There are moments throughout the history of art, when, marveling at the latest aesthetic affront, the public, the critics, and even fellow artists have thrown up their hands and asked, “Where can we possibly go from here?”
And as art has grown ever more referential and every medium, self-referential— when there is nary an image that does not lay claim to a legacy of irony that is now generations deep: well: what can possibly come next?
When a big name collector “offloads” the art of a specific artist from his collection, it can, we have heard, have a chilling effect on the market for that artist’s work. Sometimes this makes the artist very angry. Sometimes things escalate.
All the same, Charles Saatchi feels that a collector should do as they will with the artwork they buy.
Asked about a long-standing rumor that he had “ruined” the career of Sandro Chia when he purged his collection all of his Chias at once, Saatchi said:
“At last count I read that I had flooded the market with 23 of his paintings. In fact, I only ever owned seven paintings by Chia. One morning I offered three of them back to Angela Water, his New York dealer, where I had originally bought them, and four back to Bruno Bischofberger, his European dealer, where, again I had bought those. Chia’s work was tremendously desirable at the time a all seven went to big-shot collectors or museums by close of day.”
Often disputes between artists and dealers can turn into something like a divorce with all the same spoilage. The one between James Turrell, and Michael Hue-Williams of Albion gallery displays several kinds of ugly, fouled-up business, soiled reputations, career sabotage, and — sigh– lots of compromise.
If a dealer thinks an artist is not delivering on a commission, he can bring the artist to court, for instance. as Hue-Williams did to Turrell in 2007.
And if an artist thinks a dealer is selling pieces that he was not consulted about or paid for, he can counter-sue, as Turrell did to Hue-Williams.
Now when a dealer is miffed and spending money on litigation, he may take a the semi-self-sabotaging action of selling the artist’s work off at auction to make the artist look bad. This is what Michael Hue-Williams hinted at in a 2008 e-mail.
Today MoMA announced the release of its new app for Apple’siPhone, and iPod Touch, now available on the App Store. It’s a free download that provides views of 32,000 works from the Museum’s collection, plus lots of very useful extras, including a dictionary of art terms, a database of artist bios, a calendar of exhibitions, film screenings, and events, and a variety of audio tours for youngsters, as well as for the visually impaired.
It was the last straw, when, in 2008, the National Academy Museum sold two Hudson River School paintings in order to cover operating costs.
Public art institutions, feeling the recession and finding no recourse, had already begun to whisper about a sale here and there: Fort Ticondergoa had proposed to sell some artifacts and then withdrew the idea, and The Metropolitan Opera had put up its Chagall murals as collateral for a loan. By 2009, Brandeis University was working with Sotheby’s on a lending program designed to avoid having to sell its entire Rose Art Museum collection.
With such threats to public art coming in ever increasing waves, a sense of urgency took over and the New York Senate, working with the Museum Association of New York and the New York Board of Regents, drafted a bill to prohibit cultural institutions from selling pieces of their collections to cover operating costs.