Thursday, July 28, 2016

Simpson Estate Auction to be Held in October

Indiana University Museum Fails Again Spring/Summer 2016

Editor's Note: Noted collector, scholar, and artist Ray Wielgus passed away in 2010 leaving his world class ethnographic collection and a large cash bequest to the Indiana University Museum at Bloomington.  Ray's bond with the University started in 1957 when he lent objects to noted African scholar Roy Sieber who went on to create more successful post graduates than anyone before or since. In short they were both immensely talented and very close friends. Ray committed his collection to Bloomington before Roy passed away. In the years following Sieber's death Wielgus continued his association with IU and his promised gift. During this time certainly from 2006 onward assurances were made by both Heidi Gealt and Diane Perine that a new installation was in the works. A number of Ray's friends including me pleaded with Ray to impose some sort of controls on his bequest to ensure that the collection would be reinstalled properly. Ray believed Heidi and Diane and rejected these oversight suggestions whenever it came up before his death in 2010. Almost immediately Ray's closest friends and his executor knew the bequest was not going to go as planned. Many of you reading this already know that I have already covered this failure to respect Ray's wishes in previous issues of the Newsletter. You can search on Bloomington and see the report of my trip in 2012 to the IU Museum. I did get some criticism from Bloomington for this negative piece on their museum.
Before releasing the final sum of money Tom Senkerik (Wielgus executor) and I agreed to meet with Heidi Gealt, Diane Pelrine, and University lawyers at the museum in April 2013. We were given assurances that the collection was to be reinstalled. Remember Ray's bequest included almost 2.5 million dollars in cash plus a collection worth millions, which I can personally confirm because I did the appraisal. In a letter to Jane Katcher in 2011 the University confirmed that they would need 1.5 million for the new installation. Obviously either the number crunchers can't count or the University's priorities are elsewhere. In light of the huge bequest from the Eskenazi's  and new director, David A. Brenneman, I decided to make another visit to the museum to see if IU President Michael A. McRobbie had kept any of the promises made by the University.  He didn't. As of July 2016 they updated the lights and move the pieces around a bit.. no new installation. As you can see below from the Kiwai piece, it didn't move. The standing figure from Angoram which we call "Big Red" moved from the edge of one wall to a corner. Both objects are easily accessible to anyone.

Kiwai figure 2012
Kiwai figure 2016

Angoram fig 2012
Angoram fig 2016

Obviously for the many the friends of Ray Wielgus and the  passionate supporters of ethnographic art there is little we can do now to move a 10,000 pound gorilla like Indiana University. Obviously, the leadership of the University counted on that. But for those of us that are still vertical we can certainly be more careful with our last wishes and we can certainly hold those in contempt that will do or say anything to further their goals. Just maybe as evidenced by both our political left and political right possibly we are ready now to confront and challenge leadership. I wonder how many years after Sidney and Lois Eskenaki leave this planet will Indiana University forget their generous gift. I am betting that will be a factor of how much money is on the line and how many in the Eskenazi family want to fight. I hope they do better for their patrons than we did for Ray Wielgus.

  1. BLOOMINGTON - Indiana University Art Museum receives $15 mil to renovate its IM Pei building
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi.
BLOOMINGTON, IN.- Indiana University Art Museum has announced a landmark gift of $15 million from Indianapolis-based philanthropists Sidney and Lois Eskenazi. This is the largest cash gift in the museum's history and a lead gift toward renovation of its I.M. Pei-designed building, which opened in 1982.
The museum will be renamed the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art in recognition of the couple's generosity, effective immediately.
In addition, thanks to the gift-matching program and other generous philanthropy of the "For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign," another $20 million will be invested by the university to be used for renovation and gallery enhancements at the museum. These improvements will be designed by Susan T. Rodriguez of Ennead Architects of New York City and Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf of Indianapolis, and are anticipated to be completed by 2020.
The Eskenazis are also donating their collection of nearly 100 works of art, composed primarily of prints by 20th-century European and American masters. The collection includes a significant group of 34 etchings, lithographs and drawings by Spanish master Joan Miró from later in his career (1960s-1970s), complementing the museum's existing collection of 35 earlier Miró works from the 1930s to 1950s.
Other artists represented in the Eskenazi collection include Marc Chagall, Alexander Calder, Pablo Picasso, Sam Francis, Tom Wesselmann, Jean Dubuffet, Salvador Dali and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. This gift also marks the first works by Keith Haring and Paul Jenkins to enter the museum's collection.
One of the foremost university art museum collections in the country, the Eskenazi Museum of Art's encyclopedic collection contains more than 45,000 objects from ancient to modern times, including one of the country's leading holdings of art from Africa, the South Pacific and the Americas, as well as an extraordinary collection of modern and contemporary art.
"For 75 years, the Indiana University Art Museum in Bloomington has been one of the premier university art museums in the world and home to an acclaimed collection of works of art and other important artifacts from nearly every culture throughout history that has produced art," IU President Michael A. McRobbie said. "The museum has been a superb complement to IU's internationally renowned programs in the arts and humanities and has enabled IU to share these riches with the world.
"This is a tremendous moment for the art museum, and we couldn't be more grateful to Sidney and Lois for this incredible leadership gift toward the renovation," said David A. Brenneman, the museum's Wilma E. Kelley Director. "It seems only fitting that we are embarking on this exciting new chapter with the renaming and renovation as we celebrate the museum's 75th anniversary this year.
"The Eskenazi Museum is an incredible resource for the students, faculty, the Bloomington community and the entire state of Indiana, and we will continue to look for ways to engage new audiences and foster the interdisciplinary collaborations made possible by being a part of Indiana University. We look forward to sharing more details about this exciting project later this year."
"With this gift we are combining two of our greatest passions: Indiana University and art," Sidney and Lois Eskenazi said in a statement. "We are delighted that our collection, which we have loved building and living with, will find a home at the museum. We are excited to be a part of such a transformative project for the museum and the university, and we know that the newly renovated museum will be a go-to destination on campus and for the entire Bloomington community."
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi are recognized philanthropic leaders in central Indiana. Sidney Eskenazi grew up in Indianapolis, and both he and Lois Eskenazi are Indiana University graduates. Lois Eskenazi earned a bachelor's degree that enabled her to work as a medical and lab technician, and Sidney earned a Bachelor of Science as well as a Doctor of
Jurisprudence. Sidney established a successful real estate development company, Sandor Development Co., in 1963 and has built it into one of the nation's leaders, with 129 properties under management in 23 states. In addition to real estate development, Sidney has been a member of both the Indiana and the Illinois bar associations for more than 50 years.
The Eskenazis are longtime donors to Indiana University, starting in 1970 when Sidney established a scholarship fund. They have also supported the arts and art students by giving to the Herron School of Art and Design on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus, where Eskenazi Hall bears their name.
In 2011, the Eskenazis contributed $40 million for a new hospital and medical campus in Indianapolis now known as the Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital and Eskenazi Health, which at the time was one of the largest gifts to a public hospital in the United States.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Auction Houses 2016

1. LONDON - The folks at Paddle 8 and Auctionata are very excited to announce that the two platforms—one with strength in Europe and the other with a base in the UK and US—are merging. The announcement comes with a raft of slick publicity materials, including portraits of the founders and the management teams all sharing a satisfied moment. There’s also a video (click through the image above to view) extolling the merger with movie-trailer self-confidence.
ArtNews whose parent company (update: turns out the Paddle8 stake held by ArtNews’s parent company was not acquired with the site) owns shares in Paddle 8 puts the figures more precisely than the company press release:
The deal between the two online auctioneers creates a newly formed company that will lay claim to 793,000 registered users in 200 countries and more than $150 million in joint annual sales, making it, according to a news release announcing the deal, one of the top ten auction houses in the world outside of China.

