5th edition of Beirut Art Fair to take place in September

Beirut, 18 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

The 5th edition of Beirut Art Fair is to take place at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure Center (BIEL) from 18 to 21 September 2014.

Established as a crossroads between East and West, the international art fair is dedicated to presenting works by artists from the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia. The 2013 edition of the fair welcomed over 18,000 visitors to the BIEL, with 46 galleries present from 14 different countries. Organisers hope to welcome around 50 modern and contemporary art galleries for the 2014 edition, presenting a variety of media including painting, drawing, sculpture, video, design, and performance art.

The first edition of the modern and contemporary art fair was launched by Laure d’Hauteville and Pascal Odille in 2010.

Two enlightening exhibitions at Palazzo Grassi

Venice, 18 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

On 13 April, Palazzo Grassi opened two exhibitions entitled “The Illusion of Light” and “Irving Penn, Resonance”, which are both to run until 31 December 2014.

“The Illusion of Light” is curated by Caroline Bourgeois. According to the palace’s website, it aims to explore “the physical, aesthetic, symbolic, philosophical and political stakes of an essential dimension of human experience that has also been, since (at least) the Renaissance, a fundamental element of art: light”. The exhibition presents works by twenty different artists, including: Marcel Broodthaers, Latifa Echakhch, Gilbert & George, Robert Irwin, Bertrand Lavier, Julio Le Parc and Robert Whitman.

Alongside this, the exhibition “Irving Penn, Resonance”, curated by Pierre Apraxine and Matthieu Humery — head of Christie’s photography department —, presents 130 photographs taken between the end of the 1940s and the 1980s. Amongst these is a selection from the series “small trades”, taken in England, France and the United States in the 1950s, as well as ethnographic photographs and portraits of celebrities from the art world.

A large contributor to several institutions like the Palazzo Grassi, Punta della Dogana and le Teatrino, the François Pinault Foundation organises various temporary exhibitions. In May 2005, François Pinault acquired the Venetian palace from the Fiat group after the death of Gianni Agnelli, before calling on Tadao Ando to renovate the palace with a view to creating a vast cultural project.

Ukranian protest art creates ripples at the Vienna Künstlerhaus

Vienna, 18 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA). 

The Vienna Künstlerhaus presents an exhibition entitled “I Am a Drop in the Ocean”, directed by Ukrainian curators Alisa Lozhkina and Konstantin Akinsha. It will run until 23 May 2014.

A selection of works by 40 different Ukrainian artists is on display at the exhibition, assembled in just five weeks at the Viennese institution. Dedicated to art created during the Ukrainian protests that took place from November 2013 until February 2014, it comprises strike posters, photography, sculpture, painting and performance — exploring the way in which art can give revolution a platform. The title of the exhibition is inspired by what became the core slogan of the peaceful protests in Ukraine: “I Am a Drop in the Ocean”.

Participating artists include Boris Mikhailov, Aleksander Chekmenev, Nikita Shalennyi, and Myroslav Vaydas, whose installation Forest (2012), made of piles of burning car tyres, is described by the gallery as “prophetic” of the hundreds of burning tyres that became a common sight in Kiev during the protests the following year. The exhibition includes original artworks, photographs and video material produced on the Maidan, as well as objects used during the protests.

Plans for the exhibition to travel to Germany and Poland are currently underway.

Interview with Véronique Chagnon-Burke, Academic Director at Christie’s Education, New York

New York, 17 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

AMA recently had the pleasure of speaking to Véronique Chagnon-Burke, Academic Director at Christie’s Education in New York. During the interview, she gave us insight into the structure of such an organisation, her journey to date and her vision of education in the future, as well as giving us an idea of her profound responsability within the field.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I studied at the École du Louvre, specialising in art from the 19th and 20th centuries, after which I gained a degree in History of Art at the Sorbonne. I consequently went to the States to carry out a project on an American painter who was a great follower of Mondrian. It did not go well in the end, as I couldn’t get access to any of the documents I wanted to study. I therefore decided to take up my studies again, and did a master’s in History of Art. It was during this time that I realised the beauty of the American education system, in which there is a real relationship cultivated between students and teachers. I found it very dynamic and encouraging and soon realised that more and more doors were open to me — a real contrast with the French system in which the only focus is on passing exams to become a curator!

Subsequently, I wanted to work with a great American art historian, Linda Nochlin, who began her career with Courbet and later began to focus on a more social vision of art history. She ended up writing very interesting articles on art and women, especially on art and feminism. I changed university to join her, but she changed university at the same time as me!  So I found myself at the Graduate Center in New York where I gained my PhD. I had a wonderful thesis director, Patricia Menardi, who helped me with my research into the critical reception of Landscape Painting and the Art of the July Monarchy. I worked a little bit at MoMA, doing research there and working alongside a curator.

