ART on the Rise


Higher art prices and a greater number of transactions pushed global art market sales up 7 percent last year to 51.2 billion euros (about $68 billion at an average exchange rate for the year), according to the annual report for the European Fine Art Foundation, published Wednesday.

This figure, unadjusted for inflation, was higher than the previous market peak in 2007, the report said. The volume of sales also increased, by 6 percent, but the number of transactions remained below the 2007 peak. The market continued to be dominated by three main regions, the United States, China and Britain. Clare McAndrew, the author of the report, said the postwar and contemporary sector continued to be the most popular in terms of value.

Art Basel Miami's $3 Billion Fair to Open as Sales Soar

By James Tarmy 


Art Basel Miami Beach, the biggest contemporary-art fair in the U.S., will offer $3 billion of art as auction revenue hit a record last month in New York.

The fair’s 13th edition, with 267 galleries from 31 countries representing 4,000 artists, opens tomorrow to select guests at the Miami Beach Convention Center and on Dec. 4 to the public. Sellers expect collectors to continue their buying spree following the record $2.3 billion of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art that sold during November’s auction season.

“It’s going to be a very strong fair,” said the New York dealer Christophe Van de Weghe, whose booth has a Christopher Wool painting for $6.3 million and a Jean-Michel Basquiat work for $5.5 million. “There’s a lot of collectors coming from so many different parts of the world, and all have a big appetite to buy art.”

Art Basel Miami Beach will whet that appetite with trophy names including Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder and Sigmar Polke at individual prices as high as $18 million. The fair is the focal point of a week in which billionaires and celebrities swarm Miami to attend invite-only dinners and poolside parties where singers including Miley Cyrus are expected to perform. The fair runs through Dec. 7.

75,000 Visitors

Art Basel in Switzerland and the Miami version were the second- and third most-attended art fairs in the world, respectively, from the fall of 2013 through June 30, behind a Madrid-based collectibles fair, according to Skate’s, a New York-based art market researcher. Attendance in Miami is expected to exceed last year’s 75,000, fair organizers said.

NetJets Inc., the fractional ownership private jet company owned by Warren Buffett, said bookings in and out of Miami are up 16 percent from last year to about 250 flights. Miami Opa-Locka Executive Airport, seven miles north of Miami International Airport, said it’s expecting more than 1,000 private jets.

Dealers and advisers said that collectors are more willing to embrace contemporary art as the market has matured and expanded.

“Thirty or 40 years ago, the type of people who could collect contemporary art would have been buying Old Masters and Impressionist art,” said Marc Spiegler, director of Art Basel. “That’s completely changed now.”

The value of art on display at Art Basel is $3 billion, up from the $2 billion to $2.5 billion estimated in 2011, according to AXA Art Insurance Corp.

Private Museums

Collectors including newsprint magnate Peter Brant, New York real-estate owner Aby Rosen and Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom are expected to attend. Collectors with private museums in Miami are mounting special shows. The Rubell Family Collection, founded by Donald and Mera Rubell, will feature a group exhibit that includes Cecily Brown, Richard Prince and Basquiat.

Younger collectors are expected to descend on the city.

“We’re talking under 30 years old,” said Christine Berry of Berry Campbell gallery in New York. “Their money is across the board. It’s self made; it’s inherited; it’s finance. It’s a new generation of collectors.”

As a result of major investment in Miami’s high-end real estate market by South Americans, collectors from VenezuelaMexico, Argentina and Colombia are expected to turn out in force.

Warhol Portrait

“We’ve seen a real strength in collectors from South and Central America who may not go to other fairs,” said Greg Lulay, a director of David Zwirner in New York.

Acquavella Galleries will offer a Warhol portrait of Mao Zedong for $15 million to $18 million and a sculpture by David Smith for $7 million to $8 million, among works from other artists.

Hauser & Wirth, with locations in New York, London and Zurich, is selling works by four artists, including a $3.5 million, 10,800-pound glass sculpture by 59-year-old New York-based Roni Horn, the largest she’s ever produced. David Hockney’s landscape drawings created on an iPad are priced at $28,000 at Pace gallery.

At the center of New York-based Marianne Boesky’s booth is a $600,000 carbon fiber and stainless steel sculpture from 2007 by Frank Stella. Mnuchin Gallery from New York also has Stella - - a 1978 colorful dyptych for $2.8 million. Regen Projects of Los Angeles is selling works by artists including Doug Aitken, Walead Beshty and Liz Larner for $10,000 to $400,000.

