Felix Salmon

Occupy Art

November 19, 2012

In the art world, the courtiers are revolting:

Dave Hickey, a curator, professor and author known for a passionate defence of beauty in his collection of essays The Invisible Dragon and his wide-ranging cultural criticism, is walking away from a world he says is calcified, self-reverential and a hostage to rich collectors who have no respect for what they are doing.

How Larry Gagosian is like Goldman Sachs

November 9, 2012

My favorite part of the Gagosian deposition starts on page 283.

A bit of background: Charles Cowles asked Larry Gagosian to sell a painting for him, Lichtenstein’s Girl in Mirror. They had an agreement that Cowles would receive $2.5 million of the proceeds, but then Gagosian discovered that the painting was damaged, and also the global financial crisis happened, and it became pretty obvious that the work wasn’t going to sell for anything like that much money any time soon. At the same time, Gagosian was in negotiations to buy another painting from Cowles, for $2 million. Cowles was hesitant to accept — but then Gagosian offered $3 million for the pair, and Cowles said yes.

Art-loan datapoints of the day, Peter Brant edition

September 28, 2012

Miles Weiss and Katya Kazakina, of Bloomberg, have a fascinating article today about the art-finance activities of Peter Brant, who — like many big-time art collectors — is using much of his collection as collateral in order to borrow money. The Bloomberg report is pretty straight-down-the-line, however, which makes me suspect that they missed a rather more interesting story.

Eli Broad’s inverted vision

September 20, 2012

Many years ago, Eli Broad was the very model of the modern enlightened art collector. In December 1988, he opened a 22,600-square-foot “lending library for art”, complete with soaring rhetoric:

Perelman vs Gagosian

September 17, 2012

Ron Perelman might be the single most notoriously litigious billionaire in the world, and so it’s probably a bit much to expect his latest lawsuit against Larry Gagosian to have much real substance to it. But what’s fascinating, reading the vast amount of news and commentary on the suit, is just how many people are taking it at face value. Even when they can’t agree on what that face value is.

When museum curators confuse price and value

July 23, 2012

Back in February, Janet Novack had a short piece in Forbes magazine, and a better, more detailed blog post, about one of the more bonkers tax fights out there: the one between the IRS, on the one hand, and the heirs of Ileana Sonnabend, on the other. Basically, Sonnabend owned a Robert Rauschenberg masterpiece, called Canyon, which cannot be sold — not even to a museum — because it includes a bald eagle. But the IRS wants her heirs to pay inheritance tax on it at a $65 million valuation, over and above the $471 million they’ve already paid in inheritance tax on other Sonnabend artworks they were bequeathed.

Eli Broad and the Gagosian consensus

July 13, 2012

I just arrived in LA, where the news that Leon Black was the buyer of The Scream is taking a decided back seat to the saga of MOCA. Just today, four life trustees of the Museum of Contemporary Art here wrote a letter to the LA Times distancing themselves from the direction it is taking, and another one — artist John Baldessari — resigned from the board entirely, becoming the fifth board member to do so since February.

Why arts organizations love new buildings

July 5, 2012

In 2002, Richard Florida published The Rise of the Creative Class, and created a whole cottage industry of people — himself foremost among them — flying around the country and the world, telling cities how to attract creative people and thereby thrive. In truth, however, these cities didn’t need much persuading. Between 1998 and 2001, expenditure on creative-industry construction projects — theaters, museums, performing arts centers — quadrupled, from a little over $400 million per year to almost $1.8 billion. Here’s the chart, from Set in Stone, a major new research project from the University of Chicago’s Cultural Policy Center:

Artnet’s silly indices

May 24, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, Artnet officially launched Artnet Indices — what it calls “the world’s first comprehensive set of art indices“. According to the press release: