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March, 2013
Dear Friends,

The winter has thawed and the London auctions have been completed. We are now moving into a beautiful spring season of art fairs and the New York auctions.

The global market churns along, but does not continue to grow nearly as fast we would like. The high end of the art market has continued to be resilient and prices on the top works have far surpassed what they were during the previous peak.

Adam Lindemann wrote a very strong article in the Observer on the general trends in the contemporary market. Most importantly he admonishes the idea of flipping; the idea of someone buying a primary artwork and immediately making a profit at auction. Those days are behind us and real value in artworks will matter more going forward.

Long live art!

Very truly yours,
David Benrimon

March Newsletter
Artinfo, Baer Faxt, Basquiat Dustheads

   While we like Josh Baer and greatly appreciate his Baer Faxt, Artinfo.com may have taken adulation of Mr. Baer to another level. In Rachel Corbett’s January 24, 2013 article on Basquiat on Artinfo she discusses two Basquiat rumors: 1) “Dustheads” coming to auction; and 2) Mugrabi and Spencer-Churchill settled their case on Basquiat’s “Museum Security.” This Artinfo post is borderline plagiarism considering Mr. Baer reported this information in his Faxt just hours earlier—why the need for redundancy Artinfo?

Modern and Impressionist Auctions
Sotheby's London - Picasso, Femme Assise Pres d'une Fenetre

   Sotheby’s evening sale brought in £121M ($190M) (pre-sale estimate £103-£144M) on just 52 sold lots (9 works passed) which looks like a rather impressive sale. But when you look at the details of the sale, it was hardly stellar. The star lot, Picasso “Femme Assise Pres d’une Fenetre” which warranted its own sale book, brought in £28.6M ($44.9M), despite having both an irrevocable bid and guaranteed minimum price. The Impressionist lots at the beginning of the sale garnered strong attention, but the surrealism lots at the end of the sale failed to attract too much attention. The trio of Schiele works from the Leopold Museum received over £14M ($22M) collectively and a stunning Degas “Apres le bain, feeme s’essuyant” brought lots of bidding and £7.8M ($12M), over double the high estimate. Despite the rarity of Beckmann’s, his double portrait failed to sell (although it was not a great artwork) and the unfinished Monet “Nympheas” brought in just £9M including commissions (significantly below the £12-£18M estimate).

London, Christies - Impressionist-Modern and Surreal Art Evening Sales, Modigliani, Berthe Morisot, Picasso

Christie’s evening sale of 74 lots brought in over £136M ($213M) with only 8 lots failing to find a buyer. The auction totals beat the highest estimate of £132.8M ($207M). Four artist’s records were set and even more impressive is that there is now a new auction record for a work created by a woman: Berthe Morisot’s “Apres le dejeuner” (1881) was bid up to almost £7M ($11M) (not a bad return considering that the owner bought it at Christie’s in 1997 for $3.25M). The same collector also walked out with Picasso’s “Squatting Nude” for $11.5M (well above the almost $8M high estimate) and Maillol’s “Squatting Nude” for a cool $2.1M. The Russian language hung thick in the air. In fact, one Russian bidder bought a Magritte, Dali and Tanguy.

But the night belonged to Jeanne Hebuterne, the muse and mistress of Modigliani. The stunning portrait sold for almost £27M ($42M) showing the resiliency of the Modigliani market and the flight towards quality. The owner bought it just 6 years ago and made a very handsome return but we wish them the best of luck finding such an exquisite picture in that price point.

Contemporary Auctions in London
Basquiat being sold at Christies in London

   Christie’s evening sale brought in over £81.7M ($127M), with 65 of 72 lots selling. A great Doig brought in almost $12M and the ascent of Basquiat continues—over $14.5M for the 1983 work “Museum Security (Broadway Meltdown)”. But not everything was rosy—works by Twombly, Munoz, Schutte and Toba Khedoori (the opening lot) failed to sell. As if ordained by playwright, Guyton’s works continue to rise with his 2006 inkjet-printer work setting a new record for the artist at $1.1M.

