Friday, August 29, 2008

NGS and The National Gallery, London, Join to Secure Future of Old Master Collection

NGS and The National Gallery, London, Join to Secure Future of Old Master Collection


Diana and Actaeon, 1556-59, Titian (Tiziano Vecellio), National Gallery of Scotland. Lent by the Duke of Sutherland 1945.

LONDON.- The National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) and the National Gallery in London (NGL) are working together with the Duke of Sutherland to secure the long-term future of the Bridgewater loan of Old Master paintings.

The Bridgewater Collection, currently on view at the NGS, is the most important private collection of Old Master paintings on loan to an institution in the UK and counts among the most important art collections anywhere in the world. The loan includes masterpieces by artists such as Raphael (3), Titian (4), Rembrandt (1) and Poussin (8). The pictures have been on continuous public view in the National Gallery of Scotland since the collection was placed there in 1945 by the then 5th Earl of Ellesmere, later 6th Duke of Sutherland. It forms the core of the National Gallery of Scotland’s world-famous displays of European art.

Over the years, the Bridgewater Collection has grown in value to the point where the Duke of Sutherland has decided that it would be prudent to review the holding in relation to the family’s overall assets, and he has therefore decided to offer a small number of selected pictures for sale to the nation, reflecting his strong preference that the entire collection should remain on public view in the UK. The Duke has offered the opportunity for the Galleries to acquire two masterpieces on extremely generous terms; Diana & Actaeon and Diana & Callisto, both by Titian.

Titian’s Diana & Actaeon is on offer at a net price of £50m. The NGS and NGL will be seeking funds to acquire this work which would then be available for display on a rotating basis in London and Edinburgh. Assuming the funds can be raised to enable this purchase to proceed, the two Galleries will also be grantedan option to acquire the second picture, Diana & Callisto in four year’s time for a similar amount. If the effort to acquire these works is successful then the remainder of the Bridgewater Collection will remain on long-term loan at the NGS.

The two Titians are arguably the finest works in the Bridgewater Collection. They were both painted as part of a cycle of works for Philip II of Spain and they represent a highpoint in Italian Renaissance art.

This is the first-ever collaboration of its kind between the London and Edinburgh National Galleries.
The Bridgewater Loan originally numbered 32. The National Gallery of Scotland acquired four paintings from the Loan in 1984 and Titian’s Venus Anadyomene in 2003.

John Leighton, Director General, National Galleries of Scotland: “The Bridgewater Loan, so generously made by the Duke of Sutherland, is the most important Old Master paintings loan to any public museum in the world and is of supreme importance to Scotland and the rest of the UK. The present initiative is intended to secure the long-term future of the Loan for the public benefit. We are delighted to be working in close collaboration with the Duke and our colleagues in London in order to achieve this.”

Nicholas Penny, Director, The National Gallery, London: “For a century, the agitation to preserve great works of art in British Collections from export has been animated by anxiety that Titian’s great paintings Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto might be sold. Now the paintings have been offered on remarkably advantageous terms; their acquisition by both institutions would be an historic event.”

Thursday, August 28, 2008


With September only days away, it dawned on me that I was coming up on 30 years in the contemporary art business -- hardly the blink of an eye. I thought this might be an opportune time to reflect on some of the changes I have witnessed in the industry, since getting my start in 1978, at the age of 23.

One of the great joys of being a young dealer from San Francisco was my initial trip to New York to do business. While the blue-chip action was predominantly uptown, the heart and soul of the art world was SoHo and its five-block concentration of contemporary galleries. The beauty of the scene was that if you were willing to be friendly and respectful, you could probably meet every single serious dealer within a week’s time.

The unofficial mayor of SoHo was Ivan Karp, still going strong today at 82. He treated everyone with courtesy and respect, whether he thought you could do something for him or not -- that and the fact that he had the only public restroom in SoHo. Another approachable dealer was Louis Meisel, Photorealism’s greatest advocate. He not only enjoyed showing you around his space, but would often invite you upstairs to his loft to view his personal collection of Mel Ramos paintings. Still another art dealer, the former owner of Artforum, Charles Cowles, delighted in turning you on to his stash of eccentric ceramics by the "Mad Potter of Biloxi" -- also known as George Ohr. That’s not saying every dealer was altogether welcoming. It depended on whether you were "properly introduced" or whom you talked to. I distinctly recall visiting Maxwell Davidson. When I expressed an interest in one of his artists and asked for photos, he nodded but warned, "Let’s start a relationship. . . not end one." Then there was Mary Boone. I can still envision her sitting behind an ebony desk polished to a mirror gloss, with only three objects carefully spaced on its surface -- a Rolodex, a phone and an effervescing glass of champagne. Talk about style.