2. NEW YORK - The BBC does a quick limning of the week’s big buyer, Yusaku Maezawa who took
two days to acquire seven works worth nearly $100m and, in the process, pretty much saved the Spring New York auction cycle.
It is no secret that the art market follows influential collectors in whatever category they are passionate about. It is rare, though, for a buyer to emerge in this way, making seemingly random purchases of what happens to be on offer. It remains to be seen whether a buyer like Maezawa can shore up confidence and provoke more buyers to follow him.
In the meantime, the BBC offers some background information on the man:
Yusaku Maezawa made his money setting up the Start Today company in 1998 and online fashion retailer Zozotown in 2004.
The companies made him a billionaire by his mid-30s, and at the age of 40, Forbes magazine listed him as the 17th richest man in Japan with a personal wealth of $2.7bn. […]
Mr Maezawa is also the founder of the Contemporary Art Foundation in Tokyo, which he says puts on public shows twice a year.
He said in a statement he also plans to open a private gallery in his hometown of Chiba.

3. NEW YORK Heritage Auctions - Art Market Monitor
Global Coverage ~ Unique Analysis
Artelligence Podcast: Heritage Auctions’s Leon Benrimon
April 27, 2016 by Marion Maneker
Leon Benrimon is spearheading Heritage Auction’s expansion into Modern and Contemporary art and sales in New York. He speaks here about his focus on the middle market of works ranging in value from $10,000 to $1m, why he thinks that market is going to expand dramatically and Heritage’s unique use of the web for bidding and selling.
Leon Benrimon to lead Modern and Contemporary Art in New York at Heritage Auctions
Heritage continues to expand Modern and Contemporary in New York
Leon Benrimon
NEW YORK — Leon Benrimon has joined Heritage Auctions as Director of Modern and Contemporary Art for its New York office, continuing the company's expansion into the market. This follows Heritage's April 2015 announcement that it is effectively doubling the size of its Park Avenue space.
"Leon is an incredibly bright talent with a great eye and the drive to grow the category," said Greg
Rohan, President of Heritage Auctions. "As a company we anticipate great things from him as we continue competing for and auctioning the best available material in New York."
Prior to joining Heritage, Benrimon owned Benrimon Contemporary in New York, where he sold blue chip artworks on the secondary market in association with historical exhibitions, while dedicating himself to representing and supporting emerging, established and mid-career Contemporary artists working in a variety of mediums.
Leon grew up immersed in the art world, with parents who both own art galleries, and three siblings, all of whom also currently work in the art world. He received his Master's Degree at Christie's Education in New York and worked at family owned galleries on Fifth and Madison Avenues at David Benrimon Fine Art.
"I look forward to getting to work with the Heritage team in New York curating auctions and corresponding exhibitions that present collectors with innovative ways to explain the continuum of Modern and Contemporary art," he said. "I want my work to foster growth for the collectors, for institutions, for Heritage and for its staff."
His specialty will be working with new collectors and post-war artists — such as Warhol, Lichtenstein, Prince, Basquiat, Longo, Kusama Haring, Murakami and Hirst, among others.

Art Economy Spring/Summer 2016

1. NEW YORK - Gigaweek Closes As Christie’s Imp-Mod Is Managed to a Soft Landing
May 13, 2016 by Marion Maneker
Rumbler in the Box
Even in its reduced state, the current week of auctions in New York has resulted in slightly more than $1bn in sales. This season’s gigaweek was accomplished not by the addition of special sale but by the combination of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary markets into a single weeks of sales.
Will the outcome be sales line-ups that merge the categories and featured evening sales that set the tone across categories and day sales focused on specific sub-markets? Possibly. Or this week’s sales could be a reflection of a broader cautiousness in global markets for real estate, financial products and commodities.
“The volumes are down hugely,” said Philip Hoffman, chief executive officer of Fine Art Fund Group in London. “People were not prepared to consign major works after the January collapse of the stock market. Everyone was worried if they would be able to sell.”
Comparing art markets against equity markets is rarely productive. In this case, the January stock swoon might have affected consignments but the current market strength ought to have brought out the buyers. Kazakina also heard another variation on the idea that demand remains but supply has been truncated:
“There’s money and there’s willingness,” said Michaela de Pury, a private art dealer based in London, who bought a $15.4 million painting by Cy Twombly for a client at Sotheby’s on Wednesday. Auction houses “need to focus on getting in triple-A works at good prices. Then the market would do very well.”
Finally, Bloomberg’s reporter spoke to a dealer and former auction house employee who was just not impressed:
“There was not much to get excited about in this sale,” said Emmanuel Di Donna, whose New York gallery specializes in modern and postwar art. “They’ve covered their base and often sold on one bid. Feels selective.”
The natural question is whether this fresh face is bidding for the now sought-after Asian clientele. Here’s Duray on the matter:
Asian bidding seemed strong on the phones, especially for the Hepworth and another Monet. At the press conference after the sale Jussi Pylkkanen, Christie’s global president, put Asian buying at around “20% by lot”, the same as the auction house’s earlier sales in the week.
After a rough go at Sotheby’s on Monday evening, when four of the eight Pablo Picasso works failed to sell, the atmosphere changed for the better on Thursday, with all nine at Christie’s selling, including “Homme assis” from 1969, a late and richly colored Mousqetaire swordsman outfitted in a yellow doublet, which sold to international dealer David Nahmad for $8,005,000 (est. $8-12 million).
Christie’s Imp-Mod Auction Totals $141.5 M., Secures Record With $8 M. Frida Kahlo  (ARTnews)
In Gun-Shy Art Market, Bellwether Auctions Decline More Than 50%  (Bloomberg)
Impressionist and Modern Works at Christie’s Stir Little Excitement  (The New York Times)
Tepid Impressionist and Modern sale at Christie’s concludes New York auction week (The Art Newspaper)
Christie’s Mild-Mannered Imp/Mod Closer  (BLOUIN ARTINFO)

2. NEW YORK n all of the talk about the Spring Contemporary art sales where many commentators focused on the 90% drop in Christie’s curated evening sale or the weakness in the Impressionist and Modern art market, not much has been said about the drop in sales volume for the three major houses Contemporary art day sales.
These sales are the live blood of the art trade where dealers, advisors and collectors buy stock, spot trends and the auction houses make the majority of their profit because the works in these sales aren’t as competed for. So here’s where an auction house will fatten its margin or just make its operating costs.
The big news of the weeks was that Sotheby’s day sale was down substantially to $54m. The New York Contemporary art day sale at Sotheby’s hasn’t been at that level since 2010. With such a striking pullback, what does the sale mean? And where did Christie’s and Phillips come out?
Instead of looking at historical charts of the sales, we have some detailed analysis of each sale from Lisa Prosser who is the data guru at Athena Art Finance. Prosser’s infographics show some very interesting details about each of the sales.
Take Sotheby’s, which saw the bigger drop, where the hammer price on the sale came in below the low estimate by 5%. That tells us demand was weak and estimates were too high. Nonetheless, only
Sotheby’s day sale was never going to reach the levels of previous years. Whether that is because Sotheby’s made a strategic decision to focus on greater visibility for its Evening sale lots or the lack of manpower from recent staff loses made it harder to shepherd a substantial day sale, hitting the high end of the estimate range would still have given Sotheby’s a shortfall from the previous year.
Sotheby’s also guaranteed seven of the day sale lots, an unusual practice borne out by the fact that three of those guaranteed lots sold below the low estimates. There was some good news in the day sale when a Calder mobile made a strong price almost twice the high estimate at $2.17m.
16% of the works were sold below the low estimates and a healthy 77% of the works found buyers. That suggests consignors were more than willing to stand their ground and try to get their minimum price privately.

