Arts

This monumental work of Americana by Emanuel Leutze achieved $4.8m, double the previous auction record for the artist
Sotheby's

Sotheby's American evening art sale on Friday (16 November) revealed how spotty the current market is—and how quirky the buyers. Perhaps the American Art Fair (10-13 November) a few blocks away or the epic sale of Barney Ebsworth's American collection at Christies earlier in the week exhausted spirits and wallets. The sale made $44.1m (with fees), well above the $19.4m it brought in last year, but with 25 of 82 lots failing to find buyers.

Edward Hopper's last painting, Two Comedians (1966), sold for $12.5m (with fees), below its $12-18m estimate before the buyer's premium and a mere fraction of the $91.9m paid for the artists Chop Suey (1929) at the Ebsworth sale. Where Chop Suey is iconic, Two Comedians is valedictory. They are both great pictures, but markets are funny things.

To wit: Horace Pippin's Holy Mountain I (1944) is a derivative painting by another artist in vogue right now, and it soared to $3.2m (with fees), which represented nearly double its high estimate. Meanwhile, Georgia O'Keeffe's Cottonwood Tree in Spring (1943) went in spirited bidding for $3.8m (with fees)—well above its $2.5m high estimate. It is big, pretty and unimportant, with the odd and unflattering distinction of having been deaccessioned not by one museum but by two.

The painting was one of three works by the artist up for sale from the Georgia OKeeffe Museum. Interestingly, the other two—A Street and Calla Lilies on Red, both included in Sothebys contemporary evening sale and more recognisably “OKeeffe”—hammered for well under their low estimates.

Georgia O'Keeffe's Cottonwood Tree in Spring, which sold for an unexpected $3.9m, has been deaccessioned by two museums
Sotheby's

An undeniable stand-out sale from the evening was Emanuel Leutze's Western Emigrant Train Bound for California Across the Plains from 1863. The painting is pure, red-meat Americana—it has danger, heroics, horses and flags. It was fresh meat, too, having come to market after being in the same private collection since 1943, and it is beautifully painted to boot. As a fine American history painting, it is part of an undervalued genre. It sold for $4.8m (with fees), galloping past its $2.5-3.5m estimate and marking a new auction record for the artist.

There were plenty of other new finds for sale, but many did not fare nearly as well. The collection of William Benton, a Connecticut businessman, US Senator and diplomat, offered good works by Reginald Marsh and Thomas Hart Benton that went unsold. Portrait of Nan by Grant Wood, also from the Benton collection, was inexplicably pulled from the auction.

Despite the fact that a still life by Charles Sheeler nearly doubled its estimate at Christies Ebsworth sale, a beautiful farmhouse painting by the artist from 1946 went for $615,000 (with fees) at Sothebys sale, just below the low estimate. A duo of lovely Winslow Homer watercolours had mixed endings: The Life Brigade was bought in when it didnt reach its $1.5-2.5 million estimate, and the abstract Yacht in a Cove, Gloucester went for $325,000 (with fees), fetching just under high estimate.

Arts

Rose McGowan in Indecision IV
courtesy Heist Gallery

The actress and activist Rose McGowan appears in a new art film that combines dance, ambient noise and gender issues. The new piece, commissioned by Heist Gallery in London, shows McGowan in the middle of a chapel, pondering on a soundtrack created by the sound designer David Triana. Dancer James Mulford and McGowan then interact in a taut choreographic sequence. “Shot in one continuous take, the film, Indecision IV, was created in May 2018, during a watershed moment in McGowans life and is a physical expression of her state of mind at that time,” a press statement says. McGowan, who starred in the slasher-horror film Scream, has been one of the most prominent voices in the #MeToo campaign. There will be special screenings of Indecision IV at the Institute of Light in east London on 15 and 16 December, with proceeds going to the charity Refuge (aspects of the film, such as McGowans breathing, will be heightened at these performances as part of a startling immersive sound experience engineered by Triana).

