Tuesday, December 14, 2010

African Art Photo of the Month

Yoruba, Gelede Society mask, Nigeria, West Africa
First half 20th century

Tribal Art Auctions News - December 2010

Sothebys, Paris African and Oceanic Art - Sale PF1028 - 11/30/10
Sale Total: 8,508,625 euros 101 lots of which 76 sold leaving unsold lots at approximately 28% unsold. This sale had a number of fine pieces all of which paled in cmparison to the Luba Buli stool that sold for 5,440,750 euros which is just over $7,000,000. You may recall that the only single object that sold for this much at a public auction was the Fang mask that sold in Paris in the Verite sale several years ago.

Christie's Paris  - Six Masterpieces of African Art from the Kahane Collection - Sale 5618  12/1/10
Sale Total - 3,176,000 euros. All lots sold . A rare and great brass covered Baule mask sold for 983,400 euros ($1,282,624)

Christie's Paris - African and Oceanic Art - Sale 5612 12/1/10
Sale Total - 939,250 euros. 80 lots of which 44 sold  leaving unsold lots of approximately 45%

Heritage Auction, New York - Pre-Columbian Art  - Sale 6056 - 12/5/10
Sale Total - $427,229.23. 396 lots of which 228 sold leaving unsold lots of approximately 42%

Heritage Auction, New York - American Indian Art - Sale 6051 - 12/3/10
Sale Total - $364,203.56. 390 lots of which 292 sold leaving unsold lots of approxiately 25%

Sothebys, Paris A New York Collection, African Art - Sale PF1041 - 11/30/10
Sale Total - 3,311,100 euros 49 lots of which 40 sold leaving unsold lots at approximately 18%. A superb small Songe figure9 1/2" in height sold for 144,750 euros. Lot 11 was a Ngbandi spoon that sold for 168,750 euros which three times the estimate. A 34 2/3" Mumuye figure sold for 156,750 euros which iscertainly a record for this type of Mumuye figure. (Note I believe the Jack Naiman Mumuye sold for considerably more). 

Bonhams, New York African, Oceanic, and Pre-Columbian Art - Sale 18631 11/11/10
The total lots in this sale was 356 of which 202 sold leaving unsold lots at approximately 43%

Bonhams, San Francisco - American Indian Art - Sale 18407 12/6/10
The total lots in this sale was 288 of which 219 sold leaving unsold lots at approximately 24%. One of te highlights of this sale was a Hopi canteen attributed to Nampeyo that was estimated to sell between $20,000 and $40,000. It sold to the highgest bidder for $164,000. In this previous lot a Nampeyo jar 13 1/2" in diameter exceed the estimate of $60,000 - $90,000 by selling for $350,000.  An interesting and somewhat unusual quilled shirt attributed by Benson Lanford to the Northern Sioux sold for $170,000.  Both Benson and Skinners carefully avoided assigning a date to this object which seemed curious and maybe relevant.

Zoller, Zurich African Auction 29 November 2010
The total lots in this sale was 218 of which 90 sold leaving  unsold lots at approximately 59%

The big winner for this fall auction season was Sothebys who not only topped their rivals in total gross sales but also in their low percentage of unsold lots. And Dallas based Heritage looking to make a statement entering the New York tribal market in their new facilities on 78th St in Manhatten  unfortunately miscalculated the market and failed to impress buyers with this offering. If you look at Bonhams they apparently learned Skinner's lesson by having reasonable to low reserves. Bonhams knew they had winners in their two Nampeyo pots; however, they remained conservative and came up big winners with brisk bidding. Pre-sale estimates have been compared with verbal approximations of value provided by appraisers. Clearly this example against demonstrates that the savy auction house can use pre-sale estimates as an important tool in manipulating the market.

A Chirstmas Message - 2010

This has been a very strange year . Whether you are on the left or the right most would agree that these past few months have been  unsettling and rancorous.  Internationally Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, and China have all contributed to an antagonistic and uncertain world. On a personal level losing friends and now recently Peter Marzio are certainly reminders that this spot we occupy is finite at best. This holiday season should remind us all to remember and apply "carpe diem" to how we live our own lives. Who knows where we are going or what we will have to deal with along the way. But we do control how we wage this personal battle of survival and our ability to make this trip more pleasant along the way. Whatever you decide I hope its fun and rewarding and that you do have a great 2011. JB

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Peter Marzio, Director of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston Dies at 67

HOUSTON (Houston Chronicle Decmber 10, 2010) Museum impresario Peter C. Marzio, who devoted three decades to building the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, into a world-class cultural center and, in his words, "a place for all people," died Thursday at 67 after a recurrence of cancer.
Marzio, the museum's longest-serving director, joined the MFAH in 1982. Under his leadership, the permanent collection more than quadrupled in size, growing from 14,000 artworks to 62,000.
The museum world lost a major figure, Philippe de Montebello, former director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, said Friday.
"He utterly transformed the Houston museum — turned it into a major and very professional institution with wonderful spaces and a hugely improved collection over the years," said de Montebello, who directed the MFAH from 1969 to 1974.
"The key thing about Peter is that he was enormously enterprising and dynamic and showed that these qualities are not irreconcilable with the upholding of the highest standards of excellence. He never pandered to his public. He always kept everything on the highest level. He established, also, an international reputation."
The collection's rapid growth was accompanied by many other milestones under Marzio's tenure: the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen sculpture garden designed by artist Isamu Noguchi; the European decorative arts center, Rienzi, donated by Carroll Sterling Masterson and Harris Masterson III; and the Audrey Jones Beck Building, designed by architect Rafael Moneo.
At the time of his death, Marzio was planning a third building for modern and contemporary art, which he envisioned as presenting a global view of art movements in the Americas, Europe and Asia. He called this the most intellectually challenging work of his career.
"Peter was a profound leader and a great colleague," said Josef Helfenstein, Menil Collection director. "I came to Houston knowing very few people, a handful. Peter was very generous and straightforward and I thought, if he's like that, it's a great city."
Aiming to make the MFAH "ecumenical," reaching out to Houston's diverse communities, Marzio launched the Asian and Latin art departments. The Latin American department quickly shot to the top tier of the field among U.S. museums, and Marzio championed an unorthodox approach to the small Asian collection, integrating ancient and contemporary works in the Arts of Korea Gallery, the Nidhika and Pershant Mehta Arts of India Gallery and the Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Arts of China Gallery.
Marzio was proudest of the fact the museum attracted visitors from all backgrounds during his tenure, his wife, Frances Marzio, said Friday.
MFAH's attendance grew from 380,000 people a year when he arrived to more than 2 million. A 10-year campaign he launched in 1993, "A Place for All People," summed up his philosophy, said Frances Marzio, who is curator of the MFAH's Glassell Collections.
"He truly believed that art enriched your life, and believing that, he wanted people from every walk of life to come together," she said. "He really felt that each community gives something of itself and has a mark, and together, we're all better."

Role model

For the Chinese gallery, Marzio had a self-described "crazy idea" to commission artist Cai Guo-Qiang to make his largest U.S. museum drawing - created using exploding gunpowder in a live performance in a Houston warehouse - to line the gallery walls, creating a contemporary crucible for the ancient objects.
Asked if he had a backup plan if anything went wrong during Cai's performance, Marzio quipped, "No Plan B. Gunpowder is very, very reliable."
After learning of Marzio's death, Cai offered to donate the original sketch for the gunpowder drawing, Odyssey, to the MFAH in the director's memory.
"He was such a role model for all of us, a director whose priorities were the collection and the community," said James Cuno, director of the Art Institute of Chicago. "He inspired us, challenged us and helped us."
Marzio had an uncanny knack for tapping Houston philanthropy. Examples include Alfred C. Glassell Jr.'s gift of his collection of African, Pre-Columbian and Indonesian gold; Beck's gift of 47 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces; and Caroline Wiess Law's bequest of $400 million and major artworks by Willem de Kooning, Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Mark Rothko.
The museum's endowment reached a whopping $1.2 billion before the 2008 recession dropped its value to about $800 million.

