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HISTORY’S WEALTHIEST PEOPLE AND MOST EXPENSIVE ART

By Reed V. Horth, for CBPMag.com and Robin Rile Fine Art

 

The New Yorker’s award-winning columnist Malcolm Gladwell posits in his 2008 book Outliers: The Story of Success” that, today’s world’s wealthiest man, Mr. Carlos Slim Helú, ranks only as #31 on the all-time scale of wealthiest human in recorded history.

 

Only.

 

As of 2008, Mexico’s Carlos Slim Helú had $72.4B USD (2014 rank #1 at $73B). A significant sum to be sure. However this total less than ¼ of the reported $318.3B USD estimated for American industrialist John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937). Rockefeller was, and remains, the wealthiest human this world has ever known, on a list which includes Czar Nicholas II, William Henry Vanderbilt, Marcus Licinius Crassus (ca. 115 B.C.-53 B.C.), William II of England (c. 1056-1100) and Cleopatra (69 B.C.-30 B.C.).

 

It is perhaps fitting that Rockefeller’s New York namesake, Rockefeller Center, houses Christie’s one of the two major auction houses which annually duel with uptown rivals Sotheby’s for the chance to sell the highest-priced artwork in history.

 

New York was Rockefeller’s city. A city of wealth. To many extents, it still is.

Photo: http://www.examiner.com/article/destination-new-york-rockefeller-center-beyond-the-christmas-tree
Photo: http://www.examiner.com/article/destination-new-york-rockefeller-center-beyond-the-christmas-tree

 

Today, we have a bumper crop of new wealthy cognoscenti, collectively known as HNWI or UHNWI (High Net Worth Individuals or ULTRA HNWI), descending New York’s auction houses to purchase some of the most expensive items ever purchased in history, namely Art. Christie’s has been a part of several of the highest sales, including the 2006 sale of Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” for a then-record of $135M USD (Now translated to $155M USD). Of the top 50 highest-priced paintings ever sold, Sotheby’s (London & New York) holds the slight edge, having produced 17 of the highest prices. Christie’s (London & New York) has produced 13 highest prices, and a mixture of gallery and private sales compose the remaindered 20.

 

According to Ileana van der Linde, Principal of Capgemini who, in conjunction with Merrill Lynch compiles an annual report on Wealth, “Art has emerged as the most popular category of ‘Passion Investments’ for investing for financial gain.” She further noted, A significant percentage of Financial Advisors, 29.8%, responded that art, of all Investments of Passion, was the most widely considered as another form of financial investment— the wealthy are investing in this category for financial benefit. For advisors to European investors, the percentage was even higher at 37.4%.” [1]

 

“Passion Investments [including art] comprise approximately 33% of HNWIs and UHNWIs overall holdings”.

~2010 Capgemini HNWI Research

 

So, what “passion” drove someone to expend $135M (or more) for a piece of artwork? The reasons can vary from a simple “because I can”, to extensive tax savings through donations and bequests. In 1936, American financier Andrew Mellon donated nearly his entire art collection, as well as the funds to build what became the National Gallery of Art, to Washington D.C. In return, Mellon, who ranked as #6 on Gladwell’s chart of history’s wealthiest with an estimated $188.8B USD, received a huge estate tax break after he passed away the following year, 1937. [2] Obviously, this case represents a fraction of the reasons HNWI and UHNWI would purchase art, another is investment.

 

Le Rêve” was Pablo Picasso’s 1932 depiction of his 17 year-old lover Marie-Thérèse Walter. The work was purchased in 1941 by an American family, Victor & Sally Ganz, for $7000. The Ganz collection, which also consisted of marquis works by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, and Eva Hesse, and several important Picasso, fetched $207M USD in a record-setting sale at Christie’s in 1997. At that sale “Le Rêve” was sold for $48.4M USD to Austrian Wolfgang Flöttl who in turn sold it to casino magnate Steve Wynn for an estimated $60M USD. After seriously damaging the painting in 2006 with an errant elbow, Wynn finally sold the painting to Hedge fund guru Steven A. Cohen in 2013, for $155M USD. From the 1997 Ganz Sale till 2013, the value of “Le Rêve” rose 220%. Further, Wynn successfully lobbied the Nevada state legislature that his collection should be sale-tax exempt as it is prominently on display in his casinos and hotels for educative purposes (Despite the fact that there is an admission fee for entry). [2] This is an example of both investment and a gain on tax-liabilities by leveraged art assets.

 

Paul Cézanne’s “The Card Players” sold in 2012 to the Qatari Royal family for an extraordinary $259M (Now approximately 294.4M). It is no secret that the world has a dearth of individuals who would be willing or capable of making this an “investment” for the Qatari royal family, at least in the short term. Therefore, it is safe to assume that other motivations were at play. (Perhaps pride in being #1?) That certainly could be the case as no one has, or is likely to, come close to this sum any time soon. Perhaps this is the nation’s efforts to become the biggest player in the region (if not the world) for major art. The Emir’s 28 year old, Duke-educated daughter, Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani (b. 1983), is reportedly masterminding the collecting spree as the head of the Qatar Museums Authority. Given her high profile team consisting of Christie’s alumnus Edward Dolman, Roger Mandle from the Rhode Island School of Design and Lionel Pissarro (grandson of Camille), as well as the construction of celebrity-architect I.M. Pei’s Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, perhaps this is her effort to place a stamp on the region through conspicuous excess and the resultant press coverage it inevitably brings. [3]

 

Perhaps this is the ultimate reason someone would spend for Art… Pride in owning nothing less than the very best…

 

Until the next record is set.

 

THE TOP 10 MOST EXPENSIVE PAINTINGS EVER SOLD.

10. The Scream by Edvard Munch

Adjusted price: $122 Million | Original price: $119.9 Million

Top10- 10

Painted by Edvard Munch in 1895, Norwegian Billionaire Petter Olsen sold it on 2 May, 2012 to American investor Leon Black through Sotheby’s New York.

9. Boy with a Pipe by Pablo Picasso

Adjusted price: $129 Million | Original price: $104.2 Million
Top10-9
Painted by Pablo Picasso in 1905, The Greentree foundation (the John Hay Whitney family) sold it on 4 May, 2004 through Sotheby’s New York.

 

8. Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Adjusted price: $141.5 Million | Original price: $78.1 Million
Top10-8
Painted by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in 1876, Betsey Whitney (wife of John Hay Whitney) sold this painting to Japanese industrialist Ryoei Saito in on 17 May, 1990 through Sotheby’s New York.

7. Three Studies of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon

Adjusted price: $142.4 Million | Original price: $142.4 Million

Top10-7

Painted by Francis Bacon in 1969, An anonymous seller sold it on 12 November, 2013 to Elaine Wynn (ex-wife of Steve Wynn) through Christie’s New York.

6. Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Vincent Van Gogh

Adjusted price: $149.5 Million | Original price: $82.5 Million
Top10-6
Painted by Vincent van Gogh in 1890, Jewish financier Siegfried Kramarsky family sold this painting to Ryoei Saito on 15 May, 1990 through Christie’s New York.

5. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt

Adjusted price: $155.8 Million | Original price: $135 Million
Top10-5
Painted by Gustav Klimt in 1907, Jewish refugee Maria Altmann (nee. Bloch) sold this painting to Ronald Lauder & Neue Galerie on 18 June, 2006 through a private sale arranged by Christie’s. Mrs. Altmann successfully reclaimed 5 of her families paintings, including this work, after the Art was stolen by the Nazis in 1938.

4. Le Rêve by Pablo Picasso

Adjusted price: $155.9 Million | Original price: $155 Million

Top10-4

Painted by Pablo Picasso in 1932, American casino magnate Steve Wynn sold it on 26 March, 2013 to Hedge Fund guru Steven A. Cohen through Private Sale.

3. Woman III by Willem deKooning

Adjusted price: $159.8 Million | Original price: $137.5 Million
Top10-3
Painted by Willem de Kooning in 1953, Music Producer David Geffen sold this painting to Hedge Fund guru Steven A. Cohen on 18, November 2006 through Private Sale.

2. No. 5, 1948, painted by Jackson Pollock

Adjusted price: $162.7 Million | Original price: $140 Million
Top10-2

Painted by Jackson Pollock in 1948, Music Producer David Geffen sold this painting to Mexican financier David Martinez on 2 November, 2006 through Private Sale.

1. The Card Players by Paul Cézanne

Adjusted price: $269.4 Million | Original price: $259 Million

Top10-1

Painted by Paul Cézanne in 1892/93, Greek businessman George Embricos sold it in April 2012 to the Royal Family of Qatar through Private Sale.

 

[1] http://artvest.com/high-net-worth-individuals-hnwis-are-approaching-art-for-investment-fall-2010/

[2] “All the Money in the World” New York, 2007. Ed. by Bernstein, Peter & Swan, Annalyn. Pgs- 226-228.

[3] http://www.forbes.com/sites/abigailesman/2012/02/06/the-250-million-dollar-cezanne-what-does-it-mean-to-you/

 

Photo Credits:

[1] http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/full.php?ID=6371

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._5,_1948

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_III

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_R%C3%AAve_%28painting%29

[5] http://www.neuegalerie.org/collection/Austrian/Fine%20Arts?page=1

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portrait_of_Dr._Gachet

[7] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/francis-bacon-three-studies-lucian-2786348

[8] musee-orsay.fr

[9] http://wtc.11.9.googlepages.com/picasso-boy-with-pipe.jpg

[10] http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2012/impressionist-modern-art-evening-sale-n08850/lot.20.html

 

Reed V. Horth, is the president, curator and writer for ROBIN RILE FINE ART in Miami, FL. He has been a private dealer, gallerist and blogger since 1996, specializing in 20th century and contemporary masters. www.robinrile.com

Posted by Reed V. Horth on 2/21 | tags: Forbes wealth richest Christie's Sotheby's figurative realism landscape surrealism modern traditional




What is it with “Artists” destroying other Artist’s Work these days?

By Reed V. Horth, for Robin Rile Fine Art

On February 16, 2014, Miami Artist Maximo Caminero casually walked into the brand-new Pérez Art Museum Miami, picked up a $1M vase by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, and smashed it to the ground in an apparent protest.

What is it with artists destroying other people’s work these days?

"Colored Vases", Ai Weiwei, 2006-2012

Courtesy of Craig O'Neil via Miami New Times

Mr. Caminero told Michael E. Miller, of The Miami New Times, “I did it for all the local artists in Miami that have never been shown in museums here,” he says. “They have spent so many millions now on international artists. It’s the same political situation over and over again. I’ve been here for 30 years and it’s always the same.” Apparently forgetting that this is a MUSEUM and not a gallery, he smashed the vase in a fit jealousy, right?

Perhaps it is more than that, as this is not the first time an “artist” has attempted to destroy art. More often than not, we find it is an attempt at self-aggrandized publicity-seeking rather than the flowery diatribes about challenging norms and being original. Rather than self-reflection at improving one’s own output, this type of “artist” seeks to fast-track their way to fame any way possible.

Mentally-deranged German serial vandal Hans-Joachim Bohlmann (1937-2009) damaged more than 50 paintings, worth a combined EURO 138M between 1977 and 2006. Using his preferred medium of sprayable sulfuric acid, he destroyed irreplaceable works from Rubens, Durer, Rembrandt and others before receiving the rather paltry sentence of three years in prison.

 

 

In 1974, a young New York artist named Tony Shafrazi spray painted “KILL LIES ALL” across Pablo Picasso’s seminal depiction of war “Guernica”, while it was touring the United States just shortly after the death of the artist. When confronted immediately afterward, he cursed and simply claimed, “I’m an Artist”. Later, Shafrazi lyrically posited that he was protesting the Vietnam war and “[I] wanted to bring the art [Guernica] absolutely up to date, to retrieve it from art history and give it life. Maybe that’s why the Guernica action remains so difficult to deal with. I tried to trespass beyond that invisible barrier that no one is allowed to cross; I wanted to dwell within the act of the painting’s creation, get involved with the making of the work, put my hand within it and by that act encourage the individual viewer to challenge it, deal with it and thus see it in its dynamic raw state as it was being made, not as a piece of history.” While perhaps poetic statement about the evils of war, it is more likely an act of self-promotion, one which received only a paltry charge of criminal mischief and 6 months probation. MOMA, where the work was housed was hoping to keep the story quiet so they did not pursue further remedy. They simply cleaned the painting at their own expense and stated that the work was “undamaged”.  Shafrazi went on to become one of New York’s most prominent dealers of modern art. [2]

 

 

Russian performance artist Alexander Brener (b. 1957) has defaced several works on public display, including defecating in front of a Vincent Van Gogh painting and defacing Kazimir Malevich’s “Suprematisme”, on which he expounded during his court case, “The cross is a symbol of suffering, the dollar sign a symbol of trade and merchandise. On humanitarian grounds are the ideas of Jesus Christ of higher significance than those of the money. What I did was not against the painting. I view my act as a dialogue with Malevich.” He received only 5 months in prison.

