Yes, art still matters…

24 02 2016

… it’s just that I haven’t had a great deal of spare time to write about it. Art, that is. Or not here, at least.

Flagellants

I am sorry.

Self-flagellating as we speak. What can I say? I have no really compelling reasons to explain my absence from this sadly neglected blog other than to say I have been very, very busy. With this. And this. And a little bit of this.

But the demise of the Melbourne Art Fair was too big an event to ignore. If you’re interested, head over to The Conversation to read my perspectives on the situation.

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Hey now, hey now, my bunting’s back. Again.

12 05 2013

 

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Banksy, ‘Slave Labour (Bunting Boy)’

So it appears Banksy’s troublesome wall mural will appear at auction yet again, having been withdrawn from sale in the US earlier in the year (if you’re curious, you can read more about that here) … and yet again, I ask – was Banksy involved in the ‘restoration’ of the previously absent bunting, and if not, will the auction house make note of their handiwork in their catalogue entry?

What do you reckon the odds are? Somewhere between Buckley’s and none I’ll wager.

 





Have you been missing me?

9 05 2013
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Guido Reni, ‘The Penitent St Peter’.

Sincere apologies.

It’s been very, very busy.

In a good way.

My inactivity is unforgivable. As a small offering to compensate for my absence, here’s a link to a feature article I wrote on the market in Aboriginal art for The Age on the weekend…. click here.  





Art in the Headlines

12 04 2013
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Jackson Pollock, ‘The Key’, 1946 (via ibiblio.org).

Ah, Jackson Pollock.

What’s that, you say? Your two-year-old could have done that?

Well, perhaps you’re right… from The Age … 

‘Toddler young at art but showing a maturity to turn a profit.’ **

To all you jaded and mature-age art practitioners… meet what is described in reporter Matthew Dunn’s article as “art in its purest form, untouched by life’s pollutants and representative of what is important and beautiful”. Art made by a two-year-old. There’s your problem. You’re all far too polluted.

So there you go.

** ‘Young at art’. Love it. Those puns just pen themselves.





Copyright or wrong?

10 04 2013
china-copyright-Capotondi

On the left: Claudio Capotondi, ‘Sferosnodo’, 1983. On the right: copy of ‘Sferosnodo’ outside Kunshan station, China. Image via The Art Newspaper (www.theartnewspaper.com)

I’m sure I’ve used that headline before. Actually, I know I have. But it’s too good to resist. Besides which – it was two years ago, and more of a subheading than a headline.

Anyway, another to add to my ongoing file of copyright/authorship conundrums… (a couple more linked here and here).

According to The Art Newspaper (TAN), Italian artist Claudio Capotondi has made inroads into the Chinese art world. A version of the work he produced in 1978, Sferosnodo, was selected for permanent display at the front of a station in the city of Kunshan, China.

The only catch? Capotondi had nothing to do with the creation of the sculpture on display in China. It is much larger than the artist’s own work, which he first made in bronze in 1978, and again in marble in  1983. He also had no idea the gargantuan version was being made.

But now here’s the mind-bending thing. Think about ‘authorship’ and what you think it means in the context of fine art. Well, Capotondi is now campaigning to have the new version attributed to him. Although I had a look, and it appears that his website is now offline, according to TAN, Capotondi lists the sculpture as his own on his site. He has also said that he admires the work. “There are excellent craftsmen over there. It is a complex structure and the copy is much bigger than my original.”

So according to this, blatant plagiarism can result in a work of art for which an artist can claim authorship, even if he or she had no idea it was being made, far less any involvement with its creation.

OK. So, does that mean that Gucci is going to claim authorship for the dodgy knock-off handbags sold in the streets? Unlikely, because they wouldn’t want to acknowledge such shoddy craftsmanship. Not to mention, their trade relies on the premise of ‘exclusivity’. Does that mean artists will claim authorship of a stolen design only if the object produced measures up to their exacting standards? And does that mean that if I were to whip up a completely excellent Damian Hirst, that he would claim authorship, and I’d be in possession of an original Damian Hirst, rather than a derivative Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios? Of course, there are laws in Australia and internationally that would make the latter scenario more complicated. But I’m talking theoretically.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?





