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13 posts from April 2006

April 28, 2006

Artists Selling out to RETAIL, and MAO Does Fashionista!

A MAO confession....

Last night was possibly the most wretched ostentatious "Un-MAO" event of my life, actually I'm embarrassed to say I even went to "MADISON AVENUE WHERE FASHION MEETS ART" sponsored by the Whitney Museum.  It was simultaneous cocktail receptions at 33 of Madison Avenues most fowl Elitist Shopping Boutiques.. including Calvin Klein, Cartier, DKNY, Le Frankfurter, Dolce & Gabbana, Carbonara, Givenchy, Rigatoni, etc, who knows, like who cares about this fashion crap..all I know, it was several EuroFag/Italian sounding named places I've never could afford heard of ...

So basically, it was all the USE pretentious posh places you'd rather be dead wearing than seen in.. Avaf_lesportsac So..Anyway.. there I was..surrounded by the NYC "IN Crowd", and MAO in my geeky frumpy conservative bland dark blue Wall Street wear feeling 100% uncomfortable..ick!! As expected the shops were filled with bland snappy chatter, champagne sipping, little black dress wearing, air kissing fashionistas.  One idiot  brilliant fashionista even told us he loved my grey hair! Dope! And if I hear the words DAAAAARRLING or FABULOUS one more time I going to slit my wrist..

I subjected myself to this torture, for really just one reason, to satisfy my crazed Art Addiction, and to see the launch of Eli Sudbrack's (aka.. AVAF - assume vivid astro focus) new fashion project. 

An entire Artist collection for LeSportsac.

AVAF's psychedelic design (photo #1) consists of layers of inspiration ranging from pop-culture to medieval tapestries to graffiti art.

Each LeSportsac is an original artwork, using different parts of the design, where no two items will be identical. 

Anyway.. most of the items look pretty cool and are reasonably priced.

Avaf_tote So as expected the night was a total social disaster, I'm use to that!!  But I came away from seeing the cool artist installation at the Madison Avenue shop as such a huge sellout.  Very sad.

It was actually a bit depressed seeing an Emerging Modern Artist who's work I've loved and collected, go so quickly into retail! I'm not sure why, but it some how affects the way I think about the artist and his work. But in the long run, does this help or hurt an artists career? Any ideas or thoughts on this issue out there?

But, at least we now know what to get my fashionista partner, Dr. Quiz, for Christmas.. NOT!!

FYI.. Monday is May 1st!! Time for another MAO Art Quiz!!

April 27, 2006

Vik Muniz "Pictures of Junk Series"

Vik_muniz_sisyphus Vik Muniz' new show "Bulfinch's Recycling Yard: VIK MUNIZ Pictures of Junk" at the Rena Bransten Gallery in San Fran opened a few days ago.

His ability to take total junk, spread it out over the floor of an airplane hanger sized warehouse, and turn it into expensive high art (reinterpretations of stuffy Old Masters Paintings) is hilarious. 

Of course, I fell totally in love with these works the first time I saw them.  But then again I'm a total idiot sucker for anything that makes fun at today's state of the Art Market, and our wasteful "throw away" society.

They've put together a short film with Vik talking about how and why they made these works.. (Photo : Sisyphus after Titian.. here's the original painting)

It is a must see for any other Vik Muniz Obsessed Collectors.  Here's the SHORT FILM. This show runs till May 27th.

Also there are 2 current Vik Muniz shows at Museums around.  A big Reflex : A Vik Muniz Retrospective which is in Miami at the Miami Art Museum and will be touring (San Antonio, Seattle, San Diego, and Montreal)

And then there's another show currently at the NY Long Island's Nassau County Museum of Art. Believe it or not, there's actually an art museum in Roslyn Harbor, Long Island, NY....who knew!!! and Yes.. Dr. Quiz, we MUST stop there on our drive back from Pupschwitz this weekend !

Lastly, Vik has a scheduled show at Sikkema, Jenkins and Co in NYC opening September 9th.