Indecision IV
courtesy Heist Gallery

Arts

Marc Chagall's La Revolution, one of the paintings allegedly sold by Matthew Green

The London art dealer Matthew Green allegedly sold millions of pounds worth of art used to secure loans from Fundingsecure, a peer-to-peer lender that accepts luxury goods such as yachts and jewellery as collateral.

According to court documents filed in London, Green sold pictures by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Pierre Bonnard, among others, after borrowing £2.32 million from the British firm against the paintings. But he has failed to repay the loans, allegedly shortchanging around 1,400 investors who each contributed an average of £1,668.

“From October 2017 to April 2018, Fundingsecure Limited made a series of requests for payment from Mr Green by phone, text message and email. Mr Green repeatedly promised to pay but failed to do,” Fundingsecure says in court filings. The lending firm, which is seeking £3m from Green as well as an injunction to prevent him from selling any more works, declined to comment further.

The peer-to-peer lender alleges that Green sold works between August 2017 and July 2018 without the firms knowledge. The dealer is accused of pledging to New Bond Street Pawnbrokers works that he had already borrowed against, selling the works and repaying the pawnbroker. Another painting by Raoul Dufy, Les Régates, was sold at auction in New York for £111,189. According to The Times newspaper, which first broke the story, the buyer was the art dealer Helen Macintyre. She is not implicated in the case.

Other works were reportedly sold to Richard Green (Fine Paintings), the Mayfair dealership founded by Matthew Greens father where Matthew Green was previously a director (he resigned in December 2012). There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Richard Green.

The case coincides with ongoing litigation in the US. In March, Green was charged with attempted money laundering after he allegedly tried to sell a Picasso painting to an undercover FBI agent to “clean up” £6.7m. Court documents claim Green conspired with an investment manager at the City stockbroker Beaufort Securities and his relative to sell the picture, Personnages (1965). Green, whose business Mayfair Fine Art went into administration in March, has yet to plead in that case.

Green denies the claims in the London case. According to the court papers, the dealer is currently undergoing rehabilitative treatment in Spain for various addictions. “The defendant asserts that whilst in very poor mental health… and whilst [Fundingsecure] was aware of the defendants vulnerable state he was prevailed upon to borrow sums of money in order to secure trading capital to continue his business. He denies that he acted in any deceitful or dishonest way as alleged,” the papers say. Green could not be reached immediately for comment.

Arts

Johannes Hermanus Koekkoek, Storm at Sea (1841)
© Concordia University

A Dusseldorf auction house returned on 19 November an 18th-century painting of a Dutch maritime scene by Johannes Hermanus Koekkoek to the heirs of Max Stern, a Jewish art dealer who fled Nazi Germany in 1938.

The painting was offered for sale at Hargesheimer Kunstauktionen. The Max Stern Art Restitution Project, which lists the art Stern was forced to sell before emigrating on its website, received a tip from someone within the European art trade. After negotiations with the auctioneer, Frank Hargesheimer, and the paintings consignor, a Rhineland art dealer who did not wish to be identified by name, it was restituted to the Sterns estate. Hargesheimer says he compensated the consignor for the painting.

The auction house says it “is aware that according to German law most claims for restitution of Jewish cultural property are time-barred.” But in a statement, it said it rejected the legal arguments. “Hargesheimer sees a moral duty to give this painting back to the Max Stern Foundation after the inconceivable, inhumane barbarism of the Nazi dictatorship.”

Max Stern took over his fathers Dusseldorf art gallery in 1934, a year after Adolf Hitler seized power. Under the Nazis, he was no longer allowed to practice his profession after 1935 and was forced to liquidate his gallery and sell the contents. He fled to London in 1938, and later settled in Canada. On his death in 1987, he left the bulk of his estate to three universities—Concordia and McGill in Montreal, and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 2002, the universities launched a campaign to recover his lost art.

The Koekkoek painting, Storm at Sea, is the 18th work that the Max Stern Restitution Project has recovered. It is seeking around 400 altogether.

