Archive for the 'Museums' Category

JANUARY 2012: Time to Invest?

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Roy Lichtenstein, "I Can See the Whole Room...", top selling lot at Christie's 2011 for $43,202 million; top lot at Sotheby's, Clyfford Still for $61,682 million

As the New Year horns sound, January streaks out of the blocks. PST exhibitions at the museums continue, gallery openings abound and the art fairs jockey for calendar space. The press is full of analysis of last year’s winners and losers in every realm. Art has been declared a winner. The Mei Moses World All Art Index (MMAI) which tracks art sales across several categories, indicates that art returned 10.2% in 2011, trouncing the S&P’s zero growth. Even Time Magazine hosts an article in their Jan 30 issue touting the amazing growth and profitability of the art market. Citing wealth diversification, emerging market participation, particularly China’s, and the bonus of social cache, investing in art is the place to be.

Zhang Daqian (1899-1983) total auction sales of $506.7 million in 2011, displacing Picasso as top seller

Art can certainly be a lucrative investment.  However,  acquiring artworks with investment potential requires sophisticated knowledge, due diligence and sometimes privileged access to opportunities, similar to the stock market.  While art risk and return may not correlate with equities, neither guarantees a profitable investment.  Record prices at auction are generally awarded to sanctioned artists of historical significance, for works from the artist’s strongest years of production with favored style or subject matter. These works are of limited availability, in perfect condition and fresh to the market. Because these characteristics are rare, more people with increased wealth are ready to pay bigger prices. The cycle continues upwards. The press sells the story to the public.

Damien Hirst, "Spot Painting", on view at Gagosian Galleries world wide

Financial gain from selling art is wonderful.  I seek it for my clients and on my own behalf.   However, I also lament the absence in headline articles of any mention of the intangible benefits in acquiring and living with art: the intellectual, emotional and spiritual gift inherent in the best work. Investment, branding and global reach are increasingly prized. Art’s commodification is complete. What could be further proof than Damien Hirst’s Spot paintings in all 11 of the Gagosian Galleries?

This brings me to the art fairs here in Los Angeles this January. Art Fairs have proliferated and for many are the preferred and often only venue in which art is viewed for purchase.  Time and convenience are of the essence.  Art Fairs may be enjoyable and functional, but they are a challenging environment in which to hone the eye.

The odds of ferreting out quality and a potentially investment-grade artwork is greatly enhanced by the excellence of the fair’s exhibitors. In fairs like Art Basel Miami or Switzerland, the vendor quality is meticulously vetted and consistently high, so buyers are greatly assisted in their search. However, in a fair like the LA Art Show, it’s a very mixed bag.  The organizers did strong publicity, had significant sponsors and a worthy charity for the gala opening night.  They provided a solid lecture series and filled the convention center space. But where’s the beef? Works of merit were in short supply; the vendor level was exeedingly uneven.

The IFPDA section of the fair is limited in scope, but is of good quality. The Fine Art Show had some pleasing pictures. But the LA Art Show, the primary draw, continues to disappoint. I went in with low expectations so I was less depressed than in years past. Now that the show has been acquired by the organizers of Art Miami, let’s hope it perks up in the future.

DuYanFang photograph at ME Photo Gallery booth, LA Art Show

Among the highlights at the LA Art Show was Jack Rutberg’s booth. It featured works by Patrick Graham and Hans Burkhardt as well as an editioned Jasper Johns flag of note. Jonathan Novak Contemporary presented works by Sam Francis, among others. The Paul Thiebaud Gallery is a reliable source for Wayne Thiebaud paintings and prints.  Among the overseas galleries, ME Photo Art Gallery from Beijing brought some of the new young photographers from China. The Chinese artists have been doing excellent photography for over two decades. While these works have been collected by institutions in the West, it is an undeveloped area of collecting for the Chinese. This is beginning to change slowly inside China and we will undoubtedly be seeing more work on our shores.

Art Los Angeles Contemporary housed many of the best Los Angeles galleries with a smattering of exhibitors from elsewhere. It was a small show with an emphasis on younger, edgier work.  There was no pretense.  It’s a fair where one can look, learn and acquire a potentially rising star at a reasonable price.  As for investment, be sure to also buy what you love…

Gusamo Cesaretti, photograph, at Roberts & Tilton

Regarding highlights around town, I’ll mention just two that illustrate the vast range of offerings. Roberts & Tilton has a fascinating show of vintage photographs by Gusmano Cesaretti. Curated by Aaron Rose, the show includes 24 unique prints that feature the East Los Angeles sub-culture of the 1970’s. The night of the opening, the Klique Car Club had some of their hottest rides parked out front in all of their glory – a great display of passion and pride.

