Christie’s Mysterious New Blood

Courtesy Christie's, via ArtInfo.com Steven Pleshette Murphy: Christie's 1st American born CEO

Christie’s recent top management shuffle has inspired a good deal of speculation regarding the strategic intentions of owners, François Pinault and his investment firm, Groupe Artemis SA.  Does Artemis, which acquired the auction house in 1999 for $1.2 billion have secret plans to sell in the near future?

Sprung upon with announcements of a new CEO, Steven Pleshette Murphy, formerly president and CEO of Rodale publishing, and the promotion of former CEO, Edward Doleman to chairman, Christie’s execs can’t help but wonder what to expect next.

Kept secret until its announcement via a Sept. 20th e-mail to worldwide staff, the news apparently caused quite a shake up, not only because it was so sudden and unanticipated, but also because Murphy was chosen over seemingly more likely candidates like Marc Porter, the chairman of Christie’s America, and François Curiel, president of Christie’s Asia.

Artemis, meantime, denies all rumors of an impending sale, claiming it holds long-term plans for Christie’s which is, they say, one of their “strategic assets,” producing sales of $2.3 billion in the first half of 2010.

However, asked by ArtInfo’s Judd Tully about whether Christie’s has any more surprises in store, Murphy, Christie’s very first American born CEO, said, “There will be more to say in a few months.”

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Feel Free to Match the Couch: A Guide to Buying Art Online

Popping up, all over the internet, like bald little mushroom heads in the corner of an overgrown garden, are dozens of buy-art-online sites. Their spores are in the air. There’s a new one every day, with offerings that cover the whole gamut of affordability, quality and snob appeal.

It’s time to match the couch, my friends — shamelessly, and in the privacy of your own homes; the way you shop for porn.

BZA CO

Continue reading “Feel Free to Match the Couch: A Guide to Buying Art Online”

Art Market Recovery: Tracing Improvements

$48 Mil Head of a Muse; Raphael
$48 Mil in 2009 for Raphael's Head of a Muse

As I continue to study the art market’s very slight, but seemingly strong rebound, I will continue to compile reports which should lend insight, not only to the workings of the art market as it improves, but to trends that should grow out of this latest bubble burst. What follows are some things to look out for and what they mean for the future.

Continue reading “Art Market Recovery: Tracing Improvements”

1998 NOSE DIVE: STATS SHOW HINT OF RECOVERY

There’s a lot of talk about art market recovery, especially as generated by the auction houses. And each time a record hammer price is hit (like Tuesday’s $106.5 million Picasso’s 1932 “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust.”), the media jump on it, eager to announce that it’s a sign that the market is recovering. But we’ve really become very excited over the teeniest hint of growth, as you can see by this nifty chart that I frankensteined together from three Art Price.com charts.

ART PRICE GROWTH CHART
Only the Contemporary art market shows notable recovery

WALL POWER

Picasso’s 1932 painting “Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur (Nude, Green Leaves and Bust)
Picasso’s 1932 painting “Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur (Nude, Green Leaves and Bust); photo from The New York Times Online

Because the market is looking up, and because the art world responds so quickly to upswings –and, because Picasso’s 1932 painting “Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur ” is really big and has all the bells and whistles (a lover, Marie-Thérèse, the iconic head thrown back pose, and a very Picasso-pallet), folks at the New York Times say that an auction price record is about to be broken.

According to NYT, the Picasso, on sale at Christie’s onTuesday, is  “poised to eclipse the $104.3 million paid for the current record holder, Giacometti’s “Walking Man I” purchased at Sotheby’s in February.

Art is beginning to be viewed as a good investment again, and, since the financial collapse, it seems like a safer place to put one’s money than in the stock market.

Other reasons why the hammer is expected to come down on a record price:

  • The painting is from a popular Picasso period of very large, very colorful paintings.
  • Picasso’s from the year 1932 are not likely to be sold again any time soon, if at all.
  • It was only on public view once since 1951: so it has freshness.
  • It “reeks,” according to NYT, of “Wall power.”

ESSAY: How to Say Hirst Was First

Who's on first?

Heraclitus was right. When the waters are everflowing, you can never step into the same river twice.

It is therefore, always safe to claim that some work of art, some event, some person, is a “first” — nothing will be the same after so and so, after thus and such, after this.

The controversial Damien Hirst sale at Sotheby’s in 2008 was a first: the contemporary art market would never be the same afterward.

Go ahead and say that, Google it: you won’t lack for support. The press was, after all, in a frenzy, mounting stories about the show, Beautiful in My Mind Forever, and the subsequent two day sale, onto the background blitz of financial failures and the Lehman Brothers collapse.

But what kind of “first” was it?

Continue reading “ESSAY: How to Say Hirst Was First”

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