“Moments like these are far too rare: a European auction house and a paintings consignor who want to achieve just and fair solutions,” Ronald Lauder, the chairman of the Commission for Art Recovery and president of the World Jewish Congress, said in a statement. “Nazi-era stolen art continues to be laundered by auction houses that know perfectly well what they are selling.”

Another work that Stern was forced to sell before fleeing Germany, Cairo by Emile Charles Wauters, was offered for sale this autumn by the Cologne auction house Lempertz—the same company that managed the 1937 auction of his inventory. The Max Stern Art Restitution Project says Lempertz did not respond to queries about the works problematic past.

The Stern project has also claimed a painting in the Dusseldorf city collection and is awaiting a decision by the German Advisory Commission, which mediates in disputes over Nazi-looted art, on a painting in Bavarias public collections.

Arts

Beltracchi working on a painting in 2017, Gruppenbild der Blauen Reiter
Peter Kneffel/dpa/Alamy Live News

Wolfgang Beltracchi, is considered one of the most audacious forgers of recent decades. In 2011, he was found guilty by a German court of forgery and corruption relating to 14 fakes that had sold for a total of $45m, sending shockwaves through the art world. Beltracchi has since claimed to have forged around 300 works by artists including Max Ernst, Max Pechstein, André Derain and Fernand Léger.

Beltracchi was released from prison in January 2015 and now he is painting again—under his own name. His recent works, alongside photographs by Mauro Fiorese, are included in an exhibition titled Kairos: The Decisive Moment, at the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice (until 3 November). The exhibition, financed by the collector and gallery owner Christian Zott, will travel to Barlach Halle K in Hamburg (20 November to 19 December) then to the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien in Vienna (3-22 September 2019). Beltracchis works in the exhibition are priced at between €250,000 and €300,000—somewhat less than the millions paid for some of his fakes.

In Venice, Beltracchi spoke to The Art Newspaper about ethics, the art market and how to be a good forger.

The Art Newspaper: Considering your past, who buys your paintings?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: As a rule, my paintings are already sold before they are finished. I do not have a market in the strict sense because the big auction houses want to keep away from me, even if Ive had good business relations with them for 20 to 30 years. Obviously, they did not know that the paintings were fake. Im not one that really supports this art market—it has mafia structures. But the reality is that my paintings are hanging next to Richter or Warhol or who knows who. If I think of people like Baselitz, who has hung his paintings upside down for 50 years and is also a mediocre painter, which he admits—he has always wanted to become a painter but he did not have the necessary talent.

And what about Jeff Koons?

But those [artists] are factories and you must always use quotes when you say “great” artists.

And yours was a factory, of fakes.

Arts

Beltracchi working on a painting in 2017, Gruppenbild der Blauen Reiter
Peter Kneffel/dpa/Alamy Live News

Wolfgang Beltracchi, is considered one of the most audacious forgers of recent decades. In 2011, he was found guilty by a German court of forgery and corruption relating to 14 fakes that had sold for a total of $45m, sending shockwaves through the art world. Beltracchi has since claimed to have forged around 300 works by artists including Max Ernst, Max Pechstein, André Derain and Fernand Léger.

Beltracchi was released from prison in January 2015 and now he is painting again—under his own name. His recent works, alongside photographs by Mauro Fiorese, are included in an exhibition titled Kairos: The Decisive Moment, at the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice (until 3 November). The exhibition, financed by the collector and gallery owner Christian Zott, will travel to Barlach Halle K in Hamburg (20 November to 19 December) then to the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien in Vienna (3-22 September 2019). Beltracchis works in the exhibition are priced at between €250,000 and €300,000—somewhat less than the millions paid for some of his fakes.

In Venice, Beltracchi spoke to The Art Newspaper about ethics, the art market and how to be a good forger.

The Art Newspaper: Considering your past, who buys your paintings?

Wolfgang Beltracchi: As a rule, my paintings are already sold before they are finished. I do not have a market in the strict sense because the big auction houses want to keep away from me, even if Ive had good business relations with them for 20 to 30 years. Obviously, they did not know that the paintings were fake. Im not one that really supports this art market—it has mafia structures. But the reality is that my paintings are hanging next to Richter or Warhol or who knows who. If I think of people like Baselitz, who has hung his paintings upside down for 50 years and is also a mediocre painter, which he admits—he has always wanted to become a painter but he did not have the necessary talent.

