Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sothebys Paris African and Oceanic Art - Insanity Reigns

December 14, 2011 Sale Number PF1117
Sale Total (Including Buyers Premium) 9,306,200 EUR

With a total of 99 lots 21 were bought in and still the gross sales including the buyers premium reached almost 10 million euros. The black-faced Punu mask  sold for 1,016,750 more than doubling the high estimate. of 450,000 euros. The two sculpturally great but very strange Yoruba sculptures sold for 576,750 and 408,750 euros each which was within the range of the estimates. Marc Ginsberg must have felt brilliant when the Kikuyu ivory bracelet 6 1/8" in length and estimated at 80,000 - 120,000 euros sold for 312,750 euros. The biggest surprise may have been the Hungana ivory kneeling figure 3 1/8" in height estimated at 30,000 - 50,000 that sold for 780,750 euros. This was a very good day for Sothebys.

Kim Kolker - Art Exhibition

DALLAS TEXAS: December 2011 - Shango Galleries is proud to announce that  our Gallery Director and fine art appraiser Kim Kolker is exhibiting her artwork in a joint effort with Artistic Salon & Spa in Dallas. The exhibition will run through the end of February, and features current works by Ms. Kolker which focus in part on the dizzying speed and contradictory paces which our lives are subject to. More information  can be found at ,  on Facebook:  “Kim Kolker, Artist” or

Ms. Kolker has degrees in Fine Art (1989) and Secondary Art Education (1995) from the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas, as well as studies in the M.F.A. program for Independent Filmmaking at Ohio University, where her first film won an award at the Baltimore International Film Festival.  Her artwork is in private collections across the United States, and can also be found at Banc of America Securities locally.

At Shango Galleries we are pleased to have Ms. Kolker  as an accredited fine art appraiser with the International Society of Appraisers, specializing in appraising 19th and 20th century paintings and prints,  outsider, regional and Texas artists. She is a member of CASETA (Center for the Advancement and Study or Early Texas Art), Treasurer of the North Texas Chapter of the International Society of Appraisers, President elect for NTISA in 2012, and a member of the fine arts committee for ISA nationally.

Is Buying at Auction Always a Good Deal?

While private dealers have not had much to celebrate the past several years, the inching up of buyers' premiums and all the auction house charges associated with selling property, may be a bright spot that makes everyone a bit more competitive. We will focus on this in 2012 as an important consideration in art buying with shrinking budgets. Wouldn't it be fascinating to know what the auction houses are netting on private sales that don't have the scrutiny of public transactions.

Sotheby's Auction House
Euros - The buyers premium is 25% of the hammer price up to and including 15,000 euros, 20% of any amount in excess of 15,000 euros  up to and including 800,000 euros, and 12% of any amount in excess of 800,000 euros.
US dollar - The buyers premium is 25% of the hammer price up to and including $50,000, 20% of any amount in excess of $50,000 up to and including $1,000,000, and 12% of any amount in excess of $1,000,000.
Christie's Auction House
United States
 25.0% - Up to $50,000
 20.0% - $50,001 - $1,000,000
 12.0% - $1,000,001 +

United Kingdom
25.0% - Up to £25,000
 20.0% - £25,001 - £500,000
 12.0% - £500,001 +
25.0% - €0 to €20,000
 20.0% - €20,001 to €800,000
 12.0% - €800,001 +
Heritage Auction House
The new Buyer's Premium structure will affect the following auction categories:
• American Indian Art
• American Art
• European Art
• Furniture & Decorative Arts
• Illustration Art
• Jewelry
• Lalique & Art Glass
• Luxury Accessories
• Modern & Contemporary Art
• Music & Entertainment
• Natural History
• Photography
• Pre-Columbian Art
• Rare Books
• Silver & Vertu
• Texas Art
• Timepieces
• Vintage Guitars
• Western Art
For auctions in these categories, buyers will pay a premium of 25% of the hammer price on the first $50,000 of each lot purchased, 20% on the portion between $50,000 to $1,000,000 and 12% on any amount more than $1,000,000. The minimum BP of $14 per lot will also continue to apply.
The Buyer's Premium for auctions in other categories will remain unchanged at either 15% or 19.5%.