April 26, 2006

REFCO Photography Auction Mania

Paddles were flying high at the over-hyped REFCO Bankruptcy Auction yesterday at Christies Auction House.

The auction room was packed with people, press, and camera crews. The sale went very well. Overall, many of the lots sold way over their presale estimates. For example, all of the MAO favorites like the, Carrie Mae Weems, and Vik Muniz lots sold well above (most at more than two times) their estimates.

There were also a few good bargains to be had as well, like the 2 Ralph Eugene Meatyard - Lucybelle Crater Photo's ($3,500), Andreas Serrano (2 large 1980's images fror $7,500), and the Peter Hujar lots (2,500 to 3,500) which all sold for almost nothing!


But we have to give

the Official MAO INSANE


Purchase of the day goes to the lucky person who bought :

Sternfeld_mclean Lot #230 Joel Sternfeld lot #230 "McLean, Virginia, December, 1978, 46"x60" modern print, for $96,000

Now while I like the image.. this is a prime example of a Photographer (screwing his early collectors) who's been "re-editioning" his early work and printing tons of new large size modern prints which are readily available.. and for way less than $96,000!

Well.. At least this photo comes in a nice new pretty REFCO frame!

So, as expected, the ART Market is still RED HOT, and I'm sure there will be more Auction Mania to come.. at the May Contemporary sales.. so stay tuned!

April 24, 2006

Blind Spot Auction

Tonight is the inaugural Blind Spot Magazine Benefit Photography Auction, it takes place at Phillips de Pury, 450 West 15th street, 7 to 8pm, with the live auction starting at 8pm by Rick "The Hammer" Wester.

For those clueless individuals who don't know Blind Spot, it's probably the leading US Modern Art Photograph Magazine.

Blind Spot Magazine is the international source book of photography-based fine art for artists, collectors, creative directors, designers, curators and art lovers. Blind Spot publishes new works by the world's most renowned artists and discovers vital new work by up-and-coming artists. The collaboration of the editors and the ideas expressed by the individual artists make each issue of Blind Spot emerge as a single work of art.

I believe the event is free to all, auction items range from $1,000 to $40,000, and for all you drinkers includes free cocktails. Unfortunately for Blind Spot tonight at 5pm is the first night for the Big Christies Spring Photography Auction, and there also is a popular Aperture Foundation Founders and Trustees cocktail party.. so with the NYC photography world split between 3 big events.. this charity auction may not be too well attended.  Absentee bid can be left on the Blind Spot website.

Richardmisrach_blindspot They have donated work by over 50 well known artists including : John Baldessari, Tina Barney, Lee Friedlander, Candida Hofer, Vik Muniz, Clifford Ross, Ed Ruscha, Lorna Simpson, and Jeff Wall.

And I just love this amazing Richard Misrach Mono Lake #2, California, 1999 C-print, Edition : 1/7 (Est. Retail Value : $7,000- 8,000)which was donated by the Fraenkel Gallery of San Francisco and Pace/MacGill Gallery.

April 21, 2006

Sneak Preview : The new Installation of MOMA's Atrium Gallery

TGIF everyone!!  As always the impatient observer.. MAO was snooping around MOMA yesterday.
Here's a photo of the Jennifer Bartlett's Rhapsody, 1976 (a story about it) work being installed in MOMA's main atrium gallery as part of this up coming "Against the Grain: Contemporary Art from the Edward R. Broida Collection" show.


The "Rhapsody" painting is composed of 987 painted steel panels, each 12 x 12 inches. It fills 153 running feet of wall space and wraps the entire atrium.

It was once called by John Russell of the NYT, "The most ambitious single work of new art that had come his way since he started to live in NY"

Well.. Honestly, it's sad to say, but the work didn't look much better in person than it does in my lame ass photo.  Maybe it's the size of the space, volume, height, intense bright light, etc.. But, After reading so much about this work.. I was expecting to be impressed.. It looks flat, and unexciting. Well then again, maybe I'm just a jaded New Yorker!