First to graduate

Born into a working-class Italian-immigrant family in New York in 1943, Marzio was a gas-station attendant while growing up. He was the first in his family to graduate from high school, and he went to Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., on a sports scholarship.
Although he had a poor academic record in high school, a pivotal experience at Juniata launched his career. Seeing a projected image of Francisco Goya's painting The Forge during an art-history lecture, Marzio was inspired to visit the real thing at the Frick Collection in New York. It was his first visit to an art museum.
"I sat down in front of it, and for the first time in my life, I thought I knew more than anyone in the world about something," Marzio once told the New York Times. "I had a sense of how it was organized and what it was about. It felt so empowering. It's impossible to convey the feeling it gave me."
A desire to give others a similar experience lay at the heart of Marzio's work on the MFAH's educational programs, which reached more than 750,000 people last year.

Got teachers involved

Marzio "created a real powerhouse education department at the Houston museum," said Ron Tyler, director of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth. "The thing that most impressed me was their outreach to the teachers. … They had attracted the attention of literally thousands of teachers in the Houston area and had them coming to their workshops, sending their kids to the (Glassell School), and I knew how hard it was to get teachers involved in the program. And we're doing that here now."
He earned a doctorate in art history and American history from the University of Chicago. He began his career in Washington, D.C., as curator of prints and drawings at the Smithsonian Institution, then became director and chief executive officer of the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
A memorial service and celebration of Marzio's life will take place at the museum. The date has not been announced.
Gwen Goffe, the MFAH's associate director of investment and finance, has been named acting director. She pledged to continue all programs as originally planned.
Marzio was the driving force behind bringing the 2011 American Association of Museums' annual convention and expo to Houston. The meeting in May will be dedicated to his memory, the association said.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Pre-Columbian Picture of the Month December 2010

Maya Ceremonial Cup Representing a Screamning Prisoner
Ht. 8 1/2" Mexico/Guatemala
AD 250 - 600
Zollman Collection, Peter Wray Collection

On this post I received this email, which I greatly appreciate. Thank you Justin... JB

Dear Mr. Buxton,
I take issue with your description of the head posted as December, 2010.
It is an interesting piece but is not a “monkey cup” but rather a portrait of a screaming captive or prisoner. In one case, the victim is a ballplayer. You can visit the Precolunbian Portfolio in www.mayavase.com  and enter the word screaming, aside from the ex-Zollman head you will find other examples.. The sense of torture among the Ancient Maya is not often discussed, but is well attested to in the Bonampak murals.

Enjoy a Happy and Healthy Holiday.
Justin Kerr

Picture of the Month December 2010

Silverback Gorilla Having a Peaceful Moment - Africa

What's Happening at the Auctions Around the World

1. NEW YORK (AP).- An 1814 first edition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" has sold for more than half a million dollars at a New York City auction. Christie's auction house says an anonymous telephone bidder placed the winning bid of $506,500 on Friday. The pre-sale estimate was $200,000 to $300,000. Christie's says it's the only known copy in private hands and one of only 11 first-edition copies known to exist. The others are in institutions or university libraries. Francis Scott Key wrote a first draft of the poem in September 1814 after witnessing the British bombard Baltimore's Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The poem was then set to music. Publisher Thomas Carr rushed the song to print, resulting in typos and Key's name being omitted. It was adopted as the U.S. national anthem in 1931.

2. BEVERLY HILLS, CA.- Artdaily.org - Brisk bidding and strong prices paced Heritage Auctions' Nov. 12 Vintage Movie Poster Auction, realizing a total of $1.486 million in its impressive debut at the company's Beverly Hills location. All prices include a 19.5% Buyer's Premium.
"Beverly Hills and vintage movie posters are a perfect fit," said Grey Smith, Director of Vintage Movie Posters at Heritage Auctions, "as evidenced by the great prices we saw across the board - steady pretty much all the way."
True to form in Heritage Movie Poster Auctions, the most active bidding came on some of the scarcest items in the auction, including a superb 1935 Universal Werewolf of London half sheet movie poster, which brought $47,800 and a simply stunning oversize 1933 Austrian King Kong movie poster featuring RKO's most famous monster atop a city building, clutching Fay Wray in one hand and crushing an ill-fated biplane in the auction. After several rounds of fierce bidding the poster finished at $38,838.
"Both the Werewolf of London half sheet and the Austrian King Kong, like the best movie posters do, doubled as much as pieces of cinematic history as they did as a pieces of graphic art," said Smith. "Both of these gorgeous pieces will now be prominently featured as key pieces in advanced collections."
Other highlights of the auction included a beautiful portrait lobby card from Dracula (1931), featuring the immortal Bela Lugosi as the Count as he leans in for a bite on the exposed neck of Frances Dade as Lucy, which brought $31,070, while a wonderful early Bette Davis one sheet for the Pre-Code comedy Ex-Lady (1933) brought $19,120 and a beautiful Italian 4-foglio Style B poster to the Fellini classic La Dolce Vita (1959) brought $14,340.
World Record prices were realized for several posters, including the one sheet to the Robert Mitchum film noir classic Out of the Past (1947), which brought $17,925, while an insert to the Rat Pack classic Ocean's 11 (1960) came in at $10,755 and a gorgeous and rare mini (or midget) window card for Boris Karloff, looking as creepy as he ever did in any role, in The Walking Dead (1936) sold for $14,340.
Other notable prices include the $10,755 final price realized for both the gorgeously Art Deco one sheet to Dodsworth (1936) and an unrestored copy of the one sheet to John Ford's classic Grapes of Wrath (1940).

3. PARIS.- Artdaily.org - Sotheby’s Evening Sale of Contemporary Art totalled €9.3m, led by Jean-Michel Basquiat's iconic Water-Worshipper (1984) at €2,416,750. This magnificent painting echoes Basquiat's Haitian origins, combining personal cultural memories with the evocation of oppressed minorities in the Americas.

The second highest price in this first session, €1,352,750, went to Jean Dubuffet's monumental sculpture Métalogie aux Turbulences (1971) from his celebrated Hourloupe cycle, with its flat expanses of red, blue, white and black – a contrasting approach to his earlier works, with texture banished in favour of compartmentalized surfaces of flat colour, an approach Dubuffet also used for paintings and installations.

The sale posted world record prices for two European artists: Germany's Emil Schumacher – €480,750 for his Solluk (1962); and Czech artist Josef Sima – €288,750 for Fall of Icarus II (1959), evoking the famous myth "like a luminous whirlwind disintegrating earthly matter, transformed into light as if during a cosmic catastrophe" (Frantizek Smejkal).

Meanwhile the Day Sale on December 8 saw the international art market confirm the current demand for sculptures by Robert Indiana and César. Robert Indiana's celebrated sculpture Love from 1966, in a version made in 1998, posted the session's top price of €228,750. César's impressive automobile compression Shock Red 165, shown at the Cartier Foundation in 2008 and from his famous 1998 series of monochrome compressions made from Fiat cars, sold in line with the high estimate for €202,350.