Victoria Reed, the MFA’s Curator of Provenance - Great Idea

When one hears of an idea like this latest curatorial appointment by  BMFA, you wonder why it didn't happen sooner. We will follow this closely as other institutions follow their lead in addressing the critical issue of collection history.

BOSTON, MA The Boston Globe   December 11, 2011 - "This spring in the Netherlands, a curator from the Museum of Fine Arts spotted a 17th-century gold medallion at the famed Maastricht art fair and knew she had to have it. There was just one problem: Nobody could tell her how the precious piece left Germany after World War II.
Enter Victoria Reed, the MFA’s curator of provenance. Her job, which is almost as rare in the museum world as is the medallion, is to research works with questionable histories both in the collection and on the MFA’s shopping list. As a result, Reed’s other job is to break curators’ hearts.
Through months of research, Reed traced the medallion to a museum in Gotha, Germany, that she knew had been looted during the Nazi era. With that information, the MFA’s jewelry curator, Yvonne Markowitz, put the brakes on its purchase. And in September, the Art Loss Register announced that S.J. Phillips Ltd., the dealer who had offered the medallion, would be returning it to the Castle Friedenstein museum.

“It shows our system is working,’’ said Reed. “It’s much better learning the information before than after this becomes a part of the collection.’’
That’s a polite way of explaining her role, which is to make sure the MFA is not embroiled in any of the controversies that have swirled through the museum world in the last decade. In this new era, museums discovered to be holding stolen items face lawsuits and claims from foreign governments that can be costly both in legal fees and in the court of public opinion.
The MFA, which like many museums has had to return works in recent years, took special care in creating Reed’s post in 2010. She is the first and only endowed curator of provenance at an American museum.
In the past, the MFA had conducted research the same way many museums do. Individual curators with expertise in a specific area were asked to do research between their other duties, whether organizing exhibits or acquiring new works. Across the country, a handful of other museum professionals research the histories of artworks as independent consultants or as one of the tasks that make up their jobs.
“It’s something we can’t do constantly the way Victoria Reed is,’’ says Martha Wolff, the curator of European painting and sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago. “Why is that? Time pressures.’’
Another issue is resources. What makes Reed special in the museum world is that her position, funded by MFA donor Monica S. Sadler, will not be cut from the museum’s budget when finances are tight.
“That a patron of the MFA recognized the importance of the issue makes Torie’s position unique,’’ said Nancy Yeide, the head of curatorial records at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. “That’s quite noteworthy and hopefully an impetus for others to do likewise.’’