Sotheby’s evening auction brought in £74.4M ($116.M) on just 54 lots, 45 of which sold. The star of the night was a triple self-portrait by Francis Bacon that fetched £13.7M ($21.5M). Sotheby’s also cashed in on younger artists, with strong results for Adrian Ghenie and Hurvin Anderson. There were some notable casualties though—the Lucian Frued pen on paper drawing and the four part Richter “Abstraktes Bild” 1990.

The Richter market has finally become more astute and selective. An abstraction at Sotheby’s brought in a respectable £8.4M but two works by Richter failed to sell at Sotheby’s.
In This Issue

March Newsletter
Liz Nielsen, Tiger Teeth:Red Light
Oversight in the Auction Room
Modern and Impressionist Auctions
This Month’s Sign the Apocalypse is Near
Gagosian in NY Magazine
Contemporary Auctions in London
The Great Giveback
Breaking News (of course on a Friday)

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DBFA on Artnet

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Liz Nielsen, Tiger Teeth: Red Light
Liz Nielsen, Tiger Teeth: Red Light - March 9th - April 20th

   Benrimon Contemporary has a new exhibition Liz Nielsen, Tiger Teeth:Red Light. Liz Nielsen´s first solo exhibition with the gallery will feature a entirely new body of unique photographic works referred to as “compositions”.

Liz Nielsen uses the physics of light by mixing wavelengths and dividing the light spectrum. The negatives she exposes in the darkroom to create opposite wavelengths on photographic paper and their resulting abstract shapes invite the imagination to see new images.

Tiger Teeth: Red Light will be on view from March 9th through April 20th if you are unable to attend the opening reception.

Oversight in the Auction Room
Gavel in Hand - Auction House

   In case you missed it back in January, here is a front and center article in the New York Times on auction house practices. The oversight, or more correctly, lack thereof, has been a problem for years. It is not spilled milk by the galleries competing with the auction houses, but actually transparency that should win the day. The act of chandelier bidding is dishonest and definitely makes some buyers into suckers for paying bigger numbers for artworks. While it would be nice to have more oversight on the chandelier bidding and third party guarantees, full disclosure is too far. At the snail’s pace many of the evening auctions take, the idea of not allowing chandelier bids might mean the marathon auction is going to be even longer. If the auctioneer needs to wait for each and every bid up to the reserve (which is usually the low estimate at the evening sales) then we can await a 4 hour auction.

This Month’s Sign the Apocalypse is Near
Fake - Damien Hirst

   Pastor Kevin Sutherland from Florida tried to sell an alleged Damien Hirst spot painting at Sotheby’s this year. After providing all the details and images to Sotheby’s, the signature did not match Mr. Hirst’s and eventually Cy Vance’s office, the Manhattan District Attorney, stepped in and arrested the Pastor on second-degree larceny and he was being held on $100,000 bond.

Gagosian in NY Magazine

   For those with patience and a strong dose of ADHD that want to read more about the Gagosian Gallery business check out “The Trials of Art Superdealer Larry Gagosian” in New York magazine in late January 2013. If you don’t mind jumping between conversations between the Mugrabi family and Larry Gagosian to rumors about the stable of Gagosian artists without any transitions then this is the perfect article for you.

The Great Giveback

   Hugh Eakin took time away from the New York Review of Books to write in the NYT about the antiquities trade and looting. Foreign governments keep pressuring museums to restitute art and in Mr. Eakin’s telling, the museums are more than willing. It is a well thought out essay but makes the museums look rather soft. It is quite surprising that the same institutions willing to cede control of these antiquities, which in some cases they paid for (and Mr. Eakin goes into great length to question the validity of the claims to begin with) put up serious fights when Holocaust survivors and their heirs make claims. Museums saved many of these antiquities from destruction or obscurity—they should be able to keep them.

Breaking News (of course on a Friday)
Christie's Auction House Structure

   Not long after the closing bell and right before most people check their email before their weekend starts, Christie’s notified clients there would be a higher commission structure. Let’s hope that Sotheby’s and Philips don’t follow suit, at least that way we can entertain whether or not the higher commission will discourage more bidding.