4. BEVERLY HILLS, CA.- Artdaily.org - Fans and collectors gathered at Julien’s Auctions Beverly Hills today as items that once belonged to Johnny Cash were auctioned. A bidding war erupted for the Johnny Cash jumpsuit worn during a rehearsal at San Quentin prison, made famous in the photograph known simply as “The Finger.” Bidding volleyed between bidders on the telephone, in the gallery and phone bidders, ending with the sale of the jumpsuit for $50,000. A rare poster announcing Cash’s performance at the prison sold alongside the jumpsuit for $25,000 while a 1968 passport sold for $21,875. The auction also brought $50,000 for a Martin stage used guitar. The Bicentennial shirt made by Nudie Cohn and worn by Cash as the Grand Marshall of the American Bicentennial Grand Parade in 1976 brought another bidding war and a sale of the shirt for $31,250 and Johnny Cash’s knee-high boots sold for $21,875. Among the other it ...

5. Bonhams is delighted to announce the Tuesday, December 7th results of its Fine Continental Furniture and Decorative Arts sale in New York. The 249 lot auction featured a vast selection of 18th and 19th century works by cabinetmakers such as: Francois Linke, Paul Sormani, and Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener.

"The top lot of the sale and world record holder was an impressive Louis XV style giltbronze mounted marquetry inlaid and bisque porcelain inset bureau plat by Maison Krieger, modeled after the bureau du roi in Versailles (est. $300,000-400,000, sold for $362,000); surpassing the previous record for a work by this cabinetmaker held at Sotheby's New York in 2006 for $329,600. The succeeding principal lot was a fine Louis XIV style gilt bronze, pewter, and tortoiseshell mounted ebonized premiere partie meuble d'appui by Paul Sormani, after a model by Andre Charles Boulle, fourth quarter 19th century (est. $90,000-120,000, sold for $146,000).

Highlights included: a superb Louis XIV style giltbronze mounted Boulle marquetry commode mazarine by Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener, after a model by Andre-Charles Boulle, fourth quarter 19th century (est. $40,000-60,000, sold for $128,000); a fine Louis XIV style giltbronze mounted Boulle marquetry meuble d'appui, also after a model by André-Charles Boulle, second half 19th century (est. $15,000-20,000, sold for $103,700); and a fine Louis XV style giltbronze mounted marquetry commode by Zwiener Jansen Successeur, late 19th century (est. $75,000-100,000, sold for $91,500).

Additional items of note were: a German parcel-gilt and engraved beaker by Johann Sigmund Abrell, Augsburg, circa 1690-95 (est. $7,000-10,000, sold for $63,440); a fine Louis XV style giltbronze mounted kingwood and walnut bureau plat by H. Conquet, after a model by Charles Cressent, fourth quarter 19th century (est. $18,000-25,000, sold for $39,040); an Italian Neoclassical giltwood and verre églomisé console (est. $15,000-20,000, sold for $37,820); A pair of Continental carved ivory mythological groups from the late 19th century (est. $12,000-18,000; sold for $36,600); and a Louis XVI style gilt bronze mounted brèche violette marble center bowl, possibly by François Linke, last quarter 19th century (est. $10,000-15,000, sold for $26,840).

6. Paris - Artmarketinsight.com - Photography market: Paris rivals with New York and London [11/02/2010]

Strong demand and an abundant offer: having earned a legitimate place in the history of art, photography has become a dynamic medium with a rapidly maturing and increasingly demanding market. Today the photography medium accounts for 7% of total global auction revenue generated from Contemporary art and its auction revenue total has grown 1,300% since the end of the 1990s (+1,270% between 1998 and 2008) in a market traditionally dominated by painting, sculpture and drawing.
During the 2008-2009 crisis, collectors spent substantially less on art generally, buying fewer paintings (sales of Contemporary paintings contracted 11% in 2008-2009 compared with 2006-2007), but they do not appear to have reduced their spending on photography. The success of the photography segment is probably related to the following factors: firstly, the star signatures in the photography segment are less expensive than those of the Contemporary painting market, and secondly, photography is an easy medium to store (ideal for bulimic collectors and investors) and is totally in tune with the avid consumption of images that so much characterises the spirit of our times.
The auction triumvirate Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillip’s de Pury & Company held their special New York Photography sales from 6 to 8 October 2010. The final results were good with three-quarters of the lots sold. The stars of these sales were a portrait of Pablo Picasso by Irving PENN ($182,000 at Phillip’s de Pury & Company), a reprint of Robert FRANK ’s U.S. 90, en route to Del Rio, Texas that sold for twice its high estimate ($215,000 at Sotheby’s), Edward STEICHEN ’s Wind fire, Thérèse Duncan on the Acropolis ($115,000 at Sotheby’s), a print of Ansel Easton ADAMS Grand Tetons and the Snake River ($270,000 at Christie’s) and a daguerreotype entitled 261. Paris Etudede plantes by Joseph Philibert GIRAULT DE PRANGEY ($195,000 at Christie’s).
These six-figure results were all generated by “safe-bet”, “historical” and Modern signatures of the photography market. The following week a number of more recent photographs sold in London at the Post-War & Contemporary Art sales. Andreas GURSKY ’s spectacular cibachrome Pyongyang IV (304.5 x 207 cm) crossed the GBP 1 million threshold ($1.7m), doubling its estimated price range announced by Christie’s! In fact, since it last sold in February 2008 (at the top of the market), Pyongyang IV added a further $500,000 to its hammer price. These prices were particularly encouraging in the run-up to the Photography Month in Paris.
Paris, world capital of photography
Every year, Paris hosts a plethora of photography exhibitions throughout the capital over a period lasting roughly one month.
The core event at the origin of this effervescence around still images is the Paris Photo art fair which brings together 120 galleries from 25 countries (18 to 21 November 2010). Indeed, the Parisian event is a grander version of the September of Photography in Lyon and the Rencontres de la photographie in Arles during the summer. This year, for the 30th anniversary of the Photography Month, there will be numerous commercial and non-commercial side-events, including exhibitions by André KERTÉSZ (Jeu de Paume, until 6 February 2011), Larry CLARK (Musée National d’Art Moderne, until 2 January 2011) and Harry CALLAHAN (Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation, until 19 December 2010).
At the same time, around 200 alternative exhibitions will be organised in the framework of the Photo-OFF Month and the auction houses are preparing for marathon sales: on 19 November, Sotheby’s will start the proceedings with the first Photography sale and Piasa will be offering Old, Modern and Contemporary Photographs on the same day. The following day, Christie’s is organising a major sale of works from the Richard Avedon Foundation and there will also be two specialised photography sales on 21 November: Old and Modern Photographs at Ader and Photography at Kapandji Morhange. In fact, there will be thousands of photographs offered for sale in less than one week!