Eventually, I met Arne Glimcher, who in the pre-Gagosian days was the biggest dealer around. One of my Californian colleagues snickered, "Did you kiss his ass?" To which I responded, "Both cheeks!" The point is the dealers were as distinctive as the artists they represented. You knew what they stood for. If you wanted to look at 1960s Pop icons, you went to Leo Castelli. If you were curious about famous architects’ drawings, you climbed the stairs to Max Protetch. If you wanted to see what Minimalism was all about, Paula Cooper was your destination. What’s more, anyone who paid attention could rattle off the names of virtually every painter on each gallery’s roster. The art world, prior to 1990, was that small. What changed? Many things. What immediately comes to mind is the sheer size of the contemporary art market, not to mention its international scope. The key to its expansion was that art became an investment -- an asset almost on par with securities and real estate. All of this was made possible by the tremendous upheaval in the secondary market, fueled by the auction juggernaut.

Back in 1978, the two primary New York auction houses, Sotheby Parke-Bernet and Christie, Manson & Woods, as they were known then, were places that members of the trade went to buy inventory. Rarely was a collector seen on the sales floor. It was an elite club where dealers were said to make arrangements before each sale to go partners on certain lots and lay off others to allow a colleague to buy on the cheap. Was any of this legal? Hardly. Did it matter? Of course not. The art business was so insignificant then that no one really cared.

Many observers point to 1983, the year that A. Alfred Taubman bought Sotheby’s, as the turning point. Taubman’s marketing genius transformed the auctions into a welcoming place for collectors. He made it easy for the average person to buy and sell. For the wealthy art lover, he introduced a variety of financial instruments -- loans against the future sale of property, credit, guarantees, etc.

The most important factor was that auctions brought credibility and transparency to the art market. Prices became a matter of public record. Gone were the days of gallery owners fibbing about what something was worth. A collector was no longer at the mercy of his dealer when he wanted to resell something. If he didn’t like the price the gallery offered for his Sam Francis, he could always put it up for auction.

The art market as we know it now had its roots in the 1980s, when Charles Saatchi, a British advertising executive masquerading as a collector, became its first official speculator. He bought up undervalued artists en masse, promoted the hell out of his collection, and then sold much of his holdings at auction. He created the template for today’s large-scale art investors who stockpile works by individual artists -- Picasso, perhaps, or Warhol, Basquiat and Wesselmann -- and bid up their works at auction, presumably reaping the financial benefits as their collection appreciates.

Auction speculation has recently been taken to a new level by the overnight success of Richard Prince’s "Nurse" series. A painting that you could have bought at Barbara Gladstone for $80,000 in 2005 (if you were important enough to be offered one) now brings $5 million or more at auction, with the underbidders including those high rollers who already own one or more works from the series.

However, the pendulum may have swung too far. On September 15-16, 2008, Sotheby’s is holding an unprecedented sale of major new works consigned directly by Damien Hirst. The artist has bypassed the middlemen, his primary dealers (in this case White Cube and Gagosian Gallery) to sell directly to the public, with the artist taking the risk, such as it is, and paying a much smaller share of the final sales price to his shopkeeper partners. In the old days, you would expect Gagosian and White Cube to cut the artist out of their stable for this kind of disloyalty. Apparently, today so much money can be made representing Damien Hirst that his dealers have chosen to grin and bear it, rather than alienate their money machine.

Where the auction houses go from here is anybody’s wager. For auction houses to move into the primary market for top contemporary artists is a scary development for galleries -- and something inconceivable when I began dealing art.

Almost equally inconceivable is the way that technology has transformed the art market. Veteran dealers still grow anxious when they hear the word "transparency." That’s because the word is symbolic of how business was once conducted. Before the arrival of the Internet and digital cameras, dealers had to resort to shooting 4 x 5 in. transparencies of paintings they were trying to sell. Not only was it expensive to hire a professional photographer, it was time consuming. The whole process could take an entire week. First you shot the image, then had it developed and delivered to the gallery, and finally sent it Federal Express to a potential buyer. Now you can shoot the image with a digital camera, transfer it to your computer, and send it -- in five minutes.

The Internet has narrowed the playing field for collectors as far as access to information. One leader in this field, needless to say, is Artnet and its database of auction prices. Before the Artnet database went online in 1996, art dealers had a distinct advantage. Not only did they know where the "bodies were buried," but they usually had greater and quicker access to past auction results. No longer. While most dealers are reluctant to potentially "burn" a $1,000,000 painting by plastering it on the internet, they certainly have learned to trust it for displaying almost everything else. Dealers repeatedly tell me that their business reach has become global as a result of the internet.