 

Uriel Landeros, a 22-year-old artist studying at the University of Houston was caught spray-painting a stencil of a bullfighter and the work “conquista” (Conquered) on another Picasso, “Woman in a Red Armchair” at Houston’s Menil Collection. After being captured on a cell-phone camera, Landeros fled to Mexico where he was promptly caught and returned to the US to face charges of criminal mischief and felony graffiti. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison. Landeros posted photos of the defaced Picasso on his Facebook page with the artistically phased, “I have Picasso’s soul in my hand, ‘la bestia se conquista’(The Beast is Conquered)…. The revolutionary artist does not create art that can easily become a commodity; his [sic] transgresses the boundaries of political mediocrity…. My intention is to give a voice to all those who go unheard of, all those people who get pushed around by their goverment [sic], all those people of the OCCUPY MOVEMENT who protest the streets and the goverment ignores,” Landeros wrote on Facebook. “REMEMBER, when the people fear their goverment that is tyranny, when the goverment fears the people that is freedom. We are legion, We do not forgive, We do not forget, expect us.” [3]

 

In each case, fancy-worded artifice still sounds like B.S. from a failed artist eager to do anything to be famous.

 

Proving we are suckers for self-promotional dribble… Galleries are lining up to be the first to host an exhibit of Uriel Landeros’ work once his legal troubles are behind him. It only remains to be seen, who will be the first to sign up for a Caminero show?

 

And I thought artists were supposed to be original.

 

 

 

[1] http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2014/02/miami_artist_maximo_caminero_s.php

[2] http://artanonymous.blogspot.com/2011/07/art-of-knowing-when-not-to-do-something.html

[3] http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jan/10/nation/la-na-nn-graffiti-picasso-20130110

 

UPDATE: VIDEO $1 million Ai Weiwei Vase vase broken in Miami museum

UPDATE: Statement from Ai Weiwei to Miami New Times, “”I’m O.K. with it, if a work is destroyed,” he says. “A work is a work. It’s a physical thing. What can you do? It’s already over.”

 

Reed V. Horth, is the president, curator and writer for ROBIN RILE FINE ART in Miami, FL. He has been a private dealer, gallerist and blogger since 1996, specializing in 20th century and contemporary masters. www.robinrile.com

Posted by Reed V. Horth on 2/21




“Infants of the Same Species”: Washington National Cathedral and Frederick E. Hart

By Reed V. Horth, for CBPMag.com and Robin Rile Fine Art

 

Michelangelo was 24 years old when he completed his “Pietà” in 1499. Oh, if only I were so accomplished by the same age.

Michelangelo (Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, 6 March 1475 – 18 February 1564) installed his most perfect sculpture within the Vatican walls in the dead of night, helped by laborers who refused payment as they felt blessed to place such a masterpiece. Unsigned, Michelangelo later snuck back into the Vatican one evening, chiseling his signature on Mary’s sash after horrifyingly overhearing visitors remark that his “Pieta” was the work of Cristoforo “The Hunchback” Solari.

Uncouth and brash, Michelangelo was the epitome of the Gifted Deviant.

 

For 12 years, I worked in galleries featuring a modern day sculptor whose work garners comparisons (rightly or wrongly) to those of Michelangelo. The artist is named Frederick Elliot Hart (1943-1999). In developing my sales presentation, I discovered that when I mentioned the artist’s monuments, my audience had a hidden familiarity with the artist. The “Three Soldiers” at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC was the easiest image to conjure for most of our visitors. This familiarity allowed me to segue into a presentation about the artist which hopefully, would inspire them to own one of his works. The sculpture people were most impressed with during my presentation was the full-sized clay modele for Hart’s “Ex Nihilo” for Washington National Cathedral. The swirling mass of 4 male figures and 4 female figures stopped people in their tracks. If that did not inspire respect, nothing would. Hart was ahead of his time, brash, confident and a rebel in his own right.

In some respects, Hart could be considered an “infant of the same species” as Michelangelo.

 

17 years after my initial introduction to the work of Hart, I finally visited Washington National Cathedral in Washington DC on a pilgrimage to see the subject of so many presentations, speeches, articles and emails, “Ex Nihilo”. As I slid off the bus which took me the short distance from the Red Line Metro station at Tenleytown, twin cathedral spires dawned from behind a tremendous oak tree. The world’s 6th largest cathedral was coming into view in the dewy morning light. As I approached a powerfully-built, but still spritely, docent ushered a group of 7th graders to the West façade. As he began speaking about the cathedral he mentioned Frederick Hart, so I sat down to have a listen. Despite that fact that I  have lectured and written on the subject of Hart for nearly 20 years, there is always something to learn. The docent, who I would come to know later as Andy Bittner, spoke of Hart by the name his friends called him… “Rick”.

Rick, a troubled teen from Atlanta was kicked out of school at 13 but still was able to matriculate to University of South Carolina to continue his studies. When he later marched for civil rights, the Ku Klux Klan took a contract on his life, so he fled to Washington DC, finding a home as the “Mayor of DuPont Circle” due to his ebullient personality and effusive wit. Hearing about Washington National Cathedral and having a burgeoning talent for meeting girls using his skills as a sculptor, he found his way to the same Tenleytown stop I did.

 

(LEFT) Marble statue of George Washington by Lee Lawrie at Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

 

The plan for the Cathedral was originally proposed by George Washington himself on 4 January, 1792, in The Gazette of the United States, Philadelphia. “A church intended for national purposes,” he wrote, “assigned to the special use of no particular sect or denomination, but equally open to all”. While the plans languished until 1891, they were re-purposed and a site was chosen on Reno Hill overlooking the city of Washington. Ground broke in 1907 during a ceremony presided over by President Theodore Roosevelt. The cathedral was metaphorically an “Infant of the same species” compared to the Gothic Cathedrals of Europe which inspired its architecture, theme and detailing. Hart felt an overwhelming sense of spirituality when he walked through the doors for the first time. After a long and deliberate study, he converted to Catholicism shortly thereafter (despite the fact that the Cathedral is Episcopal) . As Tom Wolf described in his posthumous biography of Hart, “The hot-blooded boy’s passion, as Hart developed his vision of the Creation, could not be consummated by Woman alone. He fell in love with God. For Hart, the process began with his at first purely pragmatic research into the biblical story of the Creation in the Book of Genesis. He had been baptized in the Presbyterian Church, and he was working for the Episcopal Church at the Washington National Cathedral. But by the 1970′s, neither of these proper, old-line, in-town Protestant faiths offered the strong wine a boy who was in love with God was looking for. He became a Roman Catholic and began to regard his talent as a charisma, a gift from God. He dedicated his work to the idealization of possibilities God offered man“. (The Artist the Art World Couldn’t See, by Tom Wolfe, New York Times Magazine, January 2, 2000)

 

(L to R) Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral (1211-1275) Reims, France Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral (1163-1345) Paris, France Washington National Cathedral (The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul) (1907-1990) Washington DC USA

 

Throughout the 1970’s, Hart labored under the tutelage of the Italian stone-cutting masters Roger Morigi (1908-1995) and the jovial Vincent Palumbo (1936-2000) in the lost style of the ancient stone carvers. (The book “The Stone Carvers” by Marjorie Hunt and corresponding Academy Award-winning documentary highlight their work and enigmatic personalities) A quick glance at most modern buildings will reveal the lack of ornamentation which was hallmark of architecture throughout history and moving into the Beaux-Arts styles of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Since that time, stone has been used less and less in favor of steel, glass and modern materials, thereby decreasing the demand for stone carvers of Hart’s ilk. However, under the tutelage of Morigi and Palumbo, Hart learned of the competition to design the tympanum above the main doors of the Cathedral’s West façade. Hart chose the theme of creation, but not with the same sensitivity of subject as Michelangelo applied in his “God Creating Adam” in the Sistine Chapel. Instead, Hart drew inspiration from the writings of Jesuit philosopher and theologian Pierre Theilhard de Chardin who, in his treatise “The Divine Milieu” posited that “Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire….[and] Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being.” Hart’s original maquette called upon several elements in the natural world, fire, rain, stone, wind to create his Adam and his Eve “Ex Nihilo” (Out of Nothing).

 

Birth is a painful process. A fitful sleep, only to reawaken for another moment of creation… Dawn. Hart’s Adam and Eve struggle and writhe in a pullulating morass of tarry elements Hart described as a “primordial cloud”. Though their bodies are partially articulated and powerful, their essence is still formative. Silently, they grasp at dawn through the chaos for formation. Perhaps this is Hart’s allegory for all life.

Hart’s work, bears a spiritual, if not thematic kinship to French master Auguste Rodin’s most important creation, La Porte de l’Enfer (The Gates of Hell). This is due in part to the fact that both were sculpted in high relief contraposto and consisted of restrained forms in varying forms of activity through a quagmire from which they cannot escape. However, where Rodin’s figures are tortured without hope, Hart’s anguished Adam and Eve seem uplifted and confident. The unified whole, carved by Morigi and Palumbo from Indiana limestone using techniques and division of labor derived from the stone carvers of old, allowed Hart to birth his own renaissance of sorts. His sculpting, combined with the tutelage and expertise of his mentors, made the lost art of stone carving interesting again. Not unlike his sculptural antecedents Michelangelo and Rodin. Hart again proves himself to be an “infant of the same species”.

 

(LEFT) August Rodin (French, 1840-1917) “Adam” (1880-1881), shown in bronze. Portion of composition “La Porte de l'Enfer (The Gates of Hell)”. (LEFT) Frederick E. Hart (American, 1943-1999) “Adam” (1974, cast 2006), shown in bronze. Portion of composition “Ex Nihilo” for Washington National Cathedral

He is the old Adam”, Hart says,

[a] figure emergent from chaos, shaped by the potter’s hand,

the passion and the zenith of creations…

He is also the new Adam, emergent, radiant in light.

He is at once absolutely concrete and absolutely universal.”

 

Hart sculpting the full-scale modele with his model Lindy Lain, later Mrs. Frederick Hart posing as the face of Eve

Frederick E. Hart (American, 1943-1999) "Ex Nihilo" (1974-1982) Indiana limestone, Height: 156 inches. Washington National Cathedral, Washington D.C.

 

Our diminutive docent, Irma Stockton, kindly lead a small group of us through the nooks and crannies of the cathedral, pointing out interesting morsels of information on the construction, from the significance of specific windows, bosses and markings, to the belfry where we saw the skeleton of the upper knave arches. She explained that the cathedral was designed in the 14th Century English Gothic style and that it is the highest point in Washington D.C., higher even than the Washington Monument because of its location atop Reno Hill (the highest natural point in the District of Columbia at 409ft above sea level). She led us through the narrow mass with an eight bay knave and six bay transept, pointing out various items of interest in stone, stained glass and wrought iron artistry throughout.

Despite breaking ground in 1907, it was not finished until I was a senior in High School.

After thanking Mrs. Stockton for her time, I reemerged from the Cathedral into the midday light. With this, I too went from a waking sleep into a dawn of my own. Repositioning myself again in front of “Ex Nihilo” I truly gained insights into Hart and the reason for my pilgrimage. The cathedral holds a power and majesty that was not easily summed up in words. Despite its relatively young lineage, its breathtaking scale and impeccable detail reminded me that there were masters of old walking among us.Craftsmanship bordering on the great Renaissance masters is lost on us now, and we are poorer for it with each passing year.

I caught back up with docent Andy Bittner and introduced myself. He took a few moments to impart some of the stories previously mentioned as well as his own formative years at the Cathedral, first as a wayward and free-thinking youth seeking the meaning of life, then later as a patron and docent. In his laid-back, but friendly and enthusiastic drawl, he conveyed that his adventuresome youth was spent exploring nooks and crannies of the magical structure as his parents lived and worked in the greater DC area. (In fact, his father was the “tenor drummer in the Washington Scottish Bagpipe Band, who played in the annual Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan service (the blessing of the Scottish clans in America)” at the Cathedral. After several years of self-described “adventurous, but limiting, decisions“, he returned to its hallowed halls and had a life-altering epiphany. Just as Hart before him, he dedicated his life to the Cathedral and its history. Andy was kind enough to share a broad spectrum of stories, from bona fide miracles, to mysterious coincidences and the humorous deviancy the masons and stone carvers caused in their decades working at the Cathedral. Anecdotally he explained one of the most deviant characteristics of the exterior structure was a protuberant bust of Darth Vader which adorns the Northwest tower. A competition amongst schoolchildren in the 1980’s to design gargoyles for the Cathedral yielded a winning design of the Star Wars villain. The design was then sculpted by Jay Hall Carpenter and carved in Indiana limestone by Patrick J. Plunkett.