Custer's Last Stand - Re-Visited

ALBUQUERQUE — The founding director of the Custer Battlefield Museum in Montana said Monday that his constitutional rights were violated when two dozen federal agents raided the museum, his home and other businesses in 2005 and again in 2008.
Agents, some of whom were armed with automatic weapons, were looking for any evidence that Chris Kortlander was illegally buying and selling American Indian artifacts when they surrounded his property in Garryowen, Mont., in March 2005.
In addition to spending hours combing through his property and seizing computers and hundreds of artifacts, he alleged that they yelled at him and made a slew of threats that ranged from prison time to not seeing his son again.
Yet, five years have passed and Kortlander has never been charged with a crime.
"This event has changed my life, my business, my health and my relationship with my friends," Kortlander told The Associated Press. "This is the only way for me to somewhat become whole again."
Kortlander's lawsuit said his rights to free speech, to bear arms, to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures and nearly a half-dozen other rights were violated in the raids.
The lawsuit targets individual agents — rather than the agencies involved in the raids — as part of what is called a Biven's action. Much like a civil rights case in state court, the rarely used federal legal measure allows private citizens to sue for damages against federal officials for violating their rights.
Kortlander's lawsuit could open the floodgates for other complaints from artifact dealers and collectors who were dragged into a sweeping federal investigation into looting and grave robbing. It led to felony charges against more than two dozen people in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico in June 2009.
In the Four Corners region, at least seven collectors and dealers who were raided in New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona as part of the operation were never charged with a crime.
Local officials had complained that federal agents were heavy-handed during the raids. And since then, suicide has claimed the government's informant and two defendants, the prehistoric Indian artifact market has bottomed out, and some collectors fear they will be targeted despite having legal business operations.
"I am not their only victim," Kortlander said, referring to those who were raided as part of the Four Corners investigation. "This type of behavior should not and cannot be tolerated by law-abiding U.S. citizens. Such Gestapo law enforcement tactics against innocent people cannot be allowed."
The Bureau of Land Management, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder have defended their actions, saying they are trying to keep criminals from plundering artifacts from federal land.
Legitimate collectors and dealers say Kortlander's case should serve as a warning that federal agents need to be responsible for how they conduct themselves during law enforcement actions.
Kortlander describes his ordeal with the agents in a 48-page affidavit filed with his lawsuit. It accuses agents of "spinning" information to get a search warrant for his property and going beyond the scope of that warrant by searching his home and other areas of the property.
At one point, Kortlander was brought to tears after agents led him into the museum's basement. It was there in a vault where he stored some small animal bones that had been found during the construction of Garryowen 10 years earlier. A National Park Service archaeologist had checked the bones for Kortlander to make sure he was not in violation of federal Indian grave protection laws.
Kortlander claims one agent waved the bones inches from his face and yelled, "These are little girl bones. Where is she buried?"
The agent later told him: "The good news is that I'm not going to smash all your cases in the museum and take your questioned items. Do not move anything outside of this museum. It is part of a crime scene."
Kortlander said he still does not know what prompted the Bureau of Land Management to initiate an investigation into his businesses. He is suing the BLM in a separate action to get access to information about his investigation and the two raids.
The lawsuit claims the BLM was initially looking for a Custer Battlefield artifact, a 7th Calvary uniform button.
"We don't think it was all about a button," Kortlander said. "We don't know what the real reason is, what motivated them to bring me down."
The lawsuit names Brian Cornell, who worked then as a BLM special agent in Montana; BLM special agent Bart Fitzgerald, who now works in Arizona; Fish and Wildlife Service special agent Doug Grossman; and 21 other unnamed federal agents.
Cornell said he could not talk about the case, and Fitzgerald said he was unaware of the court filing. A listing could not be found for Grossman.
Kortlander is seeking damages, but said the case is not about money.
"This is about trying to set legal precedent so situations like this do not happen again," he said. "We can't have federal law enforcement out of control."

You have seen the media coverage of law enforcement cooperating over a multi -state area in order to thwart the burgeoning art market traffic in illegal antiquities that is supposedly worth millions. Over the past 36 years I have certainly bumped into a few colorful characters that no doubt were involved in some of these activities. These guys are never high rolling successful dealers. They usually work hand to mouth and are more slimier to subsistence farmers than international art thieves. Do we condone or support these activities? Of Course not, but my colleagues and I don't find credible these huge sums that federal officials say are generated by illegal antiquities trade . But so what if they embellish their roles for the press. Well, it does matter because you and I are paying for these investigations. In tough economic times when everyone is feeling pressed do we really want to fund these projects that don't appear to be very productive. The Four Corner bust that involved over three hundred law enforcement officers for over two years did result in the suicide of a few collectors, but what really was the cost? We never see the bottom line. The rough treatment cited above is real. I was interview by federal agents trying to bust a colleague for money laundering. They tried to get me to testify that he used drugs. That is gestapo tactics and it should be investigated. And we should see unvarnished reports of who has been found guilty or what crimes and what it has cost the public to complete the investigation. We are finding that even the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has to open their books. Why not the Feds?

Leonardo Da Vinci May Have Something More To Say

Fragment of Manuscript by Leonardo da Vinci Unearthed in French Town Library

Agnes Marcetteau (L), director of Nantes media library, and Jean-Marc Ayrault, Mayor of Nantes, present to the media "an autograph" attributed to Italian High Renaissance Painter and Inventor Leonardo da Vinci. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe.

NANTES (REUTERS).- A long-lost fragment of manuscript by Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci has been uncovered in a public library in western France after lying forgotten in storage for nearly one and a half centuries. The text, written from right to left in Da Vinci's trademark mirror-writing, was among 5,000 documents donated to the city of Nantes in 1872 by wealthy collector Pierre-Antoine Labouchere, and then left to languish in local archives. It was only when a local journalist came across a reference to the document's location in a biography of the Italian master that the manuscript was finally tracked down. "He was most probably writing in 15th-century Italian, and possibly in other languages, so it's now got to be deciphered," said Agnes Marcetteau, head of the Nantes library where the manuscript was found. For the time

Steve Martin and An Object of Beauty

Steve Martin at a book signing for An Object of Beauty in New York and, left, the US cover

• “I’ve never met anyone who collects cynically”
Not content with being an acclaimed comedian and actor, a musician nifty with a banjo and the author of number of books of fact and fiction, Steve Martin has written a novel set in the art world.
An Object of Beauty is the tale of eager young thing Lacey Yeager who trades her way up from Sotheby’s basement to a space of her own via some dodgy dealing, a rich collector as a lover and association with a rising star artist exquisitely named Pilot Mouse.
It’s an engaging story peppered with real-world references: Martin is clearly familiar with the world of collectors, dealers and auctions and does himself no harm whatsoever by namechecking this publication.
A cover comment by the novelist Joyce Carol Oates compares the book to those of Edith Wharton. It’s an overstated comparison, but you know what she means—Martin has set out to examine the Zeitgeist, and the mores of the bourgeoisie through the medium of a flawed protagonist, as did Wharton.
Are modern times kinder to those who fall from grace? In Wharton's The Age of Innocence, May Welland endures a loveless marriage before an untimely death. The House of Mirth’s Lily Bart expires from an overdose of sleeping potion after a slow and unjust decline in social standing. For Martin’s Lacey Yeager, her destiny is the closure of her gallery, exile to Atlanta and a job with Elton John. Who’s to say which is the worse fate? theartnewspaper.com

A Roadshow Moment for Bonhams and Christmas for an Owner

Picture Bought for Its Frame in Devon Sells for $78,000 at Bonhams Canadian Art Sale

"The picture was brought to us after it was purchased for its frame at a local Devon auction," said Charles Lanning. Photo: Bonhams.
TORONTO.- A stunning watercolour of Canadian Indian totems sold at Bonhams in Toronto last night (29.11.10)for $78,000 (Canadian dollars), completing a huge roundtrip that took the picture painted in Western Canada to the West Country in England, and then back to Canada.
Charles Lanning, Bonhams Regional Director in Devon, says: “The picture was brought to us after it was purchased for its frame at a local Devon auction. When the buyer took it home he researched the artist and felt it might be more interesting than he had realized. We decided to sell this charming watercolour painted by Walter J Phillips, titled The Hoh-Hok Houseposts at Karlukwees, in our Canadian Art Sale. It was the obvious place to sell as the artist has a reputation in North America. This is just another example of Bonhams international reach. The client is delighted with the result, especially as he only paid a few pounds for something priced to sell for its frame.”
Writing in Wet Paint his unpublished manuscript on watercolour technique, Phillips was taken with the village Karlukwees "...never have I seen a more delectable sketching ground....I regretted leaving the coast, and I long to return." Painted in the late 1920's, while travelling on the Pacific Coast, this watercolour would be translated into the second wood engraving in his 1930 portfolio, An Essay in Woodcuts.
The picture was used on the front cover of the Bonhams catalogue for the Canadian Art Sale.