The experience of working in a museum actually held little interest for me in the end, so I decided to turn to teaching. I worked at several different places before a position became available at Christie’s Education — an institution with which I had already worked on various occasions. They were looking for someone to direct their school in New York, so I applied; I have now been Academic Director of Christie’s Education New York since 2002. I am responsible for directing the programme, implementing the university strategy, working with my colleagues in London — and I am also a lecturer on the history of the art market.

How is the link formed between Christie’s and Christie’s Education, as well as between the different departments at Christie’s Education?
We are an entirely independent department from Christie’s — a subsidiary.

Our role is to act as ambassadors. When Christie’s develops new markets, we are there to support our colleagues by organising symposiums, classes which provide information, etc., with a view to providing collectors with access to that information. We are equally important for a new generation of professionals, as many of our students actively go on to work for the auction house. Christie’s views us as providing an opportunity to unearth new talent.

Finally, we are here to develop the symbolic wealth of the brand. Christie’s is not only an auction house; it is an art business, so our aim is to add to that value.

Christie’s Education in London is a much bigger structure than we are. We have approximately 40 students, whereas London enrols about 350. They are officially recognised by the University of Glasgow, so they have the means of offering first-rate undergraduate classes. We work with them in the sense that we have the same aims. We develop different programmes in terms of content, but which have the same goals. My idea is to develop more international programmes — a little like the French business schools.

We are also developing an education programme in Asia, but it is still in its early stages.

Are London and New York independent from one another?
We are entirely independent. We both present our results to Christie’s, and have the same budgets and results, but aside from this, the classes we offer are very different. The curriculum is not the same. In terms of operations, we are very separate.

The people who really link the two are the accountant and the international manager.

How many pupils are there at Christie’s Education New York?
It varies, but we usually have between 35 and 45 students enrolled on the course. We only have one master’s programme for the moment, but we should be opening up a second option in September 2015 which will double the number of students. It is called “Global Contemporary Art”; there will be a greater emphasis placed on curation, and a very contemporary slant given that the course will primarily focus on the exploration of art from the 1980s onwards — for history of art classes.

I prefer to have more courses with fewer pupils enrolled, than fewer courses with many students.

Do you think the market has enough demand to cater for that many pupils?
I think you have to be open-minded to allow for the market to develop. The Chinese really pushed for us to work with them because they do not have a strong enough structure in place to allow them to develop a more stable and transparent market. It is also for that reason that we are interested in working with Asia. There is a lot of room to expand the market, and we should be thinking about how to educate our students in order to adapt to and cater for different needs.

What about the financial structure?
It is similar to the structure employed by all American universities.  We are recognised by the Board of Education in New York. In fact, we are the smallest university in New York!

We rely predominantly on tuition fees. In contrast with bigger universities, we receive no endowment funding whatsoever. So it is truly the students who pay. When people hear the cost of tuition fees and compare it with those in Europe, their eyes widen in disbelief — but mentalities adapt. We are really no more expensive than a master’s at Columbia, for example. Moreover, we offer scholarships, and students have access to student loans as well as graduate assistantships, as they are called in the States. For our scholarship, we normally select three students who we feel deserve to be acknowledged and need financial aid. These pupils can equally help us in the future on an administrative level and in terms of academic research.

Generally, 75% of students who graduate from your institution find a job less than six months after the end of gaining their qualification. Is it becoming increasingly difficult to maintain this statistic?
It was indeed much easier between 2005 and 2008. With the economic crisis, it became rather difficult, but we are returning to that high level again. Students are very conscious that the art world is one where you must prove yourself, and that it is often necessary to take jobs which are not particularly glamorous.

A difference between this and the French system is that we also attract people who want to change their career path — people who previously studied law, finance, communication, etc. With our master’s, they can fulfil the desire to change their direction in order to work in the art world. This contingent represents about a third of our students — who are between 35 and 40 years old.

What are your development plans? You spoke about internationalisation…
I would most like to develop public access, in the sense of offering shorter, more concise seminars.

We would like to offer this on an international level. We are, for example, developing a series of seminars and classes for Indian expatriates from the West coast of the United States. We have a partnership with a school in China called Seeds. I would also like to offer support to collectors, in order to help them establish what it is they are searching for, without feeling pressured by our colleagues who work in sales.

What do you think of online education?
I have done a lot of research into online educationIt is indispensable, and not only because of the visibility that it offers us. For the moment it is a little complicated, as we have a programme based on the study of the subject which is very driven by technicality and detail. Online lessons with the aid of pictures are by nature not as comprehensive.

I have, however, proposed a pyramid education model: at the base are general, not so specialised courses, aimed at broadening students’ desire to learn; in the middle are classes focused on certain subjects, taking a more classical approach, where the students come directly into contact with works of art; finally, at the top, we have classes dealing with executive education, which allows museum directors and professionals to gain insight into subjects such as law and tax etc. So the education programme continues to develop and evolve.

The problem is structural. We are a small institution, and we would either need to form a partnership with specialist universities, or to be invested in by Christie’s. There is also a certain reluctance on the part of some of my colleagues who embrace the old way of relating to subject matter.

