Archive for the 'Art Fairs' Category

The Wrap: 2009

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010


Trends that have been building for the past several years have reached a crescendo. Taken together they create a picture that didn’t exist ten years ago. Here are ten dynamics that will continue to set direction going forward.


Just a few years ago, our primary focus on art activity was in the US and Europe. Now we are also occupied with China, India, South America and the Middle East. As wealth has spread around the globe, the art world has experienced a huge expansion. Art has become an asset class. The artists, galleries, institutions, collectors, and magazines worldwide engage with and influence each other. The explosion of information and access is unprecedented. Going forward there will be more of everything and the challenge for clarity will increase.


The elephant in the room is the Internet. The ability to present, communicate, research and purchase on the web has rapidly fueled the rise of globalization. Everyone can participate at their own speed, in their own time and in their own depth. Mobile devices, social networking and abundant websites have intensified the dialogue into a 24/7 global marathon. No one sleeps.

Art/Basel, Switzerland

Art/Basel, Switzerland


The Art Fairs have become the venue of choice for viewing and buying by the art-loving public. Sixty thousand people pass through Basel or Arco in a few days, while galleries have weeks that deliver only a few dozen viewers. Institutions can get hundreds of people for an opening, but remain desolate during a regular weekday. Art Fair participation is mandatory for galleries to build their presence, expose their artists and develop new clients. Galleries are frequently doing multiple fairs each year. But brick and mortar still count.


The biggest galleries have adopted corporate business models and now practice branding strategies. The smaller galleries follow suit within their means. Competition plays out at the Fairs and is enabled by multiple gallery locations, same-city venues as well as multi-city venues in different countries.  To site just a few examples, Hauser & Wirth now has galleries in London, Zurich and New York; Arario has major venues in Seoul, Beijing and New York and Gagosian Gallery now operates in five international cities. Gallery branding has developed concurrently with artist brands – those artists commanding big prices and ever-bigger career coups such as Koons exhibiting in Versailles, Hirst staging his own auction, or Dale Chihuly with extravagant hotel commissions around the world, simultaneous museum exhibitions and a new stand-alone store in Las Vegas.

Christie's Salesroom

Christie's Salesroom w/Andy Warhol painting


While the auction houses suffered through 2009, their ambition for market share is undiminished. As business begins to rebound, Sotheby’s and Christie’s have reinstated guarantees. They are now inviting third-party guarantors, a move that ensures high-end consignors are supported while preserving auction house capital. Their private treaty business has grown dramatically, competing head-on with the galleries. Arguably, they are already in the gallery business, witness the purchase of Noortman Master Painting by Sotheby’s in 2007 and Haunch of Venison in London by Christie’s shortly thereafter.    All of the auction catalogues are now available on line.  In addition to Sotheby’s and Christie’s, there are numerous others including Phillip’s De Pury, Bonham’s, Doyle’s and art portal, Artnet.  Christie’s provides live online bidding.  Saffronart, an auction house that specializes in contemporary and modern Indian Art, offers an application for mobile devices that allows on line bidding.


The auction houses are not the only ones blurring the lines. With the desire to create memorable programming, to draw and educate viewers, and to package diminished available inventory, galleries are increasingly mounting exhibitions with museum-like attributes. These may be historic, themed or one-person exhibitions featuring borrowed works from private and institutional collections. For example, Gagosian’s retrospective exhibition in New York for Piero Manzoni was a season highlight. Library-worthy catalogs are produced along with educational programming featuring guest lecturers. There may be only one or two works available for purchase, but the gallery succeeds in building it’s brand and bringing in the crowds.  Gagosian/Manzoni

Charles Burchfield

Charles Burchfield


While the galleries are rivaling museums, the artists are taking on roles outside the studio. Robert Gober curated the recent Charles Burchfield show at the UCLA Hammer Museum. He was present to give the walk-through to patron members of the Museum. While Burchfield seemed to be a surprising choice for Gober given his own work, his involvement added to the pleasure and intrigue of the show. John Baldessari’s gallery design for “Magritte and Contemporary Art” at Los Angeles County Museum greatly enlivened the exhibition and affected the viewer’s response to the work. Eric Fischl is one of the leading fundraisers for “America Now + Here”, a multi-media, traveling exhibition exploring American identity through art. All of these activities precipitate fresh thinking concerning the role of the artist. Hammer Museum/Birchfield,  American Now + Here