Hopefully the rest of the amazing Broida gift (175 works) will be more impressMoma_signive.

The new exhibit opens May 3rd!

April 20, 2006

ArtInfo's "Going Art Shopping with $5,000 story"

OK. venting a bit today..

So, I just finished reading the 3rd installment by Robert Ayers of ArtInfo.com's story "On Collecting: The $5,000 Question" and I think I want to puke! Well.. it just made me cringe.. while the writer clearly intends to help their readers.. It's just this type of Vapid Art Shopping Sport approach story which totally personifies everything wrong with the Chelsea art world today.. and the story just reeks of Art Gallery self interest!

Here's the 3 parts so far... Part IPart II, Part III Read them for yourself.. but don't blame me if they make you sick to your stomach!

Abfab_shoppingSome suggestions to Mr. Ayers... while keeping to a $5,000 budget is perfectly fine, the entire approach is terrible! Jumping head first into the shallow end of Modern Art Gallery pool (aka Shark Infested Waters!!) is absolutely the wrong place to suggest a new collector start!  Walking into galleries and ridiculously saying "I want to spend $5,000 on Art" is a ticket to getting ripped off!  It's also a totally hysterical episode of Absolutely Fabulous Lets go buy some Art Darling!

SisterwendyHow about first suggesting the newbie collector learn something about Art First!

- Like buy a Sister Wendy Survey Art History Book, read a few good art books & blogs, talk to some art collector Friends, then maybe

- Go to a museum and see what type of art and artists work the individual most appreciates.

- Then do some research on the artists they like, pick up the artists monograph, check auction catalogs for recent sales,go to an art fair to look and learn etc.

- And only lastly make an appointment to visit the gallery which represents the artist to see what work is available. Knowledge is power.. and will help the new collector get a good start, and appreciate what they've purchased!

Well.. that's just a few suggestions..end of venting for this week!

Also Paige over at Art Addict.com has had numerous wise postings on this topic.. Maybe Mr. Ayers of ArtInfo.com should read those first!

April 17, 2006

REFCO Art Collection Liquidation

A true test of strength in the Contemporary Art Photography market is coming to Christies.

Gursky_6th_ave On April 25, May 5 and on May 10th the entire REFCO Art Collection is to be quickly dumped auctioned off, with most lots to be sold without reserve.  There have been many stories written about the "High Quality" of the collection, but for the most part you'll find it a huge collection of very forgettable images, with very few standouts.  Hmm.. Maybe they were just quoting art dealers (like Damon Brandt) who sold REFCO all this unremarkable work?   It totals approximately 300 different lots all of photography (about 500 photo's) accumulated over the last 16 or so years by the now bankrupt company. The collection was lightly "curated" mostly by Adam Brooks and the wife of REFCO's founder Frances Dittmar.

Published in the book "Subjectives Realities" the REFCO collection has a somewhat random pointless broad focus covering almost the entire spectrum of art photography. It's astonishing to see so very few powerful, challenging or even interesting photographs in this huge collection.  Sadly, it's really a somewhat sanitized "very corporate" (almost Republican) portfolio. But what else would you expect?

Of course, Baldessari_beachthe REFCO collection does certainly includes some of the most over-hyped overpriced expensive artists in the art photography world such as Matthew Barney, Andreas Gursky (photo#1) and Gregory Crewdson. No wonder the company is bankrupt!  While flipping through the large 303 page Christies catalog you'll find few true standouts (Baldessari photo #2)images in this collection. One thing truly amusing, even the bright young Photography experts at Christies had nothing ingratiating to say about the collection or the quality of the curating in the auction catalog.

The only explanation of this collection comes from it's lead shopper, Adam Brooks, where he describes it as, "A collection that asks as many questions as the REFCO Collection is bound to elicit responses from the individuals who see it every day..." Can you say like, Why?? or maybe, What happened to all the money you wasted??

In a quote for an article in The Standard, Frances Dittmar once said "I believe good art adds to the quality of the workplace."  So, now we know why the entire company is in a scandalous court ordered liquidation!