Dominique Levy’s stand has paintings, sculptures and photos by Alberto Burri, Keith Haring and Richard Serra at prices from $75,000 to $3 million. Galeria Millan, based in Sao Paulo, will feature Brazilian artists including Artur Barrio, whose 1982 photographs of one of his well-known performances are $220,000.

Satellite Fairs

The more than 20 satellite fairs will sell art by younger or emerging artists or by galleries that were once cutting edge and now have gained a foothold. Most aren’t limited to U.S. exhibitors. Scope, for instance, features 126 galleries from 27 countries. The satellite fairs are dotted around the city, with some in tents on the beach and inside hotels on Collins Avenue.

“Last year the preview felt like a frenzy,” said Heather Hubbs, director of New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA). “People were climbing over each other to buy stuff. The gallerist Derek Eller was saying that people were coming into his booth and automatically buying two things. Everything was being doubled.”

At Pulse, which is expecting more than 17,000 people, Gusford Gallery of Los Angeles is selling an acrylic and screenprint by Genevieve Chua for as much as $50,000.

Warehouse District

Art Miami will present 200 galleries in a tent in Wynwood, a warehouse and manufacturing district that has become a neighborhood of trendy restaurants, cafes and art galleries. Galerie Forsblom of Helsinki is selling a 2014 purple wrinkled velvet canvas by Jason Martin for $130,000.

More than 30,000 people are expected to browse Design Miami, where galleries will exhibit interior design and furniture at prices from $4,000 to $4 million.

Then there are the parties and product launches. “People love to come to Miami,” said dealer Van de Weghe. “They like to look at art, go to the beach, go to nightclubs.”

Maybe not everyone. “I’ve had a lot of collectors say that they’re not going this year,” Eleanor Acquavella Dejoux, co-owner of Acquavella, said. “Because Miami attracts people who are also interested in other things besides art, it seems like sometimes collectors just forgo this one.”

Billions in the Eye of the Beholder: Treasures Fill the City's Galleries and Auctions

By  Alexandra Peers

Has the world gone mad? With Cy Twombly’s elegant, balletic 1970 scribbles of white on gray likely to bring more than $35 million at Christie’s on November 12, you could make a good case.

The next two weeks in New York City, an easy $1 billion in art goes on the auction block. Moreover, in a gallery season that is favoring classic works pitched at deep-pocketed collectors, some of the exhibitions feature art for sale that’s valued at several hundred millions more.

Checkbooks aside, viewing all this spectacular work is free and shows are open to the public. And, for the moment you are looking at these, at least, they are yours.

Here, a guide to some of the magnificent works on view:

Christie’s Auction House

Christie’s is all giddy suspense this week. It is conceivable that the company’s postwar and contemporary art sales alone could bring more than $1 billion over two days. (Elvis is in the building: A $60 million silver image of the singer by Andy Warhol is among the pricier trophies on the block.) The auction house is getting ready for all the attention by placing a big, bright, loud Jeff Koons, Balloon Monkey (Orange) in front of its Rockefeller Center headquarters. Some say the $20-million-plus work, beign sold by Damien Hirst, clearly mimics a balloon animal, but there are more ribald readings of the artwork, too.

20 Rockefeller Plaza


Paula Cooper Gallery

Very, very few artworks electrify the jaded, often slightly hungover, art world. Hans Haacke’s 1993 installation at the Venice Biennale did: He jackhammered, into bits and rocks, much of the interior of the Italian city’s German pavilion. Still confrontational, his show here tackles politics and the art market with works like The Business Behind Art Knows the Art of the Koch Brothers, 2014.

534 W 21st Street



Acquavella Galleries
Art historians fuss over California painting pioneer Wayne Thiebaud: Is he Pop? Realist? Are those tempting bakery shelves still lifes or metaphors? Three-dozen recent luscious paintings, almost doctoral essays on how to compose a canvas, plus a handful of drawings, let you decide for yourself.