And what about Jeff Koons?

But those [artists] are factories and you must always use quotes when you say “great” artists.

And yours was a factory, of fakes.

Arts

Julian Charrière, An Invitation to Disappear- Kinabatangan (2018)
Courtesy of Dittrich & Schlechtriem, Berlin; Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf

Exhibitors expressed mixed reactions at yesterdays preview of the second edition of Art Dusseldorf (16-18 November), following the news that MCH Group would sell its minority stake in the fair.

The decision by the Swiss-based firm, which also owns the Art Basel franchise, has divided opinion between German dealers who remain supportive of the fairs future and international dealers who were concerned about the implications of MCH Groups withdrawal.

“I don't think MCH Group's decision will affect the fair because it is profitable, functioning and wants to be a regional fair,” Alexandre Sies, the co-founder of Sies + Höke gallery in Düsseldorf, says. “It was wonderful that MCH Group stepped in when it started but it can survive by itself,” he adds. Similarly, Michael Beck, the co-founder of Beck & Eggeling, also based in Düsseldorf, says: “Art Basel was only involved in the fair's technical organisation and in bringing a positive message, so for me the decision does not mean anything.”

However, the sentiments expressed among international dealers speak to a greater sense of reservation. “There are so many fairs today that, if there isn't a big operator to give a line of direction, Art Düsseldorf could just become one more fair and I'm not sure I'll come back,” says Kamel Mennour, the owner of Galerie Kamel Mennour in Paris and London.

Anne Claudie Coric, the director of Paris and Brussels-based Galerie Templon echoes this sentiment. “It's a shame because it was an intelligent synergy to have a big international fair with smaller fairs underneath,” she says, adding: “This edition will be decisive; if it doesn't work, [MCH Group's withdrawal] will put the fair in peril.” Blanca Bernheimer, the fine art photography director at Bernheimer in Lucern, Switzerland, was more muted, saying: “It's very sad because the big brand name attracted international galleries but whether or not we return will not depend on MCH Group's decision.”

Janania Tschäpe, …Berge enfinden, making up mountain (2017) displayed on Galleri Bo Bjerggard's stand at Art Düsseldorf
Courtesy of Galleri Bo Bjerggaard

Following MCH Group's announcement earlier this month that it would be selling its 25.1% stake in Art Düsseldorf and disband its regional fair portfolio, Art Düsseldorf's founders, Andreas Lohaus and Walter Gehlen, who own the remaining 74.9%, remain optimistic.

“MCH Group was not involved operationally, in financing, in finding the galleries or in sponsorship,” Gehlen says. “The effect of the partnership is that everybody knows Art Düsseldorf, which was profitable last year and is profitable this year, and this doesn't change just because we have a change in our shareholding structure. We're curious to see which companies are interested in buying the shares because the new situation might lead to a more exciting partnership.”

Arts

Julian Charrière, An Invitation to Disappear- Kinabatangan (2018)
Courtesy of Dittrich & Schlechtriem, Berlin; Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf

Exhibitors expressed mixed reactions at yesterdays preview of the second edition of Art Dusseldorf (16-18 November), following the news that MCH Group would sell its minority stake in the fair.

The decision by the Swiss-based firm, which also owns the Art Basel franchise, has divided opinion between German dealers who remain supportive of the fairs future and international dealers who were concerned about the implications of MCH Groups withdrawal.

“I don't think MCH Group's decision will affect the fair because it is profitable, functioning and wants to be a regional fair,” Alexandre Sies, the co-founder of Sies + Höke gallery in Düsseldorf, says. “It was wonderful that MCH Group stepped in when it started but it can survive by itself,” he adds. Similarly, Michael Beck, the co-founder of Beck & Eggeling, also based in Düsseldorf, says: “Art Basel was only involved in the fair's technical organisation and in bringing a positive message, so for me the decision does not mean anything.”

