A selection of the secret postcards on sale on March 22 at the Royal College of Art in London
A selection of the secret postcards on sale on March 22 at the Royal College of Art in London

Agnews, the long-established London dealer that closed last year, is being brought back to life under new ownership. The name, remaining stock and its extensive archives have been bought by a group of investors led by Cliff Schorer, an American entrepreneur and collector of Old Masters. The firm will be run by Anthony Crichton-Stuart, former head of Old Master paintings at Christie’s New York. The “new” Agnews will operate from existing premises in London’s Old Bond Street while a gallery space is sought, and will concentrate on Old Masters and 20th-century art.

Art prices today can be so demented that it seems impossible that £50 could buy anything. Yet that is what is offered each year by the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London: 2,900 postcard-sized works of art donated by more than 1,100 artists, priced at just £50 each. The money goes to the student award fund: £1m has been raised so far. Creators can be famous names such as Grayson Perry, Julian Opie, Zaha Hadid and David Bailey, or art students and graduates. The trick is that the postcards are not identified; they are signed on the back, but the buyer knows who made them only after purchase. The works go on show, online and at the RCA in Battersea, on Thursday; to buy one you have to go to Battersea on March 22. Some stalwarts camp out the night before to get in early . . .

In New York, federal officials have seized a $4m Roman statue of a sleeping woman after swooping on a warehouse in Queens. The 1,700lb sculpture, a marble sarcophagus lid, is alleged in a court complaint to have been illicitly obtained by Italian art dealer Gianfranco Becchina, who had a gallery in Basel, Switzerland.

In 2011 Becchina was convicted in an Italian court of dealing in antiquities illegally exported from Italy (an appeal is pending). A search of his premises turned up pictures of the statue. It was then sold to noted antiquities collector George Ortiz in November 1981; it arrived in the US some time later, but subsequently changed hands, according to the complaint. It reappeared in an exhibition at the Armory in May 2013, displayed by Phoenix Ancient Art. “Phoenix Ancient Art has never owned, imported or stored this work,” said the gallery, adding that the statue did not find a buyer and was returned to its unidentified owner.

In the eyes of the law, the 32-year gap makes no difference: “Whether looted cultural property enters our ports today or decades ago, it is our responsibility to see that it is returned to its rightful owners, in this case, the Italian people,” said district attorney Loretta Lynch.

“There are too many art fairs!” says Jean-Daniel Compain, director of the cultural division of the Reed exhibition behemoth, which organises more than 500 events including Fiac in Paris, the Vienna fair and two photo events. That hasn’t stopped him launching yet another: a Fiac in downtown LA, slated for April 2015.

And despite what Compain says, more and more art fairs are being launched. Independent, the popular event in New York that ends tomorrow, is adding a November edition, to coincide with the big autumn auctions in Manhattan.

In the same month, organiser Laure d’Hauteville is launching the Singapore Art Fair, from November 27 to 30, which will focus on the Middle East, north Africa and south Asia as well as Asia.

Meanwhile, Art Basel Hong Kong has managed to switch its dates for its 2015 edition to March. The Swiss owners of the fair have been anxious to move away from its current May slot, which is too close to Art Basel, and New York’s Frieze and auction season. This week Art Basel announced that the fair will be held March 13-17 2015, coinciding with Tefaf Maastricht.

Art14, the fair launched last year at Olympia in west London, ended its second edition on Sunday – but what was the verdict? It offers a mid-market event, positioned between Frieze and more affordable events, with a strongly global thrust. Apart from China’s Pearl Lam, with an eye-catching stand at the entrance, there were eight galleries from China (and four from Taiwan) as well as exhibitors from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria and even Cuba.

The two “young gallery” sections were a success. Interesting projects included “Rat Singer: Second Only to God” from Bénin artist Romuald Hazoumè, and the scarlet wax throne “Waterfall” by Zhao Zhao, which sold instantly to an Israeli collector for €90,000. Two Zhao paintings also sold for €18,000 each, on Alexander Ochs’ stand.