18 E 79th Street



Sotheby’s Auction House
Sotheby’s has painted the accent wall of its seventh floor auction room a vivid aquamarine, precisely matching the eye shadow worn by Debbie Harry and Elizabeth Taylor in Warhol silkscreens that go on the block in Contemporary Art auctions starting Tuesday, November 11. It remains to be seen whether going the extra decorative mile will propel the pricier one, 


Liz #3 (Early Colored Liz), 1963, by Andy Warhol, at Sotheby’s. (Courtesy Sotheby’s, New York)

Early Colored Liz, from 1963, to a staggering $30 million. A Robert Ryman and a Jasper Johns Flag are also drawing much attention for their style and ambitious eight-figure pre-sale price estimates. And in a Sotheby’s sales blitz,  there’s also a show of Maurizio Cattelan works at S|2, the auction house’s second-floor private gallery, and the auction of art November 10 from the Bunny Mellon estate.

1334 York Avenue



Gagosian Gallery
With the Gagosian Gallery’s multiple shows currently on view, it’s too hard to pick only one. Must-sees include “Picasso and the Camera,” a look at the Spanish master’s interaction with technology born not too long before he was, curated by legendary Picasso scholar John Richardson, and a surprising turn for Takashi Murakami toward more overtly spiritual work, opening on Monday, November 10.

522 W 21st Street (Picasso)
555 W 24th Street



Phillips Auction House

Would you pay $1 million for LOVE? Perhaps if it was Robert Indiana’s multicolored sculpture of the word, which has been immortalized on postage stamps, among other mediums. The work is one of several by big names to be offered in solid November 13 sales at the veteran auctioneer (now owned by Russian luxury retailer Mercury Group) . Highlights include a fine rainbow-colored 1966 geometric by Frank Stella and a nifty vase emblazoned “Coca-Cola” by Chinese art superstar and dissident Ai Weiwei. At $400,000 to $600,000, it’s not cheap, but one recently was on view in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which rarely displays or endorses the work of living artists.

450 Park Avenue


Metro Pictures

Veteran New York artist Gary Simmons turns 50 with a survey titled “Fight Night” at Metro Pictures that includes a huge wall of strikingly altered and half-erased boxing-match posters. His work, which often tackles issues of race and politics, is also on view at Prospect 3 in New Orleans. His prices have lagged slightly behind contemporaries, but in part for a good reason (and probably not for long): His impassioned collectors don’t tend to flip at auction.

519 W 24th Street



Pablo Picasso,
Le réservoir (Horta de Ebro), summer 1909 (Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.)

Dominique Levy Gallery
Some of the works in this gallery’s show, “Local History,” a refreshing and elegant look at great (mostly) 1960s pieces by Frank Stella, Donald Judd and Enrico Castellani (a favorite of the Prada family) are priced as high as $10 million. You are paying for art history: There’s a few first-ever works here.
909 Madison Avenue



Pace Gallery

More Picasso, this time at two locations, Midtown and Chelsea, of the Pace Gallery. These shows focus partly on the artist’s devotion to late-in-life lover Jacqueline Roque. The exhibition begins mid-century, when the 70-something painter started living with the then 27-year-old Jacqueline, who later became his wife and mother of his son, Paolo. Jacqueline was married at the time she met Picasso, but that ended swiftly.  Scholars dispute (and dissertations are written) on who was his great love, among many, but it is certain that he loved painting the woman he spent the last decades of his life with, as she was the only woman he painted for many years.

32 E 57th Street
534 W 25th Stree



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Independent Art Fair Battles the Auctions With Star Power

By Zoë Lescaze

On a recent afternoon, the directors of a small Contemporary art gallery were reviewing the list of dealers participating in the art fair Independent Projects, which opens to the public on November 7. Independent, the somewhat alternative four-year-old fair has historically featured galleries devoted to emerging and early-mid-career artists, and the dealers were predicting the usual scruffy suspects. Sure enough, there were the young ventures … but then came names they weren’t expecting: blue-chip behemoths like David Zwirner, major galleries such as Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Skarstedt, Gladstone and … wait … late-game addition Larry Gagosian? This clearly wasn’t Kansas as they knew it. “What are we doing on here?” said one incredulous director.

Has Hollywood come to Sundance?


Nicolas Deshayes, Untitled, 2014. (Courtesy Jonathan Viner, London and Independent Projects)

Matthew Higgs, Independent’s creative advisor, said the fair isn’t selling out to the big-box galleries, far from it. Rather, the goal is to create a mix of dealers and art one rarely sees at art fairs. 

