Magazine Home  |  News  |  Features  |  Reviews  |  Books  |  People  |  Horoscope  
Artnet News

Where has all the gnarly art gone? Why out to Santa Fe, for Disparities and Deformations: Our Grotesque, July 18, 2004-Jan. 9, 2005, an exhibition of 49 artists selected by former Museum of Modern Art curator Robert Storr for the Site Santa Fe Fifth International Biennial. A façade covered by black plastic rats courtesy of Kim Mudman Jones, a bloody cut-paper puppet from Tom Friedman, a penis-hat collage by Paul McCarthy, some decapitated heads from Louise Bourgeois, a hairy childs shoe by Robert Gober, a cascade of guts from Adrianna Varejão, plus works by just about every artist who has ever plumbed the poop, including R. Crumb, John Currin (two new portraits, delivered wet), Inka Essenhigh, Douglas Gordon, Georg Immendorff, Elizabeth Murray, Bruce Nauman (a video of a mime), Hermann Nitsch, Gary Panter, Lari Pittman, Jenny Saville, Kara Walker, John Waters and Lisa Yuskavage.

In contrast, Site Santa Fe Biennials gala opening weekend was thronged by the art worlds most beautiful people, including Art in America editor Betsy Baker, Art in General director Holly Block, Los Angeles art collector Irving Blum, North Miami MOCA director Bonnie Clearwater, Albright-Knox Art Museum director Louis Grachos, New York Times chief critic Michael Kimmelman, New Museum curator Lisa Phillips and new Whitney Museum curator Joan Simon, and many of the artists in the show.

There are 75,000 ultra-rich investors in the world -- people with portfolios of $25 million or more -- and Fernwood Art Investments plans to convince them that art is a viable investment. Fernwood expects to launch two art investment funds within the next six months, one focusing on art holdings from eight "sectors" of the fine art market (from Old Masters to contemporary) and the other making more opportunistic plays, including purchases outside of the primary market sectors (such as in Asian art or the decorative arts) and financing gallery and auction deals.

Participation in the funds is restricted to wealthier investors, with, say, at least $5 million to invest. The firm declined to cite specific numbers, but a good guess would put the minimum individual investment at $250,000 and project an annual total for the funds of $100 million-$150 million. Payoffs can be impressive: a sample market analysis shows that auction sales of works by art-market favorite Richard Prince generated an annualized return of 43 percent over the past 10 years.

The new art-investment company is headed by Bruce D. Taub, a former Merrill Lynch executive who specialized in putting together investment products for the firms private clients worldwide (and whose family home was called Fernwood, giving the company its name). Fernwood CEO is Michael J. Plummer, a 15-year veteran of Sothebys auction house, where he ran the marketing division for the Americas and Asia, oversaw Sothebys education programs in New York, and helped develop Sothebys original web strategy.

Fernwood has also enlisted two art experts as managing directors: New York art consultant and art historian Patrick Cooney, who helped found Citibanks Art Advisory Service in 1979, worked at Christies during the 1990s and now is a partner in the Connoisseurs Advisory Group with Kevin A. Swersey; and Rachel Kaminsky, who has been head of Old Master paintings at Christies New York and director of the New York gallery Otto Naumann, Ltd., and who is now director of Colnaghi and Co. in London. Both experts are continuing in their current positions.

Fernwoods pitch is that art is a new asset class whose time has come. Alternative investments are in vogue, Fernwood notes -- especially considering the lackluster equities markets of the last three years, which has been out-performed by the art market. Whats more, Fernwood argues that it can bring qualitative and quantitative rigor to its art investment decisions, using available art-market indices (like the Artnet Price Database, presumably) as well as weighing factors such as scholarship, exhibition history freshness to the market and current art fads. We are determined to get this right, Taub said. Were in this for the long haul.

The Boston-based company currently has eight full-time employees, and is in the process of looking for headquarters space in Manhattan. For more info, see

Online art auctions are back, thanks to Live Auctioneers, a flourishing website that has made a successful business out of managing online auctions on eBay for Sothebys, Doyle, Freemans, Leslie Hindman, Skinners, Swann and dozens of other regional auctioneers. According to a story by Lindsay Pollock in the New York Sun, Live Auctioneers -- a company started in 2002 by Julian Ellison, a veteran of the defunct online auctioneer iCollector -- recently oversaw the auction on eBay of dozens of lots from Sothebys sale of the Katherine Hepburn estate, and will do the same with the forthcoming auction of property from the estate of Johnny and June Carter Cash, Sept. 14-16, 2004. According to the story, Live Auctioneers even sold online works by Maxfield Parrish, Andrew Wyeth and William R. Leigh for $344,000, $102,000 and $142,000, respectively.

We make it extremely easy for the auction houses to use this technology, said Ellison, who notes that the internet can expand the customer base exponentially -- his company has 300,000 registered users. Live Auctioneers, which is headquartered at 220 12th Avenue in Chelsea in New York (a space that was formerly the VIP room of the Tunnel nightclub), charges $1,500 per sale and five percent on each lot sold; according to the report, the company has moved merchandise worth $17.5 million in 2004 so far -- which works out to a pretty return.

This fall, the UCLA Hammer Museum in Los Angeles heralds the resurgence of representational painting since the 1960s in The Undiscovered Country, Oct. 3, 2004-Jan. 16, 2005. Organized by Hammer museum curator Russell Ferguson, the show features about 65 works by 20 artists, ranging from senior figures like Vija Celmins, Philip Guston, Fairfield Porter and Gerhard Richter and mid-career artists like Laura Owens, Richard Prince and Luc Tuymans to hot new talents like Mamma Andersson, Edgar Bryan, Lucas Duwenhögger, Mari Eastman, Thomas Eggerer, Kirsten Everberg, Jochen Klein, Silke Otto-Knapp, Lucy McKenzie and Enoc Perez. The exhibition title refers to Hamlet, who uses the phrase to describe the afterlife; i.e., todays figurative painters are navigating an uncharted territory in the postmodernist death of painting era.

Cologne-based East German artist Gerhard Richter, 72, has given the Gemäldegalerie Neue Meister in his hometown of Dresden a group of 41 of his artworks worth an estimated $100 million, according to press reports. The works go on view in a suite of three refurbished galleries beginning Aug. 21, 2004.

The value of the artworks destroyed in the fire at the Momart art storage warehouse in east London on Monday, May 24, 2004, has surged to 60 million, according to Robert Read of the Hiscox insurance company, quoted in the Independent newspaper in London. In addition to some 100 contemporary works from the collection of Charles Saatchi, the inventory of art losses includes: 150 works from the inventory of Leslie Waddington Gallery; 50 works by the late British painter Patrick Heron, owned by his family; 40 works by late British abstractionist Adrian Heath, owned by his daughter Clio Heath; 20 works from the collection of the British Crafts Council, including pieces by Ron Arad, Nicholas Rena and Alison Britton; 10 paintings by Gillian Ayres owned by author Shirley Conran, former wife of Terence Conran, and another eight paintings owned by the artist herself; 16 works by Damien Hirst from his own collection, plus several works by his colleagues; nine sculptures by Barry Flanagan in his own collection; works by Chris Ofili from the inventory of the Victoria Miro Gallery; and the bulk of estate of British body artist Helen Chadwick. The fire will leave a permanent scar on the history of British art, said Tate director Nicholas Serota.

Contact wrobinson @