JUNE 2009

artnet Gossip by Rosetta Stone

An astonishing gathering of 300 luminaries from the worlds of fashion, film, music, politics, sports, arts and literature can be found right now at artnet Auctions in "Icons: 20th-21st Century Photographic Portraits," June 15-25, 2009. The sale features a classic color photograph of Jacqueline Kennedy and her three-year-old daughter Caroline (est. $8,000-$10,000), a print of Bob Gruen’s much-reproduced portrait of John Lennon in a "New York City" t-shirt (est.$1,400-$1,600) and a pigment print of Grace Kelly rising from the water like a royal mermaid (est. $3,000-$4,000).

Other stunning images in this celestial constellation include Audrey Hepburn at Paramount in 1953, Bob Dylan posing for "Nashville Skyline" in Woodstock in 1968, Woody Allen vamping in front of an 18th-century portrait at the Metropolitan Museum, and Barack Obama, presented in a stirringly noble profile. Still more subjects include Neil Armstrong, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Irving Berlin, Damon Dash, Greta Garbo, Elaine de Kooning, Paulette Goddard, Debbie Harry, David Hockney, Frida Kahlo, Groucho Marx, Glenn O’Brien, Larry Rivers, Babe Ruth. and Spencer Tracy. If that list of names doesn’t raise your blood pressure, you’re ready to check into Woodlawn!

Though artnet Auctions are thriving, many art dealers are having a hard time in the recession. "Where are the collectors?" is the question heard in galleries everywhere. But at least movie stars are still spending money, as Brad Pitt showed at Art 40 Basel when he bought Neo Rauch’s ten-foot-wide Etappe (1998) from David Zwirner Gallery for just under $1 million.

Angelina Jolie’s better half also showed up at Design Miami/Basel, where he snapped up a wacky chaise longue by Atelier van Lieshout -- it resembles a bright orange fruit cracked open to reveal a white furry cushioning inside -- from creative director Aad Krol of VIVID Rotterdam for $23,000. But the real rage at the design show was Dutch designer Maarten Baas, who presented a scientific-style conceptual installation on the subject of "real time," featuring a performer at a desk deep in calculation.

Money or no money, champagne flowed at the Art Basel vernissage, where London dealer Sadie Coles immediately sold a brand new painting by New York artist John Currin for a whopping $450,000. And Skarstedt Gallery from New York found a buyer for a large 1995 painting by Martin Kippenberger -- a kind of "anti-pinup" of a morbidly obese Venus, typical of the late German artist’s sense of humor -- for an impressive $1,400,000

Sarah Watson, who used to labor for Larry Gagosian in Los Angeles, was looking on point at the booth of L&M Arts, where she and Dominique Levy were working the room selling a Donald Judd stack piece just before the dinner bell rang. Sarah said that L&M Arts’s new L.A. branch is still in the works, with one building already renovated ("absolutely stunning," Sarah said) and a second awaiting building permits.

José Friere’s Team Gallery, a darling of the downtown New York scene, was tallying up a nice little sales sheet, selling all of their brand new Ryan McGinley photographs -- from his 2008 cross-country trip, which included some images taken in caves -- at prices in the $4,000-$18,000 range.

At Hauser & Wirth, collectors were zeroing in on Paul
’s Piggies Stainless Steel sculptures, going for $1,500,000 each in an edition of three. The artist’s current show at the Zürich gallery is over the top (as might be expected), featuring a pink sculpture of former U.S. president George W. Bush in intimate congress with farm animals!

The next day at Basel, Norman Rosenthal, the "Sensation" curator, took the stage for a Q&A with Jeff Koons, who was dressed in his usual conservative gray suit and tie. Koons said he employed 128 assistants. Someone asked about Ilona Staller, otherwise known as the porn star Ciccolina, and Koons said, in his exquisitely demure way, that when he met Ilona he had just seen Masaccio’s Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, and wanted a relationship that was as intense as that Renaissance masterpiece!

Back in New York, Brad Pitt was on everyone’s minds, too, at least if you went to the Chuck Close exhibition at PaceWildenstein in Chelsea. There, among Close’s trademark overscaled portraits of artists like Philip Glass, Ellen Gallagher and Lyle Ashton Harris is one of Pitt, who is of course an artist in his own right, and increasingly a member of the avant-garde community. This series of grisaille portraits is done as computer-guided Jacquard tapestries, and are priced at $120,000 in an edition of six.

Jacques Lowe, Jackie and Carolyn, 1960 is on sale at artnet Auctions now through June 25. Estimate: $8,000-10,000

Brad Pitt at Art 40 Basel with Berlin dealer Aurel Scheibler (left) and friend
Photo by Alexander Hattwig

Martin Kippenberger, I Am Too Political, 1995 at Skarstedt Gallery, New York

Paul McCarthy, Static (Pink), 2004-09 at Hauser & Wirth, Zürich

Norman Rosenthal and Jeff Koons in Basel
Photo by Mary Barone


Modernism Magazine

UAPL The Moving People