SUPER-RICHES FUEL THE ART MARKET
Is it "Opposite Day" at the New York Times? The paper of record says "lackluster" when a 1878-79 Édouard Manet self-portrait sells for $33.4 million at Sotheby’s London on June 22, 2010, and refers to "tight purse strings" when Pablo Picasso’s 1903 Absinthe Drinker goes for $51.8 million at Christie’s London the next day. Presumably, these prices disappointed their super-rich sellers, Connecticut hedge-fund billionaire Steven Cohen and pop music mogul Andrew Lloyd Webber, respectively. The rich are different from you and me, and so is the reporting on their unbelievable wealth.
Such obvious disappointment did not extend to the paper’s June 22 story about the Merrill Lynch-Capgemini "2010 World Wealth Report," which noted that the world’s wealthiest -- 10 million people with $1,000,000 or more in assets (in addition to their homes) -- saw their overall wealth zoom upward by almost 19 percent in 2009. The ultra-rich did even better, the report says, with about 90,000 people worldwide holding more than 35 percent of the world’s wealth, or $13.8 trillion of $39 trillion total. Members of his group, each with disposable assets exceeding $30 million, saw their fortunes grow by 21.5 percent in 2009. And the rest of us? Who cares!
Bloomberg art reporter Katya Kazakina dug a little deeper, discovering that "passion investments" account for one-third of a typical millionaire’s holdings: things like yachts, jets, automobiles, jewelry, coins, antiques, watches, wine, race horses, sports teams -- and art. According to Ileana van der Linde of Capgemini, investors put money into art both as a status symbol, and because they’re spooked by the volatility of stocks and bonds. In a way, those of us toiling in the art-world’s fields are lucky that they like art at all.
This kind of "Increased liquidity" is a relatively new, and increasingly common, explanation for the rather shocking art-market resurgence (along with the evergreen explanation, "the strength of demand for top-quality works," to quote Sotheby’s expert Melanie Clore). The vast amount of money in search of something, anything, to buy was emphasized in still another New York Times story, this one published on June 24, titled "On Wall Street, So Much Cash, So Little Time." According to the report, private equity firms have an estimated $500 billion in hand, just waiting for the right deal. Thank goodness socialism is dead!
SUMMER SHOWS HEAT UP NEW YORK
If it’s not the heat it’s the humidity. Come summer, art dealers and freelance curators go a little nuts, organizing some of the most venturesome exhibitions seen all year. This time around, some dealers have also teamed up to mount shows across several galleries. A very brief selection:
* "Lush Life," June 24-July 30, 2010, takes place at no less than nine Lower East Side galleries. Organized by Franklin Evans and Omar Lopez-Chahoud, the show takes off from Richard Price’s 2008 novel of the same name, which itself is set in the neighborhood. Each gallery represents one of nine characters in the book. The galleries, which are having a collective opening on July 8, are Collette Blanchard Gallery, Eleven Rivington, Invisible-Exports, Lehmann Maupin, On Stellar Rays, Salon 94, Scaramouche, Sue Scott Gallery, and Y Gallery.
* "Swell," July 1-30, 2010, an exhibition of "surf-themed art produced by city dwellers," organized by Tim Nye and Jaqueline Miro, opens simultaneously at three galleries: Metro Pictures, Nyehaus and Friedrich Petzel Gallery. The show includes contributions from the Venice Beach "Light and Space" and "Finish Fetish" gang, as well as from non-California surfers like Ashley Bickerton, Mary Heilman, Bill Komoski, Robert Longo, Dirk Skreber and Fred Tomaselli.
* "Irrelevant: Local Emerging Asian Artists Who Don’t Make Work about Being Asian," July 1-Aug. 6, 2010, at Arario Gallery, 521 West 25th Street.
* "Not Quite Open for Business," June 26-Aug. 14, 2010, at the Hole, 104 Greene Street, the new space launched by former Deitch Projects staffers Kathy Grayson and Meghan Coleman.
* "Le Tableau: French Abstraction and Its Affinities," June 24-Sept. 3, 2010, at Cheim & Read. Organized by painter and art critic Joe Fyfe, the show includes works by about 25 artists, not all of them French.
* "I’ll Let You Be in My Dreams If I Can Be in Yours," July 1-30, 2010, at Fredericks & Freiser, presents works by Nina Chanel Abney, Justin Craun, Annie Lapin, Lamar Peterson, Edgar Serrano, Maximilian Toth, Wendy White and DJ William.
* "Shape Language," June 22-July 31, 2010, at Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, is organized by Natalie Campbell and features works that “rethink a formal vocabulary,” starting with Blinky Palermo’s Graue Scheibe from 1970. Participating artists include Joe Bradley, Amy Granat, Imi Knoebel, Adam McEwen, Amy Sillman and Wendy White.
* "Pop Goes the World," June 30-Aug. 13, 2010, at Pavel Zoubok Gallery, with works by Barton Lidice Benes, Matthew Cusick, Jonathan Santlofer, David Wojnarowicz and others.
* "The Mass Ornament," June 25-Aug. 13, 2010, at Gladstone Gallery on West 24th Street, is organized by John Rasmussen and takes its title from a collection of essays from the 1920s and ‘30s by German critic Siegfried Kraucauer -- engaging ideas about vanitas, ornament, morbidity and the fragmented figure.
* "Dead Letter Playground: A Collection of Contemporary Street Art," June 24-July 18, 2010, at Leo Kesting Gallery, 812 Washington Street (at Gansevoort) in Manhattan.
* "Crystalline Architecture," June 30-Aug. 20, 2010, at Andrea Rosen Gallery, is organized by Josiah McElheny and includes works by Lyonel Feininger, Walter Gropius, Eileen Quinlan, Robert Smithson and six other artists.
* "Summertime," July 1-25, 2010, at Stephan Stoyanov Gallery at 29 Orchard Street, is nothing if not straightforward, and presents works by Amanda Church, Sarah Davis, Noritoshi Hirakawa and five other artists.