Auction Season in New York Plods Along, While Yayoi Kusama Fever Heightens

René Magritte (1898-1967) Le seize septembre, which sold for US$ 19.6 million at Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale in New York. Image courtesy of Christie’s.
Keith Haring’s Untitled (The Church of the Ascension Grace House Mural) which sold for US$3.8 million, a world auction record for the artist’s mural at Bonhams’ New York sale of Post-War & Contemporary Art. Image courtesy of Bonhams.
Installation view, Yayoi Kusama, “EVERY DAY I PRAY FOR LOVE” at David Zwirner, New York, 2019. Image courtesy of David Zwirner.
PARIS, FRANCE – AUGUST 31: French politician, former prime minister Dominique de Villepin is pictured in Paris, France on August 31, 2011. Dominique de Villepin. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 03: LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan, wearing Gucci, attends 2018 LACMA Art + Film Gala honoring Catherine Opie and Guillermo del Toro presented by Gucci at LACMA on November 3, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for LACMA)
Portrait of the artist with Myanmar Peace Industrial Complex (2017, background) and People’s Desire (2017–18, foreground) at The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial. Image courtesy of the artist and QAGOMA.
Mit Jai Inn, Patchwork, 2019, oil on canvas, 122.05 x 214.57 in. Image courtesy of Silverlens Galleries.
PARIS, FRANCE – OCTOBER 09: Glenn D. Lowry attends “Etre Moderne : Le MoMA A Paris” Exhibition at Fondation Louis Vuitton on October 9, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Bangkok Art Biennale 2020 Team. Image courtesy of Bangkok Art Biennale.
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CoBo Social Chinese Abstraction Series

This week New York’s fall auction season began but did not exactly break the bank, Kusama fever reaches hot temperatures while a former French Prime Minister announced plans to open a gallery in Hong Kong.

TEXT: CoBo News
IMAGES: Courtesy various

An Anti-Climatic New York Fall Auction Season Begins …

Auction season in New York took off to a solid yet so-so start with Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on 11 November, amounting to US$191,911,500. This was thanks to a record breaking US$16.2 million for Umberto Boccioni’s futuristic sculpture Forme uniche della continuita nello spazio/Unique forms of continuity in space (conceived in 1913, cast in 1972) and the evening’s top lot at US$19.6 million was for surrealist René Magritte’s painting Le seize septembre (1957). Nonetheless, there was a 30 percent decrease overall from the US$279.3 million in last year’s sale.

René Magritte (1898-1967) Le seize septembre, which sold for US$ 19.6 million at Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale in New York. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

 

New York Times reported that art auctions this week at Christie’s and Sotheby’s saw “significant declines” compared to last May. However, Philips’ New York auction house reported a highest day sale total in company history with its 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale amounting to US$40.2 million.

Now all eyes turn to Hong Kong as Christie’s, Phillips and Bonhams go head to head on 24-5 November. Will Hong Kong maintain it’s frenatic pace of last month which saw a Yoshitomo Nara painting sell for US$25.2 million?

 

Keith Haring’s Untitled (The Church of the Ascension Grace House Mural) which sold for US$3.8 million, a world auction record for the artist’s mural at Bonhams’ New York sale of Post-War & Contemporary Art. Image courtesy of Bonhams.
Street Art and Pop Art Prove To Be Auction Favourites

Despite the humdrum sales, there was some excitement with California pop artist Ed Ruscha’s Hurting the Word Radio #2 (1964) bought for $52.5 million at Christie’s, an auction record high for the artist, and American street art legend Keith Haring’s Untitled (The Church of the Ascension Grace House Mural) which sold for US$3,860,075, a world auction record for the artist’s mural at Bonhams’ New York sale of Post-War & Contemporary Art.

Haring’s sale is particularly noteworthy because it is the first mural by the street artist who passed away at 31 years old, ever to come to auction. The massive 85 feet three stories high mural was painted by Haring around 1983/1984 in the stairwell of Grace House, a former convent and home of the Catholic Youth Organization in Upper Manhattan and cut out and preserved in 15 separate pieces after the building was closed.

 

Installation view, Yayoi Kusama, “EVERY DAY I PRAY FOR LOVE” at David Zwirner, New York, 2019. Image courtesy of David Zwirner.
Kusama Fever Will Not Break

The world’s most instagrammable artist is going stronger than ever with a Yayoi Kusama travelling show making its debut in September next year at the Gropius Bau In Berlin, a well-known exhibition hall, before travelling to the the Museum Ludwig in Cologne in April 2021 and the Foundation Beyeler in Basel in October the same year.

This is in addition to the highly anticipated “EVERY DAY I PRAY FOR LOVE” exhibition presenting 60 works by the 90 year old artist at David Zwirner gallery in New York which drew 2000 people on opening night last weekend, Let’s not forget the recently announced large scale show exploring her artistic engagement with nature by the New York Botanical Garden in May 2020; Macy’s featuring a Kusama balloon in the Thanksgiving Day Parade; and her infamous Infinity Mirror Room (1995) currently on show at the the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston where timed tickets are sold out through November, just to name a few.