However, the sentiments expressed among international dealers speak to a greater sense of reservation. “There are so many fairs today that, if there isn't a big operator to give a line of direction, Art Düsseldorf could just become one more fair and I'm not sure I'll come back,” says Kamel Mennour, the owner of Galerie Kamel Mennour in Paris and London.

Anne Claudie Coric, the director of Paris and Brussels-based Galerie Templon echoes this sentiment. “It's a shame because it was an intelligent synergy to have a big international fair with smaller fairs underneath,” she says, adding: “This edition will be decisive; if it doesn't work, [MCH Group's withdrawal] will put the fair in peril.” Blanca Bernheimer, the fine art photography director at Bernheimer in Lucern, Switzerland, was more muted, saying: “It's very sad because the big brand name attracted international galleries but whether or not we return will not depend on MCH Group's decision.”

Janania Tschäpe, …Berge enfinden, making up mountain (2017) displayed on Galleri Bo Bjerggard's stand at Art Düsseldorf
Courtesy of Galleri Bo Bjerggaard

Following MCH Group's announcement earlier this month that it would be selling its 25.1% stake in Art Düsseldorf and disband its regional fair portfolio, Art Düsseldorf's founders, Andreas Lohaus and Walter Gehlen, who own the remaining 74.9%, remain optimistic.

“MCH Group was not involved operationally, in financing, in finding the galleries or in sponsorship,” Gehlen says. “The effect of the partnership is that everybody knows Art Düsseldorf, which was profitable last year and is profitable this year, and this doesn't change just because we have a change in our shareholding structure. We're curious to see which companies are interested in buying the shares because the new situation might lead to a more exciting partnership.”

Arts

Phillips New York, 15 November: 20th Century and Contemporary Art
Phillips

At Phillips contemporary evening sale in New York last night (15 November), gasps could be heard as its star lot, a small drip painting by Jackson Pollock and sold without a guarantee, failed to find a buyer at $17.5m (est $18m-$25m). Bonhams, too, had a few sale highlights that went unsold such as Max Liebermanns portrait of the German-Jewish collector Robert Neumann (1925), which was estimated to fetch $50,000-$70,000.

But in a week full of sales where several top lots bought in at both Christies and Sothebys, the auction houses were in good company. Both, however, struggled to hit their total estimates for the sales. Bonhams post-war and contemporary evening sale (14 November) netted $3.9m (with fees), just over its $3.8m low estimate for the evening but with only 64% of its lots sold. With an average 82% sell-through rate by lot, Phillips realised $88.5m (with fees) of its pre-sale estimate of more than $100m, due in large part to the Pollock flop.

A few bidding busts

Pollocks No. 16 (1950) was already a fraught lot before it fizzled on the auction block. It was deaccessioned from the collection of the Rio de Janeiros Museum of Modern Art (MAM) and first garnered attention in March this year, when the Brazilian Institute of Museums, among other leading cultural institutions in the country, criticised MAM for selling off the only Pollock on public view in Brazil. The museum contested that the sale of the work, which was estimated to make in the region of $18m-$25m, would cover its operating costs for at least three decades. The painting was donated to the museum in 1954 by Nelson Rockefeller.

In a statement to The Art Newspaper, a Phillips spokesperson says the painting “failed to reach its predetermined reserve price, but we much believe in this masterwork", adding that the house intends to find a buyer privately "so the museum can continue its important mission of preserving its 16,000 works and expanding its collection of Modern and contemporary Brazilian art”.

At Bonhams, two highlight paintings in its post-war and contemporary sale by the French Art Brut artist Jean Dubuffet failed to find buyers. The textured abstract works, Mangeur à la fourchette (est $250,000-$350,000) and Le Ravin (est $100,000-$150,000), were both made in 1952, during a decade that is considered seminal in Dubuffets career. Yet they are less colourful than his paintings from the 1960s, which have made the artists top four auction records.