 

The Star Wars Villain on the Northwest Tower. Courtesy of Washington National Cathedral.

Perhaps it was Andy’s encyclopedic knowledge of the structure or a truly divine moment which inspired him to become a permanent fixture at the Cathedral. Perhaps it was more. One common thread struck me as I listened to Andy speak about the Cathedral; that of deviants finding their way. After all, Andy did. So did Michelangelo and Rodin. So did Hart. To some extent, so did I. Is this what Andy meant by “infants of the same species”? Perhaps. Perhaps it is because this structure was, as Washington himself intended, “equally open to all”.

Including we deviants.

The author and "Ex Nihilo" at Washington National Cathedral, August 2013.

 

FOOTNOTE: Of the many stories Andy Bittner conveyed during our discussions, one series resonated. On 23 August, 2011, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Washington D.C. area causing significant damage to the Cathedral and its varied structures. On 26 August Hurricane Irene further exacerbated efforts to shore up the structure and caused further damage to the cathedral. On September 7, 2011 a 350 foot crane working to shore up the Cathedral in light of the recent damage, collapsed. Days later, on 11 September, 2011, was to be the 10th Anniversary memorial of the September 11th attacks in Washington and New York. President Barack Obama as well as many heads of state, Senators, Secretaries, dignitaries and heads different religions from around the world were to converge on Washington National Cathedral on that date. Security around D.C. was airtight, but threats were always rampant and fears remained high. Andy maintains that these “Acts of God” served as a warning. The memorial was moved to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Despite an extended series of dramatic disasters, no one was egregiously hurt. No villainy took place. Perhaps, he thought, this is BEST example of God’s benevolence.

Several damaged or fallen spires and gargoyles from the exterior façade.

For more on the restoration efforts ongoing at the Cathedral, please see http://www.nationalcathedral.org/dcquake/

 

Reed V. Horth, is the president, curator and writer for ROBIN RILE FINE ART in Miami, FL. He has been a private dealer, gallerist and blogger since 1996, specializing in 20th century and contemporary masters. www.robinrile.com

Posted by Reed V. Horth on 1/31




THE MONUMENTS MEN AND OUR TREK TO SEE MADONNA

By Reed V. Horth, for CBPMag.com and Robin Rile Fine Art

“It used to be called plundering. But today things have become more humane. In spite of that, I intend to plunder, and to do it thoroughly ~Reichmarshall Hermann Goering, August 6, 1942

Call us Bohemian, if you will. When my wife and I travel, we like to rent apartments in small-local communities, as opposed to luxurious hotels in heavily trafficked areas. This allows us to interact with locals and get to know what it is like to really LIVE in the cities we visit. This approach has allowed us to stumble upon some of the most incredible parties, museums, friendships and sights by just getting out and being part of a community.

“Lady Lace”, in Bruge, Belgium

One such instance found us perusing the streets of Bruge, Belgium (alternatively spelled Bruges, Brugge, etc.), one of the most beautiful and historic cities in Northern Europe. Kat combed VRBO.com and located a charming 17th Century home called “Lady Lace” in the Ezelstraat quarter, just inside the walled city (http://www.vrbo.com/252617). Among other things, Bruge is known for its lace, of which we would see a varied array adorning the wall of the house during our stay.  This three story, 100 SqM, home features the traditional stepped gable façade, oak-beamed ceilings and a small private sun-area in which you can take in one of the other pleasures of Bruge, the beer (in this case couple of Brugse ZOT). It was one of the most beautiful of all the places we have traveled and our accommodations could not have been better.

My art historical background led us to this small Belgian town on a quest not for beer, chocolate or lace though.

We came for the Michelangelo.

Bruges is the only city outside of Italy which features an original marble sculpture from Michelangelo (Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni – Italian, 6 March 1475 – 18 February 1564) which was exported during the lifetime of the artist… the aptly titled, “Madonna of Bruges” (1501-1504). While I had worked on several projects involving Michelangelo sculpture throughout college and into my professional life, my interest was re-kindled by the “Michelangelo: Man & the Myth” exhibition at Syracuse University in 2008 (http://michelangelo.syr.edu/), of which I was an honored invitee of Professor Dr. Gary Radke, an expert on Renaissance Art. After the exhibition, in my spare time, I would devour tomes about renaissance art and developed a specific fascination with works which had been stolen throughout history. Among them, the story of the “Madonna of Bruges” stood out to me. So much so, that Bruges was placed high on the list of “places to go”.

This work has been shrouded in mystery from the outset. Michelangelo surreptitiously sold the work to the Flemish Mouscron family in 1504, despite it being commissioned for Pope Julius II in Rome. He demanded that it not be placed on public view for fear of repercussions from the Papacy.  When it was finally placed in Bruges in 1506, the city, which was an important hub for commerce only a century before, was in steep decline. No one knew of the Italian Michelangelo, as this was the only work which left Italy during the lifetime of the artist. Therefore, residents took little note of the pleasing, yet distinctively un-Flemish Madonna and Child figure. Compositionally similar to his famed “Pietà” at the Vatican, the Bruges Madonna seems the prequel to the earlier Roman version, completed in 1498-1500. Her young face gently glances down to her son and he boldly descends his mother’s knee through flowing and textured draping. Contrasting the Vatican example, the Christ child is a living, breathing being with personality. He is tentative, but confident. Mary’s young face, which is longer and more mournful than the Vatican’s “Pietà”, gazes passively, as if resigned to allow the boy the freedom to make his own way. By the 1600s, Michelangelo was a venerated figure and all Belgians came to know the “Madonna” as an item of tremendous national importance. In 1794, Napoleon demanded the work be shipped to Paris for his personal collection, to be housed in the Louvre. After its return two decades later, Belgium would be hard pressed to relinquish their treasure again.

The “Monuments Men“, an upcoming film starring George Clooney and Matt Damon, (after Robert’s Edsel’s 2009 book) chronicles the tales of the American and British soldiers tasked with protecting cultural patrimony in Europe during World War II. Not only were the soldiers terribly understaffed, they also had difficulty convincing hardened field commanders NOT to destroy buildings, bridges and churches of Europe even if there were enemy troops holed up there, despite General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s decree that they make every reasonable effort not to.

Shortly we will be fighting our way across the Continent of Europe in battles designed to preserve our civilization. Inevitably, in the path of our advance will be found historical monuments and cultural centers which symbolize to the world all that we are fighting to preserve. It is the responsibility of every commander to protect and respect these symbols whenever possible.” ~Supreme Commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower 26 May, 1944.

Eisenhower had learned a hard lesson when Allied troops, after months of slow progress at the city of Montecassino in Italy, bombed the ancient monastery, thinking German troops were based inside. There were no troops inside the abbey at all, only lining the hill beneath. After the bombing, German propaganda highlighted the barbarism of Allied troops to an Italian population who became suitably outraged. The Monuments Men, led by Lieutenant George Stout and 2nd Lieutenant James Rorimer (known as Frank Stokes and James Granger for the purposes of the film- See Film Note below), were tasked with making certain such an incident did not occur again. As they foraged through France and Italy, pushing with Allied advances, they created detailed maps of areas, monuments, museums, churches, graveyards and other buildings of historical and cultural importance which Allied troops were strictly mandated not to desecrate. Attempting to convince troops, some of whom militarily outrank you, not to indulge in destruction for the sake of expedience, ease or simple boredom, is a heavy task indeed. As they moved through the countryside, tales began to emerge of Nazi looting of treasures in each of the cities. Understanding that many of the world’s most important Western artworks, artifacts and treasures were within occupied areas, the Monuments Men adopted the task of attempting to locate the looted art, in addition to their duties to protect the works which had not yet been harmed. Among the treasures most coveted by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, was the “Madonna of Bruges”.

(LEFT) Michelangelo “Pietà” (1498-1499- Detail) St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City (RIGHT) Michelangelo “Madonna of Bruge” (1501-1504- Detail) Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk, Bruges

Housed in the Bruges Cathedral of Notre Dame, the “Madonna” seemed safe from plunder. Until the world exploded. Before daybreak on September 7, 1944, Nazi soldiers rapped against the door of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. “We’re taking the Michelangelo. To protect it from the Americans.” Incredulous, the sacristan had little choice but to allow the heavily armed and determined Nazi soldiers to enter the cathedral. After haphazardly tying the “Madonna” between two mattresses, the heartbroken sacristan watched them load her into the back of a truck emblazoned with the “RED CROSS” logo and drive away into the dawn light.

Contrary to popular belief, Hitler’s “Nero Decree” (19 March, 1945), in which “every opportunity, direct or indirect, to inflict the most lasting possible damage on the enemy’s striking power must be used to the utmost”, was not originally intended to include the destruction of the artwork. It was intended to include supply routes, bridges, communication lines and other items of strategic value. However, several of Hitler’s high command, including Gauleiter August Eigruber (a regional governor for the Nazi party), interpreted the message to include “everything”, including the art under his jurisdiction. Dr. Emmerich Pöchmüller, the civilian general director of the Altaussee mining operation (in which Hitler commandeered salt mines in Austria for the safe storage of artworks till wars end), learned that Eigruber was planning to bomb his mines in accordance with the “Nero Decree” and worked to intervene. On penalty of death for insubordination, Pöchmüller purportedly fabricated a written order from Eigruber granting himself authority over the disposition of the mine and all its contents and turned it in to his chief of staff. If is deception was discovered, this order would be Pöchmüller’s own death warrant.

****

On 16 May, 1945, Monuments Men, Capt. Robert Posey & Pvt. 1st class Lincoln Kirstein walked a quarter of a mile down a mineshaft outside the town of Altaussee in central Austria. Their path was abruptly stopped by a massive wall of debris stretching from floor to ceiling.

The mine had been dynamited.


We do not want to destroy unnecessarily what men spent so much time and care and skill in making… [for] these examples of craftsmanship can tell us so much about our ancestors… If these things are lost or broken or destroyed, we lose a valuable part of our knowledge about our forefathers. No age lives entirely alone; every civilization is formed not merely by its own achievements but by what it has inherited from the past. If these things are destroyed, we have lost a part of our past, and we shall be poorer for it.” ~British Monuments Man Major Ronald Balfour, 1944.

One of many mineshaft chambers featuring Nazi-looted art in Altaussee.

Whether through Pöchmüller’s intervention or other means, it was later discovered through an excavation and witness testimony that the eight bombs Eigruber intended to destroy the mine were removed and the mineshaft was blown in order to paralyze any further attempts to destroy the art safely held within. When Eigruber finally discovered the deception, he “ordered all the Austrians to be shot”. But, with Americans already within striking distance on the other side of the mountain, the orders were never carried out.

Using pick and shovels a narrow crevice opened at the top of the mineshaft, just enough for a single man to squeeze through. Posey and Kirstein crept through blown doors and barred gates, to discover innumerable rows of treasures; from Van Eyck’s Virgin Mary to portions of the miraculous Ghent Altarpiece and everything in between. The mines contained literally tens of thousands of items of irreplaceable cultural, historical and financial importance. After many excited moments, they finally saw, through a torch lit gloom…. The pristine milky white surface of Michelangelo’s “Madonna of Bruges”.

Monuments Man George Stout using a pulley to lift Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna out of a salt mine in Austria

More than 66 years later, she stood before me, glistening in the afternoon light of the Church of Our Lady… At home, in Bruges. Few instances in my life leave me truly speechless. This was one. The confluence of stories from Michelangelo, to the Monuments Men, to Hitler and his minions, all bring history full circle. In 2003, former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld myopically said “[in war] Stuff happens” in the aftermath of the looting of the Iraqi National Museum. What we discovered on that day, standing before a miracle of human ingenuity, was best was stated by Major Balfour more than 60 years before, “No age lives entirely alone; every civilization is formed not merely by its own achievements but by what it has inherited from the past. If these things are destroyed, we have lost a part of our past, and we shall be poorer for it.”

For this, we owe the Monuments Men a debt of gratitude beyond simply seeing a movie or reading a book. You owe it to them and to yourself to visit Bruge… or the Uffizi, or the Louvre or Neuschwanstein or Altaussee or any of the other major cultural sites which we effectively saved by the ingenuity and vision of men who remembered that art does not live in the past… It provides us a future.

