Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas Around The World 2016


Bristol United Kingdon

Houstonian Hotel, Houston, Texas

London, United Kingdom

Mnailla Philippines

Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans


The Breakers Hotel, Palm Beach


Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York City

Mt. Washington Hotel, New Hampshire

My Word Christmas 2016

As has been my tradition in the past, I will try to limit the bad news in this Christmas issue. We finally brought the Mert Simpson estate  to auction with sales in October and December selling over $600,000 in African art that was primarily written off as decorative. Since December 2015 and the efforts to catalog over 1500 objects with the volunteer assistance from Amyas Naegele we learned that even things we had condemned as Cs and Ds sometimes needed a second look. We have one more African art sale and one that will primarily feature Mert's fine art collection. At this time the sales are scheduled for next February. Based on my experience with the last two Simpson African auctions, we might well find some sleepers in this sale as well.

In 2017 Quinns Auctions will be expanded their interest to include American Indian with the offering of the Metcalf collection.

OK some good news Many of us are hearing optimism from some in the business world with the surge in the stock market. If this is reflecting confidence in our future economy with a lowering in business taxes and money returning to the US, it could create more disposable income that could impact the art world. So regardless of who you voted for there are many on both sides of the aisle that could use some good news. See the article in this issue on the subject. There has been quite a bit of hedging among the experts, so I suspect much of this opinion has been driven by political preference. But there is hope.

The Sothebys tribal sales in Paris  finished the year strong with a total of over $8 million. If you are interested in West Africa, you might want as a curiosity to check out the catalog for some very strange Bamana masks.

In the next month or so we hope to launch our new website and blog. It has been a decade since we updated this area, so we are very excited in being able to reach more of you.

Barbara, Kim and I hope your have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season.  JB

Tribal Auctions Christmas 2016

1. PARIS Christies - Millon, President of Millon auction house: “At the forefront of the Madeleine Meunier Collection are forgotten treasures of rare and captivating works of African and ancient art. The mythical figures of Aristide Courtois and Charles Ratton, at the heart of this collection, will also be celebrated. Their names live in perpetuity in the marketplace with this commemorative auction in two ways: In honor of the heirs who have given us their trust and with the appreciation of collectors and institutions, whose presence at Drouot will enhance the special atmosphere created by the legacy of such prestigious provenance”.
François de Ricqlès, President of Christie’s France, says: “This selection of African and Oceanic sculptures is illustrative of a time of astute art collecting specific to those who discovered African art at a time when classic tastes reigned supreme in the Western world.
It is a fascinating testament to two leading figures in the history of the appreciation of tribal art, who ignited a path to the field’s fame: Aristide Courtois and Charles Ratton.
It is clear that this auction will be a sale of great importance; one that will draw the greatest collectors into bidding wars not soon to be forgotten.”
The appearance on the market of the Madeleine Meunier estate has been eagerly awaited. In recent years, speculation about the content of this collection has taken on mythic proportions, because Meunier was married, successively, to two great figures in the world of African art: Aristide Courtois and Charles Ratton. Each played a major role in the discovery of African art, Courtois in Africa and Ratton in Paris.
Aristide Courtois (1883-1962), a French colonial administrator in the Congo, brought back hundreds of objects acquired during his assignments in the regions where he was stationed. Having an exceptional eye for distinguishing between masterpieces and ordinary objects, Courtois was one of the first colonial administrators to see these ritual objects as true works of art. Once back in Paris, Courtois worked with the first great African art dealer, Paul Guillaume, with whom he would conduct many transactions. Courtois married Madeleine Meunier in 1938 and the couple had a daughter, Annie. Madeleine Meunier kept a number of works from this period in her life: three Kota reliquaries from Gabon and four major works of Kuyu art from the Northern Congo, all collected by Aristide Courtois. Upon Guillaume’s death 1934, Courtois developed ties with Charles Ratton, who became a loyal customer and purchased many pieces from Courtois. Ratton’s purchase records from 1938 to 1943 list some two hundred transactions, including the famous six-eyed Kwele mask known as the “Lapicque mask”, now part of the collections at the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac.
A few years later, Madeleine Courtois separated from her husband to marry Charles Ratton. Meunier would have a son with Ratton: the recently deceased Charles-François Ratton.
Charles Ratton (1897-1986) – who was honoured with an exhibition at the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in 2013 – had a significant impact on the history of African art by virtue of his talents as an expert, collector and dealer. He played a fundamental role in raising so-called primitive objects to the ranks of true art. Sensitive and erudite, Ratton forged a path as a dealer for ‘Haute Époque’ (Medieval and Renaissance) objects, which led to an interest in African arts, then antiques from South Seas and the Americas, and, atypical for the time, Eskimo art. In 1935, he w as a major lender and advisor to the landmark African Negro Art exhibition (Museum of Modern Art, New York), the first African arts show held in a museum of modern art. Ever seeking new opportunities to place African art on the forefront, he included his Yaka headrest (estimate: €40,000-60,000) at an exhibition at the Théâtre Edouard VII in Paris in 1936 celebrating the film premiere of The Green Pastures. Ratton also served as artistic advisor to the renowned 1953 film Les Statues Meurent, Aussi (Statues Also Die), directed by Chris Marker and Alain Resnais for Présence Africaine (it was the subject of an exhibition at the Monnaie de Paris in 2010). Two pieces from the Meunier collection appear in this film, whose whereabouts remained a secret for the past fifty years: Charles Ratton’s superb Fang male on a base by Inagaki (estimated value: € 300,000-500,000) and a Luba-Shankadi headrest (estimate: €500,000-800,000).
This masterpiece can be attributed to the most renowned sculptor of the pre-colonial period: The
Master of the Cascade Coiffure, active in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the late 19th century. Other headrests by this master carver can be found in important museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (#1981.399), the British Museum (#AF46.481) and the Ethnological Museum of Berlin (III.C.19987).
Other great objects formerly in the collection of Charles Ratton are an exceptional Hungana pendant (estimate: €15,000-25,000) and two Sepik River works from Papua New Guinea, probably acquired from Pierre Loeb, including a four-caryatid headrest estimated at €30,000-40,000.
The Antiquities section comprises lots coming mainly from Egypt, but also from Greece and Rome. Several are of particular interest: an Egyptian limestone relief dated to the New Kingdom and representing the deceased praying in front of two women richly dressed, with three columns of hieroglyphs in between; an Egyptian bronze head of Onuris with inlaid eyes dated to the Third Intermediate Period; a Cycladic marble idol with crossed arms, Late Spedos (circa 2500-2400 B.C) and a charming Attic black figured white ground lekythos representing Hercules's fight with the Triton. This collection stands out by the numerous glass inlays and mosaic fragments it encompasses from the Ptolemaic Period, which evokes the famous ancient glass collections of the early 20th century of Kofler and Groppi.
On December 15th collectors and connoisseurs will have the opportunity to acquire these treasures kept by Madeleine Meunier for over half a century. This collection is the embodiment of a bygone era, illustrating the refined tastes of two legendary figures in the world of African art.

