BANKRUPT LAW FIRM SELLS ITS ART
If you fancy a memento of a once mighty firm -- or just a good deal on some art -- look no further than Bonhams & Butterfields’ upcoming sale in New York on Nov. 10, 2009. The auction includes eight lots from the corporate collection of Heller Ehrman LLP, a mammoth global law firm that once employed more than 700 attorneys, which filed for bankruptcy last year amid defections by its top partners.
The art sales are meant to help pay down the mountain of debt that the firm has left behind; according to a liquidation plan, the law firm has $232 million in "unsecured claims." The works, which come from Heller Ehrman’s New York offices, are just a fraction of the art it will sell off -- reports say that it owned some 1,050 photographs, prints, paintings and sculptures, of which 105 are being classified as "fine art."
The most notable name in the Nov. 10 sale is probably the hip Canadian cartoon artist Marcel Dzama, represented by a set of four drawings in his child-like style (est. $4,000-$6,000). One of these, of a boy contemplating a Frankenstein monster made of what appear to be squirrels, led the AboveTheLaw blog to quip, "when I look at that, I see a Heller Ehrman attorney thinking, ‘Yes, I definitely think this business model can still work’."
Other law-firm lots in the Nov. 10 sale include an abstract sculpture by Julie Speidel (est. $2,000-$3,000); three red-and-white geometric abstractions by Robert Kelly (both $2,500-$3,500); Night Time, a moody semi-abstract oil on linen cityscape by Suzanne Caporeal (est. $2,500-$3,500); an oil-on-canvas abstraction by Andrew Spence (est. $1,500-$2,000); and The Mirror, a painting by British artist John Monks (est. $2,000-$3,000).
A second auction on Nov. 17 in San Francisco includes lots from the West Coast office, and still later sales are to dispose of 400 to 600 lesser works, according to a report at Law.com. A May sale of prints may include some of the pricier lots, since it includes works by Richard Diebenkorn, Roy Lichtenstein and Richard Serra. Another legal firm, Winston & Strawn, which took over Heller Ehrman’s Hong Kong operations, took possession of 14 artworks as part of the deal, valuing them at $10,000.
Bonhams has valued the entire collection at a mere $610,000 to $771,000, though Martin Gammon, director of business development for the auction house, told Law.com that this estimate was based "on an initial review of thumbnails of the art," and that the collection would more likely fetch over $1 million. In any case, it’s a telling rejoinder to any notion that corporate art collections may be hidden troves of value. Apparently, Heller Ehrman considered selling its art through Sotheby’s, but the larger house was only interested in "certain high-end pieces of the collections." Peter Benvenutti, of Heller Ehrman's Dissolution Committee, was quoted as saying that the sales would generate only "a small fraction of the original cost" of the art.
Bonhams rep Gammon, meanwhile, bills the upcoming sell-off of Heller Ehrman’s art as "an opportunity for former attorneys and clients who know it to pick it up at a reasonable price." Apparently, there is interest. Paul Sugarman, also of the Heller Ehrman Dissolution Committee, recently sent out an email to "all former shareholders [the firm’s term for partners] and others," informing them of the sales. He said interested parties should contact the auction house directly.
STUART SHERMAN IN RETROSPECTIVE
The work of the pioneering performance artist Stuart Sherman, known in the 1970s for silent "Spectacles" that he would conduct with miniature props pulled from a suitcase on a small table, is getting a second look at two downtown Manhattan art spaces this fall. Sherman (1945-2001), a member of both the Charles Ludlam and Richard Foreman theater troupes, went on to develop an extensive body of his own performances, video, writing and sculptures; he died of AIDs in San Francisco.
First up is "Beginningless Thought / Endless Seeing: The Works of Stuart Sherman," Oct. 21-Dec. 19, 2009, at 80WSE, the gallery at 80 Washington Square East operated by NYU under the direction of artist and art professor Peter Campus. The show promises everything from documentation of large-scale theatrical productions to Sherman’s daily collages, as well as a series of ideographic drawings from the 1970s exhibited for the first time.
Next is "Stuart Sherman: Nothing Up My Sleeve," Nov. 8-Dec. 20, 2009, at Participant, Inc. Organized by artist Jonathan Berger, the show explores themes of "transubstantiation, perception, trompe l'oeil, illusion and magic, fiction, communication, and language" in Sherman’s work and that of other artists, spanning a 150-year period. "Nothing Up My Sleeve" is presented as part of Performa09, Nov. 1-22, 2009.
CHRISTOPHER WALKEN COLLECTION AT DVF GALLERY
Now here’s something you don’t see every day: A show of paintings of Christopher Walken. "John W. Codling: Sundays with Chris," Oct. 23-Nov. 1, 2009, at the Diane Von Furstenberg Gallery in New York City, features an array of paintings of the celebrated maverick actor by Codling, a New York artist, at the Meat Packing District gallery of the celebrated fashionista (and wife of internet mogul Barry Diller), located at 444 West 14th Street in New York City. Sales of the works benefit Team Continuum, a cancer charity. For a preview of the paintings, see www.sundayswithchris.com
WILL COTTON BAKERY AT PARTNERS & SPADE
New York painter Will Cotton is certainly a master of the eroticized confection, and now he’s bringing his taste for cake into the real world. Partners & Spade, the downtown Manhattan storefront-studio-gallery run by marketing maestros Andy Spade and Anthony Sperduto, is bringing "The Will Cotton Bakery" to life on three Sundays in November (Nov. 8, 15 & 22, 2009). In making props for his paintings, which typically feature sugary treats with or without nude models, Cotton has become a connoisseur of desserts. The "Will Cotton Bakery" promises his own cakes, pies, macaroons and tarts, for display and sale, as well as the work of some special guest chefs. Partners & Spade is at 40 Great Jones Street; for more info, see www.partnersandspade.com
STEPHEN HEPWORTH TO PARTICIPANT, INC.
The downtown Manhattan alternative space Participant, Inc., has appointed Stephen Hepworth as its director of programs, a new position. Hepworth was formerly director of the University Art Gallery at U. Cal San Diego, and before that worked in London for Bloomberg LP, the Jerwood Foundation and Tannery Arts. He will be working with Participant’s founding director, Lia Gangitano.
NANCY SPERO, 1926-2009
Nancy Spero, 82, feminist artist and political activist whose spare figural works take up issues of human rights in expressionistic and mythical terms, died of heart failure in Manhattan on Oct. 18. Dramatically slim with short white hair, Spero was a striking figure herself, and proved an inspiration to generations of younger women artists. She made her art with block printing and collage, and drew its imagery from many ancient cultures, all to distance it from Western patriarchal models. She had her first solo exhibitions in Paris in the early 1960s, and showed her "Codex Artaud" at A.I.R. Gallery in 1973. She exhibited at the Los Angeles MOCA in 1988 and the Museum of Modern Art in 1992; the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y., organized a traveling career retrospective in 1997. In recent years, she exhibited with Galerie Lelong in New York and Paris. She was married to the artist Leon Golub, who died in 2004.