Hirst Auction

Damien Hirst at Auction


It was very big news when Damien Hirst made a record $198 million at a two-day auction of his own work at Sotheby’s in October 2008. The numbers were breath-taking as was the precedent by-passing of his gallery representatives. While he is the standout example, artists have increasingly placed their own work at auction and are being solicited directly by the auction houses. Direct solicitation was prevalent in bringing the Chinese superstars to auction, made easier by the fact that the traditional gallery structure was not securely in place at the time.  Hirst auction review


Fakes, forgeries, and murky provenance have been widely debated in the press. As prices mount, inventory shrinks, and demand increases, authenticity has become paramount. With authenticity comes the matter of clear title. These two elements have become the key components required in consummating high-end sales. Buyers want assurance regarding the history of the work and confidence that the seller has the right to transfer ownership. Hence, the advent of Aris, a company that now underwrites title insurance for fine art. It is a nascent area in the world of art insurance, but a sure sign of the times.   Aris Corporation

Canvas Magazine announcement

Canvas Magazine announcement


Magazines have traditionally reported on the news and exhibitions created by others. More and more they are developing their own content and framing the dialogue. Canvas, the premier arts and culture magazine about art in the Middle East, recently staged a three-part conversation titled “Gender, Wars and Chadors”, exploring themes in Contemporary Middle Eastern Art.  The panels were held at three different art fairs around the globe – at Art Basel, Switzerland in June, at Frieze Art Fair, London in October ;  at Art Basel, Miami Beach in December. The Miami panel was moderated by uber-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and included internationally renown artists Ghada Amer and Kader Attia. The fact that the conversation took place internationally attests to the global nature of the times. I attended all three presentations and they were fascinating.  Canvas Magazine


Surely the business of art and the art itself are two different things. Yet they are inextricably intertwined in both subtle and complex ways. Keeping up with both means staying wired and joining the global marathon.

London / New York

Friday, October 30th, 2009


LONDON – The Frieze Art Fair has morphed into a city-wide phenomenon of massive proportions. Six full days in London still required choosing among the  fairs, museums, galleries, auctions, lectures, receptions, shopping and nightlife.

Mike Nelson, "Amnesiac Shrine", Zoo Art Fair

Mike Nelson, "Amnesiac Shrine", Zoo Art Fair

Frieze is jammed from the moment it opens. This year featured 150 international galleries plus outdoor sculpture in Regent’s Park and a panoply of events, talks, film, music, etc. A new section of the Fair, titled Frame, was dedicated to solo artist presentations from young galleries. The fair was very lively with plenty to see, although not equal to Basel (Switzerland) in terms of the breathtaking quality and range of the more senior fair. The accompanying Zoo Fair was alternative and edgy,  featuring video, installations and casually installed object works. The Fairs are just the  beginning of the visual feast in London.

Frieze Art Fair
Zoo Art Fair

Damien Hirst at the Wallace Collection

Damien Hirst at the Wallace Collection

London’s bad boy, Damien Hirst, managed another coup during the Fair with his installation of paintings at the Wallace Collection, a national museum of  unsurpassed holdings including French 18th century painting, furniture and porcelain with superb Old Master paintings and world class armor. The juxtaposition of the Hirst paintings with the historical material in the stately mansion created a huge buzz.  Hirst’s paintings are by his hand, purportedly sans assistants, and herald a new chapter in his work. Although the paintings were widely panned in the press, they were reportedly all sold, generated enormous crowds and conversation, and once again, seemed to give him the last word.

Wallace Collection

Anish Kapoor at the

Anish Kapoor at the Royal Academy of the Arts

The Anish Kapoor exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts was spectacular.   Internationally acclaimed, a 1991 Turner Prize winner, and one of the most significant sculptors of his generation, this was a show to savor and to remember. It occupied five galleries, a first for a contemporary artist at the RAA. It surveyed Kapoor’s career to-date, showcasing new and previously unseen works. It was my favorite show of the week, along with “Maharaja”, a blockbuster at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Royal Academy of Art

Portrait from "Maharaja" at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Portrait from "Maharaja" at the Victoria and Albert Museum

“Maharaja” presents the splendor of India’s royal courts, from the beginning of the 18th Century through the influence of the British empire and on to the establishment of India’s independence. Over 250 objects symbolic of royal status, power and identity including, paintings, jewels, furniture, photographs and even a car, dazzle in their beauty and refinement. Historic film footage adds to the immediacy of the exhibition. It’s the kind of show in which the V&A truly excels.