2. PARIS - The sale of African and Oceanic art concluded in Paris with an outstanding total of €8 million. The Viviane Jutheau, Comtesse de Witt Collection totalled €5.4 million with 91% of lots sold and ten lots above €250,000.

Drawn from the very heart of African art, Viviane Jutheau, Comtesse de Witt's collection of African art masterly combined the archaism of the works with a highly modern sculptural style. All the works express both the classicism of the great African art styles and the originality of the artists who imbued them with their individual creative genius.

The sale was led by a Kota mask which achieved €847,500, a world record for a Kota mask. This rare large dance mask is a masterpiece from the former Solvit collection. During this auction, the bidders recognized the quality of this rare piece and eventually the mask over-doubled its high estimate of €300,000.


Viviane Jutheau, the first female auctioneer in Paris, began to assemble what has become one of the most striking collections of African art after meeting celebrated art expert André Schoeller at the beginning of the 1980s. It embraces the core of African art, where strength and sensitivity, archaism and modernity meet in dialogue. The art of Gabon – Fang, Kota, Kwele – is the main focus of the collection: each artwork testifies to the individual genius of its sculptor and of the institutions which fed their imagination.

The collection charts the discovery of this art in the West at the beginning of the 20th century, with major figures such as Paul Guillaume, Walter Bondy, Roger Bédiat, Charles Ratton and later André Schoeller, as well as the legendary exhibitions in Paris and New York, all contributing to its recognition. Beyond the collection, Viviane Jutheau, whose family has had close links with Africa for three generations, conceived a manifesto where ‘African art is not a way of making, it is at first a way of being, a way of being more’ (Aimé Césaire, 1966).