The Chinese Are Everywhere - Buying Your Stuff And Their Stuff

1. HONG KONG.- Christie's Hong Kong completed its two sales of Classical and Modern Chinese Paintings on Tuesday, November 30th, 2010, tallying the highest total ever for the category with HK$669 million/ US$ 86 million. The morning session of Fine Chinese Classical Paintings kicked off with high sold ratios of 91% by lot and 87% by value and a total of HK$100 million/US$13 million. The momentum continued unabated with the afternoon session of the Modern Chinese Paintings sale which totalled HK$ 568 million/ US$73 million, with 96% sold by lot and 97% sold by value.

HONG KONG (AP).- For newly minted Chinese billionaires looking to spend their money, a natural choice has been art and antiques from their own country, many costing millions of dollars.
Now art dealers and auction houses are trying to pitch them a harder sell: Western masterpieces by artists such as Picasso, whose paintings featured in three autumn shows in Hong Kong.
"They are the next big wave of buyers, and they could affect the market as much as the Japanese did in the '80s," said Jehan Chu, who runs consultancy Vermillion Art Collections.

China's rapidly developing economy has churned out many wealthy businesspeople who have made their fortunes in industries from soft drinks to property development to the Internet. The country is now home to the world's largest number of dollar billionaires, according to the Hurun Rich List 2010, China's version of the Forbes list. China's new rich have been snapping up Asian artwork, antiques and other collectables, pushing up prices to record levels. That was evident in November when an unnamed Chinese buyer paid $83 million at a London auction for a 19th century Qing dynasty vase found in a suburban house. The rising number of wealthy Chinese buyers has also made Hong Kong the world's third largest auction center after New York and London. Chu says a lot of the buying "is largely driven by investment rather than a love or appreciation of art," though that is changing.
In a sign of the hope that Chinese buyers are now turning their attention — and checkbooks — to Western art, Sotheby's displayed 20 works at its Modern Masters exhibition of Impressionist and early 20th century art in Hong Kong last weekend, after holding a preview in Beijing in October. It was the auction house's first show held specifically for the Asian market and featured seven Picassos as well as works by Monet, Renoir, Chagall and Degas, priced from $2 million to $25 million.
Picassos are also on show at Ben Brown Fine Arts and Edouard Malingue Gallery, both opened by European art dealers in the past year in the former British colony to cash in on the growing wealth of Chinese collectors.
Pablo Picasso is widely considered to be the greatest artist of the 20th century and his works consistently fetch record prices. A 1932 painting of his mistress, "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust," sold for $106.5 million in May, setting a world record price for any work of art at auction.

Many in China can now afford his paintings. The Hurun report's researcher, Rupert Hoogewerf, said in October that he knows of at least 189 dollar billionaires in China but the real number may be more like 400 to 500. The report lists 1,363 people with wealth of at least one billion yuan ($150 million). But do they want to buy a Picasso? The artist might seem a bit too challenging for buyers in China, who often prefer more literal and conventionally pretty scenes.
Art dealer Edouard Malingue said some of the Chinese visitors to his gallery's debut show have shown an appreciation for the works, some of which depict sexually charged scenes, including brothels and men peeping at women. "Some of them, I could feel it was very new so they need more time to get used to it," Malingue said. "Others had a much more quick interest. Even for people not familiar with his work, they had a sharp eye for his craftsmanship, they were attracted to pieces that curators would pick."
Malingue said he has sold two of 17 paintings on display at his show, the first for his gallery, which opened in September. Both were bought by European buyers. The show also features 23 sketchbook drawings. After it ends in Hong Kong on Friday, it will travel to Taiwan for a week. Ben Brown, who opened the Hong Kong branch of his London gallery a year ago, has 13 works spanning 70 years of Picasso's career in a show that runs until Jan. 28. He said that while he hopes to sell some paintings to Asian buyers, he also expects purchases to come from wealthy Europeans visiting the city. He would not discuss specific sales.
A Sotheby's spokeswoman said only that "some" paintings from the Modern Masters show have been sold, declining to be more specific. But there is plenty of potential if the results of Christie's sale of Asian contemporary and Chinese 20th century art held last weekend is anything to go by.
Thirty seven lots were sold raising more than $36 million, with most buyers listed as Asian.

3. CHINA.-ArtDaily.org -  After the record-breaking $390 million autumn sales at Sotheby’s Hong Kong last month and China Guardian’s $620 million record sales last week – the overall Chinese art market is becoming very hot once again.
Whilst other art markets are talking about the recovery, the Chinese art market is experiencing a second boom - strongly supported by regional buyers. Auction prices in certain traditional sectors, such as Chinese painting and calligraphy, as well as antique porcelain and ceramics, have been pushed to new heights, and art market analysts are already questioning the sustainability of this surge in prices.
Evidence of the frenzy was seen in early November 2010, when a bidding war between Asian buyers pushed a Qianlong-dynasty vase to a price of $83.2 million, an auction record for Chinese art. The vase was offered through the west London auction house Bainbridges, with a pre-sale estimate of £800,000 to £1.2 million. It made more than 40 times the high estimate, with a hammer price of £43 million.
The action taking place in the more traditional collecting categories of the Chinese art market, is also rubbing off on the Chinese contemporary art market. Christie’s Asian & Chinese 20th Century Art (Evening Sale) held on 27 November 2010 in Hong Kong, achieved a total of $31,060,900 (excluding premium). This was 8% lower than Christie’s ‘white glove’ sale in spring 2010.
In terms of Chinese contemporary art, Christie’s Hong Kong raised a total of $24,140,220 from both the Asian Contemporary art and the Chinese 20th Century art sale. This was at the top end of the pre-sale estimate of $16,773,250 to $24,438,050. The total was 54.4% higher than spring 2010, and the result supports the strong positive trend set out by Sotheby’s Hong Kong last month. The two houses are competing neck and neck, with Christie’s total for contemporary art only 9.1% higher than the equivalent sale for Sotheby’s. In Christie’s Contemporary Asian Sale, Chinese contemporary art accounted for 89.5% of total value, versus 72.1% for Sotheby’s.
The success of the Christie’s sale was underpinned by broad interest in the mid- to high end price segment. In contrast to the contemporary Chinese sale at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in October, where the top 10 lots accounted for more than 72% of the value - the top 10 contemporary lots in Christie’s Hong Kong sales accounted for only 42% of the total. The average auction price for Contemporary Chinese art increased to $182,880, more than double that of spring 2010.
The price segments that saw the strongest interest was works sold for $100,000 and above, with significant interest in the $100,000 to $500,000 price bracket. This price category saw its share increase from 14% to 18%, or in terms of value from $2.19 million in spring 2010 to $4.35 million in the autumn 2010.
Similar to Sotheby’s Hong Kong sale, the demand for Zheng Fanzhi’s works remain very strong, and 4 out of the top 10 prices were achieved by the artist, accounting for 27% of the overall total. The second highest lot in the sale was by artist Mao Xuhui’s ‘92 Paternalism’ (1992), which sold for $1.3 million against a pre-sale estimate of $390,000 to $650,000. Zhang Xiaogang also had a good run, and despite only having one lot from the ‘Bloodline’ series in the top 10 price list, 6 lots sold for a total of $2.6 million with only one painting failing to find a buyer.