Peder Mork Monsted, Painting of a Nubian, ca 1900, Weisman Museum, Malibu

At the opposite end of the aesthetic spectrum, the Frederick R. Weisman Museum at Pepperdine just opened “The Epic and the Exotic: 19th Century Academic Realism from the Dahesh Museum of Art” in New York. These 32 paintings are romantic, skillful, idealized pictures that epitomize the values of their time.  Another kind of fantasy.

Duane Valentine, Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla

Jennifer Steinkamp, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego

Lastly, “Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface” at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla and San Diego is arguably the quintessential show of the Pacific Standard Time initiative, among the mainstream offerings.  As indicated by the title, it showcases the unique contribution of Southern California artist’s in the 60’ and 70’s in their exploration of  light and space as manifest  in objects and installation.   Their legacy is powerfully brought forward in the  dazzling room installation by Jennifer Steinkamp that accompanies the show.


A consultancy in modern and contemporary art, guiding clients with
access and expertise, throughout the international art community.

Please contact us to learn more about the Advisory and how we can be of assistance to you in the acquisition or resale of the best in modern and contemporary art. 


Friday, November 4th, 2011

Donald Judd, indoor installation, aluminum, Chinati Foundation

The Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, is one of the great pilgrimage sites in the contemporary art world. Founder and artist, Donald Judd, conceived it as a place to integrate art, architecture and nature. It began with permanent large-scale installations of his own work as well as work by Dan Flavin and John Chamberlain. By Judd’s invitation, it grew to include other artists such as Ilya Kabakov and John Wesley. Each artist’s work is installed in separate buildings or rooms, maximizing their individual vision and aesthetic.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, temporary exhibition, Chinati Foundation

Temporary exhibitions by artists who were meaningful to Judd add to the elaborate presentations.  On my recent visit, Hiroshi Sugimoto had a sublime installation which coincides with his concurrent show in New York at Pace Gallery.  There was also a tightly curated show of sculpture by Jean Arp.  While Judd disliked abstract art resembling the figure, he admired Arp’s sculpture for its sense of “wholeness”, a quality Judd sought in his own work.

Dan Flavin, installation, Chinati Foundation

John Chamberlain, Chinati Foundation

Judd was a forward thinker and planner. He first visited Marfa in 1971. After initial support from the Dia Art Foundation in New York, the Chinati Foundation opened to the public in 1986 as an independent, non-profit, publicly funded institution. It covers 340 acres on the site of former Fort D.A. Russell and also includes some buildings in the center of town. Fort D. A. Russell was an American military installation active in various forms from 1911-1946. Beginning in 1949 it was divided and sold to local residents. Dia assisted Judd in acquiring the land in the late-seventies. He renovated the buildings but kept their initial footprints.

Donald Judd, permanent installation, The Block

In addition to Chinati, one can visit the Judd Foundation, site of Judd’s former residence called “The Block”. It includes his extensive art library and studio buildings along with additional permanent installations of his work. Here one fully experiences Judd’s artistic development and his intense preoccupation with material, form, space and color. He was a driven man of vast appetite and ambition which is evident in the legacy he has created. Judd passed away in 1994 at the age of 66.

Ballroom Marfa, downtown Marfa

Ballroom Marfa is another stop of note. An encompassing space for all things contemporary, it supports projects of cultural significance that would be difficult to realize in traditional gallery or museum spaces. The mandate is broad, hosting both emerging and recognized artists, based locally and internationally.

Marfa is a three hour drive in the high desert from either the El Paso or Midland airports. A long way from the desolate town first encountered by Donald Judd, Marfa now hosts serious restaurants and a few good places to stay. Hotel Paisano is a National Historic Landmark that was headquarters for the cast and crew of  “Giant”.  Restaurant Cochineal, whose predecessor was Etats-Unis in Manhattan, is one among several that offer upscale dining.

Elmgreen and Dragset, "Prada Marfa'

As for shopping, check out Prada Marfa. Created by artists Elmgreen and Dragset, it is the consummate send-up of global branding.  A permanently installed sculpture, it sits smartly in the middle of nowhere, 37 miles northwest of Marfa.

Unique automobile, Marfa

Of course, getting around in style is always in fashion.  Our Suburban felt pretty plain next to this ride.


A consultancy in modern and contemporary art, guiding clients with
access and expertise, throughout the international art community.

Please contact us to learn more about the Advisory and how we can be of assistance to you in the acquisition or resale of the best in modern and contemporary art. 