****

  • Many of the anecdotes, quotes and scenes are contained within this article are included in “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History” by Robert M. Edsel. See http://www.monumentsmenfoundation.org/ for more information, and read the book for the full story.
  • NOTE: “We knew the characters were interesting. We changed the names, obviously, because we’re not doing a documentary, and we wanted to be able to give these guys flaws. They were real people, and you don’t want to give real people flaws. So we changed the names so we could mess with them a little bit. We want there to be a little humor. We don’t want this to be a civics lesson.” ~George Clooney with Entertainment Weekly, on the name change for the characters as featured in the movie. 12/August, 2013.

Reed V. Horth, is the president, curator and writer for ROBIN RILE FINE ART in Miami, FL. He has been a private dealer, gallerist and blogger since 1996, specializing in 20th century and contemporary masters. www.robinrile.com

Posted by Reed V. Horth on 1/31




The New York St. Regis and A Merry Old Soul

By Reed V. Horth, for CBPMag.com and Robin Rile Fine Art

 

When I was growing up, my parents were not “artsy” in the sense that we had a piano in the corner, took weekly trips to the local museum and collected Picassos. However, both were art-oriented in that they enjoyed art, stressed it in our family education and leaned to art as a vehicle to both educate my sister and I. I like to think that they saw value in broadening our cultural horizons beyond the small upstate New York town which we hailed from.

As I grew and traveled, I created a career in the field of art. But, those indelible memories of upstate New York persisted. One of my earliest and favorite books which I remember from my youth permeated every level of art lover that I have become…The book contained the illustrations of American master Maxfield Parrish (née. Frederick Parrish, 1870-1966).

 

Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) “Ecstasy” Oil on panel, 1929

 

Parrish’s neo-classical paintings created a sense of atmosphere in worlds that might not exist in reality, but were what one might dream paradise to look like. Equal parts Hudson-River-School landscapes (such as the works of Cole, Bierstadt, Turner, Durand, etc), and Norman Rockwell’s narrative flair, Parrish wove intricate mythologies and dramatic literary characters into his original works, crescendoing in the 1910s-1930s (“The Golden Age of Illustration”). Parrish began illustrating children’s stories, including L. Frank Baum’s “Mother Goose in Prose” (1897), Eugene Fields’ “Poems of Childhood” (1904) and the traditional tale of “Arabian Nights” (1909), among many others. He later illustrated magazine covers for Hearst’s, Colliers and Life and well as advertisers such as Wanamaker’s, Colgate, Oneida Cutlery and Edison-Mazda lamps. His pioneering use of photographic projection, color glazes, varnishes, oil colors, and transparencies, achieved an ethereal, otherworldly environment which his characters inhabit and influenced his contemporaries to attempt similar techniques.

 

Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) “The Storm” Oil on canvas, 1907


Leafing through that hefty tome and mimicking Parrish’ style were some of the first memories I had of truly loving art.

****

On a recent business trip, I found myself at the St. Regis Hotel (2 East 55th Street) in New York City, to research a project on Spanish master Salvador Dali (who lived there off and on throughout the 1960s and 1970s), on whose walls were created some of his greatest masterpieces. To the left of the main lobby, on a nondescript wall, sat an original canvas from Maxfield Parrish entitled, “The Child Harvester” (1896). Stunned, I stared intently at her as denizens of the hotel scurried past and wondered why I was so rapt by her gaze. She silently and serenely peered at me as if catching her in the midst of her chores. The gold-leafed halo crowning her head served as a reminder that divinity can be found in hard work. As I was in a hurry, I quickly snapped a photo and went about my business elsewhere in the hotel, never forgetting that this was the first Parrish I had ever experienced in the flesh.

 

Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) “The Child Harvester” Oil on canvas, 1896

 

Vowing to return as soon as possible, I remembered that the St. Regis in New York was home to the massive, seminal “King Cole” mural by Parrish which it housed in the eponymous bar. This was one of Parrish’s most famous works and was frequently depicted in the books littering my youth. The whimsical Old King Cole from the nursery rhyme was “a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he”. His servants milled about purposefully, but seemed to be frozen in a moment of uncomfortable shock. The momentary snapshot of the king stuck with me throughout my life. As Parrish grew up a Quaker, he was reluctant to paint the work given that the intention was to be housed in the bar of the now-defunct Knickerbocker Hotel. His patron, John Jacob Astor IV (1864-1912), who famously died aboard the Titanic in 1912, was never one to be told “No”. So, in 1906 Astor paid Parrish the “Kingly” sum of $5,000 for his efforts (which is approximately $132,000 in today’s currency). After the Titanic disaster, Astor’s heirs inherited both the Knickerbocker and the St. Regis Hotels, and long with it, the “Old King Cole” painting. With the later conversion of the Knickerbocker into an office space, the massive 8 foot by 30 foot (2.43 meters by 9.144 meters) “Old King Cole” painting was moved into the St. Regis bar space in 1932, where it became the focal point to one of the most exclusive bars in all of New York. When royalty came to New York, they dined with King Cole. When the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994… their ring ceremony was conducted a few feet from the King’s watchful gaze. And, as my wife would repeatedly point out… it was a place where Anne Hathaway’s character receives the unpublished manuscript to the 7th Harry Potter book in “The Devil Wears Prada”.

Therefore, this was the bar that neither of us could miss visiting on our next trip to NYC.

Last week, to decompress after ushering clients and vendors during the Art Basel Week in Miami Beach, my wife and I decided to take a few days off to visit New York City. After ice skating in Central Park (a must for a former hockey player like myself), we strolled over to the famous St. Regis edifice at 55th Street for a cocktail. Passing the luxurious dining area we bandied ourselves into a seat facing the King Cole Bar. Parrish’s masterpiece dominates the space, spanning the entire length of the recently-renovated bar area. King Cole rakishly smiles, surveying us as subjects to his rule, receiving council from his fools. His guards, minstrels and his chef blush, aghast in the audaciousness of the fool’s candor….  The minstrels stop…. The chef blanches. The children at his feet stare vacantly ahead, rapt. It is indeed a merry sight which we would muse about and discuss throughout the evening.

Old King Cole was a merry old soul
And a merry old soul was he;
He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl
And he called for his fiddlers three.
Every fiddler he had a fiddle,
And a very fine fiddle had he;
Oh there’s none so rare, as can compare
With King Cole and his fiddlers three.

~William Wallace Denslow, English, 1708-1709

We came to learn that the masterpiece recently underwent a massive restoration, coinciding with the $400,000 renovation of the entire bar area and the greater $35M effort to update the entire hotel. The famous bar served as the backdrop for famous scenes in movies such as “The Godfather” and “The First Wives Club”, as well as a frequent haunt for luminaries such as Salvador Dali, Ernest Hemingway, Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio and John Lennon and Yoko Ono. However, its most resolute resident was in dire needs of a bath. Decades of dirt, nicotine and alcohol needed to be painstakingly removed by a team of restorers from Rustin Levenson Art Conservation Associates in Chelsea. Given the response from the staff and guests whom we spoke with, the results were night and day.

Thanks to their cleaning, Parrish’s impish faces effervesce in the light where they previously seemed dull and lifeless. Whites shone as pure as a snowy December walk through Central park and each of the colors were saturated with the vitality which befits the merriment it was meant to instill. Instead of the dreary haze which had created a stodgy atmosphere in the bar, the revitalized image luminesces and brings life to the space. Parrish’s faces, which are now crystalline and clean, are typically modeled his own caricatured expressions and those of his few friends and family. However, in this instance, he used the visage of John Jacob Astor IV himself as the jovial king overseeing his empire. Given the princely sum paid for the work, it is only fitting. Parrish often stared into mirrors for hours on end trying to capture an expression which evinced just the right amount of humor, without becoming too unserious as to belay his craft.

We asked the bartender for whisky for me and a Red Snapper (the original name for the Bloody Mary, said to have been invented at this very bar in 1934, by bartender Fernand Petiot) for my wife. We chatted with locals and made friends with staff and patron alike. The more I sat gazing at King Cole and his subject, the more I was transported back to those moments of merriment as I thumbed through mom and dad’s book of Parrish paintings. I then mused and my own good fortune to be here in his presence.

In that instant, my life came full circle and I began to laugh. For, at that bar, in that space, the waiter confided in us the secret as to the source of both the King’s merriment as well as the pained expressions from the guards, chefs and minstrels in the painting…. None other than the kings occasional flatulence.

…A Merry Old Soul indeed.

Reed V. Horth, is the president, curator and writer for ROBIN RILE FINE ART in Miami, FL. He has been a private dealer, gallerist and blogger since 1996, specializing in 20th century and contemporary masters. www.robinrile.com

Posted by Reed V. Horth on 1/31




ART INVESTMENT LESSONS: THE FINAL WORD IS GUTS

An actual letter sent to a client by Reed V. Horth, for Robin Rile Fine Art

Dear B,

Thank you for your email about “investment-level” artworks. Now, I will start by saying that art should not necessarily be bought solely for investment. While everyone’s motivations are different, as a collector myself, I feel there should be some element of passion (Call it pride, love, history or some other motivator) which triggers your purchase. The reason behind an element of pragmatism is that we, as dealers, cannot predict the future. We can merely let you know what we have seen in the past. This being said, I have had several clients do very well on their investments in fine art over the past many years. In the last 10 months, I had a collector flip a prominent original oil from a 20th Century master from $825k to $1.3M in less than 30 days. Another client bought a work at $278k and sold it six months later at $745k. Another bought at $1.78M and the work is now being offered above $5M. Works under $100k always have a few question marks as to their prospective upside. However, the further you ascend above $100k (and provided the work meets certain criteria), the fewer questions surmount as to whether or not it will work is a sanguine investment.

This actually reminds me of a story: My wife and I were recently touring one of our collector’s beautiful homes, when he volunteered a story about the large Pablo Picasso oil which hung gracefully in front of us. The young woman in the portrait, he noted, was an exercise that fit somewhere between tremendous luck and outright stupidity. It turns out that he, as a young newlywed initially making his way in the business world, went on a business trip to Paris in 1974. He was entertaining some of his colleagues and prospective investors who were avid art collectors, when they all walked into a prominent gallery and stumbled upon the young Picasso maiden. Paint still dewy, the price was bandied about by the elder statesmen as they chided the young man in their midst. With a flourish, my client said… “I’ll take it”.

Pablo Picasso, As shown at Art Basel Miami Beach, 2012. Photo by author.

 

“It” was $94,000, and encompassed the vast majority of the funds he and his new wife had set aside for their new home.

A bittersweet pill for his new bride, who blanched at the cost of this “hideous” thing (as Picassos of the late 1960’s were often thought of), he showed up at their modest apartment with a new contract from his duly impressed investors… and a four-foot by three-foot Picasso. A conservative estimate on this painting could place it somewhere between $10-15M USD today. Intervening years have proven to the young bride how sanguine the investment was, as the work has thrived during nearly 40 years of appreciation historically, aesthetically and, of course, monetarily.

We cannot all have the foresight of my client. His was an extreme case and, as the sum in 1974 would have equated to some $429,000 in today’s dollars. However, the buyer had both wherewithal and means to make a purchase of a known commodity which he felt would be a good investment. What is more… he went with his gut. He knew this was the right move which would pay dividends in the future.

Perhaps you are not a collector who wishes to (or can) spend nearly a half million dollars (or more) on a given work of art for your home. Truth is, very few of us are. But, when you are, how do WE find these artists before they become this level? How do we find a Picasso when he is still a relative nobody? Well, there is no iron-clad tried and true method of finding a diamond in the rough, or the proverbial needle-in-a-haystack. What we can do is notice trends in both buyers and sellers and try to anticipate what are motivating factors for each. All artists want to sell, it is the nature of the craft. Not all buyers want to buy though, whether they know it or not. Through studying buyer trends since 1996, you notice certain trends though we have noticed a few key plateaus.

Contemporary Art Booth shown at Art Basel Miami Beach, 2012. Photo by author.

1.      Collectors buy items below $5,000 based purely on the visceral reaction to the work and with no preconceived notions about the work being an investment.

2.      Between $5,000-$10,000, some collectors will buy on impulse and others will weigh a potential investment side.

3.      Above $10,000, anyone who is purchasing anything at this level is an investor in something, be it real estate, stocks, funds, art, etc. Therefore the criteria with which they gauge their art purchases must be weighed and buttressed with the same sound rationale they use in their investment purchases, even if they never expect to sell the work and/or expect it to ascend in value.

4.      Above $100,000, this is a serious investor who will scrutinize trends in all purchases and have some expectation of ROI.

Roy Lichtenstein, As shown at Art Basel Miami Beach, 2012. Photo by author.