4. Boston, Mass.: Antiquesandthearts.com - The normally reserved audience of Chinese dealers burst into applause when one of their own, representing a mainland China buyer, won an album of 25 ink and color paintings at Skinner's two-day sale of Asian works of art December 3–4. The price: a record-breaking $1,227,000.
The paintings of landscapes, flowers and birds by the stars of Twentieth Century Chinese art had come to auction from the collection of Pah-Yuen Wang, for whom the pictures were made. The sale total was around $5.7 million, a record for the auction house.
The ArtTactic Auction Indicator for contemporary Chinese art at Christie’s Hong Kong fell 23.5% from spring 2010, and the current Auction Indicator is now standing at 39, down from 51. The reason for the drop in the Indicator is largely a result of a higher unsold rate, which increased from 18% in spring 2010 to 34% in the recent sale. The equivalent Auction Indicator for Sotheby’s was 43 in October 2010.

5. HONG KONG (REUTERS).- A Hong Kong tycoon paid $16.7 million on Wednesday for a quartet of Chinese cloisonne cranes at a Christie's sale in Hong Kong that also saw strong prices paid for high-end Chinese ceramics amid a white-hot streak in the market.
While parts of Europe have plunged into a debt crisis and the U.S. economy remains stagnant, China's antique-loving millionaires are splashing out on rare Chinese antiques and ceramics, driven by cultural patriotism and potential investment returns.
At Christie's Asian sales in Hong Kong, considered a barometer for the Chinese and Asian art markets in the world's third largest art auction hub after New York and London, demand was again strong for Chinese works from three major Western collections.
The four enamel cranes, part of a trove of Chinese treasures had been cloistered for decades in the late Alfred Morrison's Fonthill estate in the western English county of Wiltshire.
Crafted in the Qing Yongzheng period (1723-1735), the near life-sized birds were sold after brief bidding for HK$129.5 million to Hong Kong tycoon Joseph Lau who has paid high prices for works by Andy Warhol and Paul Gauguin in recent years.
"Many pieces sold above the high estimates because of the provenance and as fresh material to the market," said Robin Markbreiter, the director of Arts of Asia magazine, at the sale.


A Forger With No Motive

This article, which is reprinted from the theartnewspaper.com caught my attention because this forger seems to be a bit different than our every day art world crook.. Father Scott and Mark Landis are two of the alias that this forger has used in approaching small museums and donating fraudulent works and not taking a tax donation. There appears to be no other motive other than the charade. Thirty museums have been identified as having received works of art over a period of at least 23 years.

NEW YORK. Museums and universities across the US are being targeted by a suspected art forger who has tried to donate works, complete with auction house records, that the museums now believe to be fakes. In September, a man posing as a Jesuit priest, visited the Hilliard University Art Museum in Lafayette, Louisiana, and tried to donate a work that the museum says was a skillful forgery.

Research into his previous donations at other museums has uncovered a history of what appear to be fraudulent gifts going back 20 years. Last month, Mark Tullos, the director of the Hilliard museum, emailed colleagues about fake donations. The email was circulated on the Museum Security Network and the American Association of Museums Registrar’s Committee listservs. According to Tullos, a man dressed as a Jesuit priest came to the museum wanting “to donate a painting in honour of his late mother. [He had] an elaborate story about his Philadelphia family—their patronage to museums. He brought an American impressionist painting he purported to be by Charles Courtney Curran with what appeared to be proof of provenance.”
Tullos said the man, calling himself Father Arthur Scott, first wrote to him on what appeared to be church letterhead. On Tullos’ invitation, Father Scott paid a visit. “He got out of a red Cadillac dressed like a priest, with the collar and pin,” said Tullos. The museum accepted the painting, issued a receipt, and Father Scott “blessed us in the parking lot” and left, said Tullos.
The director asked museum registrar Joyce Penn to examine the painting. “She said, ‘This doesn’t look right,’ so she went down to the art prep area and took out her blacklight.” The painting glowed suspiciously, so Penn used a microscope to take a closer look and discovered the tell-tale dot matrix pattern of a reproduction, which had been painted over and signed. Tullos admits that the forgery was good enough to fool him. “At first glance, you really could not tell. The hero of this story is our registrar,” he said.
The discovery reminded Penn of a previous incident. She pulled out a file and found a photo of a man who had called himself Mark Landis, who Tullos recognised as Father Scott. This man had also tried to donate a work to the Louisiana State University (LSU) Museum of Art in 2009. As Tullos started to contact museums, more and more cases came to light. His searches led him to Matthew Leininger, who first came across “Landis” in 2007 while working as a registrar at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and has compiled a dossier of his attempted donations.
Leininger says he became suspicious after the man donated a Louis Valtat watercolour to the museum, which became part of the collection. “He brought five more works to the museum, and we were getting ready to take the new pieces to the museum’s management.” These included a Paul Signac watercolour, a Stanislas Lépine oil on panel, a Marie Laurencin self-portrait, a French academic nude drawing and an Honoré Daumier sketch. As Leininger’s team researched the works, they came across a curiously similar Signac that had been donated to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Museum of Art in Georgia around the same time. A press release sent out by the museum announcing the gift also boasted of receiving works by “Milton Avery and Marie Laurencin, as well as a French academy drawing in red chalk,” all donated “by Mark Landis in honour of his father, the late Lt Cmdr Arthur Landis Jr.”
Leininger also used a blacklight to examine the Lepin. “Everywhere where there wasn’t paint it was glowing white,” he said, explaining that anything that wasn’t original oil paint should effloresce under the light, and he remembers the paint smelling “fresh”. Under microscope, pixels denoting a digital reproduction could be seen. He then discovered that the original Signac watercolour was in the collection of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. The Oklahoma museum rejected the works, including the Valtat, which was “deemed a forgery” and was deaccessioned.
Leininger believes that all the works he came across “look like they were done by the same hand. Of course each will have a slight variation.” The paints used in the watercolours also all appear to be from the same palette, says Leininger.
So far, Leininger has found over 30 US museums that have been approached by a man going by the name “Mark Landis”, or by apparently the same man using the name “Steven Gardiner” (the names used seem unlikely to be his real name). The list also includes institutions such as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, the St Louis University Museum of Art, the Michael C. Carlos Museum in Atlanta, the San Francisco Art Institute, the American Folk Art Museum in New York, and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. The earliest donation he found is a Laurencin watercolour, Portrait of a Young Girl, 1935, given to the New Orleans Museum of Art in 1987, but later deemed a forgery. Many of the museums have recently become suspicious of these donations, because no tax deduction forms were asked for—sometimes Landis/Gardiner explained this, saying that he was on disability with heart problems.
Leininger, who is now at the Cincinnati Art Museum (which has not been approached with suspicious donations), says he notified local police, the FBI and the IRS, but as he hasn’t actually committed fraud, “I don’t know what you could get him on. All I can do is let people know.”
Meanwhile, the Hilliard University Art Museum in Louisiana, plans to include the “Curran” in an exhibition exploring authenticity and forgery, entitled “Say It Isn’t Faux!”, set to open in January 2011. But Leininger has more ambitious hopes: “My dream would be to get all these works from all the different museums, host an exhibition in his name and invite him as the guest of honour. Then he’d really have heart problems.”

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Priceless by Robert Wittman - A Good Read?

Having met Mr. Wittman in a Philadelphia court room about 8 years ago I really wanted to hate this book and by extension the author. Unfortunately, however, I could not rationalize my bias and found the book informative and entertaining. This does not mean that I don't have some problems with some facts that clearly were not sufficiently checked and some cheap shots that could have been avoided.

I was in that Philadelphia courtroom in, I think, 2002  as a character witness for George Juno. Clearly Juno broke the law and clearly he made some very stupid decisions. History has proven that his partner Russ Pritchard, who has had additional problems with both civil and criminal proccedings - the latter which sent him back to jail in 2009, was the bad guy in this Juno Pritchard partnership. This is a point that Mr. Wittman might have made considering the respect that I believe he has had for George in the past and may have for George now. Juno was an idiot but he is one of the brightest most talented experts I have worked with in my career. George Juno would attest that I have beaten him up enough for his past mistakes. Knowing what I know now I would still testify for him as a character witness.