History will find The REFCO collection just another prime example of a company being used as a big piggy-bank for the CEO's wife to go on an art shopping spree for her own enjoyment.  Well, it certainly will be interesting to see how this sale goes.  They reportedly paid $150,000 for the Gursky (photo #1), and it's pre-sale estimate is $250,000-350,000...so I guess the old saying "a high tide lifts all boats" may prove true.  But, it is a huge amount of work being dumped sold without a minimum reserve bid, so it's all got to go at whatever price!  And even while it's clearly not a well curated collection, there's sure to be some nice art bargains to be had among the REFCO Art Rubble!

April 13, 2006

Marcel Dzama Film Premier at MOMA

A Cheap Night Out in NYC!!

Dzama Film Event and Garden Party At MOMA.. Sat, April 22nd @ 7pm, Tickets are only $10

PopRally is a new program of events at MoMA and P.S.1
     created for young
New Yorkers. PopRally will feature musical 
     acts, performances, film
screenings, receptions, and special
     viewings of exhibitions at moderate prices


The world premiere of Marcel Dzama's The Lotus Eaters and
    Sad Ghost
, a
collaboration with Spike Jonze, Patrick Daughters,
     and Michael
Wadsworth, will feature live musical accompaniment
     arranged by
musician/composer David Driver, and a reading by the
     actor Josh Hamilton
of the classic Tennyson poem The Lotos-Eaters
     (1832). Also presented are
the Dzama Radio Shorts, a series of film
     vignettes dating from 1996.
Four acclaimed musician-composers
     provide accompaniment for the films:

     David Driver, a star of the off-Broadway musical People Are Wrong!

     Chris Anderson, a guitarist for the bands Muckafurgason, Moi?
Last Car

     Marty Beller, drummer/percussionist for They Might Be Giants

     Jon Spurney, who has performed off Broadway in Hedwig and the Angry
     and with David Byrne and John Cale

     Josh Hamilton, who will read
the Tennyson poem, was nominated for
     a Drama Desk award in 2005 for his
performance in The New Group's
     off-Broadway production of Hurlyburly
and has also starred on
     Broadway in Proof and in Noah Baumbach's debut
film Kicking and

The night will conclude with a garden cocktail reception
Dzama, Driver and Hamilton

April 12, 2006

Trenton Doyle Hancock and Fred Tomaselli at James Cohan Gallery

Renton_hancock Last night my pal JG and I went to a well attended book signing and lecture by two hot artists,
Trenton Doyle Hancock, and Fred Tomaselli at The James Cohan Gallery.

Well..as expected.. these are two very colorful people!! Just take a look at Trenton's last show catalog (Photo #1)! He's not exactly a stuffy, too serious for themselves, ego manic successful painter!
Trenton's work was included in the 2000 Whitney Biennial where the catalog stated

"While Hancock's art is often spun from dream and life experience, much of his subject matter deals with basic human needs and urges, the exploration of life's bottom lines - eating, digesting, defecating - as typified in, And for My next trick, I'll...


Fist of all, his new book, "Me A Mound," published by Picturebox (WHO?) and distributed by D.A.P. is a true work of Art.

Even the always difficult to please thoughtful JG was impressed with the book, and he's an art book publisher!  And everyone knows what those book people are like!! The new book is a retrospective of Hancock's work complete with an amusing storyline in an almost comic book style.


Secondly, the panel moderator was a total bore bit too formal! So luckily Fred Tomaselli did more of the questioning. (see photo's 2 & 3)

Trenton seems like a pretty down home boy modest guy, with a very funny creative mind. Plus, he was super engaging when he signed our book! (Photo #4). THANKS Trenton!!

In the new show.. we just loved the Me Mound waves around the room, plus the work Vegan Arm, 2006, has a Me Mound filled bucket in the front gallery (Photo #5). Now.. here's a secret.. Trenton told us the Hot Pink Me Mound in the bucket is really just Cherry Pepto Bismol!!!

