Friday, September 18, 2009

Picture of the Month

Stolen Art: Interpol Steps Up

The theft of cultural objects affects developed and developing countries alike. The two countries most affected by this phenomenon are France and Italy. The illicit trade in cultural objects is sustained by the demand from the arts market, the opening of borders, the improvement in transport systems and the political instability of certain countries.
It is difficult to gauge the extent of the trade for two reasons
the theft is very often not discovered until the stolen objects are found on the official arts market. Countries send very little information to INTERPOL and many do not keep statistics on this type of criminality.

In order to combat the theft of cultural property, the relevant organizations and the public need to be made more aware of the problem. This is the primary objective of these web pages.
International organizations must lead the way in this fight, and since 1947, INTERPOL has been specifically involved. The first international notice on stolen works of art was published in that same year. Since then, the techniques have evolved greatly and INTERPOL has developed a highly efficient system for circulating information in the form of a database accessible to INTERPOL member countries, as well as the more widely available INTERPOL Stolen Works of Art CD-ROM. These web pages have been created to further extend the circulation of information concerning stolen works of art, and include

1. the most recent stolen works of art reported to INTERPOL
2. works of art recovered by the police during their enquiries and for which owners have not been identified
3. works of art recorded in the INTERPOL database and CD-ROM which have been recovered
the latest INTERPOL posters showing the most sought after stolen works of art

INTERPOL would like to encourage you to make extensive use of its services, and play an active role in the pooling and exchange of information. This is one of the most important contributions you can make to help curb the erosion of our cultural heritage.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Case for Buying Art Now

Right after the 9-11 attacks I found myself on the road visiting clients, many that I had dealt with for over three decades. For the first time in my career I received some responses to my advance email messages asking me to not even call because the client was not in the mood to think about art. That got my attention. In many cases economics were not the issue - it was an oppressive depression over the attacks that sapped any interest in art. This lasted for a good six months while the art world re-grouped and then continued doing what they do.

There are certainly some parallels with the malaise that has overcome much of the commercial art world in the past six months. For those dealers that enjoyed the action in 2007 and early 2008 fueled by easy credit and in many areas crazy prices, the crunch has been a shocker. Suddenly the bankers left with the buyers and now dealers have had to re-think their approach. Dealers have reported that the tribal shows have, for the most part, been well attended but that collectors have kept their hands in their pockets. Generally sales have slowed in more than one sector.
Regardless of your political persuasion the events since last November have, indeed, been maddening. It has been too easy to get caught up in all the political bickering, in-fighting, and gamesmanship. But really right now what can you do to make a difference? Basically, contact your elected officials and let them know what you think. Beyond that, down the line you can give money and support your candidates. In reality that's a ways off. As I mentioned on the blog, we may see another downturn in the market and the economy by most forecasts may be sluggish into 2011. In the interim there are going to be many opportunities in the art world, that will be fun, satisfying, and lucrative. Dealers and auction houses will get more creative to capture your dollar. Buyers like you will shake off all the distractions and will make money during this period. So if you can afford a bit now and then be wary and alert.. maybe this distraction will make you forget some of the insanity in Washington on both sides of the aisle.

Like any period like this sometimes it difficult to tell who is the victim and who is the predator. Be smart and treat your art buying like any other investment and seek opinions from experts you trust. Don't buy and sell through the same folks that are giving you buying and selling advice. Some times this works... many times it doesn't.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quick Takes - What's Happening Now

1. Recently, the New York Times offered a piece on the mood of the market saying:"Despite reports from the auction world that a recovery is under way, Manhattan’s gallery scene feels all pins and needles as it heads into fall. Things aren’t as bad as many expected them to be, but they could get worse." If that wasn't enough Art Forum Magazine was quoted as saying; "“Fragile and hoping for business.” Ad pages in Artforum’s September issue are down to 206 from 363 a year ago, a decline of more than 40 percent." West Village dealer Ms. Maccarone is quoted as seeing “'an O.K. September until the auctions', which she predicts will once more confirm a downward trend. To be followed, she says, 'by a dry winter and a lousy spring', with things approaching normal by fall 2010."

2. On a happier note a 4000 year old skull has been found in Rajasthan, India showing the first recorded case of leprosy. The find is considered to be an important step in tracing the origins of the disease.

