News From The Messeplatz
It's clearly a weird time for the art market. Amid numerous reports of eight figure sales spread out across multiple galleries (more on that below), the steady drumbeat of concern continues for the very foundations upon which our industry is built.
In a blockbuster interview clearly timed for maximum impact to coincide with Art Basel's opening day, Paula Cooper, Sean Kelly, Elyse Derosia (co-founder of Bodega and current board president of NADA), and Bridget Donahue participated in a roundtable discussion with M.H. Miller for the New York Times' T Magazine. They lay bare some of their concerns for their individual galleries, reminisce on the past, and share a few fiery thoughts on a certain estate that recently migrated from Cheim & Read to David Zwirner.
We'll have more on that conversation further down in this email, but suffice it to say that these are exactly the type of discussions that we're trying to foster with The Canvas Monthly. We'll hopefully be able to announce our July interviewees/essayists soon- and trust us, they're going to be awesome and feature some of the key decision-makers in the industry talking about the relevant and meaningful trends we're all facing.
In the meantime, please consider subscribing to receive our inaugural reportwith Marc Spiegler, Sean Kelly, and Brett Gorvy in which they touch upon many of the same topics as the T Magazine discussion. We're currently offering a 15% discount on all new subscriptions through the duration of Art Basel (for a limited number of readers). Help support the continued publication of The Canvas which you know deep down you've come to love and appreciate during every major fair and auction week.
And now on to the sales:
Joan Mitchell, Composition (1969) for $14 million at Hauser & Wirth
Joan Mitchell, Untitled (1959) priced at $14 million at Lévy Gorvy
Carmen Herrera, Arco (2018) for $550,000 at Lisson Gallery
Stanley Whitney, Untitled (1999) for $400,000 at Lisson Gallery
Vija Celmins, Untitled (Knife and Dish) (1964) for $1.2 million at Matthew Marks Gallery
Louise Bourgeois, The Three Graces (1947) for $4.75 million at Hauser & Wirth
Alina Szapocznikow, Auto Portrait (1967) for $600,000 at Hauser & Wirth
Kara Walker, Another Ancestor (2010) for $125,000 at Sprüth Magers
John Baldessari, Four Types of Balance (with Basketballs) (1990) for $550,000 at Sprüth Magers
Robert Longo, Death Start II (2017/2018) for $1.5 million at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
Robert Rauschenberg, Ruby Re-Run (Spread) (1978) for $1.45 million at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
David Hockney, Chrysanthemums (1996) for $2.5 million at Pace Gallery
Paul McCarthy, CSSC Luncheon on the Grass (2015-18) for $1.5 million at Xavier Hufkens
George Condo, Portrait of an English Lady (2008) for $1.3 million at Xavier Hufkens
For more detailed reporting on the ins and outs of the sales, make sure to check out Judd Tully's coverage for ArtNews and Nate Freeman's recap for Artsy.
The Three Things People are Talking About
1. There's a lot to unpack in the New York Times T Magazine discussion with Paula Cooper, Sean Kelly, Elyse Derosia, and Bridget Donahue. The mix of veteran and young dealers touch on everything from rent prices for New York based galleries to whether fairs should admit galleries with no physical presence at all. They opine on the increased use of PR firms to drum up excitement for new shows and kibitz on the increasing exhibiting costs at the major fairs.
However, the most impactful part for The Canvas was when Paula Cooper, the 80 year old doyenne of the Chelsea gallery scene- who's eponymous gallery is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year- let loose on David Zwirner for stealing the Joan Mitchell estate away from Cheim & Read. "It’s about a lack of civility. It’s about ruthlessness" she said, referring to the recent comments by Christa Blatchford, the chief executive officer of the Joan Mitchell Foundation when she was quoted in the New York Times as saying the move was about "the level of scholarship". Sean Kelly seemed to concur, saying that "It’s about venality. It’s about greed".
The Canvas cannot even begin to impress upon our readers how often we're hearing about the poaching of an artist or estate by one of the mega-galleries as one of the main obstacles small and mid-size galleries are facing in today's market. Marc Spiegler mentioned it in our conversations with him, Tim Schneider has talked about it frequently in his recent articles for Artnet, and multiple dealers have brought it up with The Canvas in private conversations. Far be it for us to offer a definitive remedy to such a capitalistically-driven trend, however, it is becoming increasingly clear that this- perhaps even more than the prohibitive costs of fairs- is the single biggest headwind the gallery ecosystem is facing.
2. Writing for Art Agency, Partners' 'In Other Words' newsletter, Bernard Lagrange takes a deep dive into the effects that solo exhibitions at major museums have on prices for an artist’s market. The piece is thoughtful, insightful, and filled with market-wide and artist-specific statistics and analysis. However, the part of the article that resonated most with The Canvas was in the 'Rumors vs. Reality' section. "People expect exhibitions to both boost prices and increase the supply of works, so are more inclined to sell or buy once a major show has been announced. This causes the market to rise. Then, after a show, things level out, for a number of reasons".
The piece's conclusion that "When the venue is right + when an exhibition is staged at the right moment + when the market is neither flooded or deprived of supply + when the curation provides clarity + when an artists’ reputation is either forged or revitalized = the possibility that exhibitions can lead to tangible increases in an artist’s market" may seem self-explanatory, but trust us- it's 100% worth the full read.
3. One fun thing- The New York Times takes a delightful look into the process the Metropolitan Museum of Art had to go through each night while Ocean's 8 was filming in the museum for three weeks in 2017. The article profiles Rebecca Schear, the 33 year old senior production manager at the museum, and her daily fight to safeguard the priceless works of art from the film's equipment and crew who got to wander the halls of the museum at night in between takes of shooting for the movie.
A Word About Borro
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Five More Booths to See at Art Basel
The Party Circuit
The Whitney Gala (Spotted: Nigel Barker, Sarah Hoover, Lorna Simpson, and Adam Weinberg)
The Whitney Museum Studio Party (Spotted: Hailey Baldwin, Jemima Kirke, Thelma Golden, Sam McKinniss, Ruby Aldridge, Jiajia Fei, and Young Paris)
ICI's 2nd Annual Independents Spring Benefit (Spotted: Patton Hindle, Josephine Nash, Sam Moyer, and Lauren Kelly)
Have any sales reports, gossip, news, or tips you'd like to share with The Canvas? Email us at email@example.com to get in touch. And while you're at it, check out our Instagram for pics from Basel.