How quickly are you developing?
Very quickly! I would go as far as to say that it would be good to slow down the pace a little bit. I didn’t do any business-related studies, so it is a real challenge for me — a very exciting one. I am pretty enthusiastic. It is a privilege to be able to dedicate yourself to something about which you are passionate.

So, you are satisfied then?
Yes, I am very happy and I feel exceedingly privileged! In this world, I would say there are two very important things. Firstly, art — it unites us. Then, there is teaching. I gain such pleasure in seeing former pupils grow and go on to do extraordinary things. I love seeing them taking on new challenges, and having ideas that I would never have had myself. Then there is the notion that, in part, I am involved in educating those who are responsible for the universal patrimony that is art, who will know how to conserve and promote an understanding of beautiful things – even if art is not always an easy subject matter to penetrate, such as that of Berlinde de Bruyckere. Speaking of this artist, I have a student who did her thesis on her last year. It was of course difficult, but being able to see that we helped this young woman to critically analyse and shape her ideas on such a complex subject is very rewarding.

Quantifying the art market: a transparent process?

Paris, 17 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

In art, a quantitative approach is often given bad press. Those who pursue analyses based on value are often accused of relegating the importance of art works themselves – reducing them to mere financial assets. A number of dealers pretend to ignore the industry’s financial side, placing a stronger emphasis on the aesthetic or emotional aspect of their work. The reality of the market, however, means that financial considerations remain – and are increasingly – a vital component of the art world.

Art has often sought to avoid an association with finance and has, in part, succeeded. A work of art – even one considered to have little financial worth – is capable of attaining a very personal value which a treasury bond will never reach. Yet, in the context of an increasingly liquid market affected by ongoing inflation, information is key; thus, the importance of accurate data sources becomes increasingly important.

In the 1990s, a number of data specialists used the development of the internet to create accessible online data tools. Amongst the most established today are: Artprice, Artnet, Art Analystics, the Blouin Art Sales Indew, Artfacts (formerly Gordon’s), Mutual Art, and ArtTactic, which publishes an annual art market report, in association with Deloitte and Hiscox. Also prominent is the report published by TEFAF, produced by Art Economics.

New amongst these services is Art Rank (formerly Sell you Later) – another data provider to have understood the potential value of accessible databases and market analyses, produced using tools which lie beyond the technical capacities of most art market participants. Along with the internet, businesses such as these provide a significant means of sourcing information for members of the art market.

By establishing globally accessible information tools (which, admittedly, sometimes charge a fee), bodies such as these are making the cost of art work a significant and visible factor.


A diverse sector


These now-established services, including Artprice, Artnet, ArtTactic, Artfacts, Art Analytics, or the TEFAF annual report, publish – with varying degrees of detail – classifications based on publicly-released auction results, and data compiled via exhibitions. These results are manipulated to establish a number of different pieces of data, which range from geographical spread, to buyers’ profiles.

Artfacts offers users information on how artists are exhibited, listing the museums and institutions which have held the greatest number of exhibitions of an artist’s work, and giving details about the artists exhibited alongside one another in group shows. ArtTactic offers both results and more developed analyses, as well as talks, seminars, and a collectors database.

These established bodies, however – which have become prominent sources for the art market – are being challenged by the recently established ArtRank. Established in 2012 as Sell you Later, ArtRank was developed using an algorithm for an emerging art fund. The service analyses individual artist’s markets, classifying them according to three categories: “Buy Now”, “Sell Now” and “Liquidate”.

At its launch, responses to ArtRank were strong, with many shocked to see art presented in a structure resembling a stock market. Despite this, the site’s visibility increased – largely thanks to wide media exposure — which saw the project feature in articles in The New York Times, The Financial Times and Artspace.

Speaking to AMA, Carlos A. Rivera, the 26-year old founder of the platform stated: “The form of intrinsic analysis ArtRank provides is not provided anywhere else, yet is the only form of research acceptable in high levels of finance. Without question, such art data becomes of critical importance as the market grows”.

English site ArtTactic similarly offers a data analysis service, although it bases its results on qualitative, rather than quantitative analyses, gathered during panel interviews with several hundred experts. Results obtained using this method contribute to the Hiscox report, or the annual Outlook focus on Contemporary artists. Adding to its existing activities, the site has recently launched the ArtTactic Forecaster, a site which allows users to guess the value of art works already presented at auction.


What differentiates ArtRank?


What separates ArtRank from its competitors is its ability to predict art market data – using a method which continues to leave many perplexed. Founded by Carlos A.Rivera — a former art dealer and gallery owner who had, at one time, wished to remain anonymous — ArtRank does not use investment advisors, but instead gives predictions based on results provided by its algorithm.

To establish data, the site analysed the CVs of around 20,000 artists, establishing key details, before reducing their sample and, finally, calculating the career trajectories of each. According to site Gallerist NY, they then remarkably used Instagram to observe the works which avant-garde collectors, including Dean Valentine and Anita Zabludowicz, were hanging on their walls.