3. NEW YORK - Sotheby’s bounces back with steady contemporary art sale
Auction exceeded expectations after disappointing results for Impressionist and Modern art on Monday
by Dan Duray  |  12 May 2016
Sotheby’s bounces back with steady contemporary art sale
Last night, Sotheby’s made up for Monday’s dismal Impressionist and Modern evening sale (where 21 of the 62 lots went unsold) with a solid contemporary art sale that saw just two of the 44 lots fail to find buyers for a hammer total of $209.6m, squarely within the estimates of $201.4m and $257.5m.
The sale’s total with premiums, $242.2m, was a far cry from last May’s total of $379.6m but these are different times. The evening saw no new records for artists and was led by a blue Cy Twombly blackboard work from 1968 that hammered for $32.5m with just one bid. The work carried no guarantee but seven of the other top ten lots did.
"There's still plenty of money out there," said the dealer Emmanuel Di Donna, formerly worldwide vice-chairman of Impressionist and Modern art at Sotheby's. "It's just a matter of a readjustment." The top lots, he said, were not as strong, but the house had managed to smooth that out with guarantees, and put together a good sale with middle market lots.
Matthew Paris of White Cube gallery, said that he too was impressed with the sale that Sotheby's had managed to put together in this market. "Both them and Christie's last night," he said, "really went to war for these lots."
One bright spot in a series of auctions that showed much reduced market activity was a seemingly-new Japanese buyer on the international art scene. Yusaku Maezawa, the billionaire founder of the online fashion mall Zozotown, who last night bought Adrian Ghenie's Self Portrait as Vincent van Gogh (2012) for $2.6m and Christopher Wool's Untitled (1990) for $13.9m. Maezawa also revealed that he was the buyer of Jean-Michel Basquiat's 1982 canvas that sold for the top price at Christie's on Tuesday evening for $57.3m, as well as of Richard Prince's Runaway Nurse (2007) for $9.7m, both artists' records at auction. Maezawa runs the Contemporary Art Foundation in Tokyo.

4. NEW YORK Luxury Tower Inventory in Manhattan Grows, Cooling Once Red Hot Market
May 2, 2016 by Marion Maneker
The highest value end of the real estate market has been a good measure of health of the art market for some time. Does that mean recent reports of excess inventory among New York’s new developments is a sign of lowering demand?
The Real Deal has this observation about delayed sales for New York’s newest towers:
Despite off-the-charts construction activity in New York City’s residential sector, new development inventory plummeted a whopping 44 percent during the first quarter of 2016, according to a report from Douglas Elliman and appraisal firm Miller Samuel. According to the report, there were 753 new condos for sale at the start of 2016, compared with 1,345 units a year prior. By comparison, Manhattan’s overall inventory level inched 5 percent higher during the first quarter, with 5,506 properties for sale during that time. “Developers continued to either pull units from the market or were slow to replenish them in order to keep marketing [time frames] at lower levels,” wrote Miller Samuel President Jonathan Miller. “The pace of contract absorption remained well below years-ago levels, as the weak U.S. dollar and increasing competition reset demand to a lower level.”
Miller said new development inventory has dropped for three consecutive quarters. “That’s a tangible indication of when contract volume cooled off and when the market changed,” he said, adding that the cooldown coincided with a weakening U.S. dollar and more inventory in the high-end condo market (at least initially).

5. NEW YORK How Correlated Are Art Returns to Other Assets ?
April 28, 2016 by Marion Maneker
Deloitte SC 10 years
Buried in a US News story on art as an investment is some pretty astonishing stuff from Michael Moses of the Mei Moses Art Index which uses repeat sales to measure art asset values.
The assumption has always been that the the rise in art asset values during the overall economic slump of the global credit crisis was an anomaly. But Moses claims here that over the long term there is no correlation between art prices and financial asset prices:
The broad art market has provided compound annual returns of 5.7 percent in the last 30 years and 8.8 percent for the last 60 years, says Michael Moses, founder of consulting firm Beautiful Asset Advisors.
Better still, the index of broad art market prices is uncorrelated with those of other asset classes, such as stocks or bonds. “The stock markets went down in 2008 and our indexes were flat to a little up in 2008,” he says. The art indices “dropped substantially in 2009,” as the stock market rebounded. He pegs the long-term correlation at close to zero. That lack of correlation reduces overall volatility when art is part of a larger portfolio. The lower the volatility, the lower the risk. How much art should be in a portfolio? Moses says it depends on individual circumstances, but 10 to 20 percent is reasonable.

6. Scott Reyburn moved up his normal publication schedule to offer a summation of last week’s sales. But the responses he got from market participants seem hard to parse. Take this from one art advisor who tells us that uncertainty isn’t the barrier to selling, it’s the lack of guarantees.
“The market has definitely shrunk,” said Wendy Cromwell, an art adviser in New York. “But that isn’t a result of sellers not wanting to sell in an uncertain market, but of a lack of spectacular guarantees” that flush out the best works. “There’s a cause and effect,” she added, explaining the absence of big-ticket works in last week’s auctions.
But guarantees only exist to removed risk—another term for uncertainty—from the sales equation. Reyburn and Cromwell don’t tell us what the real impediment is, if not uncertainty. Could it be that those who own art don’t need to sell at all? In other words, without a guarantee locking in a price too attractive to pass up, the sellers just aren’t selling. If that’s the case, it only further confirms that guarantees don’t inflate the market, they subsidize it.
Another head-scratcher is this comment on the Impressionist and Modern market that suggests all of the great works in that category sold during the last decade and a half have been donated to museums and will never return to the market:
“There just isn’t the quality left out there any more. All the great pictures are in museums,” said the London dealer Alan Hobart, who was at Christie’s Impressionist and modern evening sale on May 12 to see a square 1919 Monet, once part of a rectangular waterlily canvas, sell for $27 million, the top Impressionist price of the week.
A more likely scenario is that demand has narrowed. In 2007, there was broad demand for a variety of Impressionist and Modern works that were snapped up by emerging market buyers. Many of those buyers have had reversals of fortune and many others have migrated in their tastes. The Old Master and Impressionist markets seem to struggle not with quality, as we saw last year with three Modern works setting nine-figure prices, but with volume. The market structure gets truncated which seems to squelch demand. That in turn makes it difficult to attract supply to the market.
Finally, there’s been great deal of chatter in the art market suggesting the May sales would have been a shock to the system without the $100m in purchased by Yusaku Maezawa. But others point out most of his purchases had underbidders, sometimes more than one. So the sales might have happened just at a slightly lower level.
“They were lucky to get that Japanese client; otherwise, it could have been a different story,” said Judith Selkowitz, another adviser in New York. “But the fact is there’s still a lot of money around. Buyers are just a lot more selective. It’s good to rebalance, and it’s healthy that everything isn’t running away.”
Josh Baer was also quick to point out in his newsletter this week that Maezawa bridles at the depiction of himself as a neophyte shopper.

7. NEW YORK Scott Reyburn has a spot on column about the New York marquee sales this coming week which are markedly down in estimates and likely to show a dramatic contraction in the very top of the art market. Art advisors Reyburn spoke to rightly point to the diminished sales subsidies offered by the auction houses in the form of guarantees, direct or third party:
“A sea change has occurred at auction,” said Wendy Cromwell, an art adviser in New York. “The night sales are smaller, the estimates more conservative, the guarantees less exuberant, the great works fewer and far between.”
At the moment, Ms. Cromwell added, discretionary sellers will not part with masterworks “unless they are offered ridiculous sums of money.”
But Todd Levin gets right to the heart of the matter by pointing to Christie’s as the primary driver of the guarantee engine:
“The guarantees aren’t there anymore at the highest level,” said Todd Levin, another art adviser in New York. “Christie’s has stepped back, and the market is no longer on steroids and is returning to its normal state.”
The chart above shows the last New York Contemporary evening sale where Christie’s and Sotheby’s were neck-and-neck in the fight for market share.
Starting in 2013, Christie’s hit the afterburners by opening the guarantee book and pulling away significantly. Since this chart, Sotheby’s has caught up but the November 2014 sales were the peak of the guarantee-supported market:
Reyburn also has some color on Sotheby’s where Amy Cappellazzo offers her trademark quote grafting financial terms uneasily onto the art market:
“Our position on guarantees is to do them when we have calculated that it is a good financial opportunity for Sotheby’s, more like private equity decision,” said Amy Cappellazzo, chairman of Sotheby’s Global Fine Arts Division. “We feel confident about the deals that have been done for May, and expect to be pleased with the results.”
It’s not clear what Cappellazzo means by a private equity decision. But since private equity deals are levered (meaning their financing is mostly in the forms of loans) and guarantees are not loans but full equity positions (to continue with the financial lexicon,) the metaphor seems to falter. What Cappellazzo seems to want to get across is the simpler idea that they won’t offer guarantees where they don’t see a way to profit, which is quite sensible.
Finally, Todd Levin reminds us that Sotheby’s sale results are likely to reflect the recent staffing changes more than its market share:
“The brains trust has been depleted and it’s really affected their competitiveness,” Mr. Levin said. “Sotheby’s evening auction is about 10 lots short of what it should be.”

