Damien Hirst is leaving Gagosian. Jeff Koon’s will be showing at David Zwirner, although not leaving Gagosian. David La Chapelle’s iconic photograph, Seismic Shift 2012, shown at Paul Kasmin’s at Frieze shows Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Takashi Muurakami and others rocked by some sort of earthquake.
The art market and the branding bunch had a ball for a while. But here’s what is happening. Damien’s breakaway show at Sotheby’s bypassing his two galleries broke away the tradition that an artist could not put up his own show and sale at an auction house. His galleries had to do that. This was in 2008. Now the auction houses have fought back. In 2012 both houses have now their own in-house galleries in their NY offices and are increasingly having private sales (not aligned to auction sales) and their lists are everyone in the art world, so why go to private dealers any more? Plus Sotheby’s owns a gallery, Noortman Master Paintings acquired in 2006 and Christie’s took over Haunch of Venison in 2007 a contemporary art gallery with spaces in London and New York. In 2012 Sotheby’s private sales for the first half of 2012 totaled $513.6 million, an increase of 14.5% from the previous year. Christie’s sales for the first half of last year was $661.5 million, an increase of 55% compared to the same period of 2011. So it looks like clear sailing ahead. Not so. The Chinese auction houses are coming. May the games begin. Just for you to know what’s ahead. Christie’s is suing a rival auction house that goes by a Chinese name that when pronounced in Chinese is similar to Christie’s name letting the Chinese people think they are dealing with Christie’s when in fact they are dealing with the Chritrs Group.
The traditional boundaries have changed due to the Internet. Collectors and the art world have become more mobile; the web has made art more accessible. They are furiously looking for their new role. Now, besides the inventive and wonderful ground breaking shows they are becoming information providers.
But let me finish with how everything has changed in this musical chairs world. To compete galleries are opening spaces around the world. Blue chip galleries like Acquavella and Gagosian are starting to make inroads into the museum world by doing museum quality shows. Acquavella has recently shown a retrospective of Wayne Thiebaud, which opened Oct 23. Organized by John Wilmerding a professor of American Art at Princeton University with loans from several museums, a serious attempt at a scholarly exhibition to compete with a museum, but what about the museums with not such deep pockets? These museums are making better use of their superb art information. They are becoming online publishers. J.Paul Getty Museum has created the online Scholarly Catalogue initiative. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and other museums are making their out-of-print catalogs available online along with reviews, illustrations and journals. They have introduced MET Publications, a resource that allows users to search more than 600 catalogs, journals and other museum publications. I am sure all the museums are dusting off those out of print catalogues from their shows and will be putting them online soon.
Well, that’s where we stand in this moment in time. My next blog is about the Miami Basel Fair ummm and the moment in time.