The methodology seemed so strange that many questioned whether the project was in fact a joke. Although a number of art professionals are in fact signed up to the site, few are convinced by the platform.

Jacob Past, CEO of Artnet, gave AMA his opinion: “I think it is an interesting concept, but not very helpful in its present form. I don’t trust the underlying data, and I would question the lack of transparency of the methodology. It is also too simplistic to be genuinely valuable; for example, economic success is the main criteria, but there are other factors that are equally, if not more, important in the mid to long term outlook”.


A service for finance or art professionals?


These collections of data seem much more appealing to investors, wishing to diversify their portfolio with a prestigious (and hopefully reliable) investment, than to amateur art enthusiasts – however wealthy the latter may be.

In 2012, Artnet launched the “Artnet Indices” – a series of art indices which, according to the company, allows users to follow the evolution of an artist’s market price, with a rigour comparable to that of the stock exchange. The project aims to increase the transparency of the art market by providing users with more exact means of estimating the value of art investments.

The Artnet Indices offer precise, quantitative analyses of the art market, allowing users to follow the performance of artists including Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Gerhard Richter and Yves Klein – just as one might follow the activities of a business on Fortune 500.

These Indices are conceived by compiling the results of public sales, comparing certain factors of a number of works, including: genre, period, subject, medium, size, and visual similarities to other pieces.

Artnet CEO Jacob Past told AMA : “Our Price Database and Analytics Reports are used by a wide variety of professionals, in the art world and in the financial community. These resources are used by both serious collectors and more casual art enthusiasts who are interested in finding out more about the market. Recently, we have seen increased interest from financial advisors looking for new ways to leverage their clients’ assets and balance their investment portfolios following the recession”.

This desire – to provide data which is amongst the very best in terms of speculative assets analyses – was the guiding principle behind the creation Art Analytics, a service which has been offered for two years by A&F Markets – Art Media Agency’s parent company. Using methods of analysis borrowed from statistical, economic and financial analyses, Art Analytics offers valuations substantiated by structured explanations, provided by a company whose overarching ethos is to remain neutral and totally independent of transactions.

Whilst some members of the art industry remain uncomfortable when confronted by a maze of graphs, rankings and diagrams referring to the art market – which will never lose their cold, mathematical character – for others, it is no longer ‘taboo’ to consider art as something approaching a traditional financial asset. The overwhelming intention of data providers, however, tends to gravitate towards a desire for increased transparency in a market often viewed as being inaccessibly opaque.


False transparency?


The majority of those who participate in the art market agree that it is one which still lacks transparency. But does an increase in data necessarily mean an increase in clarity?

Transparency has become one of the most frequently-used words by those participating in this ‘information market’. Thierry Ehrmann, founder of the site Artprice, has made ‘transparency’ his mission, repeatedly stating his desire to finally clarify an opaque market. Artprice – established as the world’s leading source of information on the art market – boasts a vast selection of data. The company offers over 27 indexes, with auction results for over 500,000 artists, as well as a vast library of auction results and articles published in the press.  This profusion of information is intended to reassure collectors and investors, but is not without criticism.

Carlos A. Rivera, the founder of ArtRank, explained the reasoning behind such criticism, explaining to AMA : “The history of art data is troubling. Until ArtRank, the most common data analysis was of auction record trajectory. The ease of manipulating these results is a dream for those who manipulate markets, but only does a disservice to all others.”


Use for art market professionals


One thing, however, is certain. The views of traditional art dealers, gallerists and experts has evolved. Whilst it was entirely normal to mistrust, or totally reject these tools 20 years ago, the growth of the art market, and increasingly strong associations with the financial world, have pushed many to reconsider their initial position.

As Jacob Past explained: “We are now in our 25th year of business, and perceptions about the art market and the role of transparency have changed significantly during this time. Initially, we were met with resistance. The advantages of price transparency were not obvious for many market participants, and galleries and auction houses were hesitant to share information with us. Over time though, most stakeholders have come to realise that the art market can only grow to its full potential if it is transparent, and many of the businesses that were initially sceptical of our mission are now our biggest clients and supporters”.

Ralph Taylor, Director of Contemporary Art at Bonhams, UK, explained the role which data plays in his professional life:  “It forms part of our expertise, I would describe it as an instrument. A knowledge of the history of art is primordial but, for ten years now, it [data]has been a part of the process. We’re also aware that collectors have access to these figures and understand them”.

The development of data tools has revolutionised the shape of the art market. Whilst a number of gallerists and art lovers remain wary of such technology, the distinction between art and its market is, increasingly, becoming less defined. Offering little to reassure investors, today’s economy had resulted in an art market with a continual influx of new capital, resulting in a market which is varied, though not necessarily conflicted. The CEO of Artnet explained: “Collectors are still buying art because they love art, but they also recognise the importance of understanding the market around their assets. People are more comfortable now with the idea that art can be bought and sold – online now as well – and that the resulting prices are an important subject of analysis”.