“One of the things that I think happens at art fairs is that all the young galleries tend to be corralled in one area over there, the blue-chip or secondary market dealers tend to be downstairs or corralled over there, and there seem to be these zones,” said Mr. Higgs. Independent is “trying to eliminate that … Everyone’s exhibiting alongside one another, so we’re not creating any of the typical hierarchies.” 

When Independent debuted in March 2010, it was pretty much cool overnight. Founded by Chelsea dealer Elizabeth Dee and London dealer Darren Flook, the fair was branded as something wholly new, offering an alternative to the boxy trade fair booths of more established fairs, (Which can feel, as the Hermès-clad crowd presses down the long aisles, like being stuck on an airport moving sidewalk.) At Independent, visitors freely wander booth-free floors. Right angles are a rarity. Boundaries between where one presentation ends and the next begins are blurred.

The work is different, too. At the most recent Independent fair, in March, fairgoers dodged torrents of sawdust and chunks of flying wood as a woman used a chainsaw to dismember a wooden effigy of the artist John Bock (who had conceived the performance). Things like that rarely happen at the other fairs. 


Virginia Overton, Kunsthalle Bern, (2013). (Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, NY)

So, the incursion of some of the world’s most established and successful art dealers in the fair’s first autumn edition (it usually takes place in March) has been met with raised eyebrows. 

“I think it will kill the magic of Independent,” said one gallery owner. A sense of camaraderie amongst the dealers has always characterized Independent, he said, and the addition of competitive big-business galleries could compromise the collegial atmosphere.

But there’s some sound business and strategic reasons to include the big-business galleries this fall. “The timing is very different,” said Laura Mitterand, director of the fair. “There’s no other art fair happening in New York at that time, what is happening are the auctions.” (Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips hold multi-million-dollar sales of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art the first two weeks of November.) So inviting some more established galleries to join, given their existing relationships with the collectors in town for the million-dollar auctions, “made sense.”

Participation costs for Independent in November are higher than for the March version (which will retain its alternative character and upstart cast next year, organizers insist). The dealers presenting in Projects will pay $15,000-$25,000 for their spaces, while the 2014 spring edition cost galleries $8,000-$18,000.

Even with a strong collector base in town for the sales, New York-based galleries need a good reason to participate in fairs in their own city, according to Lucy Mitchell-Innes, whose gallery has branches uptown and in Chelsea. Or, given the toll fairs take on galleries, a good reason to do another one anywhere. “It’s lamentable. It’s physically exhausting, it’s extremely expensive, it’s a risk—but the art world is increasingly event-driven,” said Ms. Mitchell-Innes.

And this will be an event indeed. The 40 participating galleries, which hail from the U.S., South America and Europe, are all curating single-artist presentations. That’s unusual in and of itself, but three days into Independent’s run at 548 West 22nd Street, dealers will be replaced by docents, the sales will stop and the fair will transform into a show.


Allora & Calzadilla
Untitled, 2014. (Photo by David Regen, courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels and Independent Projects)

According to some of the more established dealers, it was the novelty of this exhibition model—a significant break with current practice—that convinced them to participate. “We do a lot of art fairs, and we’re invited to other art fairs that we don’t participate in,” said Branwen Jones, a director at David Zwirner, which will present new work by Raymond Pettibon. “But this felt like a really new format that made it feel worthwhile to add it to our roster.”

Said Mr. Higgs: “The thing that was always important to the Independent was to try and create a platform that artists were interested in showing their work at, because I think there’s always this idea that the art fair is a kind of necessary evil.”

In Ms. Mitchell-Innes’ case, showing at Independent was a chance for artist Virginia Overton, who frequently makes site-specific installations, to create new work in a new space. “Really in this case, it was because of the way Virginia works that we wanted to do this,” said Ms. Mitchell-Innes.

Artist Liam Gillick says he tends to avoid art fairs,  but that he’ll be visiting this one to watch viewers interact with a large installation he’s presenting through the Maureen Paley Gallery. Mr. Gillick has been working with the Independent team to create a space within a space: a 25-foot mirrored corridor that visitors can enter to watch his film exploring the work of artist Richard Hamilton.

“The experience has been very much like working in a really good kunsthalle or institution or place like the I.C.A. in Philadelphia, where the focus is always on the work,” said Mr. Gillick. “And to me that’s kind of surprising.” He added: “I realized I’d never been in an art fair meeting before where things get decided. That’s kind of unique, because the artists are always on the outside of these fairs.”