3. Just when you thought that the Moche site at Sipan in Northern coastal Peru had yielded all its secrets, we find that the discovery of tomb 14 in 2007 is giving scientists and archaeologists plenty to consider. . Museo de Sitio Huaca Rajada, which houses the relics from this site opened in January 2009. In 2008 160,000 visited the museum housing the artifacts from the dig that began in 1987. 80% of the visitors were Peruvian so if you are a world traveler this is obviously a great place to escape American tourists.

4. The world's oldest known mammoth ivory Venus has been discovered buried 3 meters below the floor of a cave in southwestern Germany. The Venus figures typically date between 25,000 and 30,000 years. The latest find at this point dates at least 35,000 years ago and may go back further. Previously scientists have believed "that therianthropic figures (part man, part beast) came before representations of the human figure in sculpture and cave paintings." (Archaeology Magazine September 2009).

5. Parcouts des Monde in Paris - Reports from a few of the dealers have been positive saying that the exhibition was well attended and people were buying. As we head into another fall tribal art auction season, we will get important indicators of the health of the market for 2010.

6. Tom Campbell relieved Philippe de Montebello as director of the Metropolitan Museum and was faced a burgeoning annual budget of 220 million. The Met's workforce stands now at 2200 employees after cutting 350 jobs. Planned exhibits will be cut by up to 25% in the future. The bottom line is that the Mets 2.8 billion dollar annuity took over a 25% percent hit with the recent economic downturn. Look for some creative ways where the Met will charge more for their services and shows in the future.

7. The Cleveland Museum of Art has opened part of its 335 million dollar expansion plan which will be fully complete in 2013. Losses in the endowment fund and prospects for higher operation costs for the larger building have give director Timothy Rub plenty to consider in the coming months.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The prestigious Yale University Art Gallery has been led by Director Jock Reynolds since the late 1990's. His record has set a standard that will be difficult to match in the coming decades. Reynolds, now 61, has doubled the size of the collection which now totals 190,000 objects, re-installed the entire collection in the newly renovated Building designed by Louis Kahn, and managed a 44 million dollar budget during this 12 year plan which will be completed in 2011. While he is affable, charming, and focused, I sensed in our recent interview that he doesn't suffer fools easily. I tried diligently to stay out of this category.

I did promise in a previous issue that I would follow up on some of the questions that many have asked since the Yale Guy Van Rijn Archive of African Art first surfaced as a potentially important tool for curators, collectors, scholars, dealers, and students seeking a resource for research. In emphasizing Yale University's ongoing commitment to the Archive Reynolds stated that contracts have been extended to Van Rijn hired staff members for another two years in order to maintain continuity in resolving some of the problems. Mr. Reynolds also indicated that Yale owns 100 % of the Archive having just purchased Guy Van Rijn's remaining share. Van Rijn remains committed to the Archive and will continue to consult. Reynolds and Van Rijn are addressing the synchronization problems created by trying to maintain a copy in Brussels and New Haven. Mr. Reynolds believes strongly that private funding sources must support this Archive ensuring that the access to the data remain a free resource. I am not a legal expert but I suspect this approach will to some degree insulate Yale from the copyright issue created when a user is making money from data owned and legally protected by a third party. Yale can afford the expense; however, if this data source is as good as I think it is private and public institutions will want to participate.

Mr. Reynolds did not commit himself to any date certain when you will have online access. He also didn't expound on plans to secure the data as it is being compiled from two separate sources. It should be noted that the picture changes somewhat now as Yale owns the Archive. I have no doubt that these problems are being addressed. If we are able to get a preview, I will certainly include that in a future Newsletter and blog. I am excited and hopeful that this resource will be online soon.

With permission I have re-printed from the Yale Archive a brief description of what they will offer.