Reed doesn’t spend all her time in libraries, scouring old auction catalogs. She also serves as the public face of the MFA’s efforts to properly vet art works.
One summer weekday, a group of college students, most of them art history majors, crowded around Reed in a gallery as she spun a fascinating, true tale involving Nazis, art dealers, and stolen paintings. It was like a mystery story, with the art detective hunting for clues.
Afterward, several approached with questions. Asked why they were so inspired, they didn’t hesitate. It wasn’t just the story. It was Reed herself.
Just 37, Reed, who goes by the first name “Torie,’’ is no dour researcher in Coke-bottle glasses. She is lively and easy to approach, an avid runner who favors colorful dresses and heels.
“You meet a lot of curators who aren’t ready to share why they’re so excited about what they do,’’ said Caitlin Costello, 21, an undergraduate majoring in art history at the University of Pennsylvania. “Just smiling and being animated, it’s amazing how much that helps get her message across.’’
The timing of Reed’s talk couldn’t have been better. Just a few days earlier, eight years of off-and-on research had culminated in the MFA’s dramatic announcement of recognition that “Portrait of a Man and Woman in an Interior,’’ an oil painting on a wood panel by the 17th-century Dutch painter Eglon van der Neer, had probably been stolen by the Nazis and passed through a New York gallery before ending up at the MFA in 1941.
The museum agreed to pay restitution to the heir of Jewish art dealer Walter Westfeld, who died in a Nazi death camp, and in exchange, the painting would remain on the MFA’s walls. The finding would give the museum a chance to show the world that it cared deeply about righting the wrongs of the past, when swashbuckling curators acquired paintings and sculptures without doing in-depth research on whether they had been stolen.
Standing in front of the painting in the MFA’s Art of Europe department, Reed told the students of her satisfaction in being able to shed light on an important era in history. Through her work, the public will now know about Westfeld, she said. A lengthy description of the painting’s path would hang on the wall next to the picture.
‘Geeky’ path to curatorship
Growing up outside Portland, Maine, Reed was an artsy and bookish kid.
Her younger sister, Mary Reed, still teases her for what she calls a geeky streak. To satisfy her physical education requirement, Torie Reed took part in a walking club. While other teenagers were out partying, Reed took language lessons at an Italian heritage center. When she was 16, she traveled to Siena, where she worked on watercolors.
“I joke that she’s always been an old lady,’’ says Mary Reed. “She’s more grown up than anybody else.’’Torie Reed’s path to the MFA started at Sarah Lawrence College, where she earned her degree before getting her master’s and a doctorate in art history at Rutgers University. After college, Reed worked as a research assistant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and, after that, served as a researcher at the Princeton University Art Museum.
She started at the MFA in 2003, hired as a research fellow for provenance in the Art of Europe department to look entirely at Nazi-era issues. It was an opportune time. Just a few years earlier, museum leaders had met in Washington, D.C., in a groundbreaking conference, to create the first real push for restitution for World War II thefts.
The MFA, like most US museums, had followed the common acquire-now, research-later philosophy of collecting. But in 2000, it took a dramatic step to address that. The museum put a list of works from its permanent collection with questionable acquisition histories on the Internet in a quest to solicit more information. That turned heads in the museum world. It also led victimized families, including the Westfelds, to contact the MFA.
“Most museums have their collections online,’’ says James Cuno, the former director of the Harvard University Art Museums and current director of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. “What’s different in this case, and is to be commended, is that they identified some works and set them apart from others.’’
That’s where Reed’s job began. Working on Nazi-era claims, she found her knowledge of Italian, German, and French was helpful. So was her determination to pursue all leads, whether in the MFA’s archives or by traveling to Germany to scour rarely viewed auction records and newspaper articles.
During those years, Reed decided that the World War II cases were, in a way, more complicated than those involving works dating to Roman times.
