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Artnet News
Oct. 7, 2008 

The upstart auction house Phillips de Pury and Co. has been bought by the Mercury Group, Russia’s largest luxury retail company and owner of the Tretyakov Projezd shopping mall, the Barvikha Luxury Village and TsUM department store, all high-end retail properties in the Moscow area. The Barvikha Luxury Village is probably best remembered by New York art lovers as the site chosen for Gagosian Gallery’s 2007 exhibition "Insight" [see Artnet News, Oct. 23, 2007]. "I would expect that we’ll be holding sales in Moscow," a Phillips rep told Financial Times. Can we also expect a new Phillips auction room alongside the Armani, Prada and Tiffany outlets at the Luxury Village? No one is saying yet.

Phillips de Pury & Co. founder and chief auctioneer Simon de Pury remains as chairman and a shareholder in the new company. The Mercury Group is controlled by oligarch Leonid Fridland, who is an art collector, according to the IZO Russian art blog. News reports speculate that Mercury is providing much-needed new capital for the auction house, which, despite its recent stellar results -- Phillips claims an 80 percent growth of sales of contemporary art over the last year -- may well be overloaded with debt. Observers note that the firm postponed its much-hyped sale of hip-hop jewelry, "Hip Hop’s Crown Jewels," from its original date of Oct. 1, 2008, to Mar. 5, 2009, when it would coincide with the next Armory Show in New York.

At least one artist is making money off of the financial crisis. New York painter Geoffrey Raymond hit Wall Street as Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy three weeks ago with a large canvas featuring the scowling visage of Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld, allowing laid-off employees to "annotate" the canvas with their own remarks and other graffiti. Two days later, the piece was sold via Raymond’s blog for the tidy sum of $10,000. According to the artist, the buyer was a former Lehman employee who still had friends there when it went under. "He said he bought, in part, as an act of support for them," Raymond relayed, adding that he had helped hang the piece in the new owner’s living room.

The painting is a fascinating time capsule. Remarks left by departing Lehman employees are in green to distinguish them from those of general passersby, which are in black. The artist estimates that 125 people took up the green marker during the days he stood in front of Lehman brothers (there are 250 "annotations" in all). The comments display mixed emotions, to say the least. "Enjoy your old age, Prick Fuld," says one. "25,000 unemployed -- I hope you are happy," another chimes in. Others work to assign blame elsewhere, such as the epigrammatic "Greenspan’s Dotcom bailout led to the housing bubble." Still others reflect continued loyalty, including the simple, "I’ll be praying for you."

Annotated paintings of Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, AIG chairman Hank Greenberg, and presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain are all still available from Raymond, all priced between $10,000 and $15,000. The artist says he just sold an annotated painting of Elliot Spitzer to a French attorney for $15,000.

Works by Louise Bourgeois are being presented side-by-side with Old Masters in a new exhibition opening Oct. 18, 2008-Jan. 11, 2009, at the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte in Naples. Housed in an 18th-century Bourbon palazzo surrounded by a park, the museum is known for its collection of works by Botticelli, Titian, El Greco, Raphael, Michelangelo, Caravaggio and other European painters. The exhibition features approximately 60 works by the senior New York-based Surrealist, and is organized by Galerie Karsten Greve in collaboration with the Louise Bourgeois studio in New York.

Charles Saatchi
is showcasing new contemporary art from China in his new Saatchi Gallery, which opens in west London in the 19th-century Duke of York Headquarters building, a former military barracks, Oct. 9, 2008-Jan. 18, 2009. "The Revolution Continues: New Art from China," presents works by 30 artists in 70,000 square feet of gallery space. Admission to the gallery is free. For a virtual tour, click here

Say one thing for British artists -- they certainly have a knack for publicity. The latest entry in this long list is "Statuephilia," Oct. 4, 2008-Jan. 25, 2009, at the British Museum, a show of new works by six contemporary sculptors: Antony Gormley, Damien Hirst, Ron Mueck, Noble and Webster and Marc Quinn. Quinn has garnered the most headlines, of course, with his solid gold, life-sized statue of Kate Moss in an improbable yoga pose. Titled Siren (2008), the work is worth over $1,500,000 for the metal alone, according to a press release from the art insurer Hiscox. Hirst is no slouch in the novelty department, either; he’s filled eight antique shelves with 200 spin-painted plastic skulls. For details, click here

The Berlin-based art collaborative Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset debuted their 30-minute-long play Drama Queens at Sculpture Project Munster 07, drawing much comment for its basic conceit: replacing the actors with seven modern sculptures -- Alberto Giacometti’s Walking Man, Andy Warhol’s Brillo Box, Jeff KoonsRabbit and works by Jean Arp, Barbara Hepworth, Sol LeWitt and Ulrich Rückriem. Now, the artists are staging the playlet, which features a text by Tim Etchells, as a benefit for the Old Vic theater in London on Oct. 12, 2008.

The duo has snagged some impressive talents to play the parts, including Jeremy Irons as the Giacometti, Kevin Spacey as the Koons and Joseph Fiennes as the LeWitt. VIP gala tickets, which include a print by Elmgreen & Dragset plus more, are £250; for additional info, contact the Old Vic or Victoria Miro, where the pair’s exhibition "Too Late" is on view, Oct. 14-Nov. 15, 2008.

A new three-part documentary on Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol’s Factory People, airs this Thanksgiving on the Ovation TV cable network. The documentary includes candid photos from Billy Name’s archive, selections from 50 hours of interviews, plus recently rediscovered footage of the infamous Silver Factory, the studio on East 47th Street in Manhattan that was Warhol’s headquarters during 1962-68. The series is directed by Catherine O’Sullivan Shorr; for more info, see

The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum breaks ground in January 2009 for a massive, $54-million renovation and expansion, designed by Richard Gluckman and David Mayner and overseen by Beyer Blinder Belle architects. The expansion dramatically reconfigures the interiors of the historic Carnegie Mansion and increases exhibition space from 10,000 to 17,000 square feet. The National Design Library on the mansion’s third floor is to be converted into a new 7,000-square-foot gallery (the library is moved to East 90th Street townhouses), while the 4,000-square-foot first-floor galleries are to be renovated and devoted to the museum collection. Also on tap is an overhaul of the museum website.

John R. (Jack) Lane
has been appointed president and CEO of the New Art Trust, the nonprofit organization founded by Pamela and C. Richard Kramlich in 1997 in San Francisco to support new media art. The trust holds a collection of single-channel videos from the 1960s through the ‘80s, as well as 21 major media installations by artists ranging from Vito Acconci to Doug Aiken and Bill Viola. The trust works particularly with four institutions: the SF MOMA, Tate Modern, the Museum of Modern Art and the Bay Area Video Coalition. Lane was most recently director of the Dallas Museum of Art.


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