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    See Highlights From the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair

    The 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, now in its third edition, opened to the public in London today. The fair, which looks at contemporary African art and its diversity, features 38 exhibitors and the work of 150 artists from such countries as South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Kenya, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden, the UK, and the US. For those who can’t make it to London this week, we’ve compiled an expansive slideshow of highlights from 1:54.

    Click on the slideshow to take a virtual tour of the fair. 

    1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair

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    Sotheby’s Italian Art & Contemporary Sales Bring $118.8M

    LONDON — Sotheby’s scored high in its double-whammy, single evening 20th-Century Italian art sale and Contemporary art auction, hauling in £76.7/$118.8 million for the 78 lots that sold.

    Curiously, the Italian component this round nicked its contemporary side £40.4/$62.5 million versus £36.3/$56.2 million. That hasn’t happened since the art market mini-crash in October 2008. Eleven of the 51 lots offered in the Italian section failed to sell for a decent buy-in rate by lot of 22 percent.

    That gap tonight was largely due to the record-breaking Lucio Fontana pierced painting “Concetto spaziale, La fine di Dio” from 1963, which fetched £15,941,150/$24,676,668 (est. £15-20 million), the highest price achieved for any work by a Post-War Italian artist. It was one of 12 Fontana works offered, of which all but two sold. The 10 Fontana works contributed a rousing £23.3/$36.1 million of the £40.4 million Italian total. The egg-shaped painting with percussive holes distributed across its black surface surpassed the record set by another “La fine di Dio” at Christie’s New York in November 2013, which made $20.8 million.

    Even though it was a record, the painting only attracted a single telephone bid, most likely that of the so-called “irrevocable bidder” who guaranteed a minimum price for the picture prior to the sale. Fontana has become the Warhol of the Italian market, even though his works normally sell in contemporary art sales, apart from the annual October Italian-only sales.

    The packed room was challenging to auctioneer Oliver Barker, who pleaded for quiet at times against the chatter, and later described the sale as “an Italian embassy party.”

    Another Fontana, the petite and gold-hued “Concetto spaziale, Attesa” from 1963-64, by contrast unleashed serial bidding, finally selling to art advisor Judith Hess for £989,000/$1,530,972 (est. £250-350,000).

    The other Italian star that more than proved his mettle this evening was Alberto Burri, whose current retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York is fueling a super-charged market. Of the four Burri works offered, “Bianco Plastica 1” from 1961, explosively executed in plastic, combustion and tempera on faesite, sold to international art trader David Nahmad for £2,635,400/$4,079,599 (est. £1.5-2 million). New York art advisor Amy Cappellazzo of Art Agency Partners was the underbidder.

    “For what was once a localized market,” said New York art advisor Abigail Asher of Guggenheim Asher, “it felt international tonight. We bid on three things and only got one.”

    Asher bought Alighiero Boetti’s language rich woven tapestry “Oggi il quarto giorno dell’ottavo mese dell’ anno millenovecentoottantotto,” from 1988, for £269,000/$416,412 (est. £150-200,000). It last sold in November 2004 at Sotheby’s Milan for €78,000.

    “I think they’re icons,” said Asher, speaking of the series, “and very undervalued.”

    Switching to the more familiar and global contemporary terrain after the 90-minute Italian festival, Sotheby’s contemporary sale hit comfortably midway between the £32.9-46.1/$52.9-74.2 million pre-sale estimate. Fifteen of the 53 lots offered went unsold for a somewhat sub-par buy-in rate by lot of 28 percent. Fourteen lots sold for over a million pounds and 18 sold for over a million dollars. Four artist records were set. The result exceeded last October’s £28.2/$45.2 million sale with 52 lots sold.

    (All prices reported reflect the hammer price plus the tacked on, sliding scale buyer’s premium calculated at 25 percent of the hammer price up to and including £100,000, 20 percent of any amount above that up to and including £1.8 million, and 12 percent of any amount in excess of that figure. Estimates do not reflect the added-on premium.)

    The contemporary sale got off to a buoyant start with a campy and large-scale figurative work by the young, Latvian-born artist Ella Kruglyanskaya, “Swordfish Picnic” from 2011, dominated in part by an open-mouthed swordfish propped up by a life preserver and posed between three fashionably attired women reading on a very large beach towel. It made its auction debut here, selling for £81,250/$125,775 (est. £40-60,0000).

    On that same youthful track, Jonas Wood’s heavily patterned interior, “Rosy’s Masks,” the title referring to the artist’s grandfather and various tribal-like objects pegged on a wall, dates from 2008 and is similarly huge at 101 ½ by 75 inches. It sold for £293,000/$453,564 (est. £200-300,000). Wood in the primary market is waiting list only and perspective buyers reportedly have to acquire two, with one reserved for a museum donation.

    “Untitled,” a seven-part work by Colombian artist Oscar Murillo— a mixed-media affair with each abstract panel measuring 35 1/2 by 26 1/8 in artist made frames — sold to the telephone for £245,000/$379,260 (est. £100-150,000). London’s Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery was the underbidder. (Murillo is currently the subject of a solo show at David Zwirner’s London gallery.)

    In the more grown-up arena, Andy Warhol’s modestly scaled, 22 by 22 inch blue and red “Flowers,” an acrylic and silkscreen on linen painting from 1964-65, made £1,055,000/$1,633,140 (est. £1-1.5 million). It was once owned by legendary New York Pop Art collectors Ethel and Robert Scull and last sold at auction at Phillips de Pury& Company London in October 2008 for £735,650.