“If something was looted out of the ground in Italy, it’s a pretty clear issue,’’ she said. “Some of the Nazi-era claims are accompanied by ownership questions that may not have a paper trail. Many of the key players may be deceased. You may be dealing with 10 different archives. And even if you have the pieces lined up, there may be disagreement about how to interpret those facts.’’
The facts were often undeniable. Under Reed, the MFA resolved several claims, starting in 2004 when the museum returned to a Polish woman a 15th-century Polish painting, “Virgin and Child,’’ that Reed determined had been plundered during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 before being purchased by the MFA in 1970. Later, the MFA returned a statue stolen in Dresden, Germany, and an embroidered panel from Italy and, after making restitutions, held on to a group of 17th-century tapestries and the van der Neer.
A detective with critics
Not all of Reed’s research has resulted in guilty verdicts.
The MFA fought to keep an Oskar Kokoschka painting, “Two Nudes (Lovers),’’ after a claim was filed in 2007 by an Austrian woman. After reviewing Reed’s research, the MFA decided it had legal title to the work and even filed a lawsuit, which it won in 2009, to confirm its rights.
That led to something Reed had never faced as a behind-the-scenes player: criticism.
Raymond Dowd, a New York lawyer who has filed lawsuits over works that he maintains were taken by the Nazis, disagreed with the Kokoschka finding, particularly as it affected another case he was pursuing. On his website earlier this year, Dowd called Reed “a curator of provenance - which happens to be a synonym for a launderer of stolen artworks.’’
In an interview, Dowd refused to back down. He said the MFA and Reed should publish online the details of their investigations. He believes the MFA is, like the entire US museum community, reluctant to reach out to victims of World War II-era art looting.
“What happened in Vienna in 1938 and 1939, you either believe in the Holocaust that took place in that period and the grip that Adolph Eichmann had on those people or you’re an American museum denying that reality,’’ he said. “And she’s at the forefront of that denial.’’
Dowd’s attack bothered her deeply, Reed acknowledges, but she refuses to counterattack.
“I know that I sound defensive and I’m trying, as I get older, to sound less defensive,’’ she said. “But I think there are a lot of loud voices out there that are inaccurate.’’
The next day, Reed asks that even that mild criticism be struck from the record. She doesn’t want to come off too strong.
She does defend the MFA, which she says shares the results of all its Nazi-era provenance research on its website, on gallery labels, and in gallery talks. The only exception is when there is a legal matter that includes correspondence that is privileged.
Her understated approach is typical of Reed. She wants the evidence from her research to speak for itself without telling her boss, MFA deputy director Katherine Getchell, how to respond.
That makes perfect sense to Getchell.
“Her job is not to be a policymaker or decision maker,’’ said Getchell. “We want her focused on research and analysis and looking at the different options.’’
Reed’s job often takes her to the MFA’s off-site library at Horticultural Hall. On a recent afternoon, she sat with her notes at a table examining art history books on site. She wants to know more about a Dutch painting by Johannes Glauber, which the museum acquired from a dealer in 1979 with little knowledge of its background. She was examining a bronze from the 13th century that’s in the MFA’s Islamic art collection. There were also several works the museum was considering acquiring; she said she couldn’t reveal what those were.
“In the ’40s and ’50s, we might ask a dealer where something came from,’’ she said. “Today, we require much more information. We look at cultural property law, check stolen art databases, import and export records. If there’s a doubt, we postpone acquisition until we can clear up the question.’’
Reed shuffled through the papers on the desk as the subject of the van der Neer came up. Though the claim had been settled, many questions remained. The MFA knows the painting was probably stolen, but there’s a gap in the records from the point when it disappeared in the late 1930s to its reappearance in New York in 1941. Reed was eager to fill in the blank.
“In this work,’’ she said, “you’re never done.’’"
This is the third in a series of occasional articles on the complex issues surrounding some works in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Twa headrest, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Twa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Width - 8 7/8"
c. Early 20th century
Maurer/Margolis Headrest Collection