"The Yale-Van Rijn Photographic Archive is the largest photographic digital database of African art, and is a division of the Department of African Art, established in 2004, at the Yale University Art Gallery. The Archive has been under development by Guy van Rijn, for several decades. In 2001, the project was acquired and funded for Yale by James J. Ross (Yale B.A. 1960). The ultimate goal is to make the Archive accessible online, but at present it is available for general research by appointment only at the Department of African Art at Yale, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, or at the Van Rijn Documentation Centre, Brussels, Belgium.
The Yale-van Rijn Photographic Archive comprises images of art from Africa south of the Sahara in collections worldwide. As such it is potentially infinite, but at the moment it includes mainly masks and sculpture and a few other forms in various media, from antiquity to the mid-20th-century and it will continue to grow as the archivist receives new images. Currently there are more than 100,000 images of African art drawn from private and museum collections, dealers, general archives, and the existing body of literature including books, articles, notices, and auction catalogues. The database may be searched by country, cultural group, and many other fields enabling the user to do a specific search. The Yale-GVR Archive may be used for research purposes only. In making these images and their related documentation available to researchers, YUAG’s Department of African Art provides an unparalleled resource for the study of African arts.
The Archivist solicits images from collectors of photographs and/or objects who would like to include their collections in the Archive. It should be noted that Yale makes no claims to authenticity of the objects illustrated (by any definition of the term, authentic), and the inclusion or exclusion of an image for any reason is at the sole discretion of Yale.
The Archive will also include opinions (including those concerning authenticity) in the Archive database submitted by third parties, at Yale's discretion. Yale takes no responsibility for these opinions, and in no way do they reflect an official position of Yale. We expect that this will provide a forum that will be useful to all researchers. In this working phase, we would ask visiting researchers who are using the Archive to exchange their own images and expertise from their fields of study in order to enlarge and refine the Archive and database for future users. "

Folk Art - Part 2 - Kim Kolker

As part of the larger anti academic trend of the European avante garde which was gaining more appeal, self taught artists were found in almost every country after WWI. In the US there was the Pittsburg housepainter John Kane, admitted in 1927 to the Carnegie International Exhibition. In 1932, the MOMA in NYC held a landmark exhibition “American Folk Art: The Art of the Common Man in America 1750-1900”, which looked admiringly to the self taught artists of the pre-industrial past for their ingenuity, innocence and simplicity of expression. There was of course Grandma Moses, one of the most successful and famous artists in America, who had her first one woman show in NYC in 1940. Completely untrained, Grandma Moses became hugely popular through American radio, tv and heavily marketed publications, even having successful shows in Europe and Japan. Self taught art waned in popularity thru the mid-20th century, as art critics and dealers became more attracted to the burgeoning movements of the Abstract Expressionists. However it should be noted that in 1982, the Corcoran Gallery in D.C. held the exhibition “Black Folk Art in America: 1930-1980”.
Over the years, the definitions of folk art in twentieth century America have been wide ranging, including everything from tin men advertising a sheet metal store to weather vanes and ceramic jugs to painters like Grandma Moses to quirky outdoor environments made by singular individuals in their own backyards,(of which many still exist).
So where did the term “Outsider Art” come from? In 1972, British art historian Roger Cardinal in his survey of Art Brut or “raw art”, coined the term as the title for his book of the same name. For the British and other Europeans with their strong art academies and art traditions, coining the terms art brut, naive art, and outsider art made sense, separating these new recognized art forms from the past. However, here in the United States, with no art schools in existence until the late 19th century, the dividing lines between academic and non-academic art, and Art Brut (Outsider) and na├»ve art have not been so distinct nor appreciated. Similarly, although Dubuffet’s Art Brut is now housed in its own museum in Lausanne Switzerland, the art of the mentally challenged has never gained much appeal in the US.

In the US, self taught art, outsider art and folk art have a tendency to be lumped together as products of individuals with their own aesthetic tastes. This lack of defined terminology can be quite confusing to the American collector who wants to set perimeters for his collection. Where does one go for clarity? Self taught art is still a relatively new field in art. It is not listed in too many art history books. It isn’t listed with the other “ Isms” in art—Impressionsism, Abstract Expressionism, Fauvism, Minimalism, Surrealism, etc. The history of self taught art is being written as we speak.
If you are interested in finding out more, the US has a number of museums dedicated to self taught art and it’s past, current and evolving future role in the history of art. You may also call us at the gallery with questions.

American Folk Art Museum
45 West 53rd Street
NY, NY 10019

American Visionary Art Museum
800 Key Highway
Inner Harbor
Baltimore, MD 21230

Smithsonian American Art Museum
8th and G Streets, NW
Washington DC 20560
Has permanent holdings of 20th century self taught art

High Museum of Art
1280 Peachtree Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30309
Has a permanent exhibition, as well as a curator for self taught art