 

PARIS, FRANCE – AUGUST 31: French politician, former prime minister Dominique de Villepin is pictured in Paris, France on August 31, 2011. Dominique de Villepin. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Does The Art World Really Need More Power and Wealth?

The French love affair with the art scene in this part of the world is real. Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin is reportedly opening an art gallery in Hong Kong on 13 March 2020, showing works by late Chinese-French painter Zao Wou-Ki for its debut exhibition. The gallery, run by the elderly statesman and his son, will open slightly before Art Basel Hong Kong in a three-story 3000 square feet building in Central Hong Kong.

Speaking of excessive power and wealth, Nita Ambani, wife of the billionaire Mukesh Ambani who topped Forbes India’s Richest 2019 list, was appointed Honorary Trustee of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) this week. The Ambanis are no strangers to the MET. Through Reliance Foundation, the philanthropy arm of their oil and gas conglomerate Reliance Industries, the couple have supported exhibitions exploring the arts and artists of India at the museum since 2016.

 

LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 03: LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan, wearing Gucci, attends 2018 LACMA Art + Film Gala honoring Catherine Opie and Guillermo del Toro presented by Gucci at LACMA on November 3, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for LACMA)

 

While no one has raised questions about the MET appointment yet, Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight did call out Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) director Michael Govan for his dubious involvement in the commercial art world. Govan reportedly commissioned 19 photographs by Thomas Joshua Cooper that will be on sale at big name gallery Hauser & Wirth coinciding with an exhibition at LACMA featuring the same artist’s work.

Artists Calling Out Exigent Issues of Our Time

For those heading down to Art Basel Miami Beach this December, brace yourselves. It is not going to be all plastic glamour. Thanks to European artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset’s 20-foot-tall folded swimming pool installation Bent Pool (2019), visitors at the Miami Beach Convention Center will explore the “contradictions of holiday vacationing in the sunshine state” while facing the ongoing perils of climate change.

 

Portrait of the artist with Myanmar Peace Industrial Complex (2017, background) and People’s Desire (2017–18, foreground) at The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial. Image courtesy of the artist and QAGOMA.

Closer to home, Myanmar-born artist Sawangwongse Yawnghwe posted on Facebook that he would be withdrawing from Everyday Justice, an exhibition founded by the European Union (EU) opening on 15 November 2019 in Yangon, Myanmar. The artist cited the EU’s hypocrisy and consistent failure to take any action in the alleged war crimes in Burma as his reasons for doing so.

 

Mit Jai Inn, Patchwork, 2019, oil on canvas, 122.05 x 214.57 in. Image courtesy of Silverlens Galleries.
Singapore’s Art Fairs Straggle On

Singapore’s boutique art fair S.E.A Focus announced its second edition gallery line-up this week with a drop in the number of local and international galleries from last year’s 26 to 20 this year. The fair runs from 16 to 19 January at Singapore’s visual arts enclave Gillman Barracks. An initiative by Singapore Tyler Print Institute – Creative Workshop & Gallery and an anchor event of the Singapore Art Week, S.E.A Focus press release also included a leadership change with fair project director Audrey Yeo returning as programmes manager for this edition.

 

PARIS, FRANCE – OCTOBER 09: Glenn D. Lowry attends “Etre Moderne : Le MoMA A Paris” Exhibition at Fondation Louis Vuitton on October 9, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Does The Art World Know What Power Looks Like?

The 2019 Art Review Power 100 list was announced this week and the allegedly influential list did not disappoint with its arbitrary yet consistent manner of maintaining the power status quo in the art world. Museum of Modern Art’s long time director, Glenn Lowry, who oversaw the highly anticipated MoMA expansion this year, edged out artist-activist Nan Goldin who led the anti-opioid campaign against the Sackler family across museums internationally, to take the top spot because that’s what powerful white men from major institutions do, even in 2019.

Nonetheless, Southeast Asia saw two new entries this year with Indonesian artist collective ruangrupa and Singaporean artist Ho Tzu Nyen, due to their recent appointments at Documenta in Germany and Asian Art Biennial in Taiwan respectively.

 

Bangkok Art Biennale 2020 Team. Image courtesy of Bangkok Art Biennale.
In Other (Important) News …

The second edition of the Bangkok Art Biennale, set to return in October next year, announced its first round of artists at a press conference at West Bund Art & Design, Shanghai late last week. Featured artists include Rirkrit Tiravanija, Bill Viola, Dinh Q. Le, and Anish Kapoor. The Biennale’s theme Escape Routes asks the artists to explore diverse contemporary issues while using art as a means for “hope and optimism”.

Reported on November 14, the Florence Biennale awarded their top photography and media art prizes to Taiwanese artists Matt Liao and Lin Pey-chwen in an award ceremony at the end of October. Liao received the photography prize for his series exploring people in serendipitous encounters. Pey-chwen won the top media prize for her work as a pioneer of digital art in Taiwan.

Gus Casely-Hayford, historian and curator who spent the past year leading the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., has been appointed head of the up and coming Victoria & Albert East located at the former 2012 London Olympics site. The new outpost in East London is part of the expansion of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

 
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