Thursday, January 19, 2017

Tell me again about the public trust (two key post-war works edition)

MoMA is selling a Dubuffet and a Mathieu.

"Théorème d’Alexandroff entered Moma’s collection in 1964 as part of a bequest from the American lawyer Samuel Rosenman; the Dubuffet work was bequeathed to the museum in 1990 by Mary Sisler."

That's interesting, because I thought I heard that (part of) the rationale for the AAMD position on deaccessioning is a concern with the message sales can send to potential donors:  Why wouldn't somebody say, Why should I give this to you? What guarantee do I have that you're not going to sell this tomorrow?

I must have misheard.

"Paddle8, the online auction house which merged with now-embattled competitor Auctionata last May, has secured an investor to buy it out for an undisclosed amount ..."

". . . while its parent company Auctionata AG has filed for preliminary insolvency, representatives for both firms confirmed today."

Saturday, January 14, 2017

"I deny. I denounce. This fake art." (UPDATED)

Richard Prince has disavowed a work of his depicting Ivanka Trump.  It's unclear what his denial, denunciation, and disavowal will mean.  From Randy Kennedy's New York Times story:

"Joshua Holdeman, a Manhattan art adviser and a former vice chairman at Sotheby’s, said he believed Mr. Prince’s excommunication of the work would probably not cause collectors or museums to treat it as illegitimate in the long run and he added that it might indeed increase its value.

"'As far as the market is concerned, if an artist says a work isn’t by him, but it’s clear that he made it and presented it as his work, well it kind of is what it is,' Mr. Holdeman said. 'My intuition about this is that when history plays out, this will probably end up being a more culturally rich object than if this whole episode hasn’t happened.'"

Hyperallergic's Benjamin Sutton agrees "it may have the unintended consequence of making the work more (rather than less) valuable."  Good legal analysis from Nicholas O'Donnell here.  And a very interesting piece from Jerry Saltz on the “aesthetics” of the move.  He points out that there is a long tradition of artists creating work out of thin air:

"This is using language as law, as in 'I now pronounce you man and wife' or 'I sentence you to five years.' ...Whatever else these artists and Prince did they reduced art to some invisible essence, the will of the artist, making the artist primarily a conceptual creator or destroyer of worlds. ... But on Wednesday Prince moved things in the other direction, using that biblical power not to make but to take away — not to bestow but withdraw the art content of the work. This drop-dead simple yet loaded act is actually a quite profound and radical innovation, one that immediately suggests there may be dozens of new conceptual gestures and possibilities in this strange new conceptual universe artists find themselves now living in."

UPDATE:  Kenny Schachter isn't having it.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Monday, December 26, 2016


There's been some discussion of a recent Southern District decision dismissing a breach of fiduciary duty lawsuit against an art advisor having to do with another "disavowed" Cady Noland work.  See, for example, The Art Market Monitor here ("Did Cady Noland Case Clarify Role of Art Advisors?").  I think the facts/posture of the case were too weird to draw any general conclusions from it.  Basically, a collector purchased a Noland work from a gallery with a rescission clause providing for a refund if she disavowed the work.  Which she did.  The gallery returned part of the purchase price, but not all.  The art advisor's role in the transaction was unclear:  "despite the suggestion in plaintiff's briefing that [the collector] 'retained' and 'paid' [the advisor], ... the Amended Complaint nowhere alleges as much."  And it also wasn't clear to the Judge what the advisor was supposed to have done wrong.  The inclusion of the rescission clause "affirmatively benefited" the collector; the problem was just that the gallery failed to pay back the money as agreed.  You get the sense from reading the decision that the Court felt like the collector's real beef was with the gallery -- who for some reason has not been served.  All in all a pretty strange case and not one that I think will provide much guidance going forward.

Does California's new "autograph law" apply to works of art?

Sheppard Mullin says it might.

"After years of litigation, we have gotten rid of all of her claims and we are entitled to go forward with ours."

The New York Times:  Case Against Robert Motherwell’s Foundation Is Dismissed.

This one too has been long-running.  Background, from 2009, here.

"The outlook for New York’s largest art museums is a little unsettling."

The always-interesting Adrian Ellis on how things might look for museums over the next four years:  "A Trump presidency is anxiety-inducing not because of any direct financial impact, but because of its potential impact on the world economy, and therefore on New York philanthropy and tourism. Perhaps more significantly, a culture war between scapegoated elite liberal and humanities institutions and a populist presidency seems likely. This climate may in turn affect both their overall appeal to the narrowing band of philanthropists and put at risk the fiscal privileges they enjoy under section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code."

"In a more ethical world, to spend tens of millions of dollars on works of art would be status-lowering, not status-enhancing."

Dwight Garner's NYT review of Peter Singer's new essay collection led me to this 2014 piece, where he (Singer) asks, "In a world in which more than six million children die each year because they lack safe drinking water or mosquito nets, or because they have not been immunized against measles, couldn’t you find something better to do with your money?"

The world's biggest art gallery

Bloomberg had a story recently on Park West Gallery, which "sells pictures and sculptures at thousands of live auctions held on more than 100 [cruise] ships each year" and "has had annual sales as high as $400 million and counted more than 2 million customers."

The controversy around this has been going on for years, and Tyler Cowen had some simple advice here.

"We now have so much faith in the legal system."

After Knoedler Suit, a Passion Undimmed.