Undoubtedly, the most disappointing section of the book was Mr. Wittman's comments regarding the Antiques Roadshow. Clearly the implication was that when Juno and Pritchard were caught faking a segment with a Civil War sword, the Roadshow was no longer  perceived as having integrity. In Season Four Roadshow  was seen in almost 20 million homes every Monday night. Now ten years later Antiques Roadshow is still the top rated show on PBS. Having participated on the Roadshow since 1996 I can attest that the crew, staff, and appraisers are professionals that should not be tainted by the selfish moves of a few. In my opinion this was a gratuitous cheap shot. Mr. Wittman elaborated on his own problems with the false charges he had to endure with the death of his partner. Undoubtedly this was a difficult time for Mr. Wittman and his family. While I would agree that the loss of life certainly trumps anything that Juno and Pritchard did, the broad brush used by Mr. Wittman does not mitigate the potential damage that could be done to folks that don't deserve it.

Having said all that I did enjoy the book and would recommend it to anyone. And I would enjoy learning about all that stories that for one reason or another could not be included in the book.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

A Pre-Columbian Treasure?

A small, pre-Columbian figurine that came rolled up in T-shirts in an airline passenger's luggage was returned to Mexico, its country of origin, on Tuesday. The 2 1/2-inch artifact, which appears to have a face carved into it, was taken from a U.S. citizen who flew into Oakland International Airport Feb. 10, returning from a trip to Mexico.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer Jaime Gonzalez pulled the passenger aside to check his baggage as he was going through customs.
"I came upon this roll of clothing. The passenger did mention he had some rocks but he only had one (object)," Gonzalez said. "He was a little surprised, especially when I asked him if he had documents for importation."
Officials took the artifact away from the passenger after he failed to provide documentation, claiming he found it in the mountains of Ameca, in the state of Jalisco in western Mexico.
"It did not seem criminal at all," Gonzalez added. "It seemed more innocent than anything that he found it and picked it up."
The passenger did not contest authorities' decision to keep the artifact for further examination and there was no indication that he stole the artifact intentionally, said Richard Vigna, director of field operations for Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security.
Professors at UCSF, Stanford University and the University of Colorado Denver and other experts examined photos of the object and confirmed the article to be pre-Columbian - art of Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean before European colonizers arrived in the 15th century.
Experts determined that the artifact's style was consistent with items found in central Jalisco state and believe it could be the foot of a larger piece like an urn or vase.
"In reality, no monetary value can be attached to this object - it is invaluable," said Consul General of Mexico Carlos Felix Corona, during the repatriation ceremony at the Consulate General of Mexico in San Francisco.
Mexico has a large body of pre-Columbian art, Corona said. Often, farmers discover pieces through erosion but many get stolen for intended sale in the United States.
"Local authorities do not have all the resources for surveillance, but it is illegal to take any kind of object that you find there, according to Mexican law," he said. "Not even rocks can be taken from the sites."
Artifacts are occasionally repatriated to Mexico from the United States. Another pre-Columbian piece was found several years ago on a cargo plane, according to Vigna.
"It has happened before, but not very frequently in San Francisco," he said.
The National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico will assess the artifact and determine whether it will be placed in a museum.
"This is significant because with this action, we can maintain Mexico's cultural patrimony for present and future generations," he said.

This article was offered by Banderas News which is a website from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. They have quoted Richard Vigna, director of field operations for Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, professors at UCSF, Stanford University and the University of Colorado Denver, and Mexico's Consul General in San Francisco. All experts described this object as Pre-Columbian and worthy of both seizure at the airport and repatriation to Mexico. From what I can see from the photograph of the object, it appears to be a leg fragment from a vessel. Stylistically, this does not appear to me to be from the state of Jalisco. At a length of 2 1/2 inches, even it were authentic and I am not at all convinced, it would be more  no more $30 - $50.

My point in even mentioning this in this forum is to wonder what sort of accountability our enforcement officials have in spending your tax dollars wisely. Most taxpayers have no idea of the value or for that, matter even the issues surrounding Pre-Columbian art and repatriation. The media should not immediately without asking questions score this as a victory for the good guys.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Our Kim Kolker and Andy Warhol

In recent weeks I have had the opportunity to appraise a print by an artist who just continues to set auction records.

A client who in the 1990s purchased a signed and numbered Warhol print " Mick Jagger 140" found that her initial purchase price of $5,000, has since grown to a retail replacement cost in a gallery of approximately $90,000.  Signed by both Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol, this print was part of a series of 10 screenprints from 1975, in an edition of 250 with 50 artist proofs and 3 printer proofs, based on Warhol's own photographs. 

Warhol's work has been overall steadily gaining in price since the 1990s. Last time I checked Artnet.com, there were 331 galleries and auction houses that were selling his work.  Artcyclopedia lists his work as part of the collections of 144 museums worldwide. It is almost impossible to understand today's world of advertising and graphic design without knowing of Warhol's work. Certainly, a study of his current market influence could take someone months of studies, so I will not even attempt a crude condensation. However, I will say that even in craft stores like Michael's, one can purchase a Warhol-inspired canvas print of your favorite photo, one photo repeated in four equal quadrants and printed in bright, flat colors like a silkscreen print.

In 1986 I had the pleasure of meeting Warhol at a Dallas local bookstore signing for his book "America". It is primarily a picture book of 10 years of black and white Polaroid archives, culled from his exposure to the famous and elite like Betty Davis, Sylvester Stallone, Pee Wee Herman or Madonna, to anonymous crowds on American streets, accompanied by his own commentary. I was told much later that none of the pictures were actually taken by Andy. For a long time I thought this was true.  Just a little fun Andy was having and the joke was on me.  Now I am not so sure.  Given that he once called himself, "deeply superficial", I might never know. Let the buyer beware.

Pictures of the Month November 2010

Japanese Maple in North Carolina

Aurora Borealis, Canada

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia

Some Thoughts From Me for November 2010

Recently I seem to be repeating myself when I say that this world cannot get much crazier, but it always does. When the bumper sticker of the moment is literally centered about what the federal government can and cannot due with a citizen's junk, I tempted to believe that we may be approaching the limit of insanity. However, for your benefit and mine I won't even suggest that things can't get any wackier (spelling). Actually, with all the truly serious things going on - personal insanity and government stupidity becomes almost a bit of humorous relief.

On a serious note Roadshow lost a great guy and a true professional in Barry Weber who died last month of cancer. I spent some time with him this summer laughing with him at a late dinner in Billings, Montana  and then later in Miami Beach listening to his horrendous karaoke. (For the record  I am much worse).  In retrospect I am certain he knew how sick he was but kept it from all of us. It was his moment and he planned to play it his way. I respect Barry and genuinely liked him. He will be missed.

In this issue I have given you an update of  Fisk University selling off part of their Okeefe collection to Crystal Bridges in Arkansas. I get the fact that things change and sometimes you have to make tough decisions; however, Okeefe specifically said the collection could not be sold. In previous issues I have commented on how little our last wishes really mean and cited George Heye and  Albert Barnes as examples of philanthropists who also lost their battles in abstentia. The Fisk board provided only a pathetic defense of their actions. The judge in the case attempted a Solomonic resolution by not cutting the baby in half but it still didn't feel right.

My Park West articles - there now two new ones on the blog - point out sadly how even professionals that work in and around the art world sometimes fail to understand very basic elements in the buying, selling, insuring, and appraising of art. When this happens and expectations are not met then clearly bad things happen. I don't plan to wade into the legal swamp on this case. Park West Gallery is a very sophisticated operation and they know precisely what they are doing. Park West has carefully measured their liability and seemingly have a strategy to defend their actions. These legal cases will decide whether these strategies should prevail in the marketplace. The Park West case dramatically proves why we need more qualified personal property appraisers in the U.S. and Canada. We are now at around 2000 trained personal property appraisers - which is down 30% from a decade ago. And for people needing a job in a down economy there is plenty of work in this area.