    Later in the sale, Warhol’s appropriated portrait “Lenin,” from 1986, brought £3,061,000/$4,738,428 (est. £2.5-3 million). There were seven Warhols offered in the sale and it was unusual that the salesroom was missing the presence of Warhol kingpin Jose Mugrabi or other family members. It’s unclear whether his physical absence slowed the Warhol Jetstream, though no doubt Mugrabi monitored the action and perhaps bid via telephone.

    Another Pop Art entry, Robert Indiana’s world-branded “Love” painting from 1967 and measuring 71 1/2 by 71 5/8 inches, sold for £1,565,000/$2,422,620 (est. £1-1.5 million). New York private dealer Simon Salma Caro was the underbidder.

    Moving to other continents, Asian master Lee Ufan’s monochromatic and meticulously patterned “From Point 80067,” executed in oil and mineral pigment on canvas and dating from 1980, sold to a telephone bidder for £509,000/$787,932 (est. £450-650,000).

    In a related Minimal vein, Agnes Martin’s delicately and almost invisibly color banded “Untitled” abstraction from circa 1999-2000, comprised of acrylic and graphite on canvas, went to another telephone bidder for £2,837,000/$4,391,676 (est. £2.5-3.5 million). It was backed by a Sotheby’s financial guarantee.

    Several sensational prices occurred on the sculpture front, as Louise Bourgeois’s cuddly “Mother and Child” from 2001, comprised of stitched fabric in an aluminum and glass vitrine, vaulted to £1,205,000/$1,865,340 (est. £350-450,000) and Isa Genzken’s formidable “Fenster (Window)” from 1990, brutally fabricated in concrete and steel, made £677,000/$1,047,996. (est. £100-150,000).

    Commenting on the super-charged result of the Bourgeois shortly after the sale, auctioneer Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s deputy chairman, Europe, who navigated both auctions, said, “Two people fell in love with it and that’s what can happen at auction.”

    On a different plane, Ai Weiwei’s found object confection “Grapes” from 2010-11, consisting of 32 stools from the Qing Dynasty and deftly arranged in a kind of pronged bowl pattern, brought £437,000/$676,476 (est. £350-450,000). The piece has been on loan to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem since 2011.

    If you ever wondered where Lucien Smith might have gotten his idea for his fire extinguisher applied “Rain” paintings, the 84 by 60 inch Christopher Wool painting “Untitled (P63)” from 1988, executed in alkyd and flashe on aluminum, is a good candidate. Unfortunately, the Wool was a casualty, missing its mark (est. £500-700,000), and became the property of Sotheby’s since it backed the painting with a guarantee. It last sold at Phillips de Pury, New York in November 2011 for $842,500.

    In the relatively rarified arena of serious figure painting, Michael Borremans’s grandly scaled oil, the 122 by 80 ¾ inch composition aptly titled “Girl with a Duck,” from 2011, made a record £2,045,000/$3,165,660 (est. £600,000-1 million). It was exhibited in 2011 in the artist’s solo at David Zwirner Gallery in New York.

    There was barely a resemblance to another figurative painting, Richard Prince’s blood-stained “Untitled (Nurse),” from 2006, smaller scaled at 60 by 40 inches. It made £1,325,00/$2,051,100 (est. £1.3-1.8 million) and came “naked” to market, meaning without the backing of a guarantee. Prince’s once dented market seems to be in a recovery mode.

    Though it lacks the sought after word cosmology found in some of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s best paintings, “Untitled (The Black Athlete)” from 1982 in acrylic and oilstick on canvas, rated the cover lot with the brawny, haloed figure flexing his bulging biceps. It sold as the top lot to another anonymous telephone bidder for £4,069,000/$6,298,812 (est. £3.5-4.5 million). It last went unsold at auction at Phillips de Pury & Company in New York in November 2004.

    The long evening, while largely successful by almost any measure, appeared flat and lethargic at times, perhaps a sign of exhaustion from the still storming Frieze Week. Though a rather unfamiliar Gerhard Richter abstract, “Ausschnitt (Kreutz)” from 1971, an oscillating composition in rather muddy colors, still found its place, selling for £2,613,000/$4,044,924 (est. £1.8-2.5 million). It last sold at Christie’s London in February 2011 for £1,049,250. That would be a win in any stock portfolio. Art advisor Amy Cappellazzo was the underbidder.

    There were also some surprises in terms of bidders as Los Angeles emerging art guru Stefan Simchowitz, hard to miss in the first row, bought two works of a very different nature, Anselm Kiefer’s jumbo-scaled, mixed-media “Die Ungeborenen,” from 2013, for £1,085,000/$1,679,580 (est. £350-450,000) and Sean Scully’s “Enter Yellow,” from 1999, which made £557,000/$862,236 (est. £350-450,000).

    “There’s no weakness in the market,” said Simchowitz as he exited the salesroom. “There’s a huge expanding interest growing outside of this zip code zone and I think it’s healthy.” Referring to the just acquired Kiefer for a client, Simchowitz noted, “Kiefer is undervalued and you can buy 10 for the price of one Richter squeegee painting.” Self-serving or not, the statement makes sense.

    The evening action week here reaches its finale on Friday evening at Christie’s, with another dual-sale of Italian and Contemporary Art.