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Trump and the Art Market Chritsmas 2016

1. NEW YORK - The Art Market’s Reaction to Trump? Sales This Week Offer First Test -By ROBIN POGREBINNOV. 13, 2016  At Rockefeller Center on Sunday, milling outside Christie’s sales rooms — where private clients sipped mimosas as they took in one of Monet’s grainstacks — people in the art world sounded guardedly optimistic about how the auctions will perform this week, after a period of uncertainty exacerbated by the contentious American presidential election, Britain’s “Brexit” vote in June and China’s slowing economy.
“There has been a lot of insecurity and it’s hard to say exactly what will happen,” said Jay Gorney, a collector, curator and former dealer, predicting that “good things will do extremely well.”
The sales of Impressionist, Modern and contemporary art that start Monday offer the first test of how the art market will react to a Trump presidency and whether it will continue a softening trend that, for the past year, has had potential sellers reluctant to consign their best works.
“If you’ve got something great, you don’t sell it because you’re uncertain what you’re going to get for it,” said J. Tomilson Hill, the vice chairman at the Blackstone Group and art collector, about the prevailing mood. “Sellers are largely sitting on their hands.”
The result is that each of the three major auction houses — Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips — are entering this week’s sales with fewer trophies of more than $20 million than they have had in the recent past. Over all, the estimated sales in postwar and contemporary art are half what they were last year. The evening auctions of postwar and contemporary art at the three houses, for example, are expected to draw about $536 million, compared with $1.2 billion for the same auctions in November 2015.
“They gathered the best material they could with a lot of sellers cautious and not willing to commit,” said Neal Meltzer, an art adviser. “Supply is the issue more than demand.”
In the days before the sales, collectors, art advisers and auction specialists were pointing to encouraging signs, citing the postelection stock market highs, the post-“Brexit” London sales in June and Sotheby’s London auction of David Bowie’s art collection last week, which had a sell-through rate of 100 percent and set new top prices for 59 artists.
Moreover, many collectors are sanguine about the effects of Mr. Trump’s victory, both in the United States and around the world. “I feel great,” said the real estate developer Arnie Rosenshein. “I was for Donald Trump.”
Yet history suggests that single events rarely affect sales, art experts say. “The market has been pretty impervious to just about every event with the exception of the global meltdown of 2008,” said Robert Manley, who recently became Phillips’s new co-head of 20th century & contemporary art after 16 years at Christie’s.
Donald B. Marron, a financier and longtime collector, said he expected the auctions to be largely business as usual. “Clearly this is a surprise and in one sense makes everybody cautious until they see how everything works,” Mr. Marron said. “On the other hand, if you want to judge by the markets, less regulation is seen as positive. My guess is, it will be like most auction seasons: good pictures will do well.”... More