Foreign Buying in US Real Estate Drops By $10 Billion, Significant for Art Market?
July 7, 2016 by Marion Maneker
The Wall Street Journal has a story based on a new report from the National Association of Realtors that might give us a few clues about foreign spending in the US art market.
There’s no direct correlation between art and real estate or art and luxury real estate. But the two markets have had a tendency to trade in similar patterns. Anecdotally we know that there is a slowdown in buying in Manhattan and Miami at the very upper end of the range. There’s also been a big pull back in the art market above $10m.
Here the Journal gives a few clues, including the insight that Chinese buyers are again the big payers in the US market. Chinese account for 1/4 of the dollar volume sold to foreign buyers which was $27bn last year:
Purchases of U.S. residential real estate by foreigners who aren’t residents of the United States fell by $10 billion in the year ending March to $44 billion, the lowest level since 2013, according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors released Wednesday.
A strong U.S. dollar and weakening economies in Europe, South America and China along with rising U.S. home prices have hurt the purchasing power of foreign buyers. Tighter restrictions by the Chinese government on moving money out of the country also have made it more difficult for people there to buy U.S. homes. […]
While foreigners make up a tiny share of the U.S. housing market, they are critical to small, lucrative segments of the industry. Miami and Manhattan developers are relying on foreign buyers to help fill a swell of high-priced condos coming to market in the next couple of years. The high-end housing market in San Francisco and southern California also gets a significant boost from foreign purchasers.

Strange Happenings Spring/Summer 2016

1. NEW YORK - Christie’s kicked off the spring auction season in New York last evening (8 May) with Bound to Fail, a curated sale that set seven new artist records, including a new high for Maurizio Cattelan whose statue of Adolf Hitler, Him, sold for $17.2m with premium. Despite the sale’s title, only one of the 39 lots on offer failed to sell. The work by Cattelan was the highest-selling lot of the evening as well as the last one. Bidding was healthy over the five minutes it took to attain its $15.2m hammer price, with four phone bidders and Philippe Segalot bidding for a client on his mobile.
Other artist records were established for Paola Pivi, Neil Jenney, Olivier Mosset, Daniel Buren, Rebecca Horn and John Armleder: all greats of their eras, overdue for such financial praise. In all, only eight of the sold lots failed to go for within or above estimate. But with the $78.1m sale total (including premium) falling at the lower end of the $59.3m to $81m pre-sale total estimate (excluding premium), the evening was not the runaway success that the records and sell-through rate might suggest.
Ten of the lots had only one bidder. David Hammons' Stone Head (2005), for example, hammered around its low estimate for $850,000 with just two bidders: Robert Mnuchin (who placed the lot in the sale from the current Hammons show at his gallery) and Loic Gouzer, Christie's deputy chairman of post-war and contemporary art in New York, who organised the sale. Still, the house seemed to make money, and for a Sunday afternoon the sale was well attended. “Loic is one of my good friends so I'm here to support him,” the socialite Paris Hilton said after the sale. “I love him. I think he's an amazing man. I'm really proud of him today.”

Art Forgeries and Theft Spring/Summer 2016

1. Art forger goes straight selling £5,000 fakes
May 8, 2016 – 06:45
Art forger goes straight selling £5,000 fakes
Robert Mendick , Chief Reporter
These masterpieces should be worth in the region of a half a billion pounds. Except they are fakes produced by David Henty, a convicted forger who produced them in the living room of his house by the seaside Brighton.
Mr Henty was exposed by The Telegraph a little over a year ago for selling his copies on eBay, duping hundreds, if not thousands, of the internet auction site’s customers in the process.
But proving there’s no such thing as bad publicity, Mr Henty has turned the notoriety to his advantage.
"“Since you did those stories, I have had quite a few commissions. I can’t thank The Telegraph enough.”"David Henty, master forger on going straight
The Telegraph investigation, which prompted interest from newspapers and television stations around the world, has led to Mr Henty going straight.
At the end of the month, an art gallery will stage an exhibition of his copies of masterpieces by the likes of van Gogh, Picasso and Modigliani.
With paintings priced at up to £5,000 a time, Mr Henty is expecting to do decent business.
“Since you did those stories, I have had quite a few commissions,” Mr Henty said. “People read about me in The Telegraph and elsewhere and sent me letters requesting I do copies for them of masterpieces.
“As a result, I decided to go straight and business is brilliant. I can’t thank The Telegraph enough.”
At the age of 58, and after a career in crime, the admission from Mr Henty is a bold one.
He was jailed for five years in the mid 1990s for forging thousands of fake British passports which he planned to sell to anxious Hong Kong citizens ahead of the handover to China.
The scam would have earned him a £1 million and might have worked, not least if he hadn’t mis-spelt the words ‘Britanic’ and ‘Magesty’. He went to jail a second time in Spain for selling stolen cars.
His eBay scam involved copying works by slightly less famous – and usually dead – artists, luring buyers in with claims that the paintings had been found in attics and in house clearance sales and that the authenticity could not be guaranteed.
In fact, Mr Henty knew the artwork couldn’t be genuine because he was churning the paintings out in his living room, as he later confessed when confronted by The Telegraph.
It was hard for him to conceal he was the artist behind the fakes, not least because he drives around in a car with the personalised number plate “V9OGH” in self-recognition of his skills as a counterfeiter of van Gogh’s work.
“I think eBay has had its day for fake art,” he said, “For the last few months I have been
concentrating on these masterpiece copies. I have done a lot of research. I have been to the galleries and studied them in the flesh. The paintings are all the exact size of the originals.
“I have got 30 or 40 paintings for the exhibition. I have just done a 6ft Francis bacon that I am really pleased with. I have tried to get them as accurate as possible.”
The exhibition at the No Walls Gallery in Brighton will be his first as a legitimate copier. The opening night will be attended by Peter James, the best-selling author of crime fiction who has just completed a book about real life criminals in Brighton written in conjunction with Graham Bartlett, the city’s former chief superintendent, who arrested Mr Henty for the passport scam.
The pair – detective and villain – have struck up an unlikely friendship in recent months. Mr Henty’s passport scam is a chapter in the book, entitled ‘Death Comes Knocking’ and which is published in the summer.
The endorsement of Mr Henty’s art by Mr James, who has sold 17 million books worldwide, will further boost his chances of artistic success.
A satellite television channel is also planning to make a programme around Mr Henty in which one of his fakes will hang with genuine masterpieces in a gallery.
Contestants have to spot the forgery. Whether they succeed or not will be testament to Mr Henty’s skills as a master forger.

