By Scott Reyburn
May 14, 2018
It’s the art world’s equivalent of a man struck twice by lightning.
On Friday, the 1943 Pablo Picasso painting “Le Marin” (“The Sailor”), valued at $70 million, was “accidentally damaged” at the presale exhibition of Christie’s Tuesday evening auction of Impressionist and Modern art.
“After consultation with the consignor today, the painting has been withdrawn from Christie’s May 15 sale to allow the restoration process to begin,” the auction house said in a terse statement. “We have taken immediate measures to remedy the matter in partnership with our client. No further information is available at this time.”
The unnamed client of Christie’s had been identified by Bloomberg in April as the casino mogul Steve Wynn, who in February resigned as chairman and chief executive of Wynn Resorts as a result of sexual misconduct allegations. In 2006, Mr. Wynn, who suffers from the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, accidentally put his elbow through the canvas of Picasso’s celebrated 1932 masterwork “Le Rêve,” which he had agreed to sell to the billionaire hedge fund collector Steven A. Cohen for $135 million. The painting was restored and was eventually sold to Mr. Cohen in 2013 for $155 million. It is currently on show in the exhibition “Picasso 1932: Love Fame Tragedy” at Tate Modern in London.
Christie’s has not divulged the precise nature of the damage to “Le Marin,” but following the mishap, the auction house said in an email that Picasso’s 1964 painting “Femme au chat assise dans un fauteuil” (“Woman With a Cat Seated in an Armchair”), estimated at $22 million to $28 million, has also been withdrawn from the sale. This second Picasso had also been identified as being offered by Mr. Wynn. Like “Le Marin,” it had been guaranteed to sell courtesy of a third party.
Andy Warhol’s 1963 “Double Elvis (Ferus Type),” estimated at $30 million — identified by Bloomberg as Mr. Wynn’s third big-ticket consignment — will be sold by Christie’s, as scheduled, in its Thursday night contemporary sale, the auction house added in its email.
“These things happen,” Guillaume Cerutti, Christie’s chief executive, said with a resigned smile, at Sunday’s depleted exhibition of Impressionist and Modern works. He declined to make any further comment.
By Robin Pogrebin and Scott Reyburn
May 14, 2018
At this point in the art market, it’s hard not to get inured to the superlatives: the most valuable private collection sold at auction (the Rockefeller sale last week at Christie’s); the highest price ever paid for a painting ($450 million for Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” in November at Christie’s) and what Sotheby’s had confirmed was the highest estimate ever placed on a work at auction ($150 million for Amedeo Modigliani’s 1917 painting, “Nu Couché (Sur Le Côté Gauche).”
The Modigliani barely made it past that figure Monday evening at Sotheby’s, selling for $157.2 million with fees at a sale that otherwise featured what many agreed were B+ offerings.
“You cannot find any more masterpieces,” said the dealer David Nahmad, adding of Sotheby’s, “Considering what they had, they did well.”
Although it was the highest auction price ever for a work sold at Sotheby’s, equally noteworthy is that the painting also carried the highest guarantee ever given by the company. This meant that the auction house was willing to assure a minimum price to the owner, potentially risking millions. Sotheby’s was able to offload that risk to a third party, who became the buyer at the auction.
The scale of the guarantee confirms that buyers can be secured in advance for trophy works. The results on Monday, the first night of the spring auctions, seemed to bear that out — although the Modigliani sold on one bid to the third party without any other buyer interest (despite valiant efforts by the auctioneer, Helena Newman, to bring in Patti Wong, the chairwoman of Sotheby’s Asia, who was working the phones).
“It cleared the mark painfully,” said Christian Ogier, a Paris dealer in Impressionist and modern art. “It’s difficult to get money out of China at the moment,” he added, referring to the absence of bidding on the Modigliani from Ms. Wong. “Everyone knew what was expected. The high guarantees break the dynamics of an auction, somehow.”
The overall atmosphere in the salesroom on Monday evening was muted, with few lots selling above their high estimates at a pace that, at times, felt glacial; 13 lots failed to sell. The only applause of the night was when the hammer came down on Jean Arp’s curvilinear sculpture “Ptolémée II” for $2.2 million with fees, selling to the dealer Eykyn Maclean in the room.
And the price of the Modigliani fell short of the last auction high for a work by the Italian modernist: $170.4 million for the more overtly sensual 1917-18 canvas, “Nu Couché,” which in 2015 sold at Christie’s to Liu Yiqian, a former taxi driver turned billionaire art collector.
Still, the $100 million club keeps adding more members, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose untitled painting sold for $110.5 million last year; Pablo Picasso, whose “Women of Algiers” sold for $179.4 million in 2015; and Andy Warhol, whose car crash painting sold for $105.4 million in 2013.