The fair was mobbed on the first day, partly thanks to a party thrown by sponsor Citibank. There was a good showing of private museum owners such as Budi Tek, Wang Wei, the Rubells and Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, there to attend a summit organised by cultural entrepreneur Philip Dodd. But the strong attendance (over 31,000) didn’t translate into sales for everyone – some exhibitors sold nothing and others just one or two pieces. As one dealer said: “The fair has potential if the quality could be improved. I hope it will become even more a platform for global artists.”

Broadcaster and art historian Tim Marlow is moving back into the non-commercial sector. He is leaving mega-gallery White Cube, where he is currently director of exhibitions, and going to the Royal Academy, where he will be director of artistic programmes. “It’s an expansive role, including exhibitions, learning, talks . . . it’s a hell of a challenge,” he says. “But what I really like is that the academy is an artist-driven institution – it’s a huge honour to be given the chance to lead the artistic and learning teams there.” He will take up his new post on April 28.

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


Upcoming fairs

The Armory Show

Piers 92 and 94, New York to March 9

The Armory, directed by Noah Horowitz, has kicked off the contemporary art fair season in New York with a show featuring 205 exhibitors. Although Horowitz has pruned the list since assuming directorship in 2011, notable dealers who have returned this year include Thaddaeus Ropac and Allan Stone Projects, which has stated plans to show work by Wayne Thiebaud with prices up to $2m. An innovation this year is a special section, “Chinese Focus”, curated by Philip Tinari and featuring works by 17 galleries from Hong Kong and China, many of them bringing the younger generation of Chinese artists, some of whom have never exhibited outside China. And with “commissioned artist” Xu Zhen responsible for creating the visual identity of the Armory Show, the Chinese presence is doubly strong. Ends Sunday.


The Art Show

643 Park Avenue,

New York to March 9

A smaller but no less exciting companion to the Armory Show, the Art Show presents 72 exhibitors selected by the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA). Highlights include PPOW gallery from New York (showing at both fairs this year), presenting an archive of the work of Martha Wilson from the 1970s, including 40 pieces of photography, text and video, and priced as a piece at $500,000.


Art Paris

Grand Palais, Paris

March 27-30

Under the dome of Paris’s Grand Palais, 140 galleries from 20 countries will display modern and contemporary art, design and photography. This year’s guest of honour is China, bringing a number of galleries from Asia and remaining true to the event’s announcement three years ago to explore specifically art from the countries of central Europe, the Middle East and Asia. A special section will be dedicated to art bookbinding and publishing.


Frieze New York

Randall’s Island Park, New York,

May 9-12

A bespoke temporary structure with springy floorboards and natural light will house Frieze New York in the leafy oasis of Randall’s Island. For its third edition this year, the fair will play host to 192 galleries from 28 countries. There are some notable newcomers, with an increased number of West Coast galleries and a first-time representation from Mexico. These are set to exhibit alongside 53 New York dealers, including Luhring Augustine, Jack Shainman, Paul Kasmin and Marian Goodman, who last year memorably staged Tino Sehgal’s performance piece in her booth. Although the fair will not have an outdoor sculpture park this year, Frieze Projects, which features specially commissioned site-specific artworks by Darren Bader, Eduardo Basualdo, Eva Kotátková, Marie Lorenz, Koki Tanaka and Naama Tsabar, will spill out of the tent, under the direction of Projects curator Cecilia Alemani.


Art Beijing

National Agricultural Exhibition Centre, Beijing

April 30-May 3

For its ninth year, Art Beijing will integrate contemporary and classical art in its new venue the National Agricultural Exhibition Centre.


Art Basel Hong Kong

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

May 15-18

Providing a portal to artwork from Asia and the Asia-Pacific region and a platform for international galleries entering the Asian market, Hong Kong’s Art Basel is a “cross-cultural exchange” for contemporary and modern art. With work from more than 2,000 artists from across the globe, Li Zhenhua and Yuko Hasegawa curate across multiple show sectors, including curated projects, film and emerging artists.


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