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ARTNET GOSSIP
by Rosetta Stone
 
Has the art boom come back? The high end seems healthy enough, that’s for sure. Just last month, in May 2010, some 40,200 lots of fine art were put on the block at auctions around the world, for a sales total of $1.7 billion -- an average price of $77,700 per sold lot.

That’s not quite as healthy as the bubblicious numbers from May 2008, at the height of the boom, when about 42,700 lots were offered and sales added up to $2.5 billion, or an average price of more than $116,000 per sold lot.

Still, it’s a far sight better than a year ago. Back then, 37,400 lots hit the block and brought in almost $846 million, at a $48,000 per sold lot average.

In addition, auction prices for individual artists have resumed their apparently inexorable upward march. During May 2010 about 30 artists set new auction records in excess of $1 million, ranging from Pablo Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust ($106.5 million), now the most expensive artwork at auction, to contemporary artists like Brice Marden ($9.6 million), Christopher Wool ($5 million), Mark Tansey ($3.2 million), Richard Serra ($2 million), Lee Bontecou ($1.9 million), Richard Tuttle ($1.8 million), Mark Grotjahn ($1.4 million) and Walton Ford ($1 million).

Lower the cut-off to $100,000 -- still a sizeable sum for an artwork, needless to say -- and the number of artists whose works have hit new highs climbs upwards of 120. You can welcome to the six-figure-club our friends Kehinde Wiley ($104,500), Not Vital ($104,500), Gajin Fujita ($104,500), Laura Owens $116,500), Yoko Ono ($116,500) and Mr Brainwash ($122,500), to name only the most high-profile.

These numbers come from Artnet’s signature Auction Price Database, of course.

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The surge is happening on the art-fair level as well, with contemporary reports from Art 41 Basel, June 16-20, 2010, noting that "the sparkle is back in the eyes of the art dealers." Even smaller, regional fairs are feeling a fresh energy. A good for instance here is the new ArtAspen, Aug. 6-9, 2010, bringing 40 galleries -- Pace, Jonathan Novak, Sundaram Tagore, Fredric Snitzer and Nancy Hoffman among them -- to one of the classiest U.S. resort cities.

The Aspen event is organized by Rick Friedman, who has just launched the first San Francisco Fine Art Fair, May 21-23, 2010 -- "We hit a home run. . . packed all the time. . .  red dots everywhere," he said -- and who is readying the third annual installment of ArtHamptons, July 8-11, 2010, at Sayre Park in Bridgehampton.

Word is that Artnet president Bill Fine is speaking out on the island on July 9, on "The Internet’s Impact on Collecting."

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Funny how we can jump to conclusions and see links between things that are completely unrelated. Take the Wall Street Journal report that the bankrupt CCN founder and art collector Halsey Minor had won an $8 million judgment against Christie’s after a jury detected "fraud," apparently the result of some snafu at Haunch of Venison, a Christie’s subsidiary.

A week or two later, Haunch founders Harry Blain and Graham Southern, who had sold their business to Christie’s in 2007 and stayed on to run it, were out. It’s purely coincidental, we’re sure.

The news for Haunch isn’t all grim. One artist recently brought into the stable in New York, Enrico Castellani, has had his prices raised seven times since he’s been at the gallery, and hit a new auction high of $1.1 million in London last month.

Collector interest is growing too for Carla Accardi, the overlooked woman artist of her generation, and word is the gallery may bring the late Venezuelan artist Jesús Rafael Soto into the stable as well (Soto is yet another artist who made a new auction record last month, almost $760,000, double the presale high estimate).

True, Haunch is also trimming its sails a bit, though, moving out of its expensive quarters in the Royal Academy in London. In New York, where it’s perched on the 20th floor of a Sixth Avenue skyscraper, the gallery is looking at new spaces in Chelsea.

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Realism pays its way. Bernarducci Meisel Gallery on West 57th Street is expanding, moving into a full-floor space in the building, on the third floor, former home of The Project -- remember that place? -- before it mysteriously disappeared.

It’s all about finding the right subject. At Nancy Hoffman Gallery, one buyer of a video installation by Asya Reznikov -- a projection into a suitcase of an eternally packing traveler -- was the C21 Museum Hotel in Louisville, K.Y. The price was a bargain: under $4,000.

Sculptor Tom Otterness, a New Yorker when he’s not out on his ranch in Montana, phoned up at dinnertime on June 14 just to say that a crescent moon had risen in the east, with Venus visible just above it. The romantic sculptor’s new playground, featuring his trademark bronze figures, was recently installed by Larry Silverstein on a property at 42nd Street and 11th Avenue.

Gotta stay hungry: A spy on the westbound Hampton Luxury Liner in early June caught Neo-Expressionist Eric Fischl snacking on not one but two bags of Cheez-Its. Think of that orange when you look at his bullfight paintings.


ROSETTA STONE is a rock in the British Museum.