 

Provided the pricing we present meets the levels of expectations of our prospective buyers, we then know what information and buttressing will be required to make the purchase sanguine for the buyer. As pricing ascends, so does the importance on documentation and peripheral information, trends, comparables, etc. This is the same care an investor would take if they were investing in anything else, so the same level of scrutiny should be expected. Outside firms who can operate at arm’s length are often brought in to provide analysis and prospective, but there are often conflicts of interest which mar these findings. So, just as in other investments, the buyer often must rely on his/her own instincts to make decisions that may be beneficial to them in the future. While we do not all know as much technical data as we might like about the products we are investing in (whether they be pharmaceuticals, real estate, funds, etc.) we do tend know a good deal when we see it.

Provided that all of the “I’s” are dotted and “T’s” are crossed, all that remains are our instincts… Our guts.

Best always,

Reed

Reed V. Horth, is the president, curator and writer for ROBIN RILE FINE ART in Miami, FL. He has been a private dealer, gallerist and blogger since 1996, specializing in 20th century and contemporary masters. www.robinrile.com

Posted by Reed V. Horth on 1/31




Peeling Back the Campbell's Soup Label: The Warhol I Never Knew

By Reed V. Horth, for CBPMag.com and Robin Rile Fine Art

I have a fantasy about money:

I’m walking down the street and I hear somebody say in a whisper

‘there goes the richest person in the world’” ~Andy Warhol

The building is not at all what I expected. Perhaps I did not know precisely what to expect. One side of my brain expected a multi- colored eyesore that city commissions would have surely been bribed to accept. The other side of my brain had not actually formulated a concept. But as our little white rental car rounded the top of the Warhol Bridge spanning the Allegheny River I was not quite prepared for the austere building which occupied the corner of East General Robinson Street and Sandusky Street; A building which, despite the mid-1950’s governmental exterior, housed The Andy Warhol Museum.  As we approached, it perhaps came as a surprise to find that my thoughts gravitated to the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas (the building from which Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy in 1963) which we had visited only a few months prior to our sojourn to Pittsburgh’s most famous museum.

 Perhaps it is fitting…. Warhol always had a thing for Kennedy.

 

 

I like to think that the unique duality would have amused Warhol as much as the perceived connection to Kennedy amused me. After all, Warhol was known for turning convention on its ear, portraying tragedy in Technicolor and having a very real knowledge of what being shot is like. Further, Warhol and Kennedy both stood out as very singularly romanticized icons in an era of icons, perhaps some of the most enduring of the 20th Century.

 

While most of us think of Warhol as glitzy New York, he was in reality, a Czech Steel Town graphic designer from Pittsburgh. He made no secret of his aversion to the city of his birth, preferring New York’s bustling business people and freedom of artistic expression over blue collar, callused hands and sports teams that hallmark much of Pennsylvania. It might also be true that New York might garner more visitors numerically, but part of the charm of the Warhol Museum being in Pittsburgh was walking the halls nearly unmolested by the throngs that typically clatter through New York museums. Further, the highly successful efforts to re-brand Pittsburgh as an arts center is part of a multi-year project by city leaders to revitalize the downtown districts. With support of families with names like Carnegie, Heinz and Hillman, the Warhol Foundation has arguably had the most influence on the artist’s stature and pricing than any other single entity. This is due, at least in part, to the fact that the Warhol Museum collection consists mostly of work completed prior to his being shot by crazed feminist “Factory Girl” Valerie Solanas in 1968. Warhol’s work post his near-death experience is a dramatic departure from his previous output. In some sense, the old Warhol figuratively died that day and was replaced by a graphic designer who would paint nearly anything asked of him.

 

When the museum opened its doors in 1994, Warhol was a largely undervalued and only moderately appreciated artist whose presence in museums of modern art was apparent, but not significant. He was still considered to be little more than a glorified designer. Intervening years have allowed Warhol to become a beacon of all things “Art”. Museums started snatching up significant but relatively inexpensive works from the Warhol Foundation who were using the nearly $30M raised from the sale of estate works to sort out legal wrangling which took place just after the artist’s passing in 1987. This influx of major works into the market and museum-scene, along with simultaneous donations of major pieces to New York’s MOMA such as “Gold Marilyn Monroe” (1962) and “Orange Car Crash Fourteen Times” (1963) perpetuated Warhol’s bona fides as a True Blue Icon. When Warhol’s “Four Marilyns”, the 1962 painting of Marilyn Monroe four times, sold for $38.2 million at Phillips Auction House in May of 2013, Warhol works completed the 180 degree turn from blue collar graphic design to museum-level Icon. Further, this congealed the importance of the Warhol Museum’s collection consisting primarily of his early output which is so important to the telling his tale… Past, present and future.

 

ANDY WARHOL Four Marilyns (1962) acrylic, silkscreen ink, pencil on linen. 29 x 21 1/2 in. (73.7 x 54.6 cm.)

 

The pixie-like docent that warmly greeted us at the door of the Warhol Museum ushered us past the extensive lower-hall renovation which was underway. Photo-ops were hard to come by in the only area of the museum that photos were actually allowed.  Museums often disallow photography in their halls, particularly with modern technologies and reproduction techniques being what they are. So these prohibitions are understandable and will be offset in the future by the Museum’s re-worked entry-hall which will be more-picture-friendly for Instagram, Twitter and Facebook users who often drive traffic to events and spaces.  Much like the exterior, the interior was sparse and built the anticipation of knowing that the best was yet-to-come. As we ascended to the 6th floor, the idea that we would see some chronology of the events that shaped the artist’s early life vanished, as looming video screens obliquely hung on all sides in the darkened corridor. Screens were everywhere, each clicking away at some black and white loop of beautiful people in random acts… smoking, brushing their teeth, sitting, sleeping, over-acting, etc. Edie Sedgwick’s nymph-like visage stared at me with meter-wide eyes. Warhol produced thousands of hours of footage of all sorts. Viewers silently glided amongst these motion pictures, some with frenetic energy and others with drunken lethargy. This was one of Warhol’s favorite media, Video. It was fresh and new and there were ample avenues for him to explore with the famous people whom he loved to be surrounded by. Between 1964 and 1966, Warhol created a studio in his “Factory” (studio) where he made nearly 500 screen tests of famous and iconic personalities of the day on a clicking 16mm camera. These 3 minute-long screen tests included art-world luminaries such as Salvador Dali, Dennis Hopper and Edie Sedgwick and were virtually unknown outside the private world of the Factory itself. Later, Warhol morphed his interviews segments into full-blown question-and-answer sessions with the famous faces of Darryl Hall, David Bowie, Grace Jones, LAII (Keith Haring’s young protégé), Rob Lowe, Sammy Davis Jr, and a veritable cornucopia of 1980’s MTV bubblegum royalty. One video, shot from a roof-top, showed famed photographer Peter Beard bisecting a New York street corner with a delicate model balanced precariously on a chair. According to the title-plate, the model spent time in a Nazi prison camp because her father tried to assassinate Hitler during WWII.  Duality indeed. In another clip Warhol awkwardly discusses having dinner with Larry Rivers’ soon-to-be ex-wife the week prior. Both seemed unprepared for the conversation. The rooms felt naughty. As if we were watching titillating things, conversations and private moments, that we shouldn’t be watching. The whole room made me uncomfortable. In some way… I guess it was supposed to.

Not surprisingly, this was also one of my wife’s favorite parts of the museum.

  

ANDY WARHOL Film Stills The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection
Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. © AWF

 We also had the opportunity to make a 3-minute video as part of the Warhol Screen Test (http://screentest.warhol.org/). This opportunity was rewarded with perhaps the most uncomfortable video I have ever been a part of. A few screen shots of our video make it pretty clear who had more fun during the screen test. Welcome to my life.


As we descended one flight of stairs, we stumbled into a small room which revealed an entirely different side of Warhol, that of story-board artist and stream-of-consciousness drawing. “The Autobiography of a Snake Called Noa the Boa” was a 1950’s-1960’s illustrated series depicting the world travels of a snake named Noa, drawn for Fleming Joffe leather company, which sold shoes, handbags and other leather merchandise. After many collegiate nights of story-boarding my own movie and Ad concepts, I was struck by the imaginary notion that Andy hurriedly sketched these during the course of an idea-soaked night of booze and cigarettes. The drawings are not detailed or controlled, which is part of the appeal, instead they are a skeletal depiction far-removed from Warhol’s traditional meaty oeuvre.

 

ANDY WARHOL “Noa the Boa” The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection
Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. © AWF

The next turn is what made my heart stop. “Elvis 11 Times”. Now, I am not an Elvis fan, per se… But, this silver image of the standing Elvis with outstretched gun (from a publicity shot from the 1960 film Flaming Star) stretching the length of a long wall was an impressive sight to behold. The work was originally intended to be cut down and used for 11 individual works which remained incomplete at his death. Andy himself remarks, “the rubber-stamp method I’d been using to repeat images suddenly seemed too homemade; I wanted something stronger that gave more of an assembly-line effect. With silkscreening you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, slightly different each time. It all sounds so simple — quick and chancy. I was thrilled with it.” The “Rubber Stamp” method he refers to is more commonly known as silkscreening (sometimes called Serigraphy or screen printing) which, by and large, has received a negative connotation in the last decade or so. However, in the early 1960’s this was a largely ignored, but ancient (dating to 960-1279 AD China) artistic media and something worth investigating for an inquisitive talent like Warhol. Many of his best known, iconic and valuable works were made with a combination of screenprinting and over painting.

 

ANDY WARHOL Elvis 11 Times (1962) acrylic, silkscreen ink, pencil on linen. 432 inches x 78 (1097cm x 198 cm.) The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection
Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. © AWF

 The effect of such a large and overwhelming sight of Elvis in repetition is that of a fun-house mirror, playing the same image over and over and over. Molding it. Updating it. Modernizing it. Elvis can no longer be relegated to the past. He is the future. Cowboys are no longer a mythological persona in “Old West” storybooks, but an Icon worthy of adoration.

Standing back, I immediately sensed the scope with which Warhol saw the world. Not merely piece-by-piece as we often do, but in much broader strokes. No boarders or limitations. Turning left or right the room revealed its other contents, invisible to me only a moment prior. Marlon Brando’s “Wild One” on a natural unprimed canvas, Jackie O’s repeated portraits before and after her husband’s assassination, Natalie Wood, Mao, Hammer and Sickles, Cecil the stuffed dog. etc. All important, and all quite dead. The tendency with many artists, writers, poets and the like, is an preoccupation with death, mortality and existence beyond this mortal coil.

 

 “Everything I do is connected with death” ~Andy Warhol

 

Andy Warhol “Suicide (Fallen Body)” 1963. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection
Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. © AWF

 

Warhol’s “Death and Disaster” series, including “Ambulance Disaster”, “Gangster Funeral”, “Electric Chair”, “Catastrophe” and others, create a discomfort as the larger-than-life images hang over you and you instinctively seek out vestiges of life from within the hazy faces buried in silkscreen ink. American audiences are particularly sensitized to these images due in part to a puritanical press-corps which prohibits photographic depictions of the dead in news stories far more than their European counterparts. Elegant in their starkness and relative abstraction, their beauty comes in spite of their morbidity. Warhol’s “1947, White”, a hauntingly serene work, was based on Robert C. Wiles’ death-photos of 23 year-old model Evelyn McHale who leapt from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building in 1947. In her left hand, the elegant strand of pearls around her neck lay clutched as her body lay cradled in the roof of a parked Cadillac, in what has been dubbed the most “Beautiful Suicide”. She is famous only for her death, not her life. The ongoing, daily repetition of this tragedy,  as well as the throngs of onlookers still gazing at her prone body drives home that we are sometimes remembered only for what is best forgotten.

 

The ascendancy and success Warhol experienced in the 1960’s coincided with and antithesized the melancholic Cold War as well as the Kennedy assassination (1963) and later with those of Bobby Kennedy (1968), Martin Luther King Jr. (1968). Seizing upon the angst of these external factors, Warhol satirized and iconized banal subject-matter such as Coca-Cola bottles, Campbell’s Soup Cans, Brillo boxes and other commercial objects which are purchased by the rich and the poor alike. He states, “A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum of the corner is drinking. All Cokes are the same and all Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it… And you know it.”  His perceived embrace of rampant consumerism in the face of political turmoil created a scandal around Warhol’s work and persona. His use of heavy subject matter like tragic death juxtaposes his use of the mundane and places each in the context of the other. Death becomes commonplace and Soup becomes extraordinary.

The 1980’s were a period of resurgence after the relative calm of the 1970’s. Warhol’s post-shooting output paled in comparison to those produced prior to the assassination attempt. The 80’s were bullish and embraced all things excessive. Warhol’s was now the venerated “old guard” for the New York Art scene. He was deified and served as mentor and friend to the new-generation of artistic powerhouses, Basquiat, Warhol, Schnabel, Salle, Scharf and others. Warhol’s Brooklyn Bridge glittered with diamond dust. Trump Tower oscillated between light and shadow. The Statue of Liberty shone in variegated colors and even camouflage. But, still Warhol gravitated to his morose roots as New York was gripped by an epidemic in gun violence. This constant televised reminder underscored his own ever-present and painful scarring and his brush with death. The stark depiction in red and black provides a reminder of how little things change.