Cell phones have sped up business and made art dealing infinitely more convenient. I can recall the time I walked around the art neighborhoods of New York specifically to stake out "quiet" pay phones for future use. Did you ever try to conduct business with a jackhammer, garbage truck or fire engine disrupting a crucial moment in a deal-making conversation? Barney’s on Madison Avenue was a favorite. SoHo was more problematic. And you could forget about the bank of pay phones at the auction houses, for obvious reasons.

I’m not saying the art world is a better place than it was in 1978. It’s just different. Like the publishing and music industries, the art business has become strictly bottom line. At the risk of sounding cynical, money has never been more important; connoisseurship and independent thinking never less so. There’s also no sense of history. Anyone who entered the field during the current Chelsea era rarely has a clue as to who their ancestors were that built the art world. I would be shocked if half the dealers in Chelsea could identify Irving Blum, Leo Castelli, Peggy Guggenheim, Sidney Janis, Ivan Karp, Allan Stone, Betty Parsons and other pioneers. The characters who defined the business are almost gone. Young kids who open galleries today are no longer the black sheep of rich families, but career-oriented, well-adjusted individuals with good educations.

Regardless of the permutations of the market, the great art itself remains beautiful. When you’re feeling jaded, just go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, or the Whitney and savor your favorite artworks -- if you can put away the mental "price list" when you look.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Art Of I.O.U.S.A.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Chinese Director Zhang Yimou Presents Dazzling Opening Ceremony at The Olympic Games

Chinese Director Zhang Yimou Presents Dazzling Opening Ceremony at The Olympic Games


Gymnast Li Ning, who won the first medals for China at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, "flies" over the National Stadium to light the Olympic flame during the inauguration. Photo: EFE / Kay Nietfeld.

BEIJING.-The Beijing Olympic Games got underway with a dazzling opening ceremony planned by China's most successful film director, Zhang Yimou. It included a display of fireworks, acrobatics and music. The event started at 8.08 p.m. on August 8, or 8/08/08 in the Bird's Nest, China's national stadium. An army of 2,008 drummers pounded out the countdown to the Games. Thirty-five thousand fireworks lit up the sky above 10,000 dancers and performers in the stunning stadium. Twenty-nine colossal "footprints of fire" shot into the sky and "marched" through the city to Tiananmen Square in a dazzling, rolling display of pyrotechnics. The large cast sang the words of a famous Confucian greeting: "Friends have come from afar, how happy we are."

There were eighty world leaders, among them US President George W Bush and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Around one billion people were expected to watch the ceremony on television. The show was a celebration of ancient Chinese history. Performers wore lavish costumes from different imperial dynasties.

The 204 national teams paraded in a sequence based on the number of strokes it takes to write their names in Chinese, not in the traditional alphabetical order. The games officially started when former Chinese gymnast Li Ning used the Olympic torch to light the Olympic flame.

Chinese President Hu Jintao said: “The Beijing Olympic Games is an opportunity not only for China but also for the whole world. We should carry forward the Olympic spirit of solidarity, friendship and peace, facilitate sincere exchanges among people from all countries, deepen mutual understanding, enhance friendship and rise above differences, and promote the building of a harmonious world featuring lasting peace and common prosperity."

The time of the ceremony was selected based on the number eight, a lucky number in China. The time was 8.08pm on the eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year.

Jacques Rogge, President, International Olympic Committee, said: “That was spectacular. Tonight, the world was able to join in a magnificent tribute to the athletes and the Olympic spirit. It was an unforgettable and moving ceremony that celebrated the imagination, originality and energy of the Beijing Games.”

“We saw 204 national delegations march into the beautiful new National Stadium in the age-old tradition of the Games. Millions of people around the world were able to experience the thrill of seeing their heroes in a sea of team colours and national flags.”

“We witnessed athletes from these 204 countries and territories united in peace in one place. And for the next 16 days, they will be a part of one of the most thrilling competitions in history. As an Olympian, I can tell you that they will carry this memory with them forever. ”

“This iconic stadium is one of the world’s new wonders. It was a fitting setting for an amazing Opening Ceremony, I look forward to an equally exciting and unforgettable 16 days.”

Hein Verbruggen, IOC Member and Chairman of the Coordination Commission for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, said: “Opening ceremonies have always been a way for host cities to welcome the world and for the world to gather and share the Olympic spirit. This ceremony to open the Beijing Olympic Games was a breathtaking culmination of seven years of planning and preparation. The world will remember this for a long time.”

“Tonight wasn’t the end of a journey, but the fantastic beginning of 16 days of outstanding sport competition. This was a night to remember — for the Chinese people, and for the world.”

“As I watched the rehearsals for this ceremony, I knew this night would be absolutely astonishing. However, the actual event exceeded all my expectations. This was an unprecedented and grand success.”

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

YouTube - Soviet Art