The Modigliani for sale on Monday was one of a celebrated series of nudes commissioned from by his Paris dealer Léopold Zborowski (for a stipend of 15 francs per day). The painting was consigned to Sotheby’s by the billionaire Irish horse breeder and art collector John Magnier, who had bought the work at auction in 2003 for $26.9 million, which at the time was a high for the artist.
The seller sought to capitalize on the painting’s recent inclusion in theModigliani retrospective that closed last month at Tate Modern in London, where it was featured on posters and on the cover of the catalog.
If a lot sells for the guarantee, the winning bidder becomes the owner. But if it exceeds the guarantee price, the guarantor earns a percentage of the surplus amount, a quick way to earn potentially millions of dollars. (The identity of the buyer of the Modigliani was not revealed.)
“In order to win the painting, they had to come up with a strong guarantee and a strong deal structure,” said Brett Gorvy, a former Christie’s executive who is now a private dealer, referring to Sotheby’s. “When you look at rest of their sale, it’s very O.K., but nothing exciting.”
“They needed that Modigliani, specifically going up against Rockefeller,” he added, recalling last week’s $833 million auction at Christie’s.
There are many art world professionals who bemoan the increasing trend toward guarantees, arguing that it takes the democratizating suspense out of the auction — only those who can commit large sums in advance can compete (sometimes that is the auction house itself). The result is that the biggest lots have essentially been presold, without publicly available information about the financial terms of each deal.
“What drives some of these huge presale estimates is actually the negotiation that takes place with the prospective third-party guarantor, the sale before the sale,” said David Norman, an art adviser based in New York, who until 2016 was Sotheby’s vice chairman of Sotheby’s Americas and its co-chairman of Impressionist and modern art worldwide. “Basically $100 million is where one has to begin to price a truly great work by any of the major artists.”
Valuation increases of between four- and fivefold also characterized significant works by Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso that had been acquired by their sellers back in the early 2000s.
Monet’s 1896 canvas, “Matinée sur la Seine,” had been bought by an unidentified American collector at auction for $5.7 million in 2000. At Sotheby’s, it was given a low estimate of $18 million and sold for $20.5 million to a telephone bid.
The sale of Picasso’s small 1932 head study of a dreaming Marie-Thérèse Walter, “Le Repos,” was timed to coincide with Tate Modern’s current blockbuster show, “Picasso 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy.” The owner had acquired the painting at auction in 2000 for $7.9 million. The painting sold for $36.9 million.
Sotheby’s total of $318.3 million from 45 lots exceeded the $173.8 million total for its Impressionist and modern sale last year, in which no work was valued at more than $30 million.
Before the auction, a cluster of protesters gathered outside the auction house’s York Avenue headquarters, objecting to the inclusion in the sale of works from the Berkshire Museum, in Pittsfield, Mass. In April, a Massachusetts judge ruled that the cash-strapped museum could proceed with its controversial plans to sell a much loved painting by Norman Rockwell and other artworks to fund its redevelopment.
Sotheby’s sale of Impressionist and modern works included works on paper by Francis Picabia and Henry Moore, the first works to be auctioned from the Berkshire Museum’s collection. Picabia’s 1914 abstract “Force comique” brought $1.1 million with fees, and Moore’s 1942 “Three Seated Women,” $300,000. Both works had formerly been owned by Massachusetts collectors.
That the Modigliani failed to generate the excitement Sotheby’s had hoped cast something of a pall over the evening. “There was only one winner — the seller,” said Alan Hobart, the director of the London-based Pyms Gallery, who thought Sotheby’s priced the painting too ambitiously. “They’re testing the market too hard. They have to be careful.”
Amedeo Modigliani’s 1917 painting, “Nu Couché (Sur Le Côté Gauche),” which sold for $157.2 million at Sotheby’s
Henry Moore’s “Three Seated Women” (1942), sold for $300,000, with fees, by the financially strapped Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Mass. The long dispute over the proposed sale of dozens of works ended last month with a judge’s decision to allow the sale.CreditSotheby’s
Pablo Picasso's "Le Repos," from 1932, sold at Sotheby's for $36.9 million.Credit2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, via Sotheby’s
Francis Picabia’s “Force Comique” (1914) sold for $1,119,000, also from the Berkshire Museum to benefit the financially strapped institution.CreditSotheby's
By Robin Pogrebin
Brooklyn-based painter Iris Scott (previously) eschews brushes and palette knives in favor of using the most traditional art tools of all time: her fingers. Her color-saturated canvases of thick oil paint capture shaking wet dogs, dreamy urban cityscapes, and serene outdoor scenes. “There’s nothing between me and the paint, I feel all the tiny nuances,” says Scott. “I can manipulate thick paint with my fingers in ways brushes never could.” The physicality of using her digits brings a unique sense of motion to each piece and when coupled with nearly 100 colors for a single artwork, it’s no surprise to discover how entrancing each canvas becomes.Scott has original works available through Adelman Fine Art and at UGallery and you can follow her works in progress on Facebook and Instagram. She also just published an instructional book titled A Finger Painting Weekend
By Eli Rosenberg April 30 Email the author
An art museum in a small town in South France reopened this week after a renovation — and an overhaul of its collection after the discovery that more than half of its works were fake, a blow that the local mayor called a “catastrophe.”
