THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF WLODZIMIERZ KSIAZEK
Two weeks ago, the body of 60-year-old Polish painter Wlodzimierz Ksiazek was found in his studio in Pawtucket, R.I., but the circumstances surrounding his death remain a mystery. According to friends of the artist, Ksiazek had not been heard from for almost two weeks, when a colleague at the Rhode Island School of Design went looking for him on Wednesday, May 18, 2011, and found his body at his studio. An autopsy has been performed, but its contents have not been publicly released.
Adding to the drama surrounding Ksiazek's unfortunate death is talk that he had recently been the victim of an embezzlement scheme, possibly involving an assistant with a criminal background, who has since mysteriously disappeared. The theft allegedly cost the artist between $20,000 and $30,000. A report was filed with the police and the investigation is ongoing.
A Polish citizen who was a permanent resident of the U.S. since 1988, Ksiazek is survived by his 14-year-old daughter. His ex-wife, Sarah Williams Goldhagen, an architecture critic who now lives in Boston and has remarried (to the prominent author and historian Daniel Goldhagen), has been appointed custodian of Ksiazek's estate. The artist had exhibited his abstract, allover canvases as recently as April 2011 at Kouros Gallery in Manhattan, and also showed at Alpha Gallery in Boston and Roszkowska Galleries in Windham, N.Y. Ksiazek apparently left behind as many as 50 large-scale works in his studio.
A hearing on the estate is scheduled for Aug. 3, 2011. In the meantime, Williams Goldhagen is keeping mum about the particulars of the case and told Artnet News that she has yet to receive the autopsy results. “I don’t feel comfortable talking about the personal details,” she said. “But he was a terrific artist and it’s a sad thing. He deserves to be recognized.”
Ksiazek’s girlfriend, Beata Kilos, a chemist from Michigan -- who prompted the search for Ksiazek when she couldn't reach him by phone -- said investigators refused to give her any details of the case, but did suggest that the artist may have been dead for a week before he was discovered. “I don’t even know if his death was natural or not,” she said.
The news took his art-world colleagues by surprise. Though he was known to have high blood pressure, Ksiazek was active and thought to be in good health. “We’re all very curious,” said gallery director Elizabeth Roszkowska. “It was a big surprise,” added Kouros director Michael Murray. “We don’t know what will happen with the body of works and are waiting to be informed.”
Ksiazek was known for large, layered, tactile paintings, marked by thick brushstrokes and clumps of paint. Sometimes his paintings resembled topographical maps, or landscapes viewed from a distance, that reflected his own feelings of detachment from his native Communist Poland, which he fled in 1982. In Artnet Magazine, his work was the subject of an essay by Donald Kuspit in 2005, as well as a review by James McCorkle in 2002.
Those who knew him remember him as an excellent teacher and something of a perfectionist who occasionally bristled at criticism.
“He could explain every painting,” Roszkowska said. “He could always see what the artist wanted to say about other artists, and it made him such a good teacher.
Painting “took up 100 percent of his thinking and energy,” said Murray. “As a person he was extremely serious about painting, extremely dedicated and very, very gregarious in describing his work, an excellent orator.”
Kilos added, “He was a very inspiring person, a great teacher, an amazing person to talk to, laugh to, cry to, to spend time with. I am left with a lot of good memories.”
GLOBAL ART POWER AT ART HK 2011
Earlier this month, it was announced that Art HK, the three-year-old Hong Kong art fair, had been acquired by Swiss MCH Group, the firm that runs Art Basel and Art Basel Miami. And with its most recent installment, May 26-29, 2011, Art HK is clearly striving to be seen as the newest top-level player on the global art circuit.
The fair definitely had an ace line-up of art-world participants, an impressive 260 galleries from 38 countries, ranging from Acquavella, Bischofberger and Sadie Coles to Thaddaeus Ropac, White Cube and David Zwirner. Attendance at the Hong Kong Convention Center totaled a record 63,511 visitors, a 38 percent increase over last year.
More importantly (to the press, anyway), Art HK 2011 is testifying to its success with an after-fair report that includes more details than ever. Major sales are said to include Jeff Koons' Monkey Train (Orange) at L&M Arts ($3.5 million), Louise Bourgeois’ The Geometry of Pleasure at Cheim & Read ($750,000), a work by Chinese artist Zhang Enli to a private Shanghai foundation by Hauser & Wirth ($120,000), and works by Yan Pei-Ming and Luc Tuymans by David Zwirner for ($420,000 and a $1.1 million, respectively).