Friday, October 7th, 2011

Pacific Standard Time, inaugural multimedia show, Getty Museum (photo courtesy Danny First)

The unprecedented Southern California initiative known as Pacific Standard Time (PST) was officially inaugurated on the evening of October 2 at the Getty Center. An extravagant sound and light show worthy of the Acropolis splashed over the J. Paul Getty Museum’s architecture to begin the festivities. Viewed from the arrival plaza, it was spectacular indeed. Guests were then invited for a first view of the exhibition, “Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture 1950-1970”.

David Hockney, "A Bigger Splash", 1967, acrylic on canvas, 96 x 96", Tate, London, at the Getty Museum

The Getty Museum is among over 60 institutions across Southern California that is collaborating to celebrate and to examine the Los Angeles art scene between 1945-1980. The birth of the initiative began modestly in 2001 when the Getty Research Institute launched an oral history project to preserve the recollections of artists, gallery owners and other key players of the period. Subsequently the project grew, gathered momentum and eventually exploded in scope, content and ambition. The Getty Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the J. Paul Getty Trust, funded the effort through $10 million worth of grants. In addition to encouraging fresh scholarship, the goals are to raise the profile of Los Angeles as a global visual arts destination and to attract a broad new audience to venues throughout the region. Individual artists’ careers and their contribution will inevitably be re-evaluated upward and a rewrite of the region’s historical significance will ensue.


Ron Davis, "Black Tear", 1967, resin and fiberglass, 60 x 136", Rowan Collection, at the Getty Museum

The exhibitions around L.A. each offer a different slice of the story, a unique perspective or interpretation. “Crosscurrents….” at the Getty is a delicious overview, featuring many of the key players with mostly excellent examples of their work. The story moves succinctly from hard-edge paintings, assemblage sculpture, and large-scale, abstract ceramics of the 1950’s, to iconic pop images of the city in the 1960’s to the Light and Space works of the 1970’s. Pivotal work by Lynne Foulkes, Ed Ruscha, David Hockney, Craig Kaufman, Ron Davis and many others fill the spaces. The exhibition ends too soon with the feeling of wanting to see more.

Museum of Contemporary Art

Bruce Connor, "Crossroads", 1976, film still, at MOCA

The MOCA show, “Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981”, is a sprawling survey featuring the pluralistic art practices that flourished across the state during the period. It includes 130 artists with over 500 art objects. The show acknowledges the multiplicity of directions and individualism as well as the political climate and social milieu that framed artistic production.   However, the breadth of concepts and processes and the number of artists make the show feel cumbersome. Among the pieces to admire is Bruce Connor’s mesmerizing video, “Crossroads”. It explores the haunting beauty and horror of the 1945 atomic bomb explosion at Bikini Atoll in slow motion. It is both enthralling and relevant. Many other pieces in the show are of their time but seem to have lost their resonance.

Hammer Museum

John Outerbridge, "No Time for Jivin", from the Containment Series, 1969, mixed media, 56 x 60", Mills College, at the Hammer Museum

David Hammons, "Bag Lady in Flight", ca 1970's, mixed media, 42 x 116 x 3", Collection Eileen Norton, at the Hammer Museum


“Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980” is a comprehensive exhibition that explores the pioneering legacy of L.A.’s African American visual artists. From the moment one enters the show, the sense of vibrancy is palpable. Engaging work by artists like Noah Purifoy and John Outterbridge, who have been off the radar screen, shine brightly. More familiar artists like David Hammons and Betye Saar are represented by some of their best works. The show is contextualized by politics and social norms of the day. But it also weaves the artists into the larger fabric of the city’s art scene by emphasizing their relationships with artists outside the Black community. The show is everything PST set out to do – it’s fresh, it educates and it makes a significant contribution to the field.

Los Angeles County Museum

Lobster Bathing Suits, Mary Ann DeWeese, 1949, at LACMA

Charles and Ray Eames House, Pacific Palisade, interior, at LACMA

Although the period has been well explored elsewhere, “California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way” at LACMA is the first major museum study of California mid-century modern design. The show explores the state’s influence in shaping material culture across the country through furniture, ceramics, metalwork, fashion and industrial and graphic design. From Barbie & Ken to Heath Ceramics to the Oscar statue, it is a ride down memory lane. The exhibition encourages the idea that these innovations developed organically out of a desire to choose modernity. It emphasizes a postwar optimism and a cooperative spirit, manifest in pieces like the his & hers bathing suits adorned with oversize lobsters. A highlight of the show is a re-creation of Charles and Ray Eames 1949 steel-framed house in Pacific Palisades. The actual contents of the Eames’ living room is on view as the home is currently undergoing renovation.