The Etienne Terrus museum in Elne, dedicated to works by the artist, who was born in 1857 and died in 1922, reopened on Friday with about 60 of Terrus’s works, all authentic. But in September, an art historian discovered 82 of 140 works in the museum’s collection were counterfeits.
“Etienne Terrus was Elne’s great painter. He was part of the community, he was our painter,” Mayor Yves Barniol said, according to the Guardian. “Knowing that people have visited the museum and seen a collection, most of which is fake, that’s bad. It’s a catastrophe for the municipality.”
The art historian, Eric Forcada, who had been working as a guest curator, said in interviews that suspicions had first been raised in his mind after glancing at the images in emails. An examination revealed that some of the buildings depicted in the paintings had not even been constructed by the time period in which Terrus lived, or other anachronistic or shoddy details. Some paintings had ink signatures that were easily wiped off by hand.
The discovery is a blow to the small town and its museum, which had reportedly invested some $190,000 buying art for the museum.
“It has become increasingly unsustainable for small towns to run museums, and it has become increasingly simple for fraudsters to trick municipalities with fakes,” Forcada told the New York Times. “It is easy to buy a 5 euro [$6] canvas at a flea market and to sell it to a small museum for 3,000 euros, while faking a Picasso or a Matisse and selling it to a great Parisian museum is impossible.”
Terrus, known for his landscapes, is seen as an early stylist to Fauvism, a movement popularized by his friend, Henri Matisse.
The forgeries, most of which were acquired in the past couple of years, according to the Times, are housed at the town’s police station as a police investigation seeks to find their origin.
Lynda Albertson, the chief executive of the Association for Research Into Crimes Against Art, told the New York Times that the museum had admitted that some of the forgeries “appear to have been rather obvious.”
Kenneth Paul Block was a fashion illustrator whose artful strokes captured the elegance of high-couture women of the ‘50s, then the fluid look of later decades. For nearly 40 years, starting in the mid-‘50s, Block was an illustrator for Women’s Wear Daily and later for W magazine as well, both published by Fairchild Publications.
mywriterssite.blogspot.com Kenneth Paul Block
In 1962, six year old John Tuohy, his two brothers and two sisters entered Connecticut’s foster care system and were promptly split apart. Over the next ten years, John would live in more than ten foster homes, group homes and state schools, from his native Waterbury to Ansonia, New Haven, West Haven, Deep River and Hartford. In the end, a decade later, the state returned him to the same home and the same parents they had taken him from. As tragic as is funny compelling story will make you cry and laugh as you journey with this child to overcome the obstacles of the foster care system and find his dreams.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washington DC. He holds an MFA in writing from Lindenwood University. He is the author of numerous non-fiction on the history of organized crime including the ground break biography of bootlegger Roger Tuohy "When Capone's Mob Murdered Touhy" and "Guns and Glamour: A History of Organized Crime in Chicago."
His non-fiction crime short stories have appeared in The New Criminologist, American Mafia and other publications. John won the City of Chicago's Celtic Playfest for his work The Hannigan's of Beverly, and his short story fiction work, Karma Finds Franny Glass, appeared in AdmitTwo Magazine in October of 2008.
His play, Cyberdate.Com, was chosen for a public performance at the Actors Chapel in Manhattan in February of 2007 as part of the groups Reading Series for New York project. In June of 2008, the play won the Virginia Theater of The First Amendment Award for best new play.
From Professor William Anthony Connolly
This incredible memoir, No Time to Say Goodbye, tells of entertaining angels, dancing with devils, and of the abandoned children many viewed simply as raining manna from some lesser god.
The young and unfortunate lives of the Tuohy bruins—sometimes Irish, sometimes Jewish, often Catholic, rambunctious, but all imbued with Lion’s hearts— is told here with brutal honesty leavened with humor and laudable introspective forgiveness.
The memoir will have you falling to your knees thanking that benevolent Irish cop in the sky, your lucky stars, or hugging the oxygen out of your own kids the fate foisted upon Johnny and his siblings does not and did not befall your own brood.
John William Tuohy, a nationally-recognized authority on organized crime and Irish levity, is your trusted guide through the weeds the decades of neglect ensnared he and his brothers and sisters, all suffering for the impersonal and often mercenary taint of the foster care system.
Theirs, and Tuohy’s, story is not at all figures of speech as this review might suggest, but all too real and all too sad, and maddening. I wanted to scream. I wanted to get into a time machine, go back and adopt every last one of them. I was angry. I was captivated.
The requisite damning verities of foster care are all here, regretfully, but what sets this story above others is its beating heart, even a bruised and broken one, still willing to forgive and understand, and continue to aid its walking wounded. I cannot recommend this book enough