Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Quick Takes December 2009

1. "WASHINGTON, DC.- Best known for revolutionizing the art of photography, American artist Man Ray (1890-1976) produced a prolific collection of striking black-and-white compositions inspired by the African objects they depict. The Phillips Collection showcases these works in a new exhibition that explores the pivotal role photographs played in changing the perception of African objects from artifacts to fine art. Man Ray, African Art and the Modernist Lens is on view at the Phillips from Oct. 10, 2009 to Jan. 10, 2010. ... After its presentation at the Phillips, the exhibition will be on view at the University of New Mexico Art Museum (Albuquerque, N.M.) from January 30 to May 23, 2010; the University of Virginia Museum of Art (Charlottesville, Va.) from Aug. 7 to Oct. 10, 2010; and the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, British Columbia) from Oct. 29, 2010 to Jan. 23, 2011."

2. The controversial 3300 year old bust of Nefertiti that Egypt wants Germany to return has been moved to Berlin's Neuss Museum. The museum has recently completed renovations to the building damaged from World War II bombing. Nefertiti went on view October 17th bringing the story full circle as the bust has now returned to her original viewing site prior to the war. We find this story fascinating not only because of the looming repatriation question but also because some respected scholars believe this piece to be an early reproduction.

3. "The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which will open in 2013 as part of Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island Cultural District, is being founded to fulfill an educational mission centered on the art of today. The museum will be housed in a distinctive building designed by Frank Gehry, one of the world’s most renowned contemporary architects. Like the Guggenheim in New York, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will build a permanent collection that reflects a specific point of view about the art of our time, namely its essentially global orientation. The new museum will include not only key examples of Western art, but also the rich and diverse fields of Asian, African, South American, and Middle Eastern art in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries". ...artdaily.org

4. As a followup to the article from artdailey.org on Guggenheim Abu Dhabi there might be a little belt tightening in Gulf as Dubai wallows under a mountain of debt (for them) with estimates ranging up to 80 billion. Nobody outside of Dubai has the complete picture but projects have been suspended, contractors are not being paid, and creating financing is underway. Bond subscriptions are being offered as a stop gap to the crunch. And if you love irony some European banks may have exposure in the neighborhood of 40 billion. Bottom line question is whether Dubai will honor its outstanding contracts. With Dubai freezing all contracts and payments on 60 billion in debt that question is very much in doubt. Gulf watchers are speculating whether oil-rich neighbor Abu Dhabi will bail them out.

5. Good news for museums this month - The Metropolitan Museum will benefit from the expected legal decision that Brooke Astor's most recent wills will be found invalid and the result of her son, Anthony Marshall's coercion. Marshall was convicted by a jury recently of inducing Astor to sign new wills to his benefit even though she was determined to be incapacitated. In Texas Alfred Glassell's daughter Curry challenged his will leaving almost 500 million dollars to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and the Glassell Family Foundation upon the death of his wife Clare. The museum was represented by super litigator, Joseph Jamail, who with the unanimous vote of the museum's board, will attempt to enforce Mr. Glassell's clause requiring a complete forfeiture of any bequests for a beneficiary challenging the will. Mr. Glassell's wife of 46 years sides with the museum. Mr. Glassell is probably most known for his comprehensive and very fine collections of African and Pre-Columbian gold which were given to the museum prior to his death.

6. Big news also for the British Museum and the BBC who are collaborating on a massive project to change the way people think about the past. One project will consist of the public bringing objects to British Museum curators who will then tell the story that will give context within the history of civilization. It is being billed as Antiques Roadshow without the cash. The second and more comprehensive project will be a 100 part radio show which will feature one object on each installment representing an important part of the history of civilization. Noting the migration of previous successful programming this too will undoubtedly come to the States.

7. In a recent article The Economist offered the following amazing sales statistics for the two big auction houses Christies and Sothebys.
"Both auction houses have also put a lot of effort into advising buyers on how to improve their collections. As Jussi Pylkkanen, Christie’s European president, says, “We’re much more than an auction house now.” The recession has made many collectors nervous about offering their treasures at auction, so they are selling them privately. In 2007 Christie’s chalked up private sales of $542m and Sotheby’s of $730m, which means the two auction houses are now among the world’s biggest private dealers. Both often get calls like the one Sotheby’s recently took from a Moscow collector with $2m to spend on an “optimistic” Chagall oil, “not too feminine” and no more than a metre in height. “We put out the word and immediately received several offers from our offices in London, Geneva and New York,” says Mikhail Kamensky, the firm’s head of CIS business.
In 2007 private deals accounted for 8.7% of Christie’s business. Mr Pylkkanen expects that figure to go up to 20% of its revenue within three years. That should put the wind up private dealers." This shift certainly conjurs up all sorts of questions about the blurring of art world roles. Is the auction house representing a client or the auction house? I think I know how most will answer that one.

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