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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.

Wu-Tang’s aim is to use the album as a springboard for the reconsideration of music as art, hoping the approach will help restore it to a place alongside great visual works–and create a shift in the music business.

This might be innovative, but it's also more than a little bit peevish. Go to the official website for the album, and you'll find a manifesto, of sorts, which basically boils down to art-market envy.

from India Insight:

Photo gallery: The body as an art form in India

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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

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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

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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

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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.

from Felix Salmon:

Adventures in art-market commodification, enhanced hammer edition

Back in 2012, I wrote a post with the headline "How Larry Gagosian is like Goldman Sachs". The general idea was that both of them use their relationships and their balance sheet to make money off and/or with their clients. Since then, as Christian Viveros-Fauné says, the art world has become even more coterminous with the art market:

“Business art” has arguably come to be the dominant form of art in our time. Today, this juggernaut of commodity-based art drives not only the way art is made, but also the way it’s promoted, marketed, sold, and, ultimately, understood both by experts and the vast public.

from Felix Salmon:

Art market chart of the day, auction gross edition

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I had lunch with Artnet's Thierry Dumoulin last week, and we talked a bit about the classic interactive NYT chart of box-office grosses. (It's getting on for six years old, now, but it's still top-notch.) I wondered if it might be possible to do something similar for artists -- to show how different artists have their auction peaks at different times, and how some artists fade away while others become newly fashionable.

This chart is not exactly that, for a number of reasons -- but it's interesting all the same. Artnet's Katharine Markley put together a list of 25 artists, split between Impressionist (the ones I've colored greenish); Modern (yellowish); and Contemporary (purplish). They're not necessarily representative of the art market as a whole, but they certainly weren't cherry-picked in any way: this is all the data I got. The chart above shows how much money each artist grossed at auction in each year from 1998 to 2013 (with the 2013 data going up to the end of November); I've also adjusted all the data for inflation, so it's all in 2013 dollars.

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