Priscilla, Queen of the Desart

20 03 2013
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Still from ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ (image via rockymusic.org)

A little quiet on the Western Front this week, I’m afraid, as I prepare for my keynote at Desart’s annual conference in Alice Springs next week. Under consideration will be all things Aboriginal art market-related.

I promise to update as soon as possible after I get back. Yes, I could do something on my iThing while I’m up there, but I plan to spend as little time working on the small screen as possible.

 





And the ballroom dancers went around… and around… and around again. A lesson in reading auction figures.

6 03 2013
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John Brack, ‘Backs and Fronts’ (image via http://www.aasd.com.au)

Hello, old friend. Nice to see you again.

It’s good to know some things never change. As regular as clockwork… John Brack’s Backs and Fronts is back on the auction podium for the fourth time in nine years. Wouldn’t be the first, and certainly won’t be the last rapid-fire repeat customer in the Australian art auction world. But I’ve grown particularly fond of this one over the years. Not to mention, those pirouetting figures offer a lovely analogy for the way this painting keeps spinning back and forth through the auction market.

I had a glance back over the painting’s auction record, and it reminded me of an object (or, perhaps ‘abject’) lesson to take on board when looking at reported prices. Thankfully, the Australian Art Sales Digest now publishes hammer prices (the price that the auctioneer calls out at the fall of hammer), not just prices realised (hammer price plus buyer’s premium), which thankfully makes the following exercise much easier.

When many people look at auction prices, (such as the prices for Backs and Fronts over the years laid out in the table below), they simply compare the prices in each column. So, for example, you’d be thinking… “hmm… The painting sold for $1,700,000 in 2007, then $1,800,000 in 2010. Given the whole GFC/collapse of the art market thingy, that’s not too shabby in terms of a return, really, is it? At least they didn’t lose any money.”

Sale date Hammer price Price incl. premium
25/11/1997 (Christie’s) $215,000 $239,000
10/3/2004 (Deutscher-Menzies) $392,290 $470,750
13/6/2007 (Deutscher-Menzies) $1,700,000 $2,040,000
24/6/2010 (Menzies) $1,800,000 $2,160,000
21/3/2013 (Menzies) (yet to be offered) estimate: $1,400,000-1,800,000

Above figures from Australian Art Sales Digest: www.aasd.com.au

But herein lies the problem with that approach. The question you should really be asking is: “what did it cost the buyer to acquire the painting, and what did they recoup when it was sold?” To work that out, you need to first look in the ‘price including premium column’ – that is the total amount the buyer would have had to pay to acquire the artwork. So in 2007, for example, the buyer ponied up $2,040,000 to get their mitts on Backs and Fronts. Then, you need to look at the ‘hammer price’ in 2010 – $1,800,000 – and subtract a good chunk of that amount to account for estimated selling costs (commission, insurance, illustration and cataloguing fees). Let’s make that a round (and fairly modest) 15%.

So when the person who bought the painting in 2007 sold it in 2010 the net amount heading their way would be ($1,800,000 – 15%) = $1,530,000.

Instead of what appears to be a slight rise in value from $1,700,000 to $1,800,000, we now have a fairly dramatic loss – $2,040,000 outlay becomes $1,530,000.

Not so rosy now. And that doesn’t even take into account the effects of adjusting for inflation.

So what does that tell us about the upcoming reappearance of our spinning ladies and gents at auction? Well, the low-end of the 2013 estimate is $1,400,000. That means the reserve price must be equal to, or fall below, $1,400,000. Let’s take the 15% selling costs from that figure… that gives us $1,190,000 ($1,400,000 – 15%). That is the net amount the seller will pocket if the painting sells at its reserve (conservative, because it presumes a reserve at $1,400,000 – it could be lower).

Meaning? The person who spent $2,160,000 for Backs and Fronts in 2010 (the price including premium paid that year) is now happy to sell it for $1,190,000.

(Apologies for the shouty caps that follow…)

That’s right… THEY PAID $2,160,000 AND ARE HAPPY TO SELL IT FOR $1,190,000.

Really?

Try spinning that.