Sotheby’s to Sell $20M Jasper Johns ‘Flag’ at Fall Contemporary Art Auction.

By Alanna Martinez 


Sotheby’s has announced that it will be selling Jasper Johns’s Flag (1983) during the November 11 Contemporary Art Evening Auction in New York. This particular example of Flag, which is relatively small at approximately 11 x 17 inches and done in encaustic on silk and collaged onto canvas, carries a price estimate of  $15 million to $20 million. (or about $1 million a square inch.) Before the sale, it will go on something of a grand tour, being showcased to collectors in Los Angeles, Hong Kong and London.

In 2010, Christie’s sold a larger version of a Johns flags, nearly 17 x 26 inches, which was also painted much early, circa1960-1966, for a record price of $28.6 million. It was the top lot of 79 offered in sale of the estate of author Michael Crichton. The estimate for that flag (also done in encaustic, but with printed paper collaged on canvas) was between $10 million and $15 million.

“The flag is arguably his most important image,” Lisa Dennison, Sotheby’s chairman of North and South America, told The Observer by phone from the Sotheby’s Los Angeles exhibition where the Johns is currently on display.  But unlike the one from the Crichton collection, she explained as she looked at the 1983 version, the encaustic process used  is more similar to the one he used making his classic, ground-breaking series in 1954.

Regarding the price point for Sotheby’s Flag, she mentioned that the Christie’s record reset the artist’s market. Moreover,  Johns was not the most prolific,” which is in part why the flag pieces are so significantly valued to begin with.

According to the Whitney Museum of American Art, which owns a magnificent 1958 Three Flags by Johns, the image — arguably — “flatters or honors the nation without genuflection.”

Sotheby’s Flag, which was originally acquired in 1983 from the artist and has remained in private hands for the last 30 years, was on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art from 2007 to 2014, and previously to the Rhode Island School of Design and Yale University Art Gallery. Charlotte Burns of The Art Newspaper initially reported its sale.

Other highlights of the November 11 sale include Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bilde [747-4] (1991), estimated at the same price point as Johns between $15-$20 million, Louise Bourgeois’s Spider I (1995), estimated $5-$7 million, and an untitled Wade Guyton from 2010 expected to bring $4-$6 million.


Simon de Pury Fury: The Mod Auction King’s Two Hot Shows


By Nate Freeman | 09/17/14 


Simon de Pury at Venus Over Manhattan.

Among the many talents of Simon de Pury is his immaculate use of the double-cheeked air kiss at gallery openings.

“Hello? Oh, hello! Yes, yes”—kiss, kiss—“Oh, well, thank you for coming, aren’t you, ah, wait, hello,  just amazing that you’re here”—kiss, kiss—“Yes, it’s lovely, yes? Just lovely to see  you and, oh yes, hello! It’s just a pleasure”—kiss, kiss, kiss—“that you came by.”

Mr. de Pury was standing in the middle of “Guillaume Bruère: Vanilla,” a show at Nahmad Contemporary he curated with his wife Michaela de Pury under the auspices of de Pury de Pury. That’s the private art dealing outfit they formed in 2013 after both leaving Phillips de Pury auction house, where he was the chairman and his wife, formerly a co-owner and head of the Munich auction house Neumeister, was a senior partner.

The glow of the man in the Savile Row suit burned at this space on the third floor of 980 Madison. Everyone said hello to Simon. (Everyone always says hello to Simon.) The show is the work of a nobody genius named Guillaume Bruère, who Mr. de Pury discovered some months ago, dragged from the metaphorical gutter and lifted up like an astronaut to the top of New York City, his art like Schiele meets Basquiat in a way that wows and bores in wonderful shifting ratios.

Down the hall, at Venus Over Manhattan Gallery, there’s a group show curated by Mr. de Pury, this one called “Fire!,” named such because each piece is kiln-made or glass-blown—believe it or not, it’s a ceramics show. So he’s got the whole floor. When “Fire!” opens tonight, it will make him the de facto mayor of Manhattan’s most major gallery-stuffed edifice.

It’s his first public tango on the art world dance floor since leaving a career in the public auction racket, first prominently at Sotheby’s, then his own firm, to just do Simon: lead auctions at private galas from Macau to Monte Carlo, facilitate private sales for ungodly sums, fop around in gorgeous suits on foreign atolls, spin 50 Cent and Puff Daddy and Kanye West as a DJ for hire, Instagram nonstop, hobnob with the best of them, be free of the constraints of auction dates. Ah, the life.