    Michaël Borreman's "Girl With Duck"

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    Bob and Roberta Smith on “Art Is Your Human Right” in London

    Art Is Your Human Right: The Artistic Campaigns of Bob and Roberta Smith” at the William Morris Gallery in London  is a showcase of works chronicling London-based artist Bob and Roberta Smith’s (the pseudonym of Patrick Brill) campaigns for art education.

    In 2013, Bob and Roberta launched the Art Party with Crescent Arts, Scarborough to better advocate the arts to Government. It is not a formal political party, but rather a loose grouping of artists and organisations concerned about the role of arts and design in schools.

    “Art Is Your Human Right” comprises film, placards, sculpture, banners, and even the artist’s slogan-covered campaigning van. Highlights include the text work “Letter to Michael Gove” and the specially commissioned film “Art is Your Human Right: Why can’t politics be more fun?

    William Morris was himself a passionate believer in equality in the arts, writing: “I do not want art for a few, any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.” The exhibition draws attention to this shared philosophy with interventions throughout the Gallery’s permanent collection.

    Commenting on the exhibition, Bob and Roberta Smith said: “This show takes forward my campaigns, which have been purely about art education, to thinking about art as fundamental to freedom of expression for all of us.

    “Morris had a deep understanding of the importance of art in every part of our lives which really speaks to me. I want the Mayoral candidates in the 2016 election to sign up to my ‘Morrisian pledges,’ and I am inviting the public to get involved and help me spread the word.”

    To find out more about “Art Is Your Human Right” and the artist’s campaigns for art education, BLOUIN ARTINFO got in touch with Bob and Roberta and asked a few questions.

    What is the motivation and inspiration behind “Art Is Your Human Right:The Artistic Campaigns of Bob and Roberta Smith” at William Morris Gallery?

    Art around the world is under threat. Whip the blogger, imprison the poet, lock up the artist, blow up the ancient city, and what you are saying is that your vision does not matter, that you will have no legacy, and that your life means nothing.

    In this country we are telling children art, poetry, music, and dance is of no importance. This means that our children will not develop their voices and we won’t be hearing from them as adults. I think to defend the arts is to defend something fundamental. The arts is about free expression, and free speech is a human right.

    In what ways do you translate and interpret your message into a visual language and vocabulary?

    I work things out by writing them down. I try to write clearly, but with style AND URGENTLY. When I paint my thoughts on boards I do so quite expressively. I swap colours around and change scale to create emphasis on certain areas; but this is intuitive and sometimes contradicts the sense of the text. I think hand-painted texts become an “ident” for the idea. The visual impact of the work inhabits the politics and the meaning of the text.

    The exhibition features the new work “Dear Mayoral Candidate...” Could you explain the basis of this work and what it entails?

    I stood against Michael Gove in the 2015 election. In my film “Art is your Human Right” you can see how I got on. Afterwards, I thought that I don’t want to do that again. Principally, because democracy is not very democratic. I felt sorry for the other candidates and the people in Surrey Heath who are not conservatives and who will never have a say in what goes on in their area. The experience made me a fan of proportional representation. In 2016 there will be an election for mayor. I would like them to mention the arts on the campaign. The Arts agenda is my effort to pressure the mayoral candidates to defend the arts when they seek our votes.

    How does your message manifest aesthetically in the works presented in “Art Is Your Human Right: The Artistic Campaigns of Bob and Roberta Smith”?

    The aesthetics is pretty un-synthesized. In large part I do what I do and I am not self-conscious about it. I am influenced by conceptual art and Situationist approaches, but I am also driven in a way which is not reflective or analytical which means my work lives somewhere else. I am not sure where it lives but that does not bother me. I am very concerned about communicating directly with the public. I don’t want to rely on the art world to interpret what I do.

    Could you give a bit of an insight into the “Art is Your Human Right: Why can’t politics be more fun?” film that has been specially commissioned for the exhibition?

    “Art is Your Human Right: Why can’t politics be more fun?” follows me on my campaign trail against Michael Gove in Surrey Heath. The film is fun. It is mostly shot on a Sony hand-held camera with an SD card; but some parts of it were made on my phone. It’s rather primitive and I only realized half way through that I should film some cut-away shots. This means the pace of it is very YouTube-like and rather crude. But I think it is watchable in a straightforward way.

    My friend the filmmaker and writer John Rogers made an excellent job of editing it. He made part of the film. That early part of the movie flows much better. There are some great shots of Michael Gove and me. My favorite part is the “Victory” Rally he held in Cobham a few days before the election. It’s the sort of local politics that is thankfully too crude for national life; but the incumbent politician being driven through the town on a fire truck is somehow acceptable in the shires. I am proud of that part. It exposes the charade of the election in safe seats.

    Video by William Morris Gallery. Courtesy William Morris Gallery

    Portrait of Bob at WMG 2015 Image credit: Paul Tucker

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    Sneak Peek: What to See at 2015 Officielle Art Fair in Paris

    FIAC’s new satellite art fair, (OFF)ICIELLE, returns for its second edition in 2015 at the Docks – Cité de la Mode et du Design in Paris from October 21-25 with a lineup of 69 galleries from 17 countries.

    (OFF)ICIELLE showcases emerging galleries exhibiting ambitious projects by promising young artists whose work defines new and singular territories.

    The fair aims to “decode the language of contemporary creation” by presenting the work of emerging contemporary artists and re-contextualizing the work of under-recognized historic figures.

    With 23 solo exhibitions and journeys into little-known or unexplored arts scenes, (OFF)ICIELLE’s guiding principle is one of discovery.