So, after looking at the work, It's not hard to tell why Trenton and Fred seem like friends. While their styles are very different, their work both share similar wacky Bucket_pepto and whimsical social messages.

For what it's worth.. David Velasco wrote up The Current Show in Artforum's Critic's Picks this month.

Here is David's write-up.. Download Hancock_06show.pdf

Trenton Hancock's show at the James Cohen Gallery is both funny and his complex images, amazing.  So, if you haven't seen it yet, it's well worth rushing over before the show closes on April 15th!

And don't worry, if after seeing the show you have heart burn, or indigestion.. you'll know where to find a few gallons of Pepto-Bismol !!

April 10, 2006

Opportunity in a sea of Art Auction Mania!

Given how high Modern Art auction prices have been lately, it was a pleasant surprise to attend the Saturday At Phillips with my friends Boozhy, and the Smurf, this weekend and not see everything go way above the pre-sale estimates.  I actually think there were several bargains to be had, and I was very happy to help my friends get some good deals this weekend.

Pot_of_gold So while numerous bidders were falling over themselves to buy the plastic junk furniture your mom threw out 20 years ago Modern Design works up for sale... the Photography lots (about 100 lots, 25% of the auction) all seemed to sell consistently below the estimates

One unusual observation was there were almost NO photography dealers in the room.  Which I think gave the few lucky Photo buyers a good opportunity to purchase some B&W prints at cheap prices.

Actually several lots sold much cheaper than where similar items have recently sold before at auction.

Many were easily 50-60% below where most photo dealers are trying to sell the exact same image. 

Here are just a few examples..

  • a large Berenice Abbott "Lower East Side" sold for $1500
  • Andre Kertesz signed "Bathing" image sold for $2200
  • 2 Bruce Weber's each sold for $1,800
  • Garry Winogrand "Texas State Fair" for $1800
  • a large Tom Baril "Dahlia" sold for $1500
  • several nice Michael Kenna standard editioned prints sold for under $1500 each.

Just one suggestion to the people at Phillips...try to group the lots better by category.  These 7 hour/487 lot marathon auctions are painful to sit through, while I may have found watching those bling bling Tahitian Pearls sale tempting...most collectors really don't want to wait around all day just to bid on a few lots that were spread all over the course of the long day!!

April 06, 2006

The Hard Sell, or a Nice Favor???

As a native New Yorker, I'm a natural born cynic.  So sometimes.. It's hard for me to tell, in this hyper crazy art market, if an art dealer (aka.. Spin Doctor!) is trying to do me a "favor", or just pushing me into a purchase which I'm still yet undecided.

So, how should I feel about getting this email message yesterday? I've actually never met this gallery manager.. But, It's a "well respected" gallery that I've never purchased from.  It's for a large photograph size queen from a new hot Artist that I've done lots of research. I like the work, but the prices seem very high. What do you think?   I'm leaning towards, it's a Great Favor, but it might be an Overly Pushy Sales Ploy? What would you do?

Dear MAO,
      It was nice to speak with you on the phone the other day, since last week, we have had quite a bit of serious interest in the XXSmallHotXX Series, in addition to selling two and putting another on hold for a client.  BIGBOX1 and BIGBOX2 museums both bought one.  There is still one XXGoodieXX that is edition 4/8 and available for $12,000.  The other ones in the series are all now edition 6/8 or higher and the price will be raised to $15,000.
      I know that you have been interested in the XXGoodieXX for quite some time now.  I would be happy to extend the price of $12,000 for the higher edition numbers to you for the next 10 days.  Again, that price does include mounting, framing and delivery.  Let me know if you are interested.   
Warm regards,
Your Friendly Spin Doctor/Gallerina

April 05, 2006

Whitney Contemporaries Social Event

Last night I attended a Whitney Contemporaries event. Typically I'd stay as far away from one of these tired Upper East Side social climber mixer type events as possible, but this time it was held at the amazing home of Richard Marshall & Bill Georgis.
Picture_005_1Richard was a Whitney Curator, and has authored way too many notable art books.
So I was hoping to see some new great discoveries of the insider art world.
While their art collection was impressive, I was a bit disappointed not too see those new great undiscovered artists and photographic work on their walls. Maybe they keep those hidden away?