2. WASHINGTON DC - Highlights from the US Hearing Entitled “Preventing Cultural Genocide: Countering the Plunder and Sale of Priceless Cultural Antiquities by ISIS”
Posted: 20 Apr 2016 05:47 AM PDT
On April 19, 2016 the US House Financial Services Committee Task Force on Terrorism Financing held a one panel, two hour and fifteen minute long hearing entitled “Preventing Cultural Genocide: Countering the Plunder and Sale of Priceless Cultural Antiquities by ISIS” in the Rayburn House Office Building.
A 16 page introductory memorandum and witness biography can be found on the US House of Representatives Financial Services website here.
During this hearing, testimony was given by: (in alphabetical, not speaking order)
• Dr. Amr Al-Azm, PhD, Associate Professor, Shawnee State University
• Mr. Robert M. Edsel, Chairman of the Board, Monuments Men Foundation
• Mr. Yaya J. Fanusie, Director of Analysis, Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance,
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
• Dr. Patty Gerstenblith, PhD, Distinguished Professor, DePaul University College of
• Mr. Lawrence Shindell, Chairman, ARIS Title Insurance Corporation
During the hearing witnesses described the unabated and systematic process of cultural heritage destruction in Iraq and Syria and antiquities looting in the region which has grown steadily given the regions' instability. 
Secretary of U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, Patty Gerstenblith, speaking in a personal capacity and for the Blue Shield organisation she represents testified before the Financial Services Committee’s Task Force saying, in part
“Unfortunately the looting of archaeological sites is big business, often carried out on an organised industrialised scale and in response to market demand.  And many of these sites are unknown before they are looted. 
As cultural objects move from source, transit and destination countries different legal systems create obstacles to interdiction of objects and prosecution of crimes and they allow the laundering of title to these artefacts. 
The United States is the single largest market for art in the world, with forty-three percent of market share.  Because of the availability of the charitable tax deduction, the ability to import works of art and artefacts without payment of tariffs and because of artistic preference the United States is the largest ultimate market for antiquities, particularly those from the Mediterranean and the Middle East."
A transcript of her testimony can be read in its entirety here.
While key takeaways from this hearing conversations can be found here ARCA strongly encourages its blog readership to take the time to listen to the entire hearing and examine the legal instruments evidence Dr. Gerstenblith underscores as being necessary. 
She reminds us that looting of archaeological sites imposes incalculable costs on society by destroying the original contexts of archaeological artifacts thereby impairing our ability to reconstruct and understand the historical record. Her testimony reminds us that looters loot because they are motivated by profit and that the looting and illicit trafficking phenomenon we are seeing in Iraq, Syria and Libya responds to the basic economic principle of supply and demand.  
The statements of all of the speakers remind us that while the market in antiquities has existed for centuries, its role in facilitating criminal enterprise on the scale that we are seeing in the Middle East is a terrifying one. 
Maamoun Abdelkarim of Syria’s DGAM inspecting the condition of delivered
artefacts transported from various parts of Syria to Damascus on Sept. 21, 2015.
Antiquities collectors must be educated to understand that the purchase of objects emerging on the open market without legitimate collection histories (i.e. provenance) are the likely product of conflict-based looting of archaeological sites, and contribute significantly to the destruction of the world's cultural heritage.  Buyers need to be made to realise that their buying power and their until now unharnessed demand for archaeological material, absent transparent ethical acquisition documentation, incentivises those facing economic hardship to participate in, or tacitly condone,  the looting that we are observing in these current countries of conflict in the Middle East. 
If collectors in market nations such as the United States and London refuse to buy undocumented artifacts, then the incentives for looting historic sites, which by proxy funds criminal enterprise and terrorism, would diminish.
Armed conflicts have long been called the “perfect storm” within which large-scale looting can take place, but not without collectors willing to look the other way.
By Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO

Book Review Spring/Summer 2016

1. NEW YORK Will It Always Be Just Sotheby’s & Christie’s?
May 3, 2016 by Marion Maneker
de Pury, The Auctioneer
NPR has a brief story on Simon de Pury’s new memoir, The Auctioneer. In the story, ArtNews’s Nate Freeman makes a strange comment given the growing number of auction houses growing in the so-called middle market:
It will always be Sotheby’s and Christie’s. They are just so cutthroat against each other that it’s very hard for a third house to break in to that very, very fierce rivalry between the two of them. And I think at a certain point, Simon realized that.

2. Editor's Note: I must I am obsessed with spy books that incorporate both terrorism and assassins. When you can take all this and put in the context of an internationally known art restorer, how can you lose. I like Silva's work. I hope you do as well. The Black Widow
A network of terror. A web of deceit. A deadly game of vengeance. Legendary spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon is poised to become the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service. But on the eve of his promotion, events conspire to lure him into the field for one final operation. ISIS has detonated a massive bomb in the Marais district of Paris, and a desperate French government wants Gabriel to eliminate the man responsible before he can strike again.
They call him Saladin …
He is a terrorist mastermind whose ambition is as grandiose as his nom de guerre, a man so elusive that even his nationality is not known. Shielded by sophisticated encryption software, his network communicates in total secrecy, leaving the West blind to his planning—and leaving Gabriel no choice but to insert an agent into the most dangerous terrorist group the world has ever known. Natalie
Mizrahi is an extraordinary young doctor as brave as she is beautiful. At Gabriel’s behest, she will pose as an ISIS recruit in waiting, a ticking time bomb, a black widow out for blood.
Her perilous mission will take her from the restive suburbs of Paris to the island of Santorini and the brutal world of the Islamic State’s new caliphate, and eventually to Washington, D.C., where the ruthless Saladin is plotting an apocalyptic night of terror that will alter the course of history. The Black Widow is a riveting thriller of shocking prescience. But it is also a thoughtful journey into the new heart of darkness that will haunt readers long after they have turned the final page.

Archaeology Spring/Summer 2016

1. MIAMI (FLA).- A second look at a tusk and tools unearthed from an underwater archaeological site in Florida has revealed that people migrated to the Americas almost 1,500 years earlier than previously believed, researchers said Friday. The site -- known as Page-Ladson -- is submerged 26 feet (eight meters) in a sinkhole on the Aucilla River near Tallahassee, and was first explored in the late 1980s and 1990s.
Back then, researchers found a mastodon tusk and several stone artifacts that radiocarbon dating showed to be more than 14,400 years old, far older than the remnants found from the Paleo-Indian Clovis culture in North America which tend to be about 11-13,000 years old.But their findings were largely dismissed by scientists. This "was an impossible age for the scientific community to accept at the time because it was well-accepted that the Americas were colonized by the Clovis people who arrived on the continent over the Bering Land Bridge no longer than 13,500 years ago at the oldest," said Jessi Halligan of Florida State University.
Halligan led a team that returned to the underwater site from 2012 to 2014 for more excavation work at what experts say is the oldest archaeological site in the southeastern United States and the oldest submerged one yet discovered in the New World. Working in dark and murky conditions, they found more bones and a biface stone knife used for butchering, and confirmed -- with 71 new radiocarbon dates from the site -- that the artifacts date to about 14,550 years ago, according to the report in the journal Science Advances. Researchers also re-examined the mastodon tusk and agreed with the original team's conclusion, that deep grooves in the surface were cut marks made by humans using stone tools to remove the tusk from the skull. Hunter gatherers in the area were likely using their stone knives to process the mastodon carcass, perhaps to get at the edible tissue inside, researchers said.
Their findings also suggest that people did not hunt mastodons to extinction as quickly as some have believed, and likely co-existed for some 2,000 years. "The evidence from the Page-Ladson site is a major leap forward in shaping a new view of the peopling of Americas at the end of the last ice age," said co-author Michael Waters of Texas A&M University."For over 60 years, archaeologists accepted that Clovis were the first people to occupy the Americas around 13,000 years ago. Today, this viewpoint is changing." Page-Ladson is among a handful of archeological sites that suggest human occupation from more than 13,000 years ago -- including in what is now Texas, Oregon, Washington, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. "Because the Page-Ladson site provides unequivocal evidence of human occupation that predates Clovis by over 1,500 years, the side contributes significantly to the debate over the timing and complexity of the peopling of the Americas," said Waters. Page-Ladson is also about the same age as the Monte Verde site in Chile, suggesting that people were living in both hemispheres of the Americas by 14,500 years ago, Waters added.
"The evidence from Page-Ladson provides indirect support for a coastal migration into the Americas. How people made their way to Florida and how long this took we can only speculate but this hints at an even earlier arrival of people into the Americas."