"The Brill neckrest is one of only a handful of these rare neckrests known. See DIA (1996:91, figure 60) for a closely related neckrest from a Detroit private collection.; Dewey (1993:64) for another from the Joss collection; Gillon (1979: 118, figure 148) for one from  the MRAC, Tervuren; and Celenko (1983: 208, figure 189) for one from the Eiteljorg Collection.
The Twa are a Pygmy group, at one point estimated at about 100,000 in population, living among the Luba and Mongo peoples. The name 'Twa' is Bantu for "little people". The Twa were nomadic hunters and the only Pygmy group known to produce wood carvings. The composition of the Brill neckrest is unusual with clear Kuba influence, particularly in the incised motifs at the top. The dynamic treatment of the figures displays an individualistic physiognomy and conceptualization." Sothebys New York 11/17/06 Lot 105 describing a Twa neckrest that sold for $45,000.

Feedback on the Blog and Newsletter

We have had a number of questions asking why we have a blog and a newsletter. The answer is simply that one complements the other. All articles are written and stored permanently on the blog. The newsletter features and links some of those segments and photographs for your easy access. The newsletter also provides links to websites that are helpful as well as the listing of other Internet resources.

I wrote my first segment for the blog seven years ago this month. The  mailing has grown from several hundred to now almost twenty five hundred. We appreciate the support of Constant Contact and their good efforts to keep us heading in the right direction. We do also appreciate your feedback both good and bad. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your perspective we have only received one very negative critique which accused me of pontificating and being both irresponsible and unprofessional. That gem will get a special response in our next newsletter when we again focus on Park West Gallery. But for 2012 tell us what you want us to cover and tell us how we are doing.  And thank you for the nice thoughts some of which are published below.

* Thanks so much for your newsletter. Yours is one of the very few (maybe only one) I read in its entirety every time it comes. As you know, tribal arts aren’t my area of specialty, but your newsletter always has information for anyone in the antiques and art business. It’s truly a news letter, and it contains your personal opinion, which I’ve always valued.  I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate it.

* Always enjoy your newsletter.  Attached is some news from us.  Feel free to share it liberally.
 *Thank you for your fine ARTTRAK Newsletter. Most likely this is the first time I have ever received it, or, perhaps as a consequence of my busy schedule, it could have been overlooked.  Regardless, please keep me on your e-mail list.

*Well, THAT was fun!  Always lively and informative..

* Great edition of the letter, John!

*Nice newsletter. Thanks for including me. 

* Thanks for getting back to me. No I don't wish to be taken off at all, the newsletter is very informative! But if possible would you amend the mailing list so that the newsletter comes to me directly as opposed to the general company address?

* We really appreciate your ArtTrak Newsletter, John.  It's really informative and we always learn so much.

*John---I loved your article on Park West Gallery---my business was next to his and we would see him make copies of works of prints in his basement....when are you coming to Detroit to see our show ???

*Thank you for including the news on your site!

As a final note, in our last Newsletter I rushed the publication and passed on the great expertise of both my assistant Kim and my wife Barbara as proofers. I am a terrible typist and a horrendous proofer, which was clearly proven in November's newsletter. Sorry about that. I will do better.

Some Thoughts December 2011

During some of my recent readings which run the gamut from politics to assassins, I recently came across a quote that was both simple and poignant and certainly appropriate for the season.  It was a question posed by a former U.S. Navy Seal, who ironically remained anonymous in providing this thought.
 If you couldn’t tell anybody about it, would you still climb Mt. Everest?

I hope I would.

Some Humor - Dumb Art Thieves

Dumb Madrid Art Thieves Tried to Sell Multimillion-Dollar Stolen Sculpture for Scrap

Considering that a small sculpture by Eduardo Chillida fetched €1.5 million ($2 million) at Sotheby's in 2006, three thieves' asking price of €30 ($39) for one of the artist's iron sculptures was certainly a bargain. This tip from a Madrid scrap merchant led police to recover 34 of 35 artworks stolen in a truck heist last month — a haul estimated at €5 million ($6.5 million) that also included pieces by Picasso and Botero.
On November 27, three men broke into a warehouse in Getafe, near Madrid, and drove off with a truck that was still loaded with artwork en route from an exhibition at the Stefan Röpke Gallery in Cologne, Germany. The thieves, who found the keys conveniently stowed in truck's glove compartment, were caught on security cameras as they entered the vehicle. The artworks were discovered yesterday in a different truck parked in the nearby town of Leganés. Police have not yet made any arrests, the Guardian reports.
A government representative in Madrid, Amparo Valcarce, said that the works are in "good condition." Only one piece was damaged when the glass over a picture was broken. Police did not publicly identify the one artwork that is still missing. The Spanish galleries that had loaned the art must be breathing a sigh of relief, especially since many of the pieces were not insured.