Christina Quarles, Pull on Thru Tha Nite (2017)
Phillips

Phillips sees big booms

Phillips can be credited with some important new artist records, which wouldn't have been achieved without pushing the envelope. Foremost is a new record for the Cuban centenarian hard-edge painter Carmen Herrera; her Blanco y Verde (1966) for $2.2m ($2.65m with fees), which more than doubled her previous auction record of $1.2m at Phillips.

Pull on Thru Tha Nite (2017), the first work by the Los Angeles-based painter Christina Quarles to be offered at auction, blew by it its $30,000-$50,000 estimate, selling for $180,000 ($225,000 with fees), reflecting the artists meteoric rise since her first solo exhibition in 2017. Her recent institutional visibility likely played no small part in driving up the price, either. Earlier this year, Quarless work was included in the New Museums exhibition Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon and the Hammer Museums biennial exhibition Made in LA; she currently has a solo exhibition at the Berkeley Museum of Art.

Arts

Phillips New York, 15 November: 20th Century and Contemporary Art
Phillips

At Phillips contemporary evening sale in New York last night (15 November), gasps could be heard as its star lot, a small drip painting by Jackson Pollock and sold without a guarantee, failed to find a buyer at $17.5m (est $18m-$25m). Bonhams, too, had a few sale highlights that went unsold such as Max Liebermanns portrait of the German-Jewish collector Robert Neumann (1925), which was estimated to fetch $50,000-$70,000.

But in a week full of sales where several top lots bought in at both Christies and Sothebys, the auction houses were in good company. Both, however, struggled to hit their total estimates for the sales. Bonhams post-war and contemporary evening sale (14 November) netted $3.9m (with fees), just over its $3.8m low estimate for the evening but with only 64% of its lots sold. With an average 82% sell-through rate by lot, Phillips realised $88.5m (with fees) of its pre-sale estimate of more than $100m, due in large part to the Pollock flop.

A few bidding busts

Pollocks No. 16 (1950) was already a fraught lot before it fizzled on the auction block. It was deaccessioned from the collection of the Rio de Janeiros Museum of Modern Art (MAM) and first garnered attention in March this year, when the Brazilian Institute of Museums, among other leading cultural institutions in the country, criticised MAM for selling off the only Pollock on public view in Brazil. The museum contested that the sale of the work, which was estimated to make in the region of $18m-$25m, would cover its operating costs for at least three decades. The painting was donated to the museum in 1954 by Nelson Rockefeller.

In a statement to The Art Newspaper, a Phillips spokesperson says the painting “failed to reach its predetermined reserve price, but we much believe in this masterwork", adding that the house intends to find a buyer privately "so the museum can continue its important mission of preserving its 16,000 works and expanding its collection of Modern and contemporary Brazilian art”.

At Bonhams, two highlight paintings in its post-war and contemporary sale by the French Art Brut artist Jean Dubuffet failed to find buyers. The textured abstract works, Mangeur à la fourchette (est $250,000-$350,000) and Le Ravin (est $100,000-$150,000), were both made in 1952, during a decade that is considered seminal in Dubuffets career. Yet they are less colourful than his paintings from the 1960s, which have made the artists top four auction records.

Christina Quarles, Pull on Thru Tha Nite (2017)
Phillips

Phillips sees big booms

Phillips can be credited with some important new artist records, which wouldn't have been achieved without pushing the envelope. Foremost is a new record for the Cuban centenarian hard-edge painter Carmen Herrera; her Blanco y Verde (1966) for $2.2m ($2.65m with fees), which more than doubled her previous auction record of $1.2m at Phillips.

Pull on Thru Tha Nite (2017), the first work by the Los Angeles-based painter Christina Quarles to be offered at auction, blew by it its $30,000-$50,000 estimate, selling for $180,000 ($225,000 with fees), reflecting the artists meteoric rise since her first solo exhibition in 2017. Her recent institutional visibility likely played no small part in driving up the price, either. Earlier this year, Quarless work was included in the New Museums exhibition Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon and the Hammer Museums biennial exhibition Made in LA; she currently has a solo exhibition at the Berkeley Museum of Art.