2. MEXICO CITY MEXICO CITY (AFP).- Engineers installing lampposts in Mexico City's historic center have discovered a stone slab covering the tomb of one of the first Catholic priests following the 1519-1521 Spanish conquest.
The tomb was found where the city's first cathedral once stood and it appears to have been built over an Aztec structure, according to the National Institute of Anthropology and History. The Spaniards erected buildings and the cathedral, which later disappeared and was replaced by another one, at the heart of the Aztec civilization, Tenochtitlan.The six-foot (1.9-meter) long slab, dating from the first half of the 16th century, covers the tomb of a priest named Miguel de Palomares, a member of the cathedral's first ecclesiastical council, who died in 1542, the institute said. The priest's remains could shed light on how people lived in the decades following the conquest, the statement added. Spanish
conquistador Hernan Cortes ordered the cathedral's construction in 1524. The stone was found four feet below street level with the priest's name on it along with three fleurs-de-lis, flowers symbolizing the Dominican order. The stone includes texts in Greek and old Spanish. The institute believes the tomb still holds the priest's remains and that its discovery could shed light on his era's burial rituals as well as the diets of Spanish conquistadores. The engineers found the stone in recent days after digging eight inches deeper than planned when placing one of eight lampposts that will illuminate the current cathedral.
The stone is fractured after it was accidentaly struck by either a post or a large cross a couple centuries after the tomb was installed.

Art Market Spring/Summer 2016

1. NEW YORK If you were paying attention to the London auctions last week, you noticed that there was still significant bidding from telephone representatives who handle Mainland China clients. The most notable sale was Adrien Ghenie’s The Sunflowers in 1937 which sold to an Asian buyer. Part of the answer may come from the fact that buying art abroad seems to remain a loophole for those looking to get money out of China, according to a New York Times article over the weekend: Individuals can move $50,000 a year across China’s borders. Companies and sophisticated investors have more freedom to send out money legally for big-ticket purchases and investments. Overseas and domestic companies, which maintain bank accounts in various currencies, can also shift their cash, as well as borrow based on which currency they think will fall in value.
Chinese Start to Lose Confidence in Their Currency  (The New York Times)

Repatriation Spring/Summer 2016

1. WASHINGTON (AFP).- In an international battle stretching from Native American lands in the American West to the auction houses of Paris, two tribes on Tuesday renewed a years-long campaign to prevent the sale of sacred objects.
The Acoma Pueblo Nation located in New Mexico and The Hoopa Valley Tribal Nation of California have announced their opposition to a scheduled sale next week of close to 500 artifacts at Paris'  EVE auction house.
They want the sale stopped and the artifacts returned. "This is not a work of art," Governor Kurt Riley of the Acoma Pueblo Nation told AFP, explaining how the Acoma view the objects up for sale. "This is a religious item that is dear to us. And when it's gone, it's like a piece of ourselves goes missing." The tribes have the support of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian and the US departments of Interior and State. The EVE auction house did not respond to a request for an interview. "In the absence of clear documentation and clear consent of the tribes themselves, these objects should not be sold," Mark Taplin of the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural affairs told a Tuesday press conference in Washington. Taplin said US authorities have been talking with their French counterparts since the auctions began in 2013, "But I must say we are still awaiting a response from the French side." The battle is both cultural and legal. Selling Native American artifacts in the United States is either highly restricted or illegal, depending on the objects and where they were recovered. And tribes have said that such sales are offensive insofar as they expose treasured and sacred objects to public commerce. "These items are part of our daily lives and on certain occasions these are used in ceremony," Riley said. Tracking artifacts has become easier thanks to the Internet, he said, and the Acoma have stepped up efforts to recover them. "We've been successful in the United States to recoup some of those items," he said. "It's in France that they've not been receptive to our position."
Considered living beings
There have been numerous Paris auctions of Native American artifacts. In June 2014, nine masks from the Hopi tribe sold for a total of 137,313 euros ($187,000), with one 19th century mask alone fetching 37,500 euros.
French judges have supported the auctioneers' view that selling the artifacts is legal -- since no French law expressly prohibits them -- and have refused to stop auctions when tribes have sued.
But American tribes see the sales as an affront to their religion and culture, rooted in wrongs that date back hundreds of years when settlers pillaged artifacts. Many of the sacred items are believed to contain spirits, such as the masks sold in 2014, considered living beings by the Hopi people and worn by dancers during religious ceremonies. "It's amazing what's left our communities," D. Bambi Kraus of the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers told the Washington news conference. Kraus said members of her organization have been reviewing auction listings, and have been astonished. "They're seeing things they didn't even know existed that were being now sold overseas," she said. Kraus specifically objected to one item in next week's auction, lot #206 described as a warrior jacket of scalps. "In our world, if that's human remains, you cannot sell human remains. It's just not the thing to do," Kraus said. Conroy Chino, a Native American political and strategic consultant who is Acoma, said they have tried to explain their position to the French auction regulator, the Conseil des Ventes, but the agency has ruled that Native American groups do not have legal standing on French soil. "We've been quite dismayed," Chino told AFP. "It creates a black market when French authorities don't take it upon themselves" to stop the sales, he said.
'No law violated'
In a letter to US authorities this month, Riley said many of the 443 items scheduled for sale in Paris are "from the Hopi Tribe, Zuni Pueblo, Acoma Pueblo, or other Ancestral Pueblos that are within our respective cultural provinces and with which we maintain a strong, deep connection." The US embassy in Paris has tried to intervene. In 2014, it held an informational session on the cultural and religious significance of artifacts, and why Native American groups find their sale objectionable. In 2013, the embassy called for a halt to another EVE auction, saying tribes should have time to examine artifacts to see if they can be recovered under a UNESCO convention against the illicit trafficking of cultural property. But EVE defended the auction, saying that "no American law has been violated." The sale went ahead, fetching 520,375 euros ($714,180) for 24 Hopi masks. The US has two federal laws, passed in 1990 and 1979, that offer protection for Native American artifacts. But the laws do not explicitly ban their export.
New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce has introduced a resolution in the US House of Representatives asking federal agencies to do more to address the theft of tribal artifacts, as well as their trafficking domestically and internationally.
Eve Catalog:
© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

2. ANGOLA Collector Is Trying to Buy Back Artifacts Looted in Angola’s Civil War at Yesterday’s Prices
March 14, 2016 by Marion Maneker
Georgina Adam reports that Sindika Dokolo, who is married to the richest person in Angola, is on a campaign to repatriate works to the Dundo Museum, an Angolese institution founded in the 1930s and eventually gathering 6,000 Chokwe works that were scattered in Angola’s civil war nearly 50 years ago:
He is prepared to pay for them from a war chest he has set up, funded by African businessmen. But he won’t pay today’s prices. Dokolo has enlisted two dealers in tribal art to help him, Didier Claes
and Tao Kerefoff, and regularly monitors art fairs and auction catalogues. Last month he recuperated a 19th-century Chokwe mask of a young woman, a Mwana Pwo, from a French dealer, paying €80,000 instead of the €600,000 the dealer was asking for it, after threatening legal action. He is negotiating with a second dealer over another Chokwe statue, this time priced at €1m but which Dokolo wants to buy back for €50,000.

3. Fundação Sindika Dokolo acquires another looted Mwana Pwo mask made by the Chokwe people
Mwana Pwo mask, c. late 19th /early 20th century © courtesy of Fundação Sindika Dokolo.
LUANDA.- Fundação Sindika Dokolo announced another momentous acquisition of a looted Mwana Pwo mask made by the Chokwe people of Angola. This important work from the 19th century was discovered in Paris and originally formed part of a collection that belonged to the Dundo Museum in Angola. The mask is one of many pieces stolen from the museum’s collection which has led Fundação Sindika Dokolo initiatives in recovering looted classical works with the aims of returning them back to the continent. The Mwana Pwo mask was purchased in February from a French dealer following an agreement in which this significant work will be returned to its original home at the Dundo museum. The piece was sourced by Belgian art dealer Didier Claes who traced the mask’s provenance having identified the work through an image from the esteemed art scholar Marie-Louise Bastin’s book Art De´coratif Tshokwe: Museu do Dundo published in 1961. Furthermore, Fundação Sindika Dokolo is in negotiations about purchasing a fourth Mwana Pwo mask which has been found in a private collection in Europe.
Sindika Dokolo says, “Now is the time for all of Angola's lost cultural treasures to return home, where they can play their role to the full; a role that will help strengthen Angola's culture and knowledge, and enhance and increase our country’s heritage. As a foundation promoting arts and cultural accomplishments, we will pursue our efforts in expanding our public mission of recovering the history of our ancestry and enriching it in every aspect, as well as, our continuous work in supporting the young and upcoming generation of artists.” Before the Mwana Pwo mask is returned to the museum, it will travel to Luanda where it will be displayed alongside three further looted pieces acquired last year by Fundação Sindika Dokolo at the newly built Museo da Moeda (Currency museum) in Luanda as part of La Triennale di Luanda next month.
Fundação Sindika Dokolo was established by businessman and art collector Sindika Dokolo in Luanda, Angola in 2006. Born in Kinshasa to a Congolese father and Danish mother, he began building one of the most important collections in Africa in 2003 which now holds more than 5000 works of classical and contemporary art from the continent.