The Chinese art market: an analysis of 900% growth over 10 years

China, 17 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Of all “newer” art markets, China remains the most important, in terms of both the size of its domestic sales, and the importance of its buyers globally. Released in conjunction with the major art fair, TEFAF’s Art Market Report 2014 features a special focus on the region’s increasingly important status as an art market centre.

In 2013, China’s market was the second largest by value worldwide, with total sales of €11.5 billion. Over 2013, sales in China saw a 2% rise in value – an increase after the cool in 2012, which preceded 2011’s boom. Last year, China retained a 24% share of world sales.

Over the last decade, the relationship between supply and demand in the market has also made it one of the world’s fastest-growing – TEFAF’s report places growth over the last ten years at 900%.

The growth of China’s art market corresponds with broader economic success. Though China’s economy slowed in 2012, and remained stagnant in 2013, its growth has still averaged over 10% in the last decade. In ten years, GDP per capita has risen by 450%, resulting in a rapid increase in HNWI*. According to TEFAF, the latter have exhibited a particular interest in luxury markets, resulting in a growth of local art and antiques sales.

The auction market

TEFAF’s report structures China’s art market into two main sales channels: the auction sector – representing around 70% of recent sales – and the gallery and private dealing sector (including gallery sales, sales by private dealers and sales by artists).

The report records a total of 335 registered auction houses in Mainland China (licenced by the Chinese Auctioneers Association) – of these 28% are based in Beijing, 14% in Shanghai, and 14% in Hong Kong. Beijing and Hong Kong form the market’s centres, though the number of new auction houses opening in both Shanghai and Beijing is said to be on the rise.

In 2013, the volume of auction sales increased by 8% year-on-year. Buy-ins, however, remained consistently high at 53%, the highest average rate in the last ten years.

In 2013 the registered capital of these auction houses was RMB 4.3 billion (€510 million). In 2012, the CAA surveyed 300 auction houses, finding that nearly 48% had made positive profits, with a further 16% having broken even – results for profitability were unavailable for 2013.

Last year’s public auction sales reached €7.5 billion. Of these, 29% by value took place in Hong Kong, whilst 71% took place in mainland China. At 13% Poly International held the largest share of the market by value, with total sales of 7.9 billion RMB (€942 million). This was followed by: China Guardian, Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Beijing Council. The top ten auction houses in mainland China and Hong Kong accounted for 56% of total sales of fine and decorative art and antiques worldwide.

Having held sales in Hong Kong since the early 1970s, both Christie’s and Sotheby’s have now moved into the mainland market. In September 2012, Sotheby’s joined Chinese state-owned enterprise Beijing GeHua Art Co, taking an 80% stake in the jointly held company. In April 2013, Christie’s became the first auction house to receive a license to operate independently in mainland China.

Dealers and Galleries

This section of TEFAF’s report was divided into sales by galleries, dealers, and artists.

The majority of galleries in Mainland China were found to focus on Contemporary art, whilst Hong Kong’s market gravitated towards antiques and decorative works. The report estimates that there are around 6,200 galleries selling works in China which, in 2013, had an average turnover of €3.3 million.

67% of the sales compiling this turn over took place on gallery premises. Though the majority of surveyed gallerists made few significant transactions online, respondents generally felt that this activity would grow – with 70% believing the internet played a positive role in their operations.

The presence of foreign buyers was – perhaps understandably – varied, depending on the galleries surveyed.  59% of gallery sales were to local Chinese buyers. Some galleries, however, reported that up to 80% of their sales by value were to foreign buyers (predominantly Swiss, US and Indonesian collectors). Responses to foreign businesses entering the Chinese market were generally negative, with 60% of those surveyed stating that they did not believe an influx would be positive.

Art fairs

At 33% by value, art fair sales were deemed not to be a dominant trend in Mainland China – a fact that was attributed to a less-developed gallery network. Surveyed participants, however, felt that their participations in fairs would increase in forthcoming years – a trend likely to be boosted by the introduction of new fairs such as ART HK, which held its first edition in 2013, attracting 60,000 visitors.

In 2013, China’s exports totaled €786 million, exceeding imports of just over €1 billion – a figure which reflects the buying stature of this net importer. TEFAF’s report notes substantial growth between 2002 and 2012: imports increased in value by over 500%, whilst exports grew by over 400%. In 2012 China was the world’s fourth largest importer of art, and its fifth largest exporter. Despite this, its cross-border trade remains low in comparison to its market size.

At 53%, Mainland China accounted for the majority of exports by value – overriding Hong Kong’s long-held status as China’s most prominent trading platform. In 2012, the main destination markets for exports from China (Mainland and Hong Kong) were the US, with 29% of total exports, and Japan, with 28%. Main destination markets from Hong Kong were the US (41%), the UK (19%), Singapore (9%) and Switzerland (7%).

In 2012, the main sources of imports into Mainland China were the UK (10%), France (13%), India (9%) and the US (5%). Noted as an issue with data sourcing for this category was the preponderance of imports (53%) into China, registered as being “from China” – a statistic which represents the re-importation of works which were temporarily exported, before being re-imported into Mainland China.