As the opening was ending, a starry eyed woman in the throes of adoration, seemingly nearing 90, came up to say hello and said “Oh, Seeee-MON!” as if these words were her last. The former auction house chairman turned from a conversation and—with not a beat missed—mock-kissed the air preciselly 2 inches away from her cheek, mock-kissed the air 2 inches from her other cheek, mock-kissed the air 2 inches from her hand.

A week and a half later, Mr. de Pury was sitting with his wife at a zebra-print table in the Mark Hotel’s lobby bar. Mr. de Pury had swapped one of his perfect suits for perfect jeans and a perfect button-down, and though he had just an hour earlier come in from Paris, he could not be more awake, alert, excitable. It was last Sunday night and “Fire!” was to open in 70 hours.

The install had yet to get started, and we suggested that perhaps this made Venus Over Manhattan owner Adam Lindemann slightly nervous.

“Adam is an old friend of ours—he found his wife at Phillips,” he said. “So Adam asked us once, ‘Why don’t you guys curate a show for me?’ And that’s when Michaela and myself came up with the idea.”

This idea, as it happens, would be ceramics.

“We thought, let’s don’t show the ‘Next Young Artist’  or whatever,” said Ms. de Pury (immediately after saying this, she realized that next door, at Nahmad Contemporary, they were indeed showing the ‘Next Young Artist’ or whatever).

Mr. Lindemann was skeptical.

“He thought, ‘Oh, my God, a ceramics show?’ ” Mr. de Pury said. “And then we said, ‘No, this is not a low-key phenomenon, I think this is a very important phenomenon you can witness today.’ ”

If Mr. de Pury’s right, and we are living in the age of the great ceramics phenomenon, his return to curating will be a one-two punch: at Nahmad Contemporary, all the works sold in a flash, we’re told, at $26,000 each, all for an artist no one had heard of six months ago.

“The show could have sold out five times over,” Ms. de Pury said casually.

How exactly “Guillaume Bruère: Vanilla” came together is so perfectly Simon the excitable boy, Simon the aesthete, Simon the jetsetter. He was wielding a gavel for a gala in St. Tropez benefitting Leonardo DiCaprio’s charity and he stayed the next day to have tea on a verandah with Joe Nahmad, who —as you may know from openings at Nahmad Contemporary—is close friends with Mr. DiCaprio.

Offhand, Mr. de Pury mentioned an artist he had seen at the Van Gogh Foundation in Arles. Guillaume Bruère. Never heard of the kid. He pulled up some snapshots on his iPhone, and Joe said he wanted to go right then the artist’s studio in Berlin. This is in late August.

“Joe was able to act really fast,” Mr. de Pury said. “Two days later the work was being shipped.” And the show opened September 3.

“Fire!” came together through a more piecemeal process—he would be struck by a ceramics piece by Sterling Ruby in the Whitney Biennial, or discover a young unknown like the glasswork artist Young Jae Lee—but it’s clear that regardless of the backstory, de Pury de Pury will be returning to curating at various spots across the globe.

And it’s certainly a good time to have freedom to move as you please—the market shows no sign of abating, and naturally the always giddy Mr. de Pury is an unrelenting optimist.

“Every season, one witnesses a stronger market where each season you think, ‘Wow that can’t be topped,’ and somehow the next season tops it,” he said. “This has to do with the fact that there is more wealth being created in different parts of the world so the market has become totally global.”

But the zigzagging across the globe won’t distract him from the private sales he’s been conducting, or from his not-so-secret but not-so-expected passion he claims has greatly changed the way he sells art, while also altering the art world landscape: Instagram.

He’s an avid user, sometimes just for kicks—“Snoop Dogg has one of the funniest feeds,” he said, eyes alit—but also, often, for business.

“We have bought works we’ve seen on Instagram, seen them and immediately called the gallery,” he said. “Before, we had to wait for an art magazine to come out. So I think it actually has transformed the way people collect contemporary art, particularly emerging art.”

But when you’re Simon, to ‘gram is to endorse, and so artists are clamoring for him to throw paintings on his feed (he has 75,000 followers). A picture by some new artist will prompt buyers and gallerists and collectors to text him from all over the world. Once, when he Instagrammed an impressionistic close-up of a random green-and-red-lit bar along his travels, his phone exploded: “Who is this?” “Where can we buy him?” “How much?” He had to explain that the “art” was … really just some restaurant.