Social Media and ArtTrak

In the past few months all those that work here at the gallery were convinced that we didn't have another minute to take on new projects and challenges. Well we were wrong. Many of you may recall a few short months ago when we introduced a new intern named Courtney Brown. Courtney finished the internship and is now on the ArtTrak payroll as a social media expert. You can already see big changes on our Facebook and Twitter sites. Soon we will be addressing another issue that  we face constantly. As a result of our participation on Antiques Roadshow, the Tribal Art Dealers Association, and our 36 years in business we spend a great deal of time answering questions from our clients, friends, and folks just researching on the Internet. We will soon begin answering these questions in HD video segments that will  be posted on Utube and linked off our various sites. If you have thoughts or requests on issues you want us to address, let us know.  JB

Breaking News at Teotihuacan Nov 2010

MEXICO CITY.- Iconographic studies of Teotihuacan murals confirm the extension of the lineage of a ruler of the ancient city of Tikal, Guatemala, already revealed by epigraphists of the Maya area. The aforementioned investigation sums up to interpretations of Stele 31 of Tikal that relate to the dynastic line of Atlatl-Cauac (“Dart-thrower Owl”), possible ruler of Teotihuacan between 374 and 439 AD, and whose son, Yax Nuun Ayiin I, was seignior of Tikal. The emblem of this lineage would be represented by the image of a bird with a shield, observed in Teotihuacan murals, declared Dr. Raul Garcia Chavez, researcher at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). There would be a relation between the register at Tikal and other Maya sites of late 4th century, which refers to the son of Atlatl-Cauac, Yax Nuun Ayiin I, as ruler of Tikal between 379 and 404 AD, commented the researcher during his participation at the 6th Academic Conference of Archaeology at Templo Mayor Museum. The archaeologist from Estado de Mexico INAH Center, remarked that a series of enthroned figures with eye rings and headdress began appearing at iconographic register of Teotihuacan from 370 of the Common Era, possibly symbolizing the supreme ruler of the Central High Plateau city. Iconography apparently indicates that the Teotihuacan ruler “was part of a clan whose emblem was an owl with a shield crossed by a hand taking up a dart or the dart-thrower. Sometimes it was represented with a cotton tassel headdress and the eye rings; others, without eye rings but enthroned”, explained the specialist. “Evidence (at Teotihuacan) is fragmented. Some representations at the murals, among them a green-feathered bird with a dart-thrower (atlatl) and a shield, could refer to this character “Dart-thrower Owl” or maybe to his representation as a mythic element”.
“This representation has been found in many examples of Teotihuacan mural painting. Nevertheless, most paintings are fragmented so iconographic discourse is incomprehensible”. Archaeologist Jorge Angulo Villaseñor, from INAH Direction of Archaeological Studies, commented that it is hard to believe that arrival of Teotihuacan people to Tikal and other Maya cities like Copan and Kamilnaljuyu, also in Guatemala, derived from a military conquest, since troop supply seems like an enormous effort, so it is feasible that there were political alliances. “In Teotihuacan there is a fragmented iconographic system that given the formal similarities makes sense. Numerous representations found in the Central High Plateau are evidence of a representation-communication system with a specific purpose, maybe veneration and exaltation of a group of persons, in this case, the supreme ruler of Teotihuacan, Atlatl-Cauac and his genealogy”, concluded Dr. Garcia.

MEXICO CITY.- The first images of the interior of the tunnel found under the Feathered Serpent Temple, in Teotihuacan, captured by a small robot introduced by archaeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), were presented to the media due to the relevance of the event in the history of Mexican archaeological research.
This is the first time a robot is integrated to archaeological exploration in Mexico; a similar devise was used in Egypt 10 years ago to explore a tomb.
Tlaloque 1, named after the mythological beings that helped Tlaloc, covered the first stretch of a tunnel that has not been walked for 1,800 years. Images reveal that the passageway built more than 2,000 years ago to represent the underworld, is stable enough to be explored by archaeologists soon.
During the presentation of the images to communication media representatives, the INAH national coordinator of Archaeology, Salvador Guilliem, was present. It was mentioned that this robotic device adds up to the technologies used by archaeologists in this project. Several weeks ago, geo radar was used to determine with precision that the tunnel conducts to 3 chambers, where the remains of important characters might have been buried.
Archaeologist Sergio Gomez Chavez, director of “Tlalocan Project: Underground Road”, informed that this is the first time that this kind of device is used in Mexico; “Apparently it had been used in Egypt, and us, as INAH researchers, are the first ones to develop it and use it in our country”.
Tlaloque 1 is a 30 by 50 centimeters by 20 in height, 4x4 traction vehicle. It is equipped with 2 remote-controlled camcorders that are able to do 360 degree turns; one at the front and the other at the back. The device has its own illumination source and transmits images to a computer monitor in the exterior.
Gomez Chavez mentioned that 3 months ago, it was programmed to use a device that could get into the tunnel and capture images of the interior, to evaluate the risks of entering the tunnel, since it has remained closed for thousands of years.
“The robot was designed and built especially for this investigation by engineer in Robotics Hugo Armando Guerra Calva, who obtained his degree at the National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico (IPN). Fifteen days ago the first tests were conducted and it worked well, but we noticed that we needed to reduce the height of the devise and provide it with more potent lamps.
“In the first test the robot advanced a few meters through a small space between the vault and the debris used to fill the tunnel. Images were very important to determine the conditions of the interior: the conduct was excavated in the rock; in some parts, the marks of tools used by Teotihuacan masons are still evident. The roof presents an arched form, and, at least the part explored by the robot, appears stable, giving us many possibilities to explore it physically in the next weeks”.
Although the tunnel was intentionally filled up with rocks and debris, Tlaloque 1 was able to cover a few meters through a 25 centimeters high space. Excavations must be conducted in order to clear the entrance. “We calculate we will be able to enter the tunnel in early December 2010”, declared archaeologist Gomez.
He declared that the device also captured details of the great carved rocks inside the tunnel: apparently they are sculptures or perfectly carved rocks, of great weight and dimensions, introduced by Teotihuacan people to close the entrance between 200 and 250 of the Common Era, nearly 1,800 years ago”.
The surface to be passed by the robot is covered with fine dust and sand, which provoked it to skid, so it was decided to increase the potency of the 4 engines to improve traction.
Two months after INAH announced the discovery of the tunnel, archaeologists have achieved to unblock the mouth of the Prehispanic passageway. After getting to the floor, it was confirmed with the help of a geo radar device, that it is nearly 2.5 meters high 4 meters wide and 100 long.
“Studies conducted with geo radar by Dr. Victor Manuel Velasco, from the Geo Physics Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), have detected 3 chambers in which the remains of important personages of the city might have been buried; this hypothesis must be confirmed with exploration”.
The tunnel was discovered in late 2003 by archaeologists Sergio Gomez and Julie Gazzola, but its exploration has required years of planning and resource negotiation so the most advanced technology can be used. A laser scanner device, which belongs to the INAH National Coordination of Historical Monuments, has also been used to conduct the 3-dimensional register of the tunnel.
Investigations –part of the celebration of the first 100 years of archaeological exploration and inauguration of public visits to Teotihuacan – have allowed to verify that the tunnel was constructed before the Feathered Serpent Temple and the Citadel, structures that were the scenario of rituals linked to original creation myths, while the tunnel must have been related to the underworld concept.