The majority of China’s auction sales were in the fine art sector, which accounted for 66% of total sales. Chinese painting and calligraphy proved to be the most sought-after category, accounting for 56% of the market by value.

Collectors interested in oil paintings showed a strong preference for older, realist works, with artists Jin Sangyi and Qiu Ti both establishing record prices in 2013. Sales of works by Zeng Fanzhi remained strong, whilst works by longer-established Contemporary artists – including Zhang Xiaogang, Wang Guangyi, Zhou Chunya, Yue Minjun and Liu Ye were described as having more ‘mixed results’.

The report estimates that there are only around 50 “significant collectors” of Western art in Mainland China. Nevertheless, Sotheby’s and Christie’s reported to have sold works by artists including Picasso, Schiele, to Chinese collectors. Also cited were media rumours, speculating that a Chinese collector bid up to $120 million in the recent, record-breaking auction of a Francis Bacon triptych.

Remaining challenges

Though impressive in size, the Chinese market is not without challenges: late and non-payment by winning bidders remains a persistent problem in the market – a problem which is by no means unique to the market.


Dear Sotheby’s: a PowerPoint from Third Point

New York, 17 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

The latest turn of events in the face-off between Third Point and Sotheby’s has seen Dan Loeb’s hedge fund resume control by publishing a PowerPoint presentation online highlighting its strategy for the auction house.

First of all, the file lists Third Point’s financial successes, including its management of around $14.5 billion and annual net returns of 21.2% since 1995 – which it compares to S&P 500′s annualised return of 8.9% over the same period.

The presentation then outlines Dan Loeb’s ambition and strategies: to increase Sotheby’s value for its shareholders through “new leadership, better accountability, and increased transparency”. Loeb is proposing that Sotheby’s Board offer three seats to himself, Harry J. Wilson and Olivier Reza, effectively replacing Robert A. Taubman, Daniel Meyer and Jessica M. Bibliowicz. He makes several references throughout the document to these three board members’ lack of qualifications and experience in the field.

The document also recounts the history of relations between Sotheby’s and Third Point since the beginning of the hedge fund’s involvement in May 2013, omitting the recent “poison pill” episode. Loeb specifies his belief that Sotheby’s has actively misled its investors through an untruthful representation of his expertise in the art market.

The PowerPoint then goes on to analyse Sotheby’s business model and its results. It emphasises the volatile nature of the company’s finances, whose price of shares has fluctuated between $10 and $50 since 2007. These results are put into context with the increase in the number of “ultra high net worth individuals” and the growth of the luxury goods sector, and demonstrate that, despite these factors, Sotheby’s has never managed to return to its levels of revenue in 2007. Earnings per share are therefore shown to have decreased by 42% since 2007. In a less-than-subtle move, an image of Edvard Munch’s The Scream is placed alongside this graph.

According to Third Point, this lack of appreciation in share value stems from bad management. The presentation can be read as a bad digestion of Dan Loeb’s “poison pill” – a tactic introduced earlier this month which prevents his company from increasing his stake in Sotheby’s.

The report concludes with a presentation of Sotheby’s opportunities for growth – the long-term development of its sales, increased digitisation, and representing foundations, for example – and the significant impact which these could have on shareholders’ investments.

Third Point’s latest action surely aims to provoke a response from Sotheby’s, who will not be able to remain silent on the escalating issue for long.

Samuel Fosso’s photographs at the Fondation Zinsou

Cotonou (Benin), 17 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

“Samuel Fosso”, an exhibition dedicated to the Cameroonian artist and curated by Marie-Cécile Zinsou, opened this week at the Fondation Zinsou in Cotonou, Benin.

Presenting fifteen of the photographer’s prints, the exhibition provides a chronological exploration of Fosso’s work, exploring his journey from craftsman to artist. After training as a shoemaker, Fosso opened his first photography studio in 1975, at the age of 13. It was here that he began to create his first self-portraits in the evenings, his practice notably transcending the period’s tendency for somewhat vain productions.

Also to be featured is the Tati series, created by Fosso for the 50th anniversary of the eponymous chain of French department stores, which marked a turning point in the artist’s career.

Samuel Fosso’s work was discovered in 1993 by the French photographer Bernard Descamps, who co-founded the Rencontres de la Photographie Africaine event in Bamako, Mali. Fosso’s work now features in the collections of several major museum institutions, including London’s Tate Modern and Paris’s Musée du Quai Branly.

Jack Shainman’s “The School”

Kinderhook (USA), 17 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Jack Shainman Gallery is expanding to occupy the premises of former primary school, Martin Van Buren, in Kinderhook, two hours north of Manhattan. The expansion increases the gallery space in New York by 2, 800 m².

The brick structure, characterised by clean lines, was built in 1929. It it is to be called “The School” and is to exhibit works from the gallery’s permanent collection, as well as holding temporary exhibitions. The space is being designed by architect Antonio Jimenez Torrecillas, whose previous projects include the Museo de Bellas Artes (Buenos Aires) and the Palacio de Carlos V (Alhambra, Spain).