 

ANDY WARHOL Gun (1982) acrylic, silkscreen ink, pencil on linen. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection
Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. © AWF

Even the room filled with 15 floating metallic balloons remind you of the impermanent nature of life. Adults shuffled through the room like post-modern angels flitting between passing clouds. Fans gently ushered silver, pillow-shaped floating balloons around the rectangular space. This installation, originally the gallery concept for Leo Castelli’s opening night, was intended to be shown with floating lights attached to the balloons, but the balloons could not carry the weight. In the end, the balloons themselves sufficed as their own surreal statement. Snowflake-like fingerprints flecked upon the surfaces and for the first time, this Warhol seemed almost whimsical and approachable. Adults looked like kids. Present day was transported to the space-age, and angels seemed not so distant a concept.

 

Balloon Room at the Andy Warhol Museum

by Carlos Hernandez

 Warhol’s “time capsules” captured the innocent and banal of early 1980’s life, but also show what life was like for Warhol day-to-day. Trips to the laundry, the theatre, postcards, sketches, stamps, magazine and newspaper clippings and other ephemera. In total, Warhol kept 612 separate boxes of literally everything that he got his hands on from 1973 till his death in 1987. We scanned through personal photographs of Warhol goofing with friends, Basquiat, Schnabel, Neiman, Scharf and reminisced about the inherently collaborative nature of the artist. Inspired by a young street artist known by the moniker “SAMO” Warhol took up painting on canvas again to collaborate with his many followers. “SAMO”, now better known as Jean-Michel Basquiat, had a contrarian personality that Warhol could relate to as he re-made his life in an image that better suited him. Specifically, where Warhol grew up in a working-class Pittsburgh neighborhood, Basquiat rejected an upper middle-class upbringing in Queens and embraced a life on the city streets of New York City.  “Jean-Michel got me into painting differently, and that’s a good thing.” Coming from a world where image is so carefully trimmed, primped and preened, it was refreshing to see images that were rough, imperfect and truly experimental.

 

The re-energized Warhol toyed with true abstraction including hyper-scale gems made with diamond dust, creating a shimmery surface, shadows, camouflage, oxidation (metallic pigment and urine on canvas) and Rorschach tests. The Rorschach Test was commonly used by psychologists in the 1960’s as a method of determining homosexuality, which at the time was regarded as psychopathology. This stigma would have been intimately familiar to Warhol.

 

Jean-Michel Basquiat/Andy Warhol, Collaboration, 1984-85
Acrylic and oil stick on linen
76 x 104 1/8in.
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection
Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. © AWF

As we descended the final staircase, the pixie emerged once again. She politely asked us about our favorite aspects of the museum and informed us about the upcoming unveiling of the new lobby area. She noted that students study art downstairs and she is learning in the best possible place to be inspired.

 

What was our favorite aspect of the Andy Warhol Museum? The answer is hard to pin down to one thing or another. However, It might be this…. We left with a much clearer understanding of Warhol beyond Campbell’s Soup Cans and Marilyn prints. We learned that Warhol liked to make videos of friends and TV shows of celebrity culture. He loved the Art of the Interview, no matter how awkward or difficult his subject might seem. (These interviews included Warhol’s own mother, who looked like an aged Andy in drag.) We learned he was obsessed with celebrity and all of the trappings of it. So much so that he kept a cache of black-and-white photos of Jayne Mansfield and Rock Hudson nearby at all times. We learned that he experimented with balloon installations, printmaking techniques and his Artistically–minded contemporaries. We learned that he created Interview Magazine in late 1969, and it since been dubbed “The Crystal Ball of Pop”. Reams of his magazines featuring covers with Katy Perry, Lil’ Wayne and Brad Pitt sit side-by-side on the wall with the likes of Sting, Grace Jones and Brooke Shields. This melding of MTV era celebrity and contemporary Pop culture updates Warhol and brings his influence solidly into the 21st Century.

 

In short, we learned that Warhol was not a two dimensional artist, but a multi-dimensional thinker. A person who took risks and paid a price for many of them in public and private life. Ultimately he was vindicated by history and remembered as someone great…. Not unlike Kennedy at all.

Reed V. Horth, is the president, curator and writer for ROBIN RILE FINE ART in Miami, FL. He has been a private dealer, gallerist and blogger since 1996, specializing in 20th century and contemporary masters. www.robinrile.com

Posted by Reed V. Horth on 10/10/13 | tags: andy warhol museum warhol Pittsburgh abstract figurative mixed-media installation video-art performance conceptual pop modern traditional photography graffiti/street-art




FREDERICK HART AND AUGUSTE RODIN: “MARTYRS OF MODERNDOM” (Part 1)

 TEXT © 2012 Reed V. Horth, for ROBIN RILE FINE ART

 

Three sets of eyes drink in the sight of a veritable ocean of names. 58,195 names inscribed in inch tall letters typeset over the expanse of a wall that, while it starts minutely on one edge, expands to over 10 feet tall (3 m) at its apex. Its length is overwhelming, stretching for 246 feet (75 m) and it envelops the viewer as if it could drown us. Three sets of eyes keep vigil morning, noon and night, through winter’s harsh snows and summer’s unbearable heat. The three sets of eyes belong to Frederick E. Hart’s (1943-1999) “Three Soldiers”. The wall they stare at is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC.

 

Frederick E. Hart (American, 1943-1999) “The Three Soldiers” (1984) at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Washington D.C.

 

Hart’s depiction of three young American servicemen was rendered with such clarity and subtlety that it created what has been called “the most successful ensemble monument in the world”. Each of the men stand taught and at the ready, but also apprehensively seeing into the distance. The lieutenant’s slightly outturned hand motions his charges to stop. They turn to look with him and listen for his guidance. Their eyes are fixed into the distance, as if scanning the horizon for a threat. Each of the men’s taught musculature and articulated weaponry stands at the ready for quick and decisive action. The three sets of eyes represent what is the best in all of us… diligence, spirit, humility, duty and in all cases… Sacrifice.

 

  “The portrayal of the figures is consistent with history. They wear the uniform and carry the equipment of war; they are young. The contrast between the innocence of their youth and the weapons of war underscores the poignancy of their sacrifice. There is about them the physical contact and sense of unity that bespeaks the bonds of love and sacrifice that is the nature of men at war. And yet they are each alone. Their strength and their vulnerability are both evident. Their true heroism lies in these bonds of loyalty in the face of their aloneness and their vulnerability.” ~Frederick Hart

The spirit of sacrifice is also sculpturally evident generations apart and half a world away, mirrored the faces of six individuals in Northern France. Traditional depictions of these individuals, collectively known as the “Burghers of Calais”, had shown them to be defiant, courageous and steadfast. French master Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) turned convention on its ear by taking academic sculpture and imbuing it with an honesty and organic-nature that had not been seen before. Rodin’s “Burghers” were all too human, vaguely prideful but agonizing about their martyrdom to the hands of the English King Edward III in 1347. The city of Calais was besieged by Edward III’s forces for over a year, pushing the population to the brink of starvation. Edward offered a compromise that he would halt the siege if six of Calais’ most prominent citizens surrender themselves to him for execution.  Eustache de St. Pierre, one of the city’s most wealthy citizens, volunteered followed by five others. Their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the good of their populace became legendary and stayed the hand of the English king who, consequently allowed them to live. Rodin depicted them as they would have been, in a mixture of fear and defiant self-sacrifice. Wearing only rags and nooses limply hanging about their necks, they prepare to exit the city with its ceremonial keys. Their hollow eyes are open and their hands hang mournfully. Their oversized feet are move slowly as if trapped in a morass of tar and time. The sad depiction humanizes the subjects and brings them eye to eye with present day viewers, allowing them to commune with the past the way few sculptures had before, or since. However, the initial reaction to them allowed little by way of acceptance. “We were called to the old town hall of Calais to look at the sketch [modele] of the burghers of Calais that M. Rodin had just brought. It is sufficiently studied to give a good idea of the effect intended by the artist, and all of us felt a slight disappointment. We did not imagine our glorious citizens going to the camp of the king of England that way. First, their depressed attitude shocked our religious feelings, and we felt that the work we were looking at, far from glorifying the devotion of Eustache de St. Pierre and his companions, only produced the opposite effect.” -report by the Calais committee on the commission.

 

Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917) “Burghers of Calais” (1884-1895) bronze. Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966


 

Rodin and Hart both courted controversy in the commissioning of their respective works. Rodin dealt with a public scornful of less-than-patriotic looking heroes, and Hart navigated the turbulent political terrain which bridged both overt racism and the skirmish between modern sculpture and figurative classicism at the end of the 20th Century. Heavy nationalism and hyper-sensitivity to each subject heightened the effect of each sculpture on their respective populaces. After the humiliating defeat Franco-Prussian war in 1871, France went through a period of intense political self-flagellation which transcended literature, music, architecture and all of the arts. Similarly, the bruises of Vietnam were still fresh in the minds of soldiers, politicians and the public at large when Maya Ying Lin’s (American, b. 1959) minimalist Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall was initially erected. Given Lin’s ethnic-sounding name (she is an American, born to Chinese parents living in the US) the public decried her monument as a great “black gash of shame”. A compromise was struck in which Hart was to commissioned to erect a figurative element overlooking the wall itself. In time, the congruity of elements and the dissipation of time have led to the public acceptance of the monument and wall working in unison.

 

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982-1983) by Maya Ying Lin (Chinese-American, b. 1959. Washington D.C.

 

Years later, Hart would again revisit the theme of martyrdom as he paid allegorical homage to the daughters of Czar Nicolas II of Russia, Anastasia, Tatiana, Olga & Maria, who were killed during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1918. Hart called them “The Martyrs of Moderndom” as they represented all of the beautiful things which were somewhat forgotten in the 20th Century, “The ability to have Faith, sustain Hope, feel the transforming power of Beauty and revel in the Innocence around us”. Faith, Hope, Innocence and Beauty, the four “Daughters of Odessa”. This was Hart’s clarion call to return to our classical antecedents in all of the arts, music, poetry, film and literature. Just as their predecessors the “Burghers of Calais” and the “Three Soldiers”, the “Daughters” are depicted as an ensemble, with each figure boasting their own breadth and idiosyncrasy. Each is lightly draped in ethereal linens of the spirit realm. Their faces are at peace and depict the youth and vitality of their allegorical counterparts, Hope, Faith, Innocence and Beauty. Whereas the “Burghers” and “Three Soldiers” courted controversy, the “Daughters” were eagerly accepted for permanent placement at the Prince of Wales’ private garden at Highgrove upon their unveiling in 1997.

 

Frederick E. Hart (American, 1943-1999) “Daughters of Odessa” (1997)  3/4 life scale Ensemble.

 

Reed V. Horth, is the president, curator and writer for ROBIN RILE FINE ART in Miami, FL. He has been a private dealer, gallerist and blogger since 1996, specializing in 20th century and contemporary masters. www.robinrile.com

TEXT © 2012 Reed V. Horth, for ROBIN RILE FINE ART

Posted by Reed V. Horth on 9/10/13 | tags: Monument hirschhorn metropolitan museum washington d.c. new york rodin burghers vietnam veterans Frederick Hart daughters of odessa ex nihilo figurative sculpture installation realism modern traditional photography




The Unspoken Word: Vermeer’s “Girl with the Pearl Earring”

By Reed V. Horth, Editor of Art for CBPMag.com reed@cbpmag.com

 

She is small, demure and worth a fortune. Unblinking and thoughtful…. Serene, yet appearing as if she is prepared to speak. Her dewy skin glows palely beneath minute fissures which her age has gifted to her surface. Ever-young and ever-perfect is the vibrant innocence of the “Mona Lisa of the North”, better known as “The Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675).

 

What is it about Vermeer that draws audiences from around the world? After all, his paintings typically depict somewhat banal domestic scenes of everyday life in 17th Century Holland. Women sewing, pouring milk, playing music, writing or reading. Men looking at globes or out closed windows. Author Hans Koningsberger writes, “Almost all his paintings are apparently set in two smallish rooms in his house in Delft; they show the same furniture and decorations in various arrangements and they often portray the same people, mostly women.” Natural light streams from the left-side of each composition as if captured on a hazy Polaroid camera. Rarely do the scenes portray scenes of intense drama of literary significance so typical in 17th Century Italian or French paintings and sculpture. So what is it about Vermeer that made him one of the most coveted and valuable artists in history?