Barbarians at the Art Auction Gates? Not to Worry



In one striking example, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Warrior” sold three times at auction between 2005 and 2012, the painting’s price soaring during those seven years by 450 percent, to nearly $9 million.

In another, at Christie’s this May, an Alex Israel sky painting drew over $1 million, more than 10 times what paintings from this series fetched when they were created less than two years ago.

Such soaring prices and quick resales, especially of work by emerging artists, have fueled a perception that a new breed of collectors, fond of flipping art as they would a stock, have overtaken the market. In this view, widely held in the art world, work once valued for its lofty, aesthetic appeal has become a mere commodity, just another asset class for hedge-fund millionaires and others to cash in.

But separate statistical analyses conducted for The New York Times by two companies that specialize in evaluating art market data indicate that the hand wringing may be premature.

Yes, for the past few years, postwar and contemporary art has been reselling at auction faster than, say, a decade ago, the data show. But the pace last year was only slightly faster than it was in the mid-1990s, signaling that the reselling may be just the latest iteration of a historical cycle, not a lasting change.

A Quick Turnover? Nothing New

Art has turned over more quickly in recent years, according to an analysis by Tutela Capital, a firm that tracks auction sales. But the trend is not unprecedented — contemporary and postwar artwork that was resold in 2013 was owned for an average of 3.1 years, compared with 3.6 years in 1995.

After a few years, during which the pace of reselling accelerated, the data show that owners of postwar and contemporary works are holding onto their artwork longer again. “After all I had read about flipping, when looking at the market itself, it’s really business as usual,” said Fabian Bocart, a founder ofTutela Capital S.A., a consultancy in Brussels that prepared one of the analyses for The Times.

“Reselling art at auction is not a new phenomenon,” he wrote in the report, “or at least, not very different from what has existed since 1995.”

At the request of The Times, Tutela Capital and Beautiful Asset Advisors, a New York company best known for its Mei Moses family of indexes, reviewed art market data from 1995 through 2013 to see if there had been a noticeable shortening in the time owners held onto art. The discussion of the issue has largely focused on the postwar and contemporary markets, where there is the perception that a commodities trading approach has become prevalent. This view has been fueled by a drumbeat of headlines about flipping; the emergence of companies like ArtRank, which give “buy” and “sell” ratings for works; and the high profile of collectors who buy pieces by new artists in bulk and sell them for a handsome profit.

“Many buyers today seem eager to buy the ‘new kid on the block’ — the hot, young, talked-about artist — for a low price and, in a short time, put the work up for sale, anticipating to receive a multiple of what they paid,” said Angela Westwater of the Sperone Westwater gallery.

At Israel Lund’s New York solo debut in June 2013, for example, an untitled yellow-and-gray painting sold for $7,500; this May it sold for $125,000 at Christie’s. Similar examples abound for recently created works by artists like Lucien Smith and Oscar Murillo.

But the data indicate that contemporary works appearing at auction within three years of their creation are not coming to auction faster than in the past, and that such flipping remains very much the exception, not the rule. Though more works come up for sale each year, the percentage of these works was essentially the same last year, less than 2 percent, as in 2007, Tutela Capital found.

Beautiful Asset did another review of the art market, using a different measure, and reached a similar conclusion: While, historically, the percentage of works resold within five years is higher now than it was, say, two decades ago, that percentage has been decreasing since 2008.

“It reached a high right before and after the financial crisis,” said Michael Moses, a founder of Beautiful Asset, “and it has been declining since.”

Bidding Up: By Daniel Grant

Escalating Prices are Putting Pressure on Dealers to Double Down on their Own Artists


Last May, at Christie’s New York, the painting Park Avenue Façade by Abstract Expressionist Michael Goldberg soared to $461,000, well above the $100,000 to $150,000 estimate set by the auction house. The new artist’s record was set by Michael Rosenfeld, the Manhattan gallery owner who represents Goldberg’s estate. The art dealer said  he regularly buys works by artists in his gallery—both living artists and those whose estates he represents—at auction. In the case of Park Avenue Façade, he explained, “The $100,000 low estimate was ridiculously low and I know I will eventually sell it for $1 million.”