But they did have a fantastic Alexander Calder Mobile, two Alex Katz paintings, and one huge terrible Julian Schnabel painting hanging in their home.

The most impressive aspect of this Contemporaries Collection Visit was seeing their incredible townhouse, which had been 100% designed by Mr. Gerogis & his architectural firm.
Picture_007_1The space was perhaps one of the best renovations of the typically narrow NYC townhouse I've ever seen.  It really had gay flair a great sense of space and flow.  Even with 75+ pretentious people at the party It felt completely airy and comfortable.

But the highlight of my evening was running into friend, Art Lawyer Extraordinaire and Art & Auction Columnist, Charles Danziger, whom I've not seen in over a year.  I found it extremely funny, when Charles saw me, the first words out of his mouth were, "I didn't know you were interested in Art !"  OUCH!!  Well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I've only hung out with Charles socially where Dr. Quiz and I are typically dressed more like lesbians plumbers than modern art collectors.

So while I truly don't enjoy these pointless events, it was great to catch up with Charles, plus snoop around see this amazing townhouse and art collection.

April 04, 2006

MAO Quiz - Arthur Tress & The Dream Collector

So, yes... we have an April FOOL's QUIZ winner!
I guess this quiz was not as difficult as I had hoped.. But clearly it took a photo pro to get this one so fast!!  So, A big congratulations go out to Art Gallery Owner and newbie Art Blogger, Daniel Cooney of DFCA who submitted the correct answers in under 4 hours on a Saturday morning like doesn't he have something better to do?? ! Nice job Dan!

So the two photographs.. both by Arthur Tress were published in "The Dream Collector" 1972, Westover Publishing Company.  One of my all time favorite B&W photography books, it is an amazing collection of staged photographs built around the thoughts and unconscious dreams of young children.  While the idea of staged photography is common today, in the late 1960's Arthur Tress helped develop the art of the surreal narrative photographic style.  Whether intentional or not, it's easy to see how much of Tress's work was copied a strong influence on many over priced famous artists to come such as  :  Cindy Sherman, Joel-Peter Witkin, Tina Barney, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Pierre et Gilles, Sandy Skoglund, and Gregory Crewdson just to name a few.

Quiz_4_a_1 The First photo, "Girl with Dunce Cap", New York, 1972. Also, currently in the MAO art collection.  For The Dream Collector book, when describing this image, John Minaham wrote :

"Dreams about school seem to persist throughout childhood, and frequently into adulthood. The Majority are anxiety dreams. Students are relentlessly subjected to the frustrating American grade-conscious straitjacket where fear is the incentive, failure is shame, conformity is absolute, and boredom is rampant. Resulting in men and women who have stopped asking Why."

Quiz_4_b_1 The second Photo, "Boy in Burnt-out Furniture Store", Newark, 1969 is possibly one of Arthur's most well know images.

There is also a new show of Vintage photographs coming to NYC. Many of these images have never before. This Arthur Tress show is opening up at ClampArt in Chelsea this Thursday night.  I believe Arthur will be present.  The show runs through May 13th.

Here are a few of my favorite Arthur Tress photo's from the up coming ClampArt Gallery Show.

Tress_boy_with_painted_snow_scene Photo #3, "Boy with Painted Snow Scene", Coney Island Brooklyn, 1972

Tress_teenager_drinking_on_telephone_polPhoto #4, "Teenager Drinking on a Telephone Pole", Bronx, New York 1969.

Now, I'm not sure why, but there's just something about a sexy man floating down a river with a big pole between his legs that makes me smile every time I see the photo.. Tress_two_boys_on_passaic_river .

Photo #5 : "Two Boys on the Passaic River", New jersey, 1968