 

Perhaps it is the rarity of Vermeer paintings that enraptures today’s audiences who flock to see her at Atlanta’s HIGH MUSEUM OF ART whilst on loan during the renovation of the Mauritshuis National Picture Gallery, The Hague. [High Museum of Art Atlanta, 22 June-29 Sept, 2013- Frick Collection, New York, 22 Oct, 2013- 12 Jan, 2014]

 

Due in part to Vermeer’s meticulous painting style and slow pace, only approximately 34 signature works are known to exist in the world today. Two-thirds reside in major European museums such as London’s National Gallery, The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Paris’ Louvre, and scattered throughout Germany and Scotland. New York’s Metropolitan Museum (4 pieces on display) and Frick Collections (3) as well as the National Gallery in Washington (3) house the works which can be readily seen in the United States. The dearth of Vermeer on US soil is perhaps due to the influence of attorney Victor de Stuers (1843-1916) who lobbied to keep  important works from Dutch artists from being sold to parties outside the Netherlands despite the American thirst for European art at the turn of the 20th Century. Consequently, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam was founded due in part to his efforts. Boston’s Vermeer, “The Concert”, was one of many works stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 in what is perhaps the world’s largest museum heist, valued at over $500M USD. Vermeer’s “The Astronomer” was among the most coveted works stolen by Adolf Hitler during World War II. It was taken from Jewish financier Edouard de Rothschild’s collection in 1941 and loaded onto a train bound for Hitler’s intended Führermuseum in his adopted hometown of Linz, Austria. American “Monument’s Men” (officers trained in Art History sent to protect European treasures from Nazis during WWII) located the painting in an abandoned mineshaft in Altausee, Austria (along with nearly 8000 works from Michelangelo, Jan van Eyck, Rubens, Rembrandt and other masters) and returned it to the owners who sold it to Paris’ Louvre Museum in 1983, where it resides today. Rightly or wrongly, theft adds to the mystery and drama to the history of the world’s rarest masterpieces.

 

 

Johannes Vermeer’s “The Concert” Stolen from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1990 http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2010/february/artcrime1_020210/image/vermeer500.jpg/view

 

One of only two female portraits on this scale by Vermeer, “Girl with the Pearl Earring” is certainly the more attractive by modern standards (although at the time she would not have been thought of as particularly beautiful). With similar body position, composition and scale, Vermeer’s “Portrait of a Young Woman” (Metropolitan Museum, NYC) appears sickly and pale, particularly as she is only accented by a gray shawl. Against the dark background common in both works this device was perhaps inspired by Da Vinci’s “A Treatise of Painting” (Trattato

della pittura) which stated that a light face on a dark background will appear to be lighter, and vice versa. Her wide-set eyes and flat visage lack the transcendent ideals of beauty which modern audiences have nurtured. By contrast, “Girl with the Pearl Earring” appears bright and alert against the darkness (which possesses a translucent greenish pigment over a dark background) Vermeer, and adept colorist, uses vibrant ultramarine (made form Lapis Lazuli- a rare and expensive pigment) and lead white to draw attention to the oversized pearl earring at the heart of the composition. In 1908, Dutch art critic Jan Veth wrote, “More than with any other Vermeer, one could say that [the white] looks as if it were blended from the dust of crushed pearls.” Too large to be drawn from nature, Vermeer instead opted to fictionalize and dramatize the pearl to maximize its effectiveness. A 1994 restoration revealed subtle lighting on the underside which added more weight and dimension to the pearl than was previously known.  Yellowed and course, her frock lacks embellishment and detail, as does the blue turban. These simplified fields of color emphasize the center of the composition further. Brushstrokes which are more flat and vigorous, combined with a lack of a clear narrative, result that she may be one of the easiest figures in Art History for modern audiences to read and digest.

 

(L) Portrait of a Young Woman (1666-1667) oil on canvas New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art (R) Girl with a Pearl Earring (c. 1665) oil on canvas The Hague, Mauritshuis

Perhaps it is, like that of Leonardo DaVinci’s “Mona Lisa”, the mystery of not knowing precisely who she is, although theories abound. To this point, none of Vermeer’s models have been positively and definitively identified. Contrary to the premise of the novel by Tracy Chavalier and eponymous movie starring Scarlet Johansson which depicted her as paramour named Griet, many scholars believe the work to be a study of the artist’s young daughter Maria, aged 12-13 at the time the work was painted. Or perhaps the daughter of his principal patron Pieter Van Ruijven who also had a daughter who fits this description. Other scholars suggest this work to be a “tronie”, a common Dutch art form of the day, utilizing an anonymous sitter with an exaggerated face position used as a natural study. It this sense, the sitter is intended to be unidentifiable, leaving it up to our imaginations as to who she actually is.

Whatever their motivation, large audiences stood rapt in her gaze during our recent visit to the HIGH MUSEUM OF ART in Atlanta. After slowly perusing the collection of 36 Dutch masterpieces by other luminaries such as Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Solomon and Jacob van Ruisdael, Meindert Hobemma and others, we entered the vast space occupied by the relatively small portrait by Vermeer. Given the prominence of some of the other works on display, the deference paid to the “Girl with the Pearl Earring” displayed precisely how important this work is for North American audiences. “Paintings of this caliber are  underrepresented in this part of the country and this exhibition will create an opportunity for our community to study and admire these works of art that rarely travel outside of Europe”, said Michael E. Shapiro, the Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. director of the High Museum. The portrait sat slightly above eye level in the center of the darkened space. Crowds slowly ebbed close only to flow backwards after drinking her visage in. Curious onlookers leaned precariously over the protective railing to examine the minute brushstrokes and fissures in the canvas as each quietly expressed their admiration.

 

As I stood in the back of the room it became obvious that everyone had come to see her and her alone. She was a rock star, and we were her groupies, albeit a quiet and deferential lot. For nearly 350 years she has become an object of resplendent desire, mystery and respect. And, perhaps that is why we have come, the pay homage to a rare, valuable and glorious object that may spring into our field of view once in a lifetime…. And to hear what she has to say.

 

Reed V. Horth, is the president, curator and writer for ROBIN RILE FINE ART in Miami, FL. He has been a private dealer, gallerist and blogger since 1996, specializing in 20th century and contemporary masters. www.robinrile.com

 

Posted by Reed V. Horth on 8/22/13




PICASSO and JAY-Z: KINDRED SPIRITS?

By Reed V. Horth, for CBP Magazine

“I’m the modern day Pablo Picasso, baby” ~Jay-Z

Spanish master Pablo Picasso died on 5 April, 1973, a little more than five months before I was born. Although over 92 years old when he passed, his vivaciousness and influence had not subsided and the world was still weeping for him when I was introduced to it.

More than 40 years after his passing, his influence spans the lexicon of modern popular culture, including art, architecture, writing, clothing design, film and music. One cannot help but see his hand on the dorm-room walls of teenage admirers and aspirant young artists seeking to find the magic with which he influenced the world for the past 116 years, since his first major work “Science & Charity” went on display at the General Fine Arts Exhibition in Madrid in spring of 1897. Picasso’s rebellious and often contemptuous attitude toward authority has become a touchstone for a variety of self-proclaimed rebels and modern-day cultural icons. Nowhere is that dichotomy as prevalent as it is in the modern cross-pollination of cubism and hip-hop. Not in the rebellious, nose-thumbing aspects of Pop culture as much as the way if provides us with a glimpse of what is next. It epitomizes what is ground-breaking and what we as a public should be paying attention to.

The truth is, when I first saw Picasso, I did not like it. It was too foreign. Too progressive. Not pleasing to my eyes like a soft Monet “Nympheas”, a Rubens or Velasquez portrait would be. In short, I did not understand why it was significant. It was not until I placed myself into the context of late 19th Century/early 20th Century thinkers that I gained a glimpse of why it was important, fresh and daring.

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Fast forward to today: Modern rap bad-boy Kanye West raised the ire of many when he recently compared his own manic creative nature with that of Picasso and others. “No matter how they try to control you, or the MFer next to you tries to peer pressure you, you can do what you MFing want. I am Picasso. I’m Walt Disney, I’m Steve Jobs.” During Kanye’s song “Who Gon’ Stop Me,” an individual who could more rightfully claim to be the heir-apparent to the creative legacy of Picasso,  producer and Rap legend, Jay-Z steps in an inserts his own, “I’m riding dirty, tryna get filthy, Pablo Picasso, Rothkos, Rilkes/Graduated to the MoMA, and I did all of this without a diploma“. Further, he mentions “Call Larry Gagosian, you belong in museums” in Kayne West’s “Watch the Throne” may be the first mention of a major art dealer in a Hip-Hop song, EVER. Of course, Jay-Z has referenced the legendary Spanish painter several times in his own albums. In his release, “Friend of Foe” Jay-Z raps “[If] You draw, better be Picasso, you know the best/Cause if this is not so, ah, God bless” including the double-entendre of “Draw” (Art) and “Draw” (weapon) if he is to be challenged. Similarly, when I first heard it… I did not like it.

Jay-Z’s wife Beyoncé posed in front of this abstract Picasso nude at Art Basel Miami Beach (2012). [Tumblr/IAM]
Jay-Z’s wife Beyoncé posed in front of this abstract Picasso nude at Art Basel Miami Beach (2012). [Tumblr/IAM]

Recently, during the National Basketball Association finals on 16 June, 2013, international recording superstar and producer Jay-Z announced his newest album Magna Carta Holy Grailwith an extended commercial showing himself with friends Rick Rubin, Pharrell, Swizz Beatz, andTimbaland brainstorming emotions, self-aggrandizement and success in the studio. During one portion of the video, Jay-Z raps, “I just want a Picasso/No more casa/No more castle… I JUST want a Picasso.” The camera then glimpses a portion of the notes Jay-Z is taking which include the words “Picasso,” “Part II,” “BBC” (presumably Billionaire Boys Club, not British Broadcasting Corporation), and “Tom Ford.” The fact that Jay dropped this bombshell announcement only two days before the release of Kayne’s “Yeezus” album also is evocative of Picasso’s rivalry with Henri Matisse. Each one-upping the other in a boyish battle of whose creative libido was strongest. In this case, Jay the teacher and Kanye the pupil. During a 6 hour marathon concert at the Pace Gallery in New York on 12 July, 2013, Jay-Z took it a step further. “I’m the modern day Pablo / Picasso, baby,” the rapper repeated to a demur Diana Widmaier Picasso (Granddaughter of the artist) who was in attendance. He also dropped Basquiat, Art Basel, Da Vinci, the Louvre and the Tate in the conversation for good measure. As I paid more attention to Jay-Z’s audacity, ethos and influence, the more I tended to believe HIS was the progressive voice providing us a pivotal glimpse into our collective futures… Much like Picasso had.

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While stopping short of inferring that Picasso and Jay-Z are kindred souls, the argument is certainly stronger than the comparison Kanye made in his ill-dubbed self-aggrandizement. Respectfully, both Jay-Z and Picasso are among the more important creative voices of their respective generations… Both influenced some of the premier minds in their respective crafts (Picasso influenced Braque, Andre Derain, Henri Matisse, Marcel Duchamps, et. al. and Jay-Z has Kanye, Diddy, Rihanna, Ne-Yo, Notorious B.I.G., Justin Timberlake, Akon and others)… Each excel in areas beyond the original scope of their talents (Picasso completed pottery, sculpture, furniture and writing whereas Jay-Z raps, produces, is the president of his label and has newly ventured into Sports management)… Both were fantastically successful and wealthy during their lifetimes… Both have kept their lives semi-private, but had recognizable lovers and spouses…. Both carve new ground and challenge the status quo. Both have an inexhaustible energy that permeates all they do and provides us a glimpse of what is yet to come. In 1907, when Picasso unveiled “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (MOMA- NYC), it was so far ahead of its time, his friend Andre Derain proclaimed “One day we shall find Pablo has hanged himself behind his great canvas.” Similarly, in the 1970’s if you wanted to know where music would be in 10 years, you listened to Bowie. In the 1980’s Madonna and U2… Today, if you want to know where music will be in 10 years, listen to what Jay-Z is spinning, and pay attention.

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Pablo Picasso “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon)” 1907. Oil on canvas, 243.9 cm × 233.7 cm (96 in × 92 in) Museum of Modern Art. Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest, New York City

Is it fair to mention Picasso and Jay-Z in the same sentence? Perhaps it is a stretch. Tangentially, would this make Kanye today’s Braque?… Hardly. (If Jay makes a move on Kim K, as Picasso made a move on his friend Casagemas’ girl in 1901, run for cover. Casagemas came out shooting!) But it would be hard to argue that there was a more influential creative voice in their respective worlds than Jay-Z and Pablo Picasso.