4.  LONDON.- A very fine Safavid tinned copper bowl which had been looted from the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul was presented to the Embassy of Afghanistan in London for return to Kabul. The bowl, dating to the early 17th century, was lost during the civil war in Afghanistan in the 1990s. It was bought in good faith in December 1994 from an Afghan antique dealer in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) by Patrick and Paola von Aulock who owned it for twenty years before deciding to sell it when they contacted Christie’s for a valuation. The bowl was identified by Sara Plumbly, Specialist and Head of Christie’s Islamic Art department as being a piece from the museum in Kabul. The bowl had been published in 1974 by Souren Melikian-Chirvani and was included in his catalogue of Islamic Metalwork from the Iranian World (Melikian-Chrivani 1982).
Christie’s gave permission for the bowl to be examined by the British Museum. The Museum confirmed the provenance and negotiations were entered into with the current owners and with the National Museum of Afghanistan to return the bowl to Kabul. This return is all the more significant as much of the Islamic metalware collection of the National Museum of Afghanistan was lost during a devastating fire following a rocket strike on the museum in November 1995. The National Museum
of Afghanistan has confirmed the bowl will be put back on public display as soon as possible on its return.
The bowl dates to the Safavid period (1501–1722), and includes a cartouche which mentions the owner’s name and date: ‘Owned by Mohammad Abu Taleb 1013 [30 May 1604–18 May 1605]’. Three medallions depict scenes from the famous Persian tragic romance Khosrow and Shirin by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi (1141–1209) and the piece is sufficiently similar to another in the Musée de l’Homme in Paris that the two may come from the same workshop which was probably in the city of Herat. It appears the bowl had been very carefully mutilated in the past by engraving deep lines through each of the faces: this may have been at a moment when the Safavid dynasty was dethroned by the Afghan invasion in 1722 (Melikian-Chirvani 1982: 277). This defacement was not restricted to the human figures but also extended to the animals and was executed so carefully that it amounted to a subtle transformation of design rather than simple iconoclasm.
This bowl was scientifically analysed at the British Museum with the permission of the owners and the National Museum of Afghanistan. It shows that the bowl was manufactured by casting, with some additional working and use of a lathe for finishing. Analysis using surface X-ray fluorescence spectrometry confirmed that the bowl is largely of copper and the white metal plating is tinning. The decoration was engraved and was finely executed. A black material has been applied to the engraved design, which although it could not be firmly identified, is likely to be related to the organic black inlays seen on many brass bowls.
Sara Plumbly, Head of the Islamic Department at Christie’s in London, said “Christie’s are delighted to have played a role in facilitating the return of this work to the Kabul museum and we would like to extend our thanks to the previous owners Mr. and Mrs von Aulock for their collaboration. This is a good example of where research, cooperation and a wish to facilitate the right solution has succeeded. Christie’s maintains its on-going commitment in this area and takes matters of cultural property very seriously”.
St John Simpson, Assistant Keeper in the Department of the Middle East, British Museum said “This is another important step in the rebuilding of the National Museum of Afghanistan and we are delighted to have played a small part in the return of this important object to Kabul”.
His Excellency Ahmad Zia Siamak, Chargé d’ Affaires at the Embassy of Afghanistan said “On behalf of the people of Afghanistan, the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in London would like to express its gratitude to the British Museum, Christie’s and the owners for their role in returning a historic artefact to the National Museum of Afghanistan. During the civil war, the National Museum of Afghanistan was looted and destroyed, and during the last few years, the government of Afghanistan has attempted to revive the museum. The return of this piece, which used to be displayed in a showcase of the National Museum of Afghanistan for many years, has a high historic and intellectual value for the people of Afghanistan. Its forthcoming display in the National Museum will not only please our people, but is a valuable step in the restoration of the museum. We thank the British Museum once again for facilitating the return of this important object and for its invaluable assistance to the National Museum of Afghanistan”.
Fahim Rahimi, Director of the National Museum of Afghanistan said “I hope returning this bowl will be a start for more artefacts to be recovered, not only those looted from museums as well those looted from archaeological sites in Afghanistan. I ask those collectors who keep artefacts from Afghanistan to help us return it back and encourage the auction houses to always check their collections for looted objects from Afghanistan”.

US Government and the Art World Spring/Summer 2016

1. How to Give Your Collection Away But Still Have Use of It
March 29, 2016 by Marion Maneker
Barnes FoundationDaniel Grant uses the Wall Street Journal to outline the process of making an irrevocable trust for an art collection which allows the owners to donate their art to a trust, keep it and pay rent on the art. The goal is to shelter the appreciated value of the art if and when it is later sold by heirs or enjoyed by them:
"With art prices increasing, there is interest in the idea of putting your art in a trust to shelter the appreciation, and then renting it back, so that you can hang it on your walls,” says Diana Wierbicki, partner and global head of art law at the law firm Withers Bergman. “People say, you can do it with a house, why not with art?” (People more commonly place their home in an irrevocable trust and then continue to live in the home and pay market-value rent to the trust.)
Art Collectors Discover Irrevocable Trusts (WSJ)

Contemporary African Art Spring/Summer 2016

1. Nigerian Art Market Report (Yes, There Is One!)
March 15, 2016 by Marion Maneker
Top 10 Nigerian Artists
Jesse Castelotte and Tayo Fagbule have written a fascinating report on the Nigerian art market. Led by the work of two artists with global reputations—El Anatsui and Ben Enwonwu—there’s a tension between the works of Nigerian artists being sold around the world (but primarily in London) and the domestic auction market for artists’ work.
That domestic market was about equal to the value of the work of Nigerian artists sold abroad in 2013. Over the last two years, the domestic Nigerian auction market has declined while the value of those top artists selling abroad has increased. On the positive side, the average price of works by non-Nigerian artists sold in Nigeria has risen steadily and substantially over the past two years.
The value of artworks sold at auction in Nigeria declined for the second consecutive year from $1.77m in 2014 to $1.37m in 2015. The drop in sales in 2015 was 18%, three times more than that of 2014.
El Anatsui retains his spot as the artist with the highest turnover, after overtaking Ben Enwonwu (b.1917-1994) in 2014 — four works of art by Anatsui generated $229,713 in 2015, double the $152,710 three of his artworks fetched in 2014.
In 2015 the average price of works by non-Nigerian artists at auctions held in Nigeria was 11% more than the average price of works byNigerian artists, despite its 3% increase from the previous year.
Sales of artworks by Nigerian artists at Bonhams brought in $1,774,330 in 2015, 23% more than the $1,373,198 generated by artworks by Nigerian and non-Nigerian artists at auctions in Lagos. The rise in Bonhams’ sales was partly due to auction of the art collection of Afren, an oil company with financial problems.
Over 108 exhibitions — 69 solo and 38 group shows — were organised in Nigeria in 2015, according to data compiled; 64 of these events held in galleries.
In the first ever compilation of the top 200 highest-selling works by Nigerian artists at auction since 2008, Anatsui and Enwonwu account for 86% of the value and 53% of the volume. Both are the bellwethers of art Nigeria at auction; their works consistently rank among the top 10 highest at every auction. Peju Alatise is not only the youngest but the only female artist.
One-quarter of the 70 pieces by non-Nigerian artists that have gone under the hammer in Lagos since 2013 are by Ablade Glover.
Nigerian Art Market Report 2016:

2. LONDON African Art: Easy Pickings For Chinese Collectors?
July 5, 2016 by Marion Maneker
Still from William Kentridge’s video Notes Toward a Model Opera
The South China Morning Post takes a long look at Chinese collectors buying African art which may prove decisive in launching this still-growing market:
“Chinese collectors, by and large, are interested in three things here in London,” [Bonhams’s Giles] Peppiatt says. “Repatriation of Chinese objets d’art, European contemporary art and African contemporary art. The relationship between China and African art makes a lot of sense once you think about it. Firstly, I would say the biggest demographic buying contemporary African art is
sophisticated, knowledgeable collectors who purchase for aesthetic pleasure. They are people who look at an El Anatsui [sculpture] and think, ‘That would fit with the rest of my collection’, no matter whether they own any other art from the region. And, as we all know, Chinese collectors are some of the bravest and most ambitious in the world.
“Secondly, the Chinese contemporary art market is slowing and local art lovers need to find a new region to focus on. Thirdly, China has been in Africa for some 20 years, searching, dominating, digging it up. People want art they have some kind of connection with and none of us can deny China and Africa have a relationship, no matter how difficult it is. And finally, of course, there is the price point. Which is very alluring to any collector.” […]
[William] Kentridge in particular has proved popular with Chinese collectors. Although many artists have been influenced by the profound changes China’s presence in Africa has wrought, Kentridge has gone one step further, creating a series of drawings and installations that explore parallels between the Cultural Revolution and apartheid-era South Africa, both devastating regimes that blindly pursued an unobtainable utopia. These artworks were brought together under one exhibition, titled “Notes Towards a Model Opera”, that opened at the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing last year and Seoul this year.
“China certainly hovers over us like a huge zeppelin,” Kentridge writes in the exhibition programme. “The scale of it, the scale of its hunger for resources, the scale of everything. China in Africa today creates a sense of a series of questions rather than any answers. Are we here the tethered goat waiting for the tiger? Easy pickings?”1
Can contemporary art help mend the relationship between China and Africa? (South China Morning Post)

Terrorism and the Art World Spring/Summer 2016

1. . PALMYRA (AFP).- When two Polish heritage experts first restored the famed lion statue in Syria's Palmyra in 2005, they never imagined they would see it smashed to pieces only a decade later.
"We did new restoration, new presentation of this lion, the Lion of Al-Lat. And after, I thought, I'm doing this (to last) for over 200 years or 300 years, maybe more," archeologist Bartosz Markowski told AFP.
"But it appears it was only 10 years." Markowski spoke to AFP at the entrance of Palmyra's museum, where the striking 15-tonne Lion of Al-Lat lay in large, jagged pieces.
It was smashed by the Islamic State group, which overran Palmyra -- known as the "Pearl of the Desert" -- in May 2015. During their ten-month rule over the city, the jihadists executed hundreds of civilians and blew up some of Palmyra's most beautiful temples and funerary towers in the old city. Palmyra's museum lies in the residential parts of the city. The destroyed Lion of al-Lat at the museum's entrance serves as a harbinger for the destruction inside: statues lay in pieces blanketed in dust and debris. Syria's government forces recaptured the city on March 27, and experts immediately set to work assessing the damage to the city's historic ruins.
Markowski, from the University of Warsaw's archeology institute, was the first foreign archeologist to enter Palmyra after the regime win. He arrived in Palmyra with his colleague Robert Zukowski, from the Polish Academy of Sciences, in mid-April for a one-week mission to evaluate the damage. Polish 'heroes' The three-metre-tall Lion of al-Lat dated back to the 1st century BC. It was first discovered in 1977 by a Polish archeological mission at the temple of Al-Lat, a pre-Islamic Arabian goddess. Nearly four decades later, his hair and clothes covered in dust, Markowski patiently catalogued the broken pieces of the limestone monument. "This lion is like our baby. We have had a sentimental relationship with this statue ever since we came in 2005 to help restore Palmyra," Markowski said. As soon as he and Zukowski heard IS was pushed out of Palmyra, "we decided to return at the invitation of the Directorate of Antiquities and Museums of Syria," he added. Maamun Abdulkarim, the head of Syria's antiquities department, says the two Polish workers are "heroes." Markowski said he felt he "had to come back as soon as possible."
"We were excited because we had not seen any photos since one year, or almost one year, since Daesh came here," he said, using an Arabic acronym for IS. "The first pictures that we saw (were from) one week ago. And we saw that there is something to do here." He told his wife he was travelling to Egypt, "because she would not have let me leave if she knew I was coming to Palmyra." More than 270,000 people have been killed and millions have been forced to flee their homes since the conflict erupted in March 2011. 'Two crazy restorers' After being catalogued by Markowski, each piece was carefully carried by Zukowski and a Syrian colleague into large boxes. The containers will head to Damascus, where restoration can begin. His hands covered in blisters, Zukowski took a photograph of each broken slab of rock. "You know I'm proud -- I'm really proud that we can come back here," Zukowski said. He said he was confident that the lion could be restored to its previous glory but the most difficult parts to restore would be around its nostrils. Since the Syrian regime pushed IS out of Palmyra last month, deminers -- including from a special unit dispatched by Moscow -- have been clearing explosives from Palmyra's old city. Zukowski and Markowski had yet to assess the damage there, where the grand Temples of Bel and Baalshamin once stood, now largely reduced to rubble. The heaviest fighting between IS and Syria's government fighters took place in the modern part of Palmyra. Although residents have slowly begun returning to rebuild their homes and their lives, the residential neighbourhoods remain eerily quiet. "It needs people in the town. Now it's deserted, there is no one here. Only army and some reporters. And two crazy restorers," Markowski said.

2. SAINT PETERSBURG (AFP).- The director of Russia's renowned Hermitage Museum, which has an important collection of sculptures from Palmyra, has offered its expertise to help restore the ancient Syrian city retaken by President Bashar al-Assad's forces from the Islamic State group."Restoring Palmyra is the responsibility of all of us," Mikhail Piotrovsky told AFP, surrounded by displays of tomb stones, sculptures and coins from Palmyra at the museum in Saint Petersburg.Following the IS campaign of destruction, "restoring Palmyra is a long-term task, and it's essential that we take our time," said Piotrovsky, estimating that up to 70 percent of the ancient historic site could have been damaged or destroyed by the jihadists. "We will have to record where every stone was found before taking a decision on how to restore these historic monuments," he said of the painstaking work required.
The Hermitage director insisted that only an "international association" including UNESCO member countries and Syria's Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums should carry out the restoration of Palmyra.
Syria's antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim on Friday told AFP journalists at Palmyra that he was appealing for "archaeologists and experts everywhere to come work with us because this site is part of the heritage of all humanity."
Among the highlights of the Hermitage's collection from Palmyra are four stone slabs, weighing a total of 15 tonnnes with inscriptions in Aramaic and Greek that show the customs tariffs in the 2nd century AD, when the city became an important crossroads for trading. The slabs were brought to Russia by an aristocrat who was an amateur archaeologist, Prince Abamelek-Lazarev after he travelled to Palmyra in 1882.
The value of such intact treasures is now even greater after the destruction at the historic site. The Hermitage chief noted that Russia has "plenty of experience with restoring destroyed historic monuments", notably after World War II.
He gave the example of Tsarskoye Selo, the tsars' summer palace outside the imperial city, which was almost entirely destroyed in fighting between Nazi and Soviet forces.
Despite this, the palace was entirely restored to the tiniest detail and is now a major tourist attraction.
3. PALMYRA.- A picture taken on March 31, 2016 shows pieces of beheaded and mutilated sculptures on the ground at the museum of the ancient city of Palmyra, some 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. Syrian troops backed by Russian forces recaptured Palmyra on March 27, 2016, after a fierce offensive to rescue the city from jihadists who view the UNESCO-listed site's magnificent ruins as idolatrous. JOSEPH EID / AFP