    Galleries exhibiting as part of the main (OFF)ICIELLE program include 11R Eleven Rivington of New York, 22,48 m² of Paris, Green Art Gallery of Dubai, and MadeIn Gallery of Shanghai, to name a few.

    (OFF)ICIELLE 2015 will also feature the special focus sector, (OFF)ICIELLE PRESENTS, for ambitious projects that shed light on singular trajectories, both collective and individual.

    (OFF)ICIELLE PRESENTS projects include Alexis Smith at Honor Fraser of Los Angeles, Norman Zammitt at Andrew Rafacz of Chicago, and Hessie at Arnaud Lefebvre of Paris.

    Visitors to (OFF)ICIELLE can also explore the program of outdoor sculptures and installations, performances, and films being presented in conjunction with FIAC’s Hors les Murs program.

    (OFF)ICIELLE galleries are chosen by a Selection Committee composed of exhibition curators and prominent art world personalities.

    Click the slideshow for a sneak peek at the works being presented at (OFF)ICIELLE 2015


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    Frieze Masters Shines With Unexpected Juxtapositions

    LONDON — How to describe Frieze Masters? Think of a free market version of Tate Modern, the National Gallery, the British Museum, and the V&A, all collaged together inside a tent. It’s enormous — though not so vast as the original Frieze, across Regent’s Park to the south — and scattered with gorgeous objects dating from around 3,000 BC to now.

    The best thing about it is wildly unexpected, even nutty, juxtapositions of items that, in conventional art history, have nothing in common whatsoever. This occurs particularly on the stalls occupied by two dealers specializing in divergent fields.

    Thus Karsten Schubert makes a nicely odd couple with the Tomasso Brothers, producing a display of Bridget Riley’s trademark curvilinear abstractions next to renaissance and classical marble sculptures. I’m still wondering why it works, but it does.

    Similarly wacky exercises in art historical compare-and-contrast are to be seen in the space that is shared by Peter Freeman and Kunstkammer Georg Laue. The latter contributes a chamber of curiosities items, including a marvellous display of racquets used for the game of pallone, but resembling spiked sculptures by Brancusi. There’s also a jointed lay-figure of the kind used as an ever-patient model by 18th-century artists, but looking distinctly surreal. Nearby, just as curious in their way, are minimalist drawings by Agnes Martin.

    Hauser & Wirth team up with Moretti, so a gleaming, rather phallic modernist bronze by Hans Arp (a.k.a. Jean Arp) confronts a 15th-century Italian cassone panel. That Arp, from a more orthodox point of view — early modernism famously being inspired by ancient and non-European cultures — might have had something in common with some of the fabulous things at Rupert Wace. Among these are a large Cypriot pot, various Bactrian ritual objects also with a strongly phallic look, and a pre-dynastic Egyptian vessel, all from the third millennium BC.

    As I walked around, my eye was often caught by the older and odder things. At Sam Fogg, a leader in the medieval stakes, I was stopped in my tracks by a brass chandelier from the Southern Netherlands, c. 1480-1520, which is a dead ringer for the celebrated light fitting in Van Eyck’s “Arnolfini Portrait.” At Helly Nahmad is a rather different sort of artistic inspiration: recreations of heavily graffitied interiors from the mental institutions visited by Jean Dubuffet in the 1940s, when formulating his style based on the art of the insane. Opposite is a selection works by the artist.

    At least one exhibition managed to combine antiquity and classic modern in one piece: part of a focussed exhibition of works by Michelangelo Pistoletto from 1958-61 at Galleria Continua features a cast of a classical bronze orator facing his own reflection in a gigantic mirror.

    There are plenty of museum-class objects on show, ranging over 5,000 years. Bridget Riley is not the only living artist given spotlight treatment. Marlborough Fine Art has, naturally enough, an array of works by Frank Auerbach, including a fine charcoal portrait of his friend and fellow artist Leon Kossoff from 1950, which actually predates the earliest piece in the current Tate retrospective.

    There’s also a splendid Sickert of the Church of St Jacques, Dieppe, at the Fine Art Society; fine Florentine sculpture at Bacarelli and Botticelli; and an intriguing display of early Christo — emerging from pop art and abstract painting — at Annely Juda. Indeed, there’s far too much worth looking at to list here. A dealer I was chatting with suggested that Frieze Masters is now the best London art fair — better than Frieze itself. Obviously he’s not an unbiased witness, but I suspect he’s right.

    Frieze Masters 2015 runs through October 18 at London’s Regent’s Park.  

    Frieze Masters London 2015

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    Q&A With Becca Hoffman, Director of the Outsider Art Fair, Paris

    Who’s an artist? Somebody who has attended an art school or anybody giving creative expression to various impulses? Perhaps, the latter. That’s what Outsider Art is about, art that is raw and unconditioned by institutional regimen. It’s a field where there are no boundaries. 

    Wide Open Arts (WOA), the producers of the upcoming third edition of the Outsider Art Fair in Paris, explain it best on their website: The “central characteristic shared by Outsiders is simply their lack of conditioning by art history or art world trends. Over the years, the parameters of Outsider Art have expanded dramatically to include art made by a wide variety of art-makers who share this common denominator of raw creativity. Outsiders come from all walks of life, from all cultures, from all age groups.”

