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from Breakingviews:

Now Dan Loeb, Sotheby’s director, has work cut out

By Richard Beales
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Dan Loeb now has to help Sotheby’s catch Christie’s – not just blast its failure to do so. Christie’s on Tuesday threw down the gauntlet with a record $745 million contemporary art sale in New York. It’s one area of the business where Loeb has criticized Sotheby’s, which holds its rival auction on Wednesday.

Though the $2.8 billion Sotheby’s has been no slouch in fields like impressionist art and jewelry, it has lagged privately-held Christie’s in the all-important contemporary category. Last November’s big sales saw Christie’s raise $692 million – including a whopping $142 million for a Francis Bacon triptych – to blow away all previous single-sale records.

Sotheby’s only managed $381 million in response, despite snagging $105 million for one Andy Warhol. With this week’s blockbuster sale, including a top lot that set an $84 million artist record for Barnett Newman, the Sotheby’s arch-rival has upped the ante.

from Photographers' Blog:

15 seconds

Sderot, Israel

By Finbarr O’Reilly

“If you want to learn about a city, look at its walls.”

-Greek graffiti artist iNO

In springtime, the fields around Sderot are carpeted with red and yellow flowers swaying in the breeze. Yet the pastoral setting is at odds with drab concrete tenements rising up from the impoverished Israeli city under constant threat of attack.

Nowhere in Israel has been as heavily bombarded as Sderot. More than 8,600 rockets fired from Gaza, the Palestinian territory controlled by the Islamist group Hamas, have landed in and around the city since 2001 according to the local media center. Ten people have been killed by rocket fire in Sderot since June 2005 and dozens more have been injured. Psychological stress also takes its toll.

from Felix Salmon:

The Wu-Tang’s self-defeating unique album

I've had a couple of requests to write about the economics of the The Wu – Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, the new album from the Wu-Tang Clan. The album is being released in a beautiful box, in an edition of exactly one:

Like the work of a master Impressionist, it will truly be one-of-a-kind.. And similar to a Monet or a Degas, the price tag will be a multimillion-dollar figure.

from India Insight:

Photo gallery: The body as an art form in India

Bodhisattva Head, 1st-2nd century AD (Lucknow State Museum)

Bodhisattva Head, 1st-2nd century AD (Lucknow State Museum)

‘The Body in Indian Art’, on exhibit at the National Museum in New Delhi, is a pan-India project showcasing over 300 artworks from 44 institutions. The show is an exhaustive study of the body’s myriad representations in Indian art, roughly covering a period of 4,000 years across regions, religion and culture.

The exhibition has been put up in eight adjoining galleries, each with a specific theme such as death, birth, divinity or rapture.

from India Insight:

Photo gallery: Inside is everything in Subodh Gupta show

Dada (2010-13) (grandfather)

Artist Subodh Gupta’s exhibition in New Delhi features images from everyday Indian life on a grand and theatrical scale. The cycle rickshaw, the sewing machine, utensils and the Mumbai taxi are some of the motifs that dominate his work in ‘Everything is Inside’.

The show, on view at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, is an artist’s journey to the “inside” of his home and his roots. His preoccupation with utensils stems from his passion for cooking. And in ‘Bihari’, painted around the time he moved to Delhi in the 1990’s, the 50-year-old artist seeks to assert his regional identity.

from The Great Debate:

The other Egyptian crisis

Like most artists, I often wonder what art’s place is in a world that seems consumed by violence during these times of social upheaval.

It frequently seems like hell is breaking loose in the world while I work in the serenity of my art studio in New York. Like most people, I’d rather believe that what takes place outside of my comfort zone is only a fiction, that the terrible images and footage of people suffering are all fabricated. However, my daily conversations with my mother in Tehran are my constant reminder of how removed I am from reality. Indeed it is I who lives in a fiction, not them.

from Breakingviews:

Modern financial arts get special exhibition

By Jeffrey Goldfarb

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Modern financial arts have been given a special exhibition. Washington’s estimable Corcoran Gallery, with its de Koonings and Twomblys, is being carved up like a common conglomerate. Los Angeles played host to a hostile museum takeover bid and Detroit’s restructuring features the paintings and sculptures of the city’s art institute. A blank spreadsheet is proving just as able to inspire as a canvas.

from Felix Salmon:

Is there opportunity in art history?

Last month, at an appearance in Wisconsin, Barack Obama made a mild dig at art history graduates like myself. “A lot of young people no longer see the trades and skilled manufacturing as a viable career,” he said, "but I promise you, folks can make a lot more potentially with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.”

It took Obama roughly 1.5 seconds to backtrack — or at least to emphasize that he loves art history. “I’m just saying,” he clarified, that "you can make a really good living and have a great career without getting a four-year college education, as long as you get the skills and training that you need.”

from Breakingviews:

Sotheby’s revamps financial science – now for art

By Richard Beales

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Sotheby’s is revamping its financial science – now for the art. The auctioneer’s stock popped, at least initially, on Wednesday’s news of a $300 million special dividend and new criteria for investment. The plan addresses some aspects of the critique by activist investor Dan Loeb. But governance and broader strategy remain at issue.

from Breakingviews:

Loeb wrestles Sotheby’s over new art paradigm

By Richard Beales
Thea author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Dan Loeb is wrestling Sotheby’s over a new art paradigm. The Third Point founder reckons, essentially, that the listed auctioneer should be more like privately held arch-rival Christie’s. The $3.5 billion Sotheby’s, whose stock is up more than 40 percent over the past year, is hardly a basket-case. Its total auction sales increased 19 percent in 2013 to top $5 billion, outgrowing the larger Christie’s. Unusually for an activist investor – typically an analytical breed focused on the here and now – Loeb’s main beef with the company seems to be over the direction and pace of broad art market trends.

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