2. NEW YORK ArtNet
What Happens Now? See What Experts Are Saying About the Art Market After Trump’s Win
Don't expect a major impact on next week's auctions, experts say.
Brian Boucher and Eileen Kinsella, November 9, 2016
Republican president-elect Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Photo Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
Republican president-elect Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New
York City. Photo Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
As financial markets react to Donald Trump’s shocking win in the US presidential election, expert observers are weighing possible outcomes for the art market. While art advisors, academics, and art dealers talking to artnet News today say it’s too soon to make concrete predictions, especially based on the vague and quicksilver nature of Trump’s policy proposals, they did offer some observations on what to look out for as we settle into the fact of the reality TV star as the Republican president-elect.
Markets have been volatile since the election went Trump’s way, diving last night but stabilizing today, further casting uncertainty on overall financial futures. In those circumstances, investors often look to tangible assets like gold and art, and some experts say that art could conceivably also look like an appealing place to park money amid the global uncertainly following Trump’s win.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference at the New Yorker Hotel on November 9, 2016 in New York City. Hillary Clinton conceded the U.S. Presidency to Republican challenger Donald Trump.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference at the New Yorker Hotel on November 9, 2016 in New York City. Hillary Clinton conceded the U.S. Presidency to Republican challenger Donald Trump.
As it happens, next week sees five major sales among the New York auction houses, including Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary art. The aggregate estimate for the evening sales at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips New York is anywhere from $882 million to $1.2 billion. All the evening sales at the same houses last year totaled $2 billion.
Did Artist’s Trump Campaign During 2000 Election Predict the Future?
By Sarah Cascone, Nov 8, 2016
Experts predict that the auctions will not be drastically altered by last night’s outcome.
“After everybody gets over the shock or elation, depending on one’s point of view, things may be up or down a little bit,” said New York art advisor Todd Levin in a phone interview. “But while I think Trump’s victory injects a modest amount of uncertainty, I don’t think that there is going to be any epic change in markets as that applies directly to the sales next week. That said, will the news put the auction houses on edge? Sure.”
Recommended Reading
These Artists Spent a Year on a Satirical Trump-Themed Road Trip. Here’s What They Learned
By Ben Davis, Nov 8, 2016
Suzanne Gyorgy, global head of art advisory and finance at Citi Private Bank, similarly suggests that major, high-quality, rare works of art may fare well next week regardless of last night’s outcome.
“The Wassily Kandinsky on offer at Christie’s is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said via phone. “It hasn’t been on the market for 50 years, and it’s in pristine condition. It’s a powerful picture. The Monet haystacks painting is also once in lifetime, as it’s the last haystack in private hands.”
Gyorgy also looked to international collectors to continue to prop up the sale results.
“We’ll continue to see buyers from Latin America and Asia who have been working really hard building collections and have developed an eye for good works. I don’t see that changing.”
Levin was similarly sanguine.
“Whether they like Trump or don’t like Trump, a lot of what he is talking about with regards to tax rates and economic policy will possibly be very much in favor of the high net worth individuals who are major art buyers at evening sales,” Levin said. “Day sales, where buyers are on the lower economic rungs, may be more affected since those people are more exposed and nervous.”
Kim Oosterlinck, professor of finance at the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management at the Free University of Brussels, took a broader view in an email to artnet News.
“Among the factors that could affect the art market are expected changes in the stock market and in income inequality, and the possibility for war,” he said.
“As for his specific policies, his promises of protectionism and trade restrictions will in all likelihood reduce wealth, though markets may rally in response to tax policies that are generous to the wealthy. And art markets are known to improve in tandem with increased income inequality. The wealthy, however, often buy art as a way to avoid taxes; they may have less incentive to do so if Trump’s policies improve their tax situation.”
Trump’s bellicosity, with his pledge to “knock the hell out of ISIS,” along with his laissez-faire pronouncements about nuclear conflict in Asia, could also have an effect, Oosterlinck observes.
“If people believe Trump’s presidency increases the risk of war, on the other hand, art prices could decrease, as they did just before the outbreak of World War II,” he said.
New York’s Marion Maneker, publisher of the blog Art Market Monitor, looked askance at attempts at short-term predictions. “Trying to predict behavior based on politics in the short term is almost impossible to do and not really very fruitful,” he said via phone.
A New York private dealer was similarly cautious about making any forecast.
“What we learned last night is to be prepared for the unexpected,” said Andrea Crane in a phone interview, “so it could go in either direction. But I will say that in moments of crisis like 9/11 and the 2008 crash, the art market has typically held steady.
“I’m not expecting anything dramatic next week,” she concluded, “but then again, I expected her to win.”