    WOA, formed by art dealer Andrew Edlin, bought the Outsider Art Fair of New York in 2012. The organization expanded and relocated the New York fair to Center 548 in Chelsea, and its 2013 edition saw the attendance tripling over previous editions. Prompted by its success in New York, WOA took the fair to Paris for the first time in October 2013. In advance of the October 22 opening of the Paris fair’s third edition, coinciding with FIAC, its director, Becca Hoffman, shared her thoughts on the fair and outsider art with ARTINFO. 

    The fair is pretty non-conformist. How has it been received? 

    Given that we are returning for our third year with a new venue and 50 percent increase in the number of exhibitors, it’s clear that we are having success in Paris. Our venture there was an outgrowth from the incredible response to the first New York edition under our ownership. The New York fair was already a well-established institution when we took over, and the whole allure has always been that the artists are self-taught. So the lack of “pedigreed education” has always been the point.

    Could you talk about Shinichi Sawada’s sculpture show at the fair? 

    Sawada’s work is really sensational and has been in some major shows over the last few years: 2013 Venice Biennale, London’s Wellcome Collection, Collection de L’Art Brut, and Halle Saint Pierre. But the work has never been available for sale, which has made it less visible and should prove a real treat to our visitors.

    Self-taught artists haven’t had it easy finding fame. Is it still true?

    There has been much broader recognition for Outsider Art on the institutional and global level. Certainly, the online culture has been key to disseminating information and images of these incredible works.

    Are there enough galleries to throw their weight behind outsider artists? 

    There are many avenues to getting one’s work noticed, however most outsider artists have the support of a third party — a friend or family member that helps champion their work and brings it to the attention of art world. Ateliers and art therapy centers like Creative Growth help facilitate the development of artists. It is fair to say that this is an expanding field with new galleries focusing on self taught art.

    Yours is the only fair on Outsider art in the world. Does this help? 

    We are the only fair in the world that focuses on Outsider Art, you are right. This is a tremendous responsibility and privilege for we are actually, in effect, curating the largest shows of Outsider Art every year with our two fairs. Since Wide Open Arts purchased the Fair we have worked hard at invigorating, enlivening, and expanding the field — recruiting and mentoring new dealers, finding galleries with broader programs who are interested in participating. This is a small field but an expanding one.

    Could you name some highly valued Outsider artists of our times?

    Dan Miller, Susan Te Kahurangi King, George Widener, Julian Martin, and M’onmma are a just a handful of the highly lauded self-taught artists you’ll see at the fairs.

    How do you foresee the market for Outsider art in near future?

    The market continues to grow, especially when it comes to the top echelon of artists — the supply is very limited and now Christie’s has jumped into the business, setting a record for Darger in Paris last year with more activity planned for New York in September and January. It is a field that provides welcome solace from the contemporary art world.

    What would you advise outsider artists waiting to be recognized?

    Outsider artists don’t need any input from dealers or any other forces trying to put them on some kind of career track. Sooner or later good work finds their way to someone who gets it into the public’s eye. Or it doesn’t and that’s just the nature of things.

    The Outsider Art Fair will be held at Hôtel du Duc, 22 rue de la Michodière, 75002 Paris,  October 22-25. For details, visit


    Outsider Art Fair 2015

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    Take a Tour of Frieze Week London

    Frieze Week London wraps up this weekend, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all there is to see at the citys various fairs. ARTINFO has compiled an extensive slideshow of images from the Frieze art fair, Frieze Masters, the Multiplied Art Fair, the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, and PAD. Click here to take a virtual tour of works on offer in London this week.

    Frieze London 2015

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    New York Historical Society Renovates, Dedicates New Space to Tiffany Lamps

    Renowned for its collection of lamps by Tiffany Studios, the New York Historical Society on Central Park West will renovate the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture and dedicate the space to displaying the 100 lamps it owns.

    Designed by architect Eva Jiřičná, the 3,000-square-foot, two-story space is scheduled to open in early 2017, and will feature the Tiffany lamps lit in a darkened gallery, creating a dramatic, glowing effect for visitors. Highlights on view will include a one of Tiffany Studios’ most popular designs, the Dragonfly shade (ca. 1900–06); a Wisteria lamp (ca. 1901), made with nearly 2,000 pieces of glass; a Cobweb shade on a Narcissus mosaic base (ca. 1902), which depicts spider webs among the branches of an apple blossom tree; and a Magnolia shade (ca. 1910–13), with “drapery” glass that was folded while still molten to mimic the fleshy texture of the blossoms.

    The installation will also explore the history of Tiffany Studios, which was initially founded by Louis Comfort as Tiffany Glass Company in 1885, vis-a-vis the impact of the advent of electricity at the turn of the century.

    Meanwhile, just outside the Tiffany Gallery, the Silver Hall will feature a display of silver and jewelry by luxury retailer Tiffany & Co., which was founded by Louis’s father, Charles Tiffany.

    Included there will be a colossal punch bowl that was presented in 1913 by Frank Woolworth to Cass Gilbert, architect of the Woolworth Building; as well as a controller handle used by Mayor George McClellan to drive the first subway car in 1904.

    “The new fourth floor was inspired in part by New York Historical’s discovery of the secret history of Clara Driscoll and the ‘Tiffany Girls,’ who designed and created many iconic Tiffany lampshades, and whose overlooked contributions offer a window into the history of American women, labor and a changing New York in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New York Historical Society, which was founded in 1804.

    Also part of the refurbished floor will be the new Center for the Study of Women’s History, a permanent space devoted to women’s history exhibitions and scholarship.