Other sales included Fernando Botero's Flying Eagles (2008) to an Asian collector by Galerie Gmurzynska ($650,000), Jake & Dinos Chapman's Dass Kapital ist Kaput? Ja? Nein! Dummkopf! (2008) to an Asian collector by White Cube (£525,000), and Andreas Gursky's Ferrari II (2007) to a European collector by Sprüth Magers Berlin London (€550,000).
“ART HK has put Hong Kong firmly on the international cultural map,” said director Magnus Renfrew in the release. “We’re thrilled with the record visitor attendance and believe the people of Hong Kong and the surrounding area are embracing the fair and are intensely curious to learn and experience more about contemporary art.”
Art HK also garnered positive quotes for its press release from Don and Mera Rubell ("It's a city on steroids"), Lars Nittve ("absolutely marvelous") and Asia Society Museum director Melissa Chiu ("the arrival of an art fair of international significance").
The fair was sponsored by Deutsche Bank. It debuted two new sections this year. “Asia One” was devoted to solo shows by Asian artists and “Art Futures” showcased emerging artists and young galleries, awarding a $25,000 prize to artist Iona Whittaker at Magician Space, Beijing.
STEVE MARTIN BOUGHT FORGED PAINTING?
Comedian Steve Martin may have been involved in one of Germany's biggest art-forgery rings, according to der Spiegel. Martin apparently purchased Heinrich Campendonk's 1915 painting Landscape with Horses from a Paris gallery in 2004 for about $850,000. At the time, the work's authenticity was confirmed by a specialist, the magazine reports.
But Martin didn't hold onto the painting, selling it two years later at Christie’s London for a little over £340,000 (about $610,000) -- or a loss of $250,000 or so. The quick turnaround sounds odd, and der Spiegel is fairly sparse with the details.
Apparently Martin's name turned up in the recent investigation of a large-scale forgery ring specializing in German Expressionist and other early 20th-century works and orchestrated by Wolfgang Beltracchi and Otto Schulte-Kellinghaus, whose scheme brought in at least $48.6 million. The "mega-forgery scandal," which stretches back to the 1980s, first hit the news in late 2010.
PETER BRANT TO SELL SHARE OF SEAGRAMS BUILDING
Is supercollector Peter Brant pressed for cash? Not for long! Brant is selling his 49 percent share of the Seagrams Building for $700 million, reports Crains New York. According to the rather unbelievable story, Brant's move is prompted by an insult to his wife, Stephanie Seymour, made by his two partners in the real estate property, Aby Rosen and Michael Fuchs. No word on the exact nature of the supposed jibe.
Earlier this month, reports emerged about conflicts between Rosen and Fuchs and their associate Harry Lis in regard to $7.2 million Lis says is owed to him for properties their company, RFR Holdings, sold last year. These latest broken partnerships come at the heels of the pair’s bitter parting with hotel developer Ian Schrager last year.
NEW LOOK FOR NATIONAL ACADEMY MUSEUM
The National Academy Museum, whose exhibition galleries have been closed for the past year, reopens this fall after extensive renovations. Debuting Sept. 16-Dec. 31, 2011, is “An American Collection,” a 100-work salon-style installation of American art from the museum holdings dating from 1820 through the 1970s. Works in the show -- most of them presented to the museum by its artist-members -- include Samuel F.B. Morse's portrait of William Cullen Bryant (1828-29), Asher B. Durand's 1850 depiction of two artists in a Hudson Valley landscape, William Merritt Chase's 1884 The Young Orphan, and Frederick Carl Frieseke's Among the Hollyhocks (1912).
The Academy is also presenting the first New York museum retrospective of artist Will Barnet (b. 1911). Other exhibitions include “The Artist Revealed: A Panorama of Great Artist Portraits” -- the academy holds over 1,000 portraits, including a self-portrait by Thomas Eakins (1902) -- and “Parabolas to Post-Modern: Selections of Post-War Architecture from the Academy’s Collection.”
“National Academicians: Then and Now” features works by Thom Mayne, Elizabeth Catlett, Malcolm Morley, Janet Fish and Joan Snyder, while “Contemporary Selections: Aligning Abstraction” presents abstract paintings by Bill Jensen, Harriet Korman, Melissa Meyer, Judith Murray and Stephen Westfall.