Repatriation - Christmas 2016

1. UNITED KINGDOM Art Loss Register faces competition complaint from Art Recovery Group
Gloves come off in fight to run international database of stolen works of art
by Melanie Gerlis  |  26 January 2016
Art Loss Register faces competition complaint from Art Recovery Group
Art Recovery Group founder Chris Marinello with Matisse's Seated Woman, which was returned to the Rosenberg family last year (left), and Art Loss Register founder and chairman Julian Radcliffe
The privilege of running a commercial database of the world’s stolen art is proving as intriguing and complex as some of the crimes committed.
For the past 25 years, the task of keeping track of the millions of stolen or looted objects around the world has been taken on by the Art Loss Register (ALR). It provides a due diligence service to the art trade, insurers and—increasingly—private individuals.
The latest twist in the tale is that Chris Marinello, who founded Art Recovery Group (ARG) in 2013, has reported the ALR—which he worked for between 2006 and 2013—to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority. The ALR, which is run by Julian Radcliffe, has had a database since 1991. Marinello launched his in early 2015. Both firms have UK HQs.
That there is no love lost between Radcliffe and Marinello is now a matter of public record.
“Vexatious litigation”
ARG’s letter to the competition authority accuses ALR of “systemic breaches of competition law”, citing seven examples of “abusive behaviour”. ALR, according to the letter, “is implementing a persistent, pervasive and systematic plan to eliminate ARG from the market”.
Heading the list of complaints is what ARG describes as “vexatious litigation”, a reference to a civil claim that ALR took to the UK’s High Court in July. This claim accuses Marinello and others of “the unlawful establishment and operation” of ARG, citing breach of contract, breach of confidence and “infringement of database rights”, among other things. ALR’s claim demands the handover of any confidential information the defendants may have that belongs to ALR. Marinello and the other defendants filed a counterclaim in November, in which “each and every allegation contained in the particulars of claim is denied”. A subsequent reply and defence was lodged by ALR in December, which also denied all allegations.
James Ratcliffe, ALR’s director of recoveries, lawyer and near-namesake of the company’s founder, says that, while he has not seen ARG’s letter to the competition authority, ALR’s legal actions are “certainly not vexatious” and that there is “no systematic plan” to eliminate its competitor. He says the claim had to be issued to protect the interests of ALR’s stakeholders because Marinello “took confidential information from our business and we don’t know the full extent of it”. Marinello says: “The ALR knows exactly the extent of information in my possession because it was obtained openly, transparently and with express permission pursuant to an agreement signed by Julian Radcliffe in 2012.”
Julian Radcliffe is ALR’s majority shareholder, although Sotheby’s also has a stake (around 11%), as does Christie’s (around 3%), and Marinello himself (10%).
Room for competition
In ARG’s letter to the competition authority, Marinello describes ALR as “dominant in the market for the ownership and generation of an international database of stolen artwork”, with a market share of between 80% and 90%.
James Ratcliffe denies that ALR has a dominant share of the market. He says: “We have 90 auction houses [as subscribers], including five regional US houses. There’s a huge swathe of the market not touched by us.” The Artnet price database lists more than 800 auction houses globally, although ALR’s clients include Sotheby’s and Christie’s, the two largest auctioneers. “We’ve created this market,” James Ratcliffe says. “It isn’t unfair for us to have our clients.”
He goes on: “Multiple general databases are not in the interest of the art market—they would cause chaos.” He compares ALR’s log of 500,000 items to information providers such as the UK government’s land registry. “What if a theft victim registered their loss with one database and that item was sold by an auction house that searched with the other one? What is the answer to that? Was it negligent of the theft victim not to register with both databases? Should the auction house have searched both? What happens when a third one sets up? And a fourth?”
Not always the answer
James Ratcliffe adds that there is plenty of room for other databases to exist, such as those that specialise in losses from the Second World War or the records kept by national law enforcement agencies. “We are a very good starting point,” he says. “Sometimes we are all that is necessary, but we are not always going to be the complete answer.”
Marinello says: “This proves our point regarding the ALR’s anti-competitive behaviour. Competition in fact would provoke the production of better databases.”
There has been criticism that the quality of information on ALR’s database could be better and when Marinello launched his alternative service in 2015 it was welcomed by the trade. That year, Marinello was named Wealth Management Innovator of the Year by Spear’s, a specialist magazine.
“We never claimed that our system is perfect and are constantly working to improve it,” James Ratcliffe says, “but we are by far the best database of lost and stolen art.”
Many of ALR’s clients did not want to comment directly on the desirability of competition in this area of the art market. Martin Wilson, the global co-head of Christie’s legal and risk department, says his firm “supports all efforts for greater transparency of information on provenance and diligence”. Christie’s continues to submit its catalogues to ALR, he says, but also works with “many public and private archives, publications and academic experts to fill any gaps in provenance”, including Unesco, Interpol and the US Department of Homeland Security.
James Ratcliffe says he hopes that the civil case can be settled before it ends up in court. Marinello responds: “At present, ALR’s intransigence is preventing a resolution to the case.”
The competition authority has yet to say if it will investigate ARG’s complaint.
Why is the database so valuable?
While recovery companies can make big bucks from finding and returning lost or stolen works on a one-off basis, the really lucrative deals are few and far between and can take months, even years, to resolve.
A more reliable revenue stream comes out of the stolen works database. Auction houses, art dealers, museums, insurers, private individuals and other trade organisations can subscribe to it on an annual basis to check works they are offering for sale.
At the Art Loss Register (ALR), the annual fee is £500 for 25 searches, although auction houses, some of which submit every catalogue for a quick matching service, pay a different rate. Art dealers tend to want a more detailed search, and again rates vary. Art Recovery Group (ARG) charges £60 for a one-off search of its database, and tailors its packages according to its clients’ needs. Where applicable, the ALR will issue a search certificate; ARG issues a full report.
Neither firm would confirm the total number of subscribing clients to their databases. The ALR says it has more than 90 auction houses as subscribers and that dealers are also core to its clientele. ARG says that it has signed contracts with a small number of London’s top art dealers and some major US insurers.
The ALR’s lawyer James Ratcliffe says the ALR conducts 400,000 searches against its database every year. Fine art paintings are the most frequently searched for, although he would not go into any further detail on this.
Both firms increasingly look beyond the theft and looting history of works by also taking areas such as financial liens and export restrictions into account.