-September 22

Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d’Arles – to give it its full name – is one of the oldest, most prestigious photography festivals. Every summer some 60 exhibitions colonise the picturesque town’s churches, ruins, palaces and halls. There are also debates, lectures and screenings.

Design Miami/Basel, June 11-16, Hall 1 Süd, Messe Basel Messeplatz, Switzerland

Not to be confused with Art Basel Miami, Design Miami/Basel this year displays five centuries of collectible design in Herzog and de Meuron’s new hall. There are also site-specific commissions, performances and talks.

Basel satellite fairs:

Volta 9, June 10-16, Dreispitzhalle, Basel

Founded in 2005, Volta 9 promises “the most exciting emerging artists”. This year’s 74 galleries have a wide geographical reach, spanning Europe, North America, east Asia, the Middle East and Africa. New exhibitors include Madrid’s Pro Gallery and Seoul’s Gallery Skape. There are free shuttles from the Dreispitzhalle to Art Basel, Liste and the Solo Project.

Liste, June 11-16, Burgweg 15, Basel

Liste was set up by young gallerists in 1996 and this year received 300 applications for 66 gallery booths. For the past nine years, it has featured a special Performance Project: this year’s, in collaboration with Audio Visual Arts of New York, showcases artists who “examine the production, composition, distribution and technique of sound”.

Scope, June 10-16, 40 Uferstrasse, Basel

Scope Basel – with sister fairs in New York, Miami, London and the Hamptons – moves to a new location on the Rhine, with 75 exhibitors. The oddly named “Breeder Programme” introduces a handful of new galleries to the contemporary market

Solo Project, June 12-16, St Jakobshalle, Basel

“Solo shows by selected galleries” is the tagline here: 50 mainly European galleries present in-depth surveys of one or two chosen artists. There is also a section for “moving art” featuring mainly French galleries.

June and July sales highlights

Contemporary Art

Sotheby’s, Paris, June 5-6

Willem de Kooning: Works on Paper

Christie’s, online only, June 5-19

Impressionist & Modern Art

Sotheby’s, Paris, June 6

Garden of Epics: A Private Collection of Indian Paintings

Christie’s, London, June 10

Arts of India

Christie’s, London, June 10

South Asian Modern & Contemporary Art

Christie’s, London, June 11

Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art

Sotheby’s, London, June 11

British & European Pictures

Bonhams, London, June 11

Asian Art

Sotheby’s, Paris, June 12

Asian Art

Christie’s, Paris, June 13

African & Pacific Art

Sotheby’s, Paris, June 18

Picasso Ceramics

Christie’s, London, June 18

Impressionist & Modern Art

Christie’s, London, June 18-19

Impressionist & Modern Art

Bonhams, London, June 18

Islamic & Indian Art

Bonhams, London, June 18

African & Pacific Art

Christie’s, Paris, June 19

Impressionist & Modern Art

Sotheby’s, London, June 19-20

Impressionist & Modern Works on Paper

Sotheby’s, London, June 20

Victorian, British & Impressionist Art

Christie’s, London, June 20

Impressionist & Modern Art

Christie’s, London, June 21

Post War & Contemporary Art

Christie’s, London, June 25-26

Contemporary Art

Sotheby’s, London, June 26-27

19th-Century Drawings & Paintings

Sotheby’s, Paris, June 27

Contemporary Art & Design

Bonhams, London, June 27

European Sculpture & Works of Art: Medieval to Modern

Sotheby’s, London, July 2

Old Master & British Drawings & Watercolours

Christie’s, London, July 2

Old Master & British Paintings

Christie’s, London, July 2-3

Old Master & British Drawings

Sotheby’s, London, July 3

Old Master & British Paintings

Sotheby’s, London, July 3-4

Old Master Paintings

Bonhams, London, July 3

Fine European Furniture Sculpture & Works of Art

Bonhams, London, July 4

Old Master & British Paintings

Christie’s, London, July 5

Arts of Europe

Sotheby’s, London, July 10

Modern & British Art

Christie’s, London, July 10

Asian Art

Bonhams, Edinburgh, July 10

Modern & Post-War British Art

Sotheby’s, London, July 11-12

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