I'M STAYING PUT: TENNANT
Art story of the day -- front-page lede in the New York Times (way to go, Carol!) -- is undoubtedly the U.S. antitrust indictment of A. Alfred Taubman and Anthony Tennant, retired auction bigwigs at Sotheby's and Christie's, respectively, for their roles in what is said to be a conspiracy to fix prices charged to more than 130,000 auction customers from 1993 to 1999.
Tennant, who is 71, says he has no plans to return to the U.S. to face the charges, and is apparently counting on extradition being unlikely -- collusion isn't a criminal offense in Britain. Tennant was chairman of Christie's from 1993 to 1996, and left the auction house board in 1998. "The investigations appear to relate in part to periods when he had no involvement with Christie's," said a spokesman.
The timing of the indictment -- the week before the big May sales of Impressionist and modern art in New York -- seems calculated to for maximum impact. The forthcoming trial, which is expected to feature testimony by former Sotheby's chief executive Diana D. Brooks, should also provide a showcase for the government's lead lawyer in the investigation, John L. Greene.
Meanwhile, Michael Sovern, current chairman of Sotheby's, told the press that "as far as Sotheby's itself is concerned, the civil antitrust claims and criminal charges against the company have been settled or dismissed." Sotheby's paid a $45 million fine to the government and has agreed to multimillion-dollar settlements in suits by customers and Sotheby's stockholders.
LAMPS IN THE LOBBY
On another front, the downtown art world flocked uptown to Sotheby's on May 1, 2001, for a reception celebrating the installation of 21 hanging lamps by Jorge Pardo in the glass atrium of the auction house's renovated York Avenue headquarters. Made of poplar wood in a biomorphic configuration, the works were computer-cut in Pardo's Chinatown studio in L.A. The project is a nonprofit collaboration of Yvonne Force Villareal's Art Production Fund and Sotheby's contemporary department head Tobias Meyer. The Pardo installation stays on view for three to six months; forthcoming in the atrium is an installation by Rachel Feinstein.
EUROPEANS THRIVE AT CHRISTIE'S, SOTHEBY'S
Sotheby's May 1 auction of 19th century European art in New York sold 132 of the 203 lots offered, or 65 percent by lot. The highest price was brought by Giovanni Boldini's light-hearted painting of a girl reading a letter in a drawing room, Liseuse dans un salon (1876); the ca. 29-inch-tall canvas sold for $731,750 (est. 500,000-$700,000). Arthur John Elsley's One, Two, Three! Go! (1906), a saccharine picture of an elderly gent setting his two grandchildren off on a footrace, sold for $478,750 (est. $400,000-$600,000). Other top prices were drawn for works by Jacques Emile Blanche ($445,750), Gustave Courbet ($434,750) and William Adolphe Bouguereau ($269,750).
Christie's 19th-century European auction the following day, May 2, did almost the same amount of business with fewer lots -- a total of $8,293,325 for 70 works sold of 110 offered, 64 percent by lot. The sale set 11 new auction records, including $512,000 for Picking the Favorite by Giulio Rosati (est. $150,000-$200,000) and $336,000 for The Rescue (1894) by Emile Munier (est. $300,000-$400,000). Top lot was Partie Carrée (1870) by James Jacques Joseph Tissot, which went for $776,000 (est. $600,000-$800,000). William Bouguereau's Enfant tressant une couronne (1874) sold for $688,000 (est. $600,000-$800,000).
GERNREICH AT PHILA ICA
Forget about Jackie at the Met. The Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art has lined up "Rudi Gernreich: Fashion Will Go Out of Fashion" for its fall schedule, Sept. 15-Nov. 11, 2001. The exhibition of more than 125 outfits surveys the outrageous designer's culture-shaking 1960s and '70s fashion, ranging from the prize-winning "no-bra" swimsuit (1952) and the "monokini" topless swimsuit (1964) to the "unisex look" outfits (1970) and "thong" swimsuit (1979). Installation is designed by Coop Himmelb(l)au and includes a "virtual catwalk" by Daniel Egg with digital models vamping in a virtual space.
Gernreich (1922-1985) was a founder of the Mattachine Society in 1950 and in 1967 was the first American fashion designer to appear on the cover of Time magazine. He designed costumes for the Hollywood movie Exodus (1961) and the science fiction TV series Space 1999 (1975-77). The exhibition, which is accompanied by a 252-page catalogue, was organized by Vienna-based cultural historian Brigitte Felderer and has appeared at the Neue Galerie in Graz, Austria; the Philadelphia ICA is its only U.S. venue.