The gallery, founded in 1984 in Washington DC, plans to hold exhibitions in the new space this summer.

The Phlippines to make their second-ever appearance at the Venice Biennale

Manila, 17 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

The Venice Biennale is, for only the second time in the Biennale’s history, to dedicate a pavilion to the Philippines. The last time the country participated in the event was during the 32nd edition in 1964.

The country’s participation in the 2015 edition was announced by the Filipino Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAE) as well as by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Department of Tourism, in partnership with the office of the Filipino Senator Loren Legarda.

The Filipino pavilion is to be curated by Dr. Pearlie Rose S. Baluyut, a scholar and fellow at the Ford Foundation who has, according to Art Radar Asia, “extensively studied and researched on modern and contemporary Filipino art, and her interests include visual culture within the contexts of colonialism, nationalism, Diaspora / exile, art patronage and propaganda in popular media”.

At this early stage, neither the jury – which is to comprise of five art world professionals – nor the participating artists have been chosen for the pavilion, but the DFAE has launched a call for Filipino artist applications.

Success for the second edition of SP-Arte

São Paulo, 17 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

The tenth edition of SP-Arte, the São Paulo International Art Fair 2014, ran from 2 to 6 April 2014. Lead by Executive Director, Fernanda Feitosa, the event welcomed 22,000 visitors, and 78 Brazilian galleries and 58 international galleries – including Kavi Gupta and Stephen Friedman – and debut appearances from internationally renowned galleries Marian Goodman and Michael Werner.

According to artlyst, a number of prominent US-based collectors were amongst attendees, and included: Martin Margulies from the Martin Z. Margulies Foundation; Raymond Learsy and Melva Bucksbaum; and Maxine and Stuart Frankel from the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation. Institution representatives in attendance included: Franklin Sirmans, Curator of LACMA (United States); Luis Pérez-Oramas, The Estrellita Brodsky Curator of Latin American Art, MoMA (United States, Venezuala); and Tanya Barson, Curator of International Art at Tate Modern (UK).

The fair took place in the Ciccillo Matarazzo pavilion, designed by the Brazilian architect and designer Oscar Niemeyer.

Louvre Abu Dhabi exhibits in Paris

Paris, 17 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

The Louvre Abu Dhabi makes its international debut with an exhibition entitled “Birth of a Museum”, to take place at Paris’s Louvre from 2 May until 28 July.

The construction of the Louvre Abu Dhabi is the result of an agreement made in 2007 between the French government and the United Arab Emirates. Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, it aims to bridge the gap between East and West through the creation of a universal museum. It is to open in 2015.

The exhibition will display 150 works out of the 400 acquired by the Emirates. Amongst these is Le Bohémien (The Bohemian) by Edouard Manet, René Magritte’s La lectrice soumise (The Submissive Reader) and other more contemporary art works including Anthropométrie (Anthropometry) by Yves Klein and nine works by Cy Twombly.

“Birth of a Museum” was exhibited in Abu Dhabi between April and July 2013.

Women of Chinese modernity at ShanghART

Shanghai, 17 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

ShanghART is to present an exhibition of work by Yang Fudong, entitled “New Women”, from 9 May to 16 June.

The show is named after Yang Fudong’s most recent video work, which is a five-screen installation to be shown in the gallery space. Commissioned for the Toronto International Film Festival, the video debuted to positive reviews in 2013, and is also to be shown at Art Basel this summer. The film is inspired by Shanghai’s decadent, almost hedonistic society during the 1920s and 1930s — a period which continues to influence contemporary Chinese art. Fudong’s film explores the role of women in China’s modernist development over the course of the last hundred years.

Yang Fudong was born in Beijing in 1971, and lives and works in Shanghai. He has participated in leading international art events such as the Venice Biennale (2007), the Sharjah Biennial (2013) and dOCUMENTA (11) (2002).

Cats and Dogs at The Blanton Museum of Art

Austin (USA), 17 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

From 22 June until 21 September 2014, the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin is to present “In the Company of Cats and Dogs”, an exhibition featuring work by artists including Dieter Roth, Louise Bourgeois, William Wegman, Francisco de Goya, Edward Hopper, Wassily Kandinsky and Pablo Picasso.

The exhibition explores 33 centuries of fascination with cats and dogs, through 150 different paintings, drawings and prints. It is curated by Francesca Consagra, with help from the university’s Anthrozoology department. The latter is divided into nine sections focusing on the changing nature of these animas across time: from their symbolic meaning in literature and art, to protectors of humans, and religious and mythological beings.

Art Stage Singapore announces the dates for its 2015 edition

Singapore, 17 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Following an overwhelmingly successful 2014 edition, Art Stage Singapore, the next edition of South East Asia’s flagship fair, is scheduled to take place between 22 and 25 January 2015 at Marina Bay Sands, an integrated resort which serves as a landmark location for the country.

The fourth edition of Art Stage Singapore, which took place in 2014, welcomed 45,700 visitors over a period of five days, with participants reporting strong sales.