    Rendering of the main level of the Tiffany Gallery

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    Telling Stories: Walid Raad at MoMA

    At 5:37 pm on the day the Twin Towers fell, a trademark application was filed to the United States Patent and Trademark office, requesting to register the phrase “September 11, 2001.” Though ultimately rejected, the opportunistic bid came to the attention of Lebanese-born artist Walid Raad in the course of his research on the Artist Pension Trust (APT), a global retirement scheme for artists developed by one Moti Schniberg — the same man who tried to trademark 9/11. This remarkable anecdote surfaces in the lecture-performance at the heart of Raad’s exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, a talk that deftly moves across a “set” exploring various symptoms, actual and imagined, engendered by the accelerating infrastructure for art and culture in the Arab world.

    Unlike Andrea Fraser’s digressive tour-guide act in “Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk,” 1989, the objects to which Raad directs his attention are themselves his own artwork. These are by turns concrete and abstract, and they include a hallucinatory collage-schematic depicting Raad’s research into APT, a diminutive model depicting a shrunken exhibition of his work, a fragment of a gallery wall containing names of artists received telepathically, and a striking hanging sculpture (“Views from outer to inner compartments,” 2015) that depicts moldings of a blank museum gallery, the cutout effect accentuated by light and shadow. It is on this “set,” installed in the museum’s atrium, that Raad will deliver the hour-long lecture some 60 times between now and January 31, when the exhibition closes. (It will then travel to Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art and Mexico City’s Museo Jumex, and so will Raad.)

    Upstairs, in the third floor special exhibitions gallery, the rest of the show unfolds. Though Raad is long celebrated, with appearances in Documenta, the Whitney Biennial, and the Louvre under his belt, this is his first-ever North American survey, and it covers two bodies of work that represent two and a half decades of the conceptual artist’s photography, video, sculpture, and performance. The first, and more recent, project included in the exhibition is “Scratching on things I could disavow,” 2007-ongoing, of which “Walkthrough” is a part. The corridor leading to the special exhibitions gallery is given over to a further component of the “Scratching” project explored downstairs, this time offering a destabilizing encounter, complete with false shadows, with the collection of Islamic art objects destined for loan to the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Inside the gallery, work from Raad’s earlier archival project addressing the Lebanese civil wars, “The Atlas Group,” 1989-2004, is displayed, and the serial prints and “documentary” videos seem to adopt the mannered conventions of archival practice, even as their content proposes more unsettled accounts of truth. Two wall texts accompany each work: the museum’s official labels and “The Atlas Group”’s own dissimulated metadata, diffracting the authorship of the archive through corporate or non-governmental “fiction.”

    This is, as curator Eva Respini puts it, an exhibition fundamentally about “storytelling,” and there are two main narrative strategies. “Scratching on things I could disavow” foregrounds Raad’s destabilized individual perspective in the face of the vertiginous acceleration of arts infrastructure in the Middle East and its relationship to the history of art in the Arab world. On the other hand, the perspective is depersonalized in the “Atlas Group” work — Raad calls these “hysterical documents.” But the “Atlas Group” work is hardly clinical: the fulcrum of the gallery, for example, is held by five large-scale monochrome inkjet prints in varying blues. Upon closer inspection of the works, from a series titled “Secrets in the open sea,” 1994/2004 (the first date refers to the piece’s attribution to the Atlas Group the second its actual date of production), a miniscule faded portrait appears at the corner of each rectangular monochrome, which we are told represent “individuals who had drowned, died, or were found dead in the Mediterranean between 1975 and 1991.” And across the gallery, two videos are screened in a loop: “I only wish that I could weep,” 1997/2002, which purports to be footage of sunsets shot by an intelligence operative tasked with monitoring Beirut’s Corniche for subversive individuals, and “Hostage: The Bachar Tapes (English version),” 2001, which deals with kidnappings in Lebanon in the 1980s and ’90s. At the beginning of the second video, the captive who is its subject, Souheil Bachar, explains that although his story is violent and specific, it is “first and foremost a story, and in this way it is familiar to you.”

    As it happens, Raad scooped Bloomberg News on the 9/11 trademark when he presented the first iteration of “Walkthrough” at Paris’s Festival d’Automne in 2010. But where facticity is journalism’s currency, and judgment or explication criticism’s stock-in-trade, Raad moves between what he calls aesthetic, emotive, and historical “facts,” floating above the literal implications of his subject matter. (The privilege of this light touch does not extend to his personal involvement as an activist with the Gulf Labor Coalition, and Raad recently found himself barred from travel to the UAE.) The work might appear to inherit the twin mantles of institutional critique and information art. But Raad eschews the didacticism of the former, and conspiracism of the latter, in favor of an intermingling of perceptions and cognitions, an approach as incisive as it is affecting.

    Walid Raad Museum of Modern Art

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    VIDEO: Gabriel Florenz Takes Us on a Tour of Pioneer Works

    When he talks about what’s happening at Pioneer Works, Gabriel Florenz gets visibly excited. And why wouldn’t he? The space, located in an old warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn, was founded in 2012 by the artist Dustin Yellin, who at one time planned to work and live there. Since then, it has grown considerably, almost comically — the building now contains artist studios, classrooms, a recording studio, gallery and performance spaces, offices, science lab, and much more.

    On a recent afternoon, Forenz, the director of Pioneer Works, took ARTINFO on a tour of the space, where we talked about the numerous projects they have in the works and their current exhibition of the work of Shezad Dawood, which runs through November 1.

