Experimental feature

Listen to this article

00:00
00:00
Experimental feature
or

At a time when some independent gallerists could do with a helping hand, Christie’s has broken down art market boundaries and invited three dealers to show and sell during its spring season of auctions in Hong Kong’s Convention Centre later this year (May 25-29).

“There’s this divide between auction houses and dealers but they are some of our most important clients and we should work together, particularly where we are growing a market,” says Guillaume Cerutti, Christie’s chief executive.

Nonetheless, the auction house has been careful to choose dealers whose wares don’t compete with its own offerings that week: Robert Bowman will bring sculptures by Auguste Rodin, Didier Claes has 19th- to 20th-century tribal masks from Africa, including a Kota helmet mask from Gabon (€150,000), while animal sculpture specialist Xavier Eeckhout will bring several 20th-century pieces, including the bronze “Asian Elephant walking” by Rembrandt Bugatti (c1909-10, cast posthumously by Hébrard, priced at €150,000). All three galleries had booths at the Tefaf art fair in Maastricht earlier this month.

Christie’s coinciding series of 13 auctions includes 20th-century Asian art, Chinese ceramics and contemporary ink, as well as dedicated wine and handbag sales.

It’s a gesture in the right direction and is a welcome example of the “vertical integration” recommended by art economist Clare McAndrew in this month’s art market report. Here she finds that support from bigger players is vital for the art market as a whole to thrive, “including auction houses and dealers working together to expand the market”. Eeckhout describes Christie’s move as “an innovative initiative” while Claes welcomes the access to Hong Kong’s “fast-paced art scene”. Cerutti plans to repeat the pop-up exhibition every year.

Kota helmet mask from Gabon, on sale through Robert Bowman (€150,000) at Christie’s spring season of auctions in Hong Kong © Studio Philippe de Formanoir

Just over a year ago, auction high-flyer Brett Gorvy surprised the art market by leaving Christie’s after 23 years to join forces with Modern and contemporary art dealer Dominique Lévy to create the heavyweight Lévy Gorvy gallery. Now the pair has picked up another Christie’s long-timer, Andreas Rumbler, to launch a new advisory division of their business, in partnership with Lévy Gorvy. Rumbler will be based in Zurich from November, with the remit to capture clientele in Switzerland, Germany and northern Europe.

Rumbler joined the auction house in 1989 and was most recently chairman of Christie’s Switzerland, where his responsibilities included selling the estate of pre-eminent art dealer Ernst Beyeler.

Willem de Kooning’s ‘Untitled XII’ (1975) at Lévy Gorvy, Art Basel Hong Kong © The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Lévy emphasises that this is not a case of opening a new gallery in Switzerland — their artists and estates will continue to get attention through the New York and London spaces, she says — rather it is part of the advisory offering floated when she and Gorvy launched. “We all jump on planes and are everywhere all the time, but clients need some of the traditional service, research and conversation to create an energy around art. I feel that the mega-galleries and auction houses are losing some of the personal touch — you can’t help but dilute the quality of what you are doing if you’re doing it all,” she adds.

Meanwhile, Lévy Gorvy has revealed it is selling a painting owned by Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Paul Allen at Art Basel Hong Kong this week (March 29-31). Willem de Kooning’s “Untitled XII” (1975) is priced at $35m. “It has generated a lot of interest already,” Lévy says.


Art Basel Hong Kong’s original founders are planning a new fair in Taipei, to launch in January 2019. It is called Taipei Dangdai (Mandarin for “the present moment”) and sponsored by UBS, and the decision to add yet another fair to the calendar was a no-brainer, according to Magnus Renfrew, fair director and founding director of Art Basel Hong Kong (then Art HK) 10 years ago. “For better or worse, more and more trade is being done through fairs. This is the best way to build excitement, galvanise an audience and put the spotlight on Taiwan,” he says. Taipei Dangdai will be in the purpose-built Nangang Exhibition Center with around 80 exhibitors, focused on Asia but with overseas galleries, too, and with what Renfrew describes as “international standards of selectivity”. Its opening will overlap with the
city’s biennial (November 17 2018-March 10 2019).

There is a long history of collecting in Taiwan: auction houses often tour their star lots to Taipei and homegrown buyers include hardware businessman Leo Shih and film industry retiree Rudy Tseng. Both are among an advisory group of collectors pulled together for the new fair. Overseas galleries have also dipped in and out of Taiwan’s existing art fairs, notably Art Taipei, which had its 24th edition in October, though this new fair looks like a competitive threat.

Taipei Dangdai’s owners include the three event organisers who were behind Art HK, sold to Art Basel in 2011 — Tim Etchells (Single Market Events), Sandy Angus (Angus Montgomery Limited) and Will Ramsay (Ramsay Fairs Limited). The trio also co-founded Art Central, an Art Basel satellite fair that opens in Hong Kong this week (March 27-April 1). Renfrew is the fourth shareholder in Taipei Dangdai through his recently-formed business, ArtHQ.


“I’m sorry to see it go but hopefully it will end up in a great museum,” said tennis legend John McEnroe of selling Mark Bradford’s “Helter Skelter I” (2007) at Phillips in London on March 8. It seems someone was listening: the painting is going back to Bradford’s native Los Angeles, into the collection of its privately owned Broad Museum.

The Broad bought the painting, whose title references the racially-motivated killings incited by cult leader Charles Manson in the 1960s, for £7.5m (£8.7m with fees, est £6m-£8m). The African-American artist’s “I heard you got arrested today” (2018) is also among several works that have entered the museum’s collection this year. “I will miss living with the painting, but I believe the Broad is a perfect place for Mark’s contemporary masterpiece,” McEnroe says.

Follow @FTLifeArts on Twitter to find out about our latest stories first. Subscribe to FT Life on YouTube for the latest FT Weekend videos

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.