130 galleries have been selected to take part in the 2015 edition of the fair which aims generate a dialogue between West and East whilst staying resolutely faithful to its setting. More than a platform for the art market, the fair acts as a catalyst for the discussion and exchange of ideas on the theme of the evolution of Asian art.

Art Stage Singapore is considered to be the most highly renowned event to take place in Asia for art dealers, collectors, artists and enthusiasts.

Saatchi Gallery and Google+ announce the winner of the Motion Photography Prize

London, 17 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

London’s Saatchi Gallery and Google+ have launched the Motion Photography Prize, the first global competition to unite artists and creators who use animated GIFs to create moving image artworks. Around 4,000 applications from 52 countries were received, and six finalists are to have their works exhibited at Saatchi Gallery in London from 17 April 2014.

The jury comprised of a number of influential figures from the world of art and digital media including: Baz Lurhmann, Shezad Dawood, Tracey Emin, Cindy Sherman and Saatchi Gallery’s CEO Nigel Hurst. Selected finalists and their corresponding categories are: Stefanie Schneider for Landscape; Kostas Agiannitis for Lifestyle; Micaël Reynaud for Action; Emma Critchley for People; Matthew Clarke for Night; and Christina Rinaldi for the category Urban.

Movement photography is becoming increasingly popular, but is a genre which necessitates specific tools, as well as a certain degree of knowledge. For this reason, Google+ offers users the possibility to easily and automatically animate a series of fixed-image photos, this facility leading to the shared representation of the prize.

On 16 April, Saatchi Art announced the overall winner as Christina Rinaldi, who wins a trip with a photography or film mentor. The exhibition is also to be presented online on Saatchi Art, the world’s biggest online gallery for emerging artists.

A Long journey at London’s Lisson Gallery

London, 16 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

London’s Lisson Gallery is to hold an exhibition of work by Richard Long from 23 May to 12 July 2014.

For the show, Richard Long is to present work created on walks in England, Switzerland and Antarctica, as well as a work made in situ at the gallery. The artist questions notions of solitude in his journeys through a use of natural materials such as mud, clay and stones. Text and photographs also document his expeditions, aiming to bring elements of the exterior inside the gallery. Speaking in 1991 about his artistic practice, Long said: “Where my human characteristics meet the natural forces and patterns of the world – that is the subject of my work.”

Richard Long was born in 1945, and is the only artist to have been nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize four times. He represented Great Britain at the 1976 Venice Biennale, and was made a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 2013 for his services to art.

Basquiat Masterpiece to be auctioned by Christie’s New York

New York, 17 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Untitled (1981), a masterpiece by Jean-Michel Basquiat belonging to the private collection of the Reiner family, is to be presented for sale at Christie’s Post War and Contemporary Evening Auction on 13 May 2014.

The work, which represents a crowned king brandishing a knife on a bright background of red and orange, features the graffiti which became one of Basquiat’s signature motifs. Using oil and acrylic, the large-scale canvas was created just prior to a year of particular significance for the artist, in which the international community began to recognise him as a truly noteworthy figure. The work is estimated to fetch between $20 and 30 million.

James Franco recreates Cindy Sherman’s iconic photographs

New York, 16 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

The actor and artist James Franco has opened his latest exhibition at New York’s Pace Gallery, entitled “New Film Stills”, to run until 3 May.

Inspired by Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills series, Franco aims to deconstruct and critique the Hollywood film industry from an insider’s perspective. Franco has produced a series of photographs, claimin to simultaneously be an “actor, critic, artist, and character”. Though Sherman’s original series was known for its explorations of women’s roles in film, it also question the performative potential of photography — an aspect with which Franco identifies.

James Franco was born in 1978, and is considered to be one of the foremost actors of today, appearing in films such as 127 Hours and Milk. He presented his debut solo exhibition, “Psycho Nacirema”, at Pace in London in 2013, and has participated in group exhibitions at New York’s MoMA and MOCA Los Angeles.

Tobias Rehberger to restyle Paris metro

Paris, 17 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

RATP — the transport company operating in and around Paris — and Emerige — a Paris-based renovation company — have joined forces to give German artist Tobias Rehberger the opportunity to create a work to decorate the exterior of a new metro station, Pont Cardinet, on line 14 of the Paris metro system.

The project, conceived by Tobias Rehberger himself, is a contemporary interpretation of the iconic Art Nouveau entrances to metro stations created by Hector Guimard in the early 1900s. Speaking via a press release, RATP stated: “taking this emblematic model as his foundation, the artist has imagined a geometric, colourful and welcoming architectural structure to frame the entrance to Paris’s underworld and to serve as a point of reference to metro users and people living in the quarter.”

The artist at the helm of the project, Tobias Rehberger, was born in Germany in 1966. Awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2009, his work has been presented at institutions including Palais de Tokyo, Tate Liverpool, Walker Art Center, Whitechapel Gallery and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C. He currently lives and works between Berlin and Frankfurt.