What's Happening in the Middle East

In the coming months we will focus on the private and public art markets and institutions in the Middle East. Having lived there for almost four years I can attest that only the past is certain. Inshalla is a word meaning Allah willing and is the ultimate disclaimer tacked on to any promise. If the promise wasn't kept,  the deal wasn't concluded, or the contract wasn't fulfilled, then clearly Allah didn't will it. The past five years indicate that the markets in China, Russia, and the Middle East are important to sustaining growth that is not happening in Europe and the United States.

abu dhabi. “The Guggenheim is certainly not cancelled,” the US ambassador, Michael Corbin, told me. “It’s just delayed due to cash flow problems and the Arab Spring”. This was at an exhibition of Middle Eastern artists hosted in the residence to show his general support for the role that art is playing in Abu Dhabi policy. There were more signs of official approval for the idea of art. A huge red ball is appearing in surprising places, such as the Zaha Hadid-designed bridge, and in shopping malls. This is an installation by Kurt Perschke to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Sheikha Salama, wife of the powerful Crown Prince, and her sister-in-law, Sheikha Shamsa, gave parties worthy of The Arabian Nights in their palaces for artists, dealers, journalists and assorted panjandrums, and Zaki Nusseibeh, adviser to the president of the UAE, invited lecturers at Abu Dhabi Art and artists to his house in the oasis of Al Ain. The Sorbonne Abu Dhabi has joined forces with the Louvre and Ecole du Louvre for a curatorial training programme.

So why the general feeling of uncertainty about the future for art in Abu Dhabi? Much of it can be put down to the chronic secrecy with which public affairs are conducted, fed by uncertainty about where the focus of power is at any moment. What is certain is that central government (that is, Abu Dhabi, the energy-richest emirate and the capital of the UAE) has been pouring money into the four, poor, northern emirates for infrastructure projects over the past year. This is an indirect response to the unrest in other countries in the region, which has not occurred in the UAE but has changed the priorities in the Executive Council, and led to the increased influence of Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, ­national security adviser and deputy chairman of the council, a relative conservative who believes that housing and hospitals come before museums.

The cash flow problems are real. Hundreds of expatriate staff have been let go from government offices; the British architects Austin-Smith: Lord (see facing page) have not been paid; the staff at Jean Nouvel and Foster & Partners, architects of the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Zayed National Museum respectively, are barely working, and the tendering process for the Guggenheim, a complex design by Frank Gehry considerably bigger than his Bilbao museum, has been cancelled, which may well mean that in the process of moving from concept to detailed design stage it has turned out to be simply more expensive than Abu Dhabi will accept and the design is being renegotiated. The Guggenheim director and curatorial team, who were much in evidence at Abu Dhabi Art 2010, did not come down this year due to “an unusually intense concentration of commitments”, as they told The Art Newspaper. This was interpreted by many at the fair as showing an undiplomatic lack of commitment on their part, and that top-notch acquisitions for the future museum would not be made this year; after all, who was to advise the buyers?

Bill Siegmann Memorial Services Set

This is reprnted from an email we received from Kevin Dumouchelle.

Dear Friends,
A memorial service for Bill Siegmann has been scheduled in New York at St. Luke in the Fields, 487 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014 at 3:30 PM on Sunday, January 8. 
For those in the area, there is also a service scheduled in Minneapolis at 1:30 on Wednesday, Dec. 28 at Lakewood Cemetery, 3600 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408.

Bill was one of the leading experts on the arts of Liberia and Sierra Leone. He wrote extensively on the arts of masquerades and age grades in this region, and on issues in museology, collecting, and interpretation. Bill also shared his skills in collections development broadly, conducting frequent seminars on museum management and curatorial training in Europe, Africa, and South America through grants from UNESCO and the U.S. Department of State. He also taught at numerous universities in Africa and the U.S.
I know that Bill's considerable generosity and openness of spirit has touched many in our field over the years. He has been a gracious friend and mentor to a great number, myself included. He was an invaluable resource, whose guidance and intellect was treasured. That strength, warmth, and wit remained unbowed, until the end.
I share my deepest condolences with his family and his many friends around the world.


 Kevin D. Dumouchelle
Assistant Curator
Arts of Africa and the Pacific Islands
Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11238
tel: (718) 501-6281
fax: (718) 501-6140

Happy Holidays 2011