    Gabriel Florenz Takes Us on a Tour of Pioneer Works

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    A Huge Night for Italian Art at Christie's

    In reverse order of Sotheby’s double-bill on Thursday evening, which featured Italian and then contemporary art, Christie’s opened its marathon auction with Post-War and Contemporary art — and, in workmanlike fashion, tallied £35,562,500/$55,015,188. The Italian fireworks would come later.

    The result veered to the low-end of the £30.7–42.6/$41.6–57.8 million pre-sale expectations. Even so, only eight of the 54 lots offered went unsold for a decent 15 percent buy-in rate. Eight works sold for over a million pounds and twelve sold for over a million dollars. Seven artist records were set. The result paled in comparison to last October’s £40.3/$64.3 million sale, which saw 11 percent unsold by lot, yet came razor close to matching Sotheby’s £36.3/$56.2 million result on Thursday evening. (All prices reported here include the hammer price plus the buyer’s premium calculated at 25 percent up to and including £50,000; 20 percent on those over £50,000 and up to £1 million; and 12 percent for anything above that.)

    The evening started off with a bang, as Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s stunning figurative painting, “Knave” from 2011 — featuring an over life-size woman with downcast eyes — sold to a telephone bidder for a record and whopping £446,500/$690,736 (est. £60–80,000). London dealer Hugh Gibson was the underbidder.

    Jonas Wood’s panoramic view, “Untitled (M.V. Landscape)” from 2008 — depicting the quaint New England town of Martha’s Vineyard, and huge at 120 3/8 by 156 1/8 inches — went to another anonymous telephone for a record £542,500/$839,248 (est. £250-350,000). It was included in the Saatchi Gallery’s “Abstract America New Painting and Sculpture” exhibition from 2009 to 2010.

    Another hotly sought after figurative work was Adrian Ghenie’s slapstick interpretation of 1940’s humor à la the Three Stooges, “Pie Fight Interior” from 2012, which depicts a figure in profile whose face is seemingly covered in gooey whipped cream. It brought £446,500/$690,736 (est. £220-280,000).

    The figure painting cavalcade reached a crescendo of sorts with Peter Doig’s impressive, museum-traveled cover lot, “Cabin Essence” from 1993–4, the largest of nine examples from his storied Concrete Cabin series. It sold to an anonymous bidder via telephone — manned by Xin Li, Christie’s Deputy Chairman, Asia — for the top lot price of £9,602,500/$14,855,068 (unpublished estimate in the region of £9 million). Bidding opened at £6 million and quickly escalated at £500,000 increments to £8 million, when interest slowed down to £200,000 jumps and then £100,000, ending at its £8.5 million hammer price. The painting represents a through-the-forest view of Le Corbusier’s then-abandoned Modernist masterpiece from 1957, the Unite d’Habitation at Briey-en-Foret in Northern France.

    The result didn’t come close to the Doig record at auction, set by “Swamped” from 1990 with $25,925,000 at Christie’s New York last May. On the bright side, part of the proceeds will benefit the seller’s designated charity, The World Justice Project. The relative lackluster appeal of the Doig seemed to indicate that, at the moment, buyers in this category are for the most part a picky lot, especially in the seven figure range.

    On a more intimate scale, Lucian Freud’s 14 1/4- by 13 5/8-inch bare-chested portrait, “Tired Boy” from 1943 in conté crayon on paper, sold to another telephone bidder for £542,500/$839,248 (est. £500-700,000). Another British entry, Howard Hodgkin’s beautiful Venetian landscape “Rain at II Palazzo” from 1993-98 in oil on board, sold for £362,500/$560,7 (est. £350–550,000). It last sold at Sotheby’s London in June 2012 for £361,250. Perhaps the Hodgkin needed more time with the previous owner to appreciate.

    After being partially quarantined from most evening auctions for a period of time, following the dramatic collapse of his market in 2008, the gigantic oeuvre of Damien Hirst flutters back to the salesroom, as evidenced by “Solar-Euphoria” from 2006, a luscious and densely patterned 72-inch diameter composition of captured butterflies on household gloss paint on canvas.  It bought in £420,000 (est. £450-650,000), most likely a chandelier bid.

    American Pop Art was barely in evidence, apart from Andy Warhol’s lushly colored “Flowers” painting from 1964 that made £1,846,500/$2,856,536 (est. £1.5–2 million). The 24 square inch painting has been in the same collection since 1972 when it was acquired at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York. A slightly smaller, 22- by 22-inch Flowers from 1964/65 sold at Sotheby’s 24 hours earlier for £1,055,000/$1,633,140.

    Though lesser known by a long shot, Gerald Laing’s time capsule British Pop Art, Ben-Day Dot composition “Commemoration” from 1965, depicting a sleeping beauty in a bikini, made a rousing and record £1,202,500/$1,860,268 (est. £450–650,000).

    German works were scattered throughout the sale, led in part by Gerhard Richter’s apartment scaled, 36 1/4­­–by­–32 3/8–inch “Abstraktes Bild” from 1992, in cascading, squeegee-applied blues, greens, and reds. It brought £2,658,500/$4,112,700 (est. £1.8–2.5 million). Richter’s fellow countryman and onetime close friend Sigmar Polke had three works on offer, including “Untitled” from 2004, in acrylic on fabric, dominated by the appropriated visage of Alfred Hitchcock spread across the leopard-dotted fabric. It fetched £662,500/$1,024,888 (est. £600–800,000).