Victoria and Albert Museum

Eva Rothschild at Tate Britain

Eva Rothschild at Tate Britain

Tate Britain has become a wonderful amalgam of historic British works combined with the best of the up and coming Brit artists. The lobby featured the Duveens’ Commission, a hypnotic installation by Eva Rothschild. Other galleries showcased the 2009 Turner Prize nominees. They include Enrico David, Roger Hiorns, Lucy Skaer and Richard Wright.  The winner will be announced on December 7. Also on view was “Turner & the Masters”, an exhibition which juxtaposed the great Turner paintings with related works by Rubens, Canaletto, Rembrandt, Poussin and Titian.

Tate Britain

Ed Ruscha at the Hayward Gallery

Ed Ruscha at the Hayward Gallery

Southern California had a huge presence in London with two major retrospective exhibitions, Ed Ruscha at the Hayward Gallery and John Baldessari at Tate Modern. Both shows were terrific and both artists were present to be feted and make themselves available through lecture presentations and conversations at the institutions and at Frieze.   The SoCal presence extended through the Saatchi Gallery exhibition, “Abstract America: New Painting and Sculpture.   Dominant artists from LA included Patrick Hill, Sterling Ruby, Mark Bradford, Jonas Wood, Matt Johnson, Bart Esposito, and Jedediah Caesar.

Hayward Gallery
Tate Modern
Saatchi Gallery

Video still, Takashi Murakami, Tate Modern

Video still, Takashi Murakami, "Pop Life",Tate Modern

In addition to Baldessari’s show, “Pure Beauty”, which features more than 130 works including paintings, books and prints, Tate Modern is presenting ”Pop Life”. This major overview show unites artists from the 1980′s such as Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami and others who have embraced commerce and the mass media to build their own “brands”.  Reviews have been mixed.  However, using music, memorabilia and lively installations, the exhibition captures the energy, innovation and boldness of the period. In addition to the above, Sophie Calle was at Whitechapel with the fabulous show, “Take Care of Yourself”, a highlight at the Venice Biennale in 2007. The Courtauld Gallery featured  Frank Auerbach’s paintings of London building sites, considered to be among the most important contributions to post-war painting in Britain.

Whitechapel Gallery
Courtauld Gallery

Not to be outdone by the museums, the shows at the London galleries were stellar. Among the most memorable were Anselm Kiefer at White Cube; Glenn Brown at Gagosian; Grayson Perry at Victoria Miro,  Yinka Shonebare at Stephen Friedman, and Walead Beshty at Thomas Dane. And then there were the auctions at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s…I covered so much ground in London, I actually got shin splints!

Robert Frank, from "The Americans", Metropolitan Museum of Art

Robert Frank, from "The Americans", Metropolitan Museum of Art

NEW YORK – I always like stopping in New York for a few days on the way back from Europe to mitigate jet lag. I caught two pivotal shows at the Metropolitan, among other significant ones around town. Robert Frank’s “The Americans” celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of his seminal suite of black and white photographs made on a cross-country road trip in 1955-56. The book of prints depicting American Life was initially criticized.  Eventually it became recognized as a masterpiece of street photography.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Johannes Vermeer, "The Milkmaid", Metropolitan Museum of Art

Johannes Vermeer, "The Milkmaid", Metropolitan Museum of Art

Another masterpiece, “The Milkmaid” by Johannes Vermeer  (1632-1675) is on view from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in a cameo exhibition of wonder. The exhibition brings together all five paintings by Vermeer from the Met’s collection along with a select group of works by other Dutch artists to lend historical context. This occasion marks the first time “The Milkmaid” has been seen in the US since the 1939 World’s Fair.



Thursday, June 18th, 2009


Yoshitomo Nara, Art Unlimited, Basel Art Fair, 2009

Yoshitomo Nara, Art Unlimited, Basel Art Fair, 2009

The Basel Art Fair is the world’s premier international art show for modern and contemporary  works.  Approximately 300 leading  galleries from around the globe featuring more than 2500 artists, ranging from modern masters to emerging talent, are on view in the show’s multiple sections.  The quality and quantity of works for sale is awesome and overwhelming.   Despite opening anxiety due to the current market conditions, business was much better than expected.  The fair reported 61,000 art lovers in attendance by the closing day.  Although there were fewer Americans than usual, Europeans were out in full force.   In it’s 40th year, Art Basel is the main event, but the entire town is given over to art during this period.  Satellite fairs included Scope, Volta, Liste, and Design Miami.  The major museums including the Kunstmuseum, the Kunsthalle, Schaulager and the Beyeler add to the must-see list.