When artists agree to be represented by a gallery, they usually work out with the gallery owner such matters as the amount of the dealer’s commission; how often their work will be exhibited in solo or group shows; the price of their artworks; that sort of thing. Another expectation, usually not as explicitly stated but increasingly crucial, is that the dealer will attempt to control the market for the artist’s work even after it has been sold. Some dealers go so far as to bid up, and even buy, pieces when artworks are consigned to auction. The practice is legal.

“I have bid up prices to appropriate levels, when auction houses have estimated too low works by artists whom I represent,” said Manhattan gallery owner Renato Danese. “I want to protect the work from going below the low estimate or not selling at all, because that puts a cloud over the work and over the artist.” Disappointing results at auction can potentially come back to haunt works sold at the gallery. “I don’t like to spend fruitless hours explaining why a good piece went for a quarter of the price I charge at the gallery.” He added that “artists expect me to protect their market and their reputations.”

Artists often look to their dealers to do something when their work comes onto the secondary market. “We are in conversation with our living artists about work that arrives at auction, and we attempt first to place works in collections that are not speculative,” said John Cheim, partner in the Manhattan contemporary art gallery Cheim & Read. Artist Kiki Smith, who is represented by New York’s Pace Gallery, said that she expects her dealer “to care about my work and the market for it, and do whatever they need to do to make sure nothing goes wrong.”

Not every artist feels that way—sculptor Vito Acconci claimed that he never thinks about the relationship between his primary and secondary markets, and painter Bill Jensen “told my dealer not to be involved with the secondary market. I will not manipulate the market”—but many do.

Public auctions are high-stakes gambles for artists and their careers, informing the world that someone wants to get rid of artworks they own, and strong interest in the work up for sale cannot be guaranteed. As a result, Mr. Danese tries to convince owners of his artists’ works to resell works through his gallery, where he has a longer period of time to find buyers and a lack of collector interest can be hidden.

Some dealers go further, requiring buyers of certain artists’ works on the primary market to sign an agreement assuring that the works will be resold exclusively through them or donated to a museum. “I have used these clauses on every invoice since I opened the gallery,” gallery owner Andrea Rosen said.

 Still, the front seats in the sales rooms at these auctions are filled with dealers, according to a spokesman for Sotheby’s: “You’ll see them in the room, up front in the same places all the time.” These days, escalating prices have put more pressure on dealers to maintain upward momentum of their artists’ prices, and with more bidders acting through agents or bidding on the phone, auctions are less transparent than ever.

Dealers who are bidding may be acting as agents for other collectors, who wish to remain anonymous, or they might be building up gallery inventory. “We take an active interest in the secondary market, especially the auctions,” said Louis Newman, director of New York’s David Findlay Jr. Gallery. “When an important work by one of our artists comes on the market we often make a bid for it. Occasionally we will overpay for a rare work and put it aside for a period of time. Often hindsight proves that the purchase was, in fact, a good investment for us.”

The London art dealer Jay Jopling paid £2,546,500 ($4,365,678) at a contemporary art sale at Christie’s London in July for My Bed (1998) by Tracey Emin, whom he represents. That price was five times the previous auction record for the artist. Mr. Jopling later revealed that he was bidding on behalf of Count Christian Duerckheim, a Cologne-based collector, who promptly loaned the work for 10 years to London’s Tate Modern museum.

Auction houses regularly contact, and send sales catalogues to the known collectors of the artists in their sales, and they also “notify artists’ dealers when we are offering works by the artists they represent,” according to a spokeswoman for Bonhams auction house. By the time of the sale, the auction houses have some idea of the level of interest in various lots, and they “may tell the dealer that there isn’t so much presale interest in an artist’s work, so you might want to come in as a bidder,” said Pilar Ordovas, former European head of Christie’s contemporary art department and now a private dealer in London. “There are many reasons that dealers bid for works in sales, and one of them is to protect the market for the artists they represent.”

Mr. Rosenfeld stated that the gallery buying works by its artists at auction “gives clients confidence that we believe in the artist. It’s very reassuring to them,” and it also is keeping a commitment that is made when the gallery is negotiating to represent the artist. “We tell them, ‘We will protect your market.’ ”

Carl Ostendarp, "Blanks"

The titular items in this case are the artist's monochrome canvases in dyspeptic shades of orange, yellow and dark gray, featuring his name or initials spelled out in cartoonish lettering. Suggesting the idea of drawing a blank or shooting them, the works' cheerful nihilism evokes the act of creation as a dead end emptied of results.