    Martin Kippenberger’s loudly grandiose “Bekannt durch Film Funk, Fernsehen und Polizeinotrufsaulen (A celebrity in film, radio, television and police call boxes),” made up of 21 identically-scaled panels in oil, acrylic, and spray paint on canvas from 1981, went to a brave buyer for £2,434,500/$3,766,172 (est. £1.8–2.5 million). The characters range from Prince Rainier of Monaco to Yasir Arafat. This cycle of paintings truly launched his career when exhibited at Stuttgart’s Max Hetzler Gallery in 1981, when the consignor acquired it. Kippenberger’s close friend and collaborative colleague Albert Oehlen shot skyward tonight with his oscillating abstraction “Untitled” from 1989, comprised of oil, resin, and metallic enamel paint on canvas. It hit a record £1,142,500/$1,767,448. The seller acquired it directly from the artist the year it was painted.

    The rough and tumble American painter Joe Bradley also hit auction pay dirt with with “Untitled” in oil and oil stick on canvas, which might be mistaken for an Ab-Ex period work though it was painted in 2011. It attracted three bidders and fetched £986,500/$1,526,116, selling to London dealer Michaela de Pury (est. £500–700,000). Sometimes it’s hard to comprehend how some works go ballistic in the salesroom, and the Bradley is a stellar example.

    After a rough night at Sotheby’s with a buy-in on Thursday, Christopher Wool’s prospects brightened with “Untitled” from 1986, a densely patterned, 72 1/8–by-48-inch all-over abstract composition in alkyd on aluminum, which squeaked by at a below-estimate £422,500/$653,608 (est. £500–700,000). It last sold at auction at Christie’s New York in November 1998 for $18,400 (yes, eighteen thousand four hundred dollars).

    After a five-minute recess and slight reshuffling of seats in the sardine-packed salesroom, the Italian Sale commenced and the atmosphere turned into a buying-frenzied theatre. The sale delivered a whopping £43,166,500/$66,778,576, almost doubling the low-end of the £23.6–35.1/$36.5–54.3 million pre-sale estimate. Only six of the 59 lots offered failed to find buyers for a jaw-dropping 10 percent buy-in rate by lot. Fourteen lots sold for over a million pounds and 20 made over a million dollars. Five artist records were set. It blasted past last October’s £27.6/$43.9 million tally that carried with it a 12 percent unsold by lot rate, and also beat Sotheby’s Italian sale on Thursday evening that realized £40.4/$62.5 million.

    Like Sotheby’s Italian sale on Thursday, Christie’s also had twelve works by Italian market leader Lucio Fontana, including the thrice-slashed Ferrari-red canvas, “Concetto Spaziale Attese” from 1963-64, which brought £2,098,500/$3,246,380 (est. £1.7–2.5 million). It last sold at Christie’s London in June 2011 for £1,105,250. Another Fontana — from the seemingly endless series “Concetto Spaziale Attese,” but an early version from 1959 — sold to New York dealer Andrew Fabricant of Richard Gray Gallery for £1,454,500/$2,250,112 (est. £250–350,000). Eleven of the dozen Fontanas offered tallied £13.2/$20.4 million.

    It’s unclear whether this Italian art boom is simply a case of a rather neglected Post-War slice of the market coming to maturity or a temporarily manic ‘Tulip’ speculative boom that is unlikely to last. As if on automatic pilot mode, auctioneer and Christie’s Global President Jussi Pylkkanen announced with great hubris at the outset of any number of the Italian lots, “I have ten telephone bidders.” He wasn't kidding.

    Repeating the action at Sotheby’s on Thursday evening, works by Alberto Burri, the subject of a retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, continued to sizzle — as evidenced by the spectacular “Rosso Plastica M1” from 1961, which fetched the sale’s top lot at £3,442,250/$5,325,548 (est. £2–3 million). It was aptly described decades ago by James Johnson Sweeney, the museum great and early Burri champion, who wrote, “out of a wound, beauty pours forth,” referring to Burri’s wartime experience as a battlefield surgeon that later transmogrified into painting.

    Another super-charged result touched on the Arte Povera Movement, though nothing poverty stricken here, as Luciano Fabro's copper-banded hanging piece, "Italia deli emigrante (Italy of the Emigrants)" from 1981 — which was installed as a kind of ragged chandelier in Christie's antiquated salesroom — fetched a record £2,714,500/$4,285,964 (est. £600800,000).

    Moments after the marathon Italian sale ended to sustained applause in the salesroom, Milan dealer Nicolo Cardi of Cardi Gallery headed to the exit. “It’s an amazing night for the Italians. I bid on around nineteen lots and managed to get two,” he said, referring to an Enrico Castellani from 1970 that went for £422,500/$653,608 and another Ferrari red Lucio Fontana from 1964 that sold for £1,538,500/$2,380,000.

    Anywhere you turned, observers appeared to be in a kind of religious frenzy for the Post-War Italians. “Burri is the name now, thanks to the Guggenheim,” said Luigi Mazzoleni, of the eponymous Mayfair gallery that is currently staging a Burri exhibition. “There’s still a lot of margin to grow for Burri and Post-War Italian Art.”

    The next big test of the market takes place in New York next month, but the Italians won’t have a bespoke night or two of their own.

    Peter Doig's "Cabin Essence"  Christies

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