Santa Monica Museum of Art

Beatrice Wood, "Handled Bowl w/Luster", Collection Carol and Arthur Goldberg, at the Santa Monica Museum

“Beatrice Wood: Career Woman – Drawings, Paintings, Vessels and Objects” injects the Museum with the energy and vitality of the woman herself. Born into high society, Wood lived in Paris and New York before coming to Los Angeles. She was an actress, a seminal figure in the Dada movement, a Theosophist, and a dedicated artist. The exhibition is both a scholarly and commemorative evaluation of Wood’s prodigious career. The ceramics with their amazing luster glazes were the highlight of the objects on view for me. Her long life of 105 years (1893-1998), characterized by challenge and invention, offers a lasting lesson as well.

Fowler Museum at UCLA

Jose Bedia working on installation, at the Fowler Museum

While not a PST exhibition, this museum round-up would be incomplete without mentioning the remarkable Jose Bedia retrospective, “Transcultural Pilgrim: Three Decades of Work” at the Fowler Museum. The show explores the artist’s spiritual journey anchored in his Cuban-based religion and its central African source, as well as his examination of the beliefs of indigenous American peoples. The power and intensity of his work is amplified by the simultaneous exhibition he curated from the Museum’s extraordinary permanent collection. In addition, the exhibition curators installed pieces from Bedia’s personal collection of objects that inform his work. Altogether the eloquent presentation bristles with an earned wisdom and a conviction in realms beyond the everyday.

A consultancy in modern and contemporary art, guiding clients with
access and expertise, throughout the international art community.

Please contact us to learn more about the Advisory and how we can be of assistance to you in the acquisition or resale of the best in modern and contemporary art. 

SAN FRANCISCO / Pier 24 Photography

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Pier 24 Photography, San Francisco

Pier 24 Photography is the new world-class destination for viewing fine art photography in San Francisco. Pier 24 houses the permanent photographic collection of the Pilara Foundation, established by collector and philanthropist, Andrew Pilara and his wife, Mary. The collection is comprised of over 2000 photographs on view in rotating exhibitions. Located in a 28,000 sq. ft. facility underneath the Bay Bridge, it is a must-see for art lovers of historical, modern and contemporary photography.

Carlton Watkins installation, photographs ca. 1880

Pier 24 is now hosting its third exhibition titled “Here” on view until December 16, 2011. It includes 700 works by 34 photographers who have lived or been inspired by the San Francisco region. Emphasizing late twentieth century images, the exhibition draws from the Foundation collection and includes loans from other institutions and private collections.

Richard Misrach, "GG 3020-2000", 4:05 am, chromogenic print

Ruth Bernard, "Two Forms", 1963, silver gelatin print

A distinguished sensibility in the choice of images and the style of the installation make for an exciting view on a range of subjects. The classic landscape photographs by Carlton Watkins of Yosemite and other locales fill an entire room. The majesty of landscape is further celebrated in the more recent works of Richard Misrach. His engagement with the Golden Gate Bridge and the mystery of the Bay bring magic to the prosaic. Gorgeous photographs celebrating the female form by Edward Weston and Ruth Bernard share a dialogue in another room.

Eduard Muybridge and Mark Klett installation

In 1878, Eadweard Muybridge trudged with his gear to the top of California Street to make a 360-degree record of the city. In 1990 Mark Klett revisited the idea, attempting to match Muybridge’s photographs. The results are beautifully installed on one wall, contrasting the different architecture and development of the city, while revealing the difference in the photographic process and papers of each photographer, separated by over one hundred years.

Todd Hido, "House Hunting" installation

Todd Hido, from "House Hunting", 1997, chromogenic print

The conceptual concerns of contemporary photography are explored by Todd Hido in “House Hunting”. He shot ordinary, manicured houses at night. The houses were lit only from within. The photos imply human occupation but have an eerie, haunted quality that questions the activity inside.

Doug Rickard, from "A New American Picture", archival pigment print

Doug Rickard’s photographs look like straight documentary street scenes. In fact, he sources the locations on Google Street View. He then re-photographs the scenes of choice on his computer screen. It is virtual photography fully utilizing the scope afforded by new technology.

"Bullitt", 1968, video still

An inspired addition to the show includes video of the history-making car chase scenes around San Francisco from the 1968 classic film, “Bullitt”, starring Steve McQueen and directed by Peter Yates. Still considered the gold standard of chase scenes, the context of the show gives the film footage a whole new dimension.

Pier 24 is accessible to the public by appointment only via their website, This policy is meant to provide an intimate and contemplative environment to view the work. It is a gift in every way.


A consultancy in modern and contemporary art, guiding clients with

access and expertise,throughout the international art community.