Bharti Kher, "The Wag Tree", Art Unlimited, Basel Art Fair, 2009

Bharti Kher, "The Wag Tree", Art Unlimited, Basel Art Fair, 2009

The Art Unlimited section of the Basel Art Fair was launched in 2000 to showcase large-scale installations, video projections, massive sculptures and live performances.  Works are selected by the Art Committee and curated by by Geneva curator, Simon Lamuniere.  In addition to the individual gallery booths, this section is always a lively highlight of the main Fair.  The sculpture above by renown Indian artist, Bharti Kher, is a fallen tree made of fiberglass whose leaves are hundreds of gargoyle-like animal heads.


Chairs, Design Miami/Basel

Chairs, Design Miami/Basel

Following its success in Miami Beach, Design Miami/Basel has become a more highly anticipated part of the scene, featuring both historical and contemporary furniture.  The historical works exemplify pioneering forms and techniques of  impeccable quality and rarity.  The contemporary works represent the height of limited-edition production while embracing the most progressive design directions.  The presentation is closely vetted, moving  from pieces of exceptional refinement to exhilarating new statements.


Franz West installation, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen

Franz West installation, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen


Installation, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen

Installation, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen

The Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, near Basel, was designed by Renzo Piano and opened in 1997.   The collection comprises approximately 200 works by 40 artists beginning with Late- and Post Impressionism, through Cubism,  American Abstract Expressionism and selected European modernists.  These works are supplemented by sculptures from Africa, Alaska and Oceania.  The exquisite aesthetics of the architecture framing the artworks of exceptional quality combine for an unparalleled viewing experience.  Every time I am in this museum, I am moved to tears.  It is visually and intellectually arresting at the highest level.


Dionisio Gonzales, "Post Utopias" (detail), Scope Art Fair

Dionisio Gonzales, "Post Utopias" (detail), Scope Art Fair


Cordy Ryman, Volta Art Fair

Cordy Ryman, Volta Art Fair

In contrast to Art Basel, the satellite fairs generally offer younger and less well known artists at prices that are more accessible than those found at the main fair.  The presentations may be quite uneven, but combing through them is informative and useful for discovering new galleries, new artists or familiar artists in unexpected places.  Whether you’re a connoisseur or a novice, a week spent in Basel during the fair is one of the richest art experiences of the year.

Middle East

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Islamic Museum, Doha, Qatar



Interior, Islamic Museum



Necklace, Islamic Museum



Bronze mask, Islamic Museum

I returned last week from a fascinating trip to Qatar and the UAE.  The Islamic Museum in Doha, which opened in November, is spectacular.  The collection was acquired primarily at auction over  approximately the past twenty years.  The beauty, rarity and quality of the objects on view is mesmerizing.  The building is designed by I.M. Pei  and is among the highlights of his career.  Islamic Museum


Art Dubai and the Sharjah Biennele made it a dense and productive trip.  I am a big fan of emerging market art fairs, especially in their early stages.  There is a dramatic sense of discovery and an authentic effort from the organizers, gallerists, artists and guests that is free from the cynicism and attitude that may permeate more established venues.    The accessibility to everyone and everything is refreshing and full of opportunity.  



Hayv Kahraman

Business at the Fair was uneven as it has been worldwide for the past eight months.  Buyers were cautious and limited.  However booths by L&M from New York and Lisson from London were first rate and would have been admired in Basel.   Paris-based Emmanuel Perrotin had an impressive installation by Farhad Moshiri who has been an auction favorite and sold well.  The Third Line of Dubai sold out work by Hayv Kahraman.  San Francisco gallery, Frey Norris did very well with their artist, Kate Eric.  Galleries were present from Syria, China, India and various European cities.



Nida Sinnokrot

The Sharjah Biennial is in its ninth edition and was the most intriguing to-date.  It was especially interesting to see so many artists that are unknown in the West.   Curators from MOMA, the Tate and multiple institutions from around the world were viewing the exhibition.  Many were in the area as participants in the Global Art Forum, an impressive educational program and think tank that runs parallel to Art Dubai.  Sharjah Biennial