The Luxe Life
The doors of the Park Avenue Armory opened and the well heeled crowd was ushered into TEFAF and the cool embrace of its working air conditioning, chilled champagne, and roving oyster shuckers. And even though The Canvas did not partake in the bubbly or the mollusks, it wasn't hard to appreciate the noticeably different atmosphere that TEFAF's fairs generate when compared to their more egalitarian brethren (with the exception of perhaps Art Basel in Basel).
Of course, when you're asking collectors to plunk down $5.5 million for a Philip Guston- and succeeding- as they were at Hauser & Wirth, it's only right that you ply them with alcohol and aphrodisiacs first. In fact, a number of starry works with accompanying sky-high prices were being offered- and bought- in the well-lit booths of the Armory's Drill Hall. Helly Nahmad, Levy Gorvy, and Lisson were just some of the many blue-chip galleries finding success with the pieces they brought to the fair. For a more detailed recap with further pricing information, you can check out Annie Armstrong's piece for ArtNews here.
In the not-too-distant past, before Donald Trump was elected president and TEFAF was a Maastricht-only affair (i.e the halcyon days of 2014), it could sometimes feel as if the major international fairs conspired together to blend into a never-ending cocktail hour for the world's one percent that played out across various cavernous convention centers throughout the world. Alas, no more.
With the proliferation of Art Basels, TEFAFs, and Friezes, it's becoming easier for the major fairs to carve out an identity for themselves and actively appeal to different sections of the market. And yet, as is becoming increasingly apparent amongst the movers and shakers in the business, three Art Basel fairs, three TEFAF fairs, four Frieze fairs, the Armory & ADAA Art Show in March, and umpteen satellite fairs that hover around these anchors like pilot fish eating the parasites off their larger hosts is unsustainable.
Sure, there will always be a place for fairs like Independent that shine a light on the up-and-coming, or Art Miami/New York that help usher in younger collectors to the market, but at some point a realistic set of solutions will need to be offered to counter the gluttony of fairs currently populating the calendar.
The Three Things People are Talking About
Fresh off of winning the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism for the first time in his career, Jerry Saltz penned a long treatise on New York Magazine's Vulture website listing everything that's wrong with art fairs. Rather, everything that's wrong with art fairs in the mind of Jerry Saltz. And while he echoes many of the same points that art world heavyweights such as David Zwirner and Thaddeus Ropac have recently been making, many of his points quickly reveal themselves as specious and self-addmitedly unrealistic. Even though we at The Canvas have tremendous respect for the Saltz Man (he's been doing this for practically three decades after all), we wholeheartedly disagree with not only his conclusions, but the very premise of the problems he's trying to help solve. We're not going to go into full details now, but be on the look out for our main section in Sunday's edition of the Canvas. It promises to be a doozy.
While small and midsize galleries are facing tough economic headwinds, the well dressed specialists over at the auction houses are popping champagne bottles. In its first quarter earnings release, Sotheby's announced "aggregate auction sales of $667m during the first three months of 2018, a jump of 18% from a year ago" writes Sarah Hanson in The Art Newspaper. Topping that was a jump of 70% over the year for private sales, totalling $246.6m for the quarter. Amy Cappellazzo, Allan Schwartzman, and new hire, David Schrader all deserve a tip of the hat for this feat. While Christie's financials are private, The Canvas has it from a knowledgeable source that even though Sotheby's lags behind its arch rival in overall sales, its private sales division is significantly stronger.
We've heard a lot about the Shed since it broke ground back in 2015. But in a new and wide ranging interview with Andy Battaglia of ArtNews (one amongst many as part of a coordinated PR push), director Alex Poots gave multiple details on "A Prelude to the Shed" which is being billed as a "sort of prologue, starting May 1 and running through May 13, in an empty lot across the street from the institution’s future home on Manhattan’s far west side". Sounds thrilling.
Five Stands to See at TEFAF
The Party Circuit
The Cultivist Anniversary Party (Spotted: Laure De Gunzburg, Maria Baibakova, Casey Fremont, Di Mondo, Kasper Sonne)
Saks Fifth Avenue Celebrates Opening Night of Frieze (Spotted: Mary-Kate Olsen, Sarah Hoover, Jessica Hart, Phillip Picardi, Colby and Mary Mugrabi)
"American Aristocracy: How to Live Like a Rockefeller" at Christie's (Spotted: Martha Stewart, Susan Magrino, Stellene Volandes)