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Reed V. Horth, is the president, curator and writer for ROBIN RILE FINE ART in Miami, FL. He has been a private dealer, gallerist and blogger since 1996, specializing in 20th century and contemporary masters. www.robinrile.com

Posted by Reed V. Horth on 7/22/13




So You Want to be an Art Dealer? It's not as easy as you think.

The Dandy and the Pilfered Picasso

Article by Reed V. Horth, for CBP Magazine

Washington, DC- June 24, 2013- The Department of Justice today restrained the 1909 Pablo Picasso painting “Compotier et tasse” – estimated to be worth $11.5 million – on behalf of the Italian government. This action follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The restraining order was obtained in response to an official request by the government of Italy, pursuant to the Treaty between the United States and the Italian Republic on Mutual Legal Assistance in criminal matters for assistance in connection with its ongoing criminal investigation and prosecution of Gabriella Amati. Amati and her late husband, Angelo Maj, were charged by the Italian Public Prosecutors’ Office in Milan with embezzlement and fraudulent bankruptcy offenses under Italian law, and Italian prosecutors have obtained a restraining order for the Picasso painting in connection with the criminal proceeding.

The dapper young gentleman had just recently embarked on a career in fine art-sales when sent me a short email after a successful meeting we held in the midst of Art Basel Miami Beach in December 2011. He thanked me for my time and mentioned that things were brewing that would be both profitable and fun for us both. During our December meeting, the dandy gentleman wore an impeccable pin-striped suit and spoke elegantly about his European travels, his fledgling business and his impressive access to high end works of art. What struck me as most impressive, being in the art business for 15 years, was that I scarcely had a tenth of the resources he reported having. He was the picture of what an art dealer should look, sound like and exude. That  evening filled with wine, food and revelry, my wife and I casually discussed our business and our high-end clients contemporaneously seeking original works from Spanish Master Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) as well as other 20th Century masters. Art Basel Miami Beach is an incredible feast for the senses, as the finest dealers, most beautiful people and best art in the world commingle in an atmosphere of sophistication, culture and a fair degree of braggadocio. Among other meetings with clients, vendors and friends, the meeting with this young man stood out as being one of the most promising of future business and friendship.

When an email arrived in my inbox early one morning the following February from the same young gentleman, I became excited at the prospect of conducting mutual business based on a small 1909 oil painting by Pablo Picasso entitled,  “Compotier et tasse”. Following my rigorous schedule of questions and due diligence surrounding each work I present to my clients, I forwarded a litany of questions to the young broker on the work’s provenance, certification, location, history and the like. I then conducted some due diligence of my own, first simply through Google, then more sophisticated means. My initial reaction was, at EURO15.2M, it became obvious that pricing was out-of-line with market. This an indicator that there may not be direct access to a given work,  but instead a daisy-chain of brokers, each lumping millions of Euros on the total as it progresses through their hands. Unlike the real estate market, art dealers tend to withhold great listings from other brokers as a market inundation can smother an otherwise perfect work. The best listings are handed to only a few, selected private clients and/or their direct agents. This keeps works which are fresh to the market from becoming spoiled, or in parlance “Shopped”. It also keeps pricing to the end-buyer to a minimum. The pricing provided to me indicated that this “shopping” might be the case here. This evidence was further buttressed when he noted that his “partner’s source was direct to mandate”. This told me not only that he was not direct, but there were likely several more egos and pocketbooks between me and this painting than even he might be aware of. These sorts of complications muddy the waters as each broker has specific needs, none of which can be shelved for the good of the deal closing. Beyond this, it also prevents information such as the true origin of the work to be known, thereby jeopardizing each agent in the process should something go awry with the deal. The origin, as it turns out, would have been very relevant information for these brokers to have had.

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For myself, the work presented too many problems and potential questions. Therefore, the brief information was filed away and I demurred to my young friend. “Not for me,” I said. Subsequent failures in providing even the most basic information on other high-end works meant that our friendship was not meant to be. I have not heard from him in the past year.

Earlier this morning while searching through my daily compilation of art news, I happened upon an article which mentioned “Compotier et tasse” from Picasso. Remembering the title, I searched my notes for the painting, where I had seen it and what the results were of my inquiries. The article states that the work was originally purchased by a couple, Angelo Maj and Gabriella Amati, using tax revenues from the city of Naples, Italy. It is reported that the couple embezzled approximately EURO 33M ($44M USD) using fraudulent service contracts, inflated expenses, fraudulent refunds and other schemes to defraud.  Among their extravagant purchases with their embezzled funds was the 1909 Pablo Picasso painting, “Compotier et tasse”. Italy, rightfully wants it back. ICE, working with the United States Department of Justice “located and recovered the painting, which was being offered for private sale in the amount of $11.5 million.” Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman (USDOJ) states “Restraining this Picasso painting is yet another example of the Justice Department’s close partnership with law enforcement around the world. Our asset forfeiture section is committed to finding and securing every last penny of criminal proceeds and putting those ill-gotten proceeds back in the hands of victims, regardless of where they reside.”

I sincerely doubt that my young friend was embroiled in this controversy (First, because his pricing never could have gotten him in the door with a real buyer. Secondly, because I feel that he realized early on that this business is trickier than it first seemed to him, so he quit.) However, it is interesting how little due diligence and intellectual curiosity he conducted in a very complex field which he was a neophyte in. Would he have been involved, or worse yet, had I allowed myself to become involved in such a questionable property, our names could be side-by-side in this DOJ investigation. It took less than 1 hour of investigation on my part to rule out this work as a viable candidate for my client base. He apparently did not place the same importance on due diligence, and this time it could have really harmed him.

In college, one of our Art History professors once told his class on the first day, “95% of you will fail this course or drop it before it is over”. While many thought of Art History as a simple way to earn an arts credit, four people stood, turned and walked out immediately. They were the smart ones. Art is NOT an easy field and navigating it as a student, buyer, seller or a dealer is unlike any other career path in that you are dealing in something which is ostensibly unnecessary. Wants are sometimes more tightly scrutinized than needs are, and the intellectual and legal firepower qualified buyers employ cannot be overstated or ignored by those who ply this as their craft.

Perhaps my friend was one of the smart ones. As it takes a smart student to know when to get out before it is too late.

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For information on this case see: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/June/13-crm-706.html

Reed V. Horth, is the president, curator and writer for ROBIN RILE FINE ART in Miami, FL. He has been a private dealer, gallerist and blogger since 1996, specializing in 20th century and contemporary masters. www.robinrile.com

Posted by Reed V. Horth on 6/27/13




PASSION and PRUDENCE in FINE ART BUYING

PASSION and PRUDENCE in FINE ART BUYING

Passion and Prudence in Fine Art Buying
By Reed V. Horth, for CBP Magazine
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The Art of buying high-end Art combines equal parts pragmatism and lunacy. Meaning,  for someone to spend over $1M on something they ostensibly do not need, both the right and left sides of the brain must be functioning in tandem. Buyers must be pragmatic, as no one wishes to spend this type of money without some form of guarantee that what they are getting is…
  1. Fairly-priced
  2. Authentic
  3. Not subject to repossession by a disgruntled former owner or descendant.
  4. AND that there is a potential for this investment to grow.
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Conversely Art buyers must have passion, in all its varied forms. Oscar Wilde said, “The artist is the creator of beautiful things…. [but] all art is quite useless”. Art is unlike any other asset-class as it is one which may or may not produce a specific and quantifiable return on investment. However, it does provide owners with a sense of pride, culture and status which are not equally conferred upon those owning any other form of asset.
The connotation of an art owner or investor is “educated” whether or not this actually means formally educated or simply a student of life.
Recent auctions, in which Jackson Pollock’s “Number 19, 1948” sold for $58,363,750 at Christie’s New York (in a sale which garnered more than $495,000,000 in aggregate sales), prove that the vibrant market of the ultra-rich is not waning.  The purchaser almost certainly sees this work as a prudent way of parking nearly $60M for a certain period of time, but also understands that the perception of an owner of a Pollock is different from someone who owns either a less-known artist or something merely decorative.
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No millionaire/billionaire ever wishes to be told “no”. In the auction setting, the spectacle of bidding against another equally-moneyed cohort is part of the passion-based art purchase. Successful buyers will often bid a work up simply because they are not acclimatized to losing at anything in their everyday lives. This winner-take-all attitude also transcends in to the dynamic Art fairs, such as Frieze, The Armory, Maastricht, Art Basel and Art Basel at Miami Beach. The early access to the art is essential in beating all other comers on the best works. Collectors vie to be the first or most visible purchaser of a prominent work. The plebian public may have a pick of the rest once red-dots are placed on the best of the best.
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However, private art buyers tend to be less passion-based and more pragmatic in their approach. As the private market is inherently quiet by its very nature, buyers and sellers can maintain a degree or anonymity not available when the press and paparazzi are buzzing at their feet. Of the top 10 prices paid for art in the world, 5 were purchased through private sale.  These include Cezanne’s “Card Players” (Sold for $259M in April 2011), Pollock’s “No. 5, 1948” (Sold for 140M in November 2006), de Kooning’s “Woman III” (Sold for $137M in November 2006) Picasso’s “La Reve” (Sold for $155M in March 2013) and Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” (Sold for 135M in June 2006). Although we are aware of the names of the buyers now, the art was purchased with little fanfare and no public recognition until after they were closed. Unlike Real Estate, in which a great property listing will be passed amongst varied brokers in order to saturate the market and discover a sale, the very best art properties are sometimes only shown to one person, the buyer. This privacy and intimacy often afford a buyer access to better, more exclusive works and/or better prices, sometimes a combination of both. Market saturation of a particular art property can potentially turn off buyers to perfectly sanguine works. Further, brokers who do saturate the market often lack experience, an understanding of market nuance and industry expertise essential to bringing a transaction to a successful close. After all, this is why they are saturating the market to begin with… Fishing for buyers.
As with everything, balance is essential. A passion-based purchase of a marquis Art property can be made with prudence and pragmatism if given to correct resources. In other words… Yes, you can reconcile “Head” and “Heart”.

Reed V. Horth, is the president, curator and writer for ROBIN RILE FINE ART in Miami, FL. He has been a private dealer, gallerist and blogger since 1996, specializing in 20th century and contemporary masters. www.robinrile.com

Posted by Reed V. Horth on 6/18/13




How I embraced social media to build an international art business

Reed V. Horth tell how he uses social media to build business.

Editor’s Note: “How I” are first-person accounts of how someone has met a business challenge.

Art galleries have a traditional model of clients walking in, seeing a piece of art and making a purchase.

In 1996, my first gallery refused to allow a computer in the gallery for fear staff might avoid walk-in clients. However, understanding that client follow-ups are essential, I purchased my own computer and began to communicate with walk-ins and prospects online.

In 2003, sensing that the market was shifting, I changed the paradigm to mitigate slow foot traffic in our varied gallery locations throughout Florida. My multi-tiered approach focused on social media and advantageous exchange rates in UK/European markets to expand our international business virtually, eventually phasing out the need for a brick-and-mortar gallery altogether.

Through an ever-evolving subset of social media sites, including Quintessentially, ASmallWorld, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and others over the years, our clients have located prominent artists, obtained required information on the piece of interest, edified themselves as to our dealer credentials and made their purchases online.

Further, new clients have discovered us through their friends and business contacts and made contact knowing that we were trusted resources for people they know personally.

Using this method, our general price-point has escalated from $2,000 to $30,000 a piece to individual works of art over $5 million in the past five years alone, including original works from Picasso, Dali, Modigliani, Indiana, Warhol and others.

We have developed virtual relationships with over 25,000 museums, Forbes and Fortune 500 members, private dealers, investors and clients around the world and here in South Florida, sometimes never meeting the clients face-to-face.

In the past months we have sold high-end works to clients in Australia, Ireland, Greece, France, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Brazil, London, Germany, UAE and throughout the United States.

Although art buying is often passion-based, our buyers tend to be tech savvy and pragmatic, seeking the best price for a work they can get on an artist they are already familiar with.

As the virtual world, and particularly the art world, is rife with dilettantes and charlatans, platforms such as LinkedIn allow prospective clients to see recommendations, awards and conferred honors you have earned over your career and edify themselves that they are dealing with someone professional.

Involvement in forums and regular posting of articles relevant to your craft grow your audience and brand amongst group members.

Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and others allow prospects to gain a social sense of who you are as a person, your family, your interests, etc. This allows them to feel that they are dealing with a friend.

Obviously, this level of personal exposure requires diligence to maintain a professional presence, but it also incorporates a sense of accountability and fair-play with buyers and sellers.

Further, seeing what people share and “LIKE” provides valuable demographic data on individual clients that can be later utilized in direct marketing efforts.

Twitter allows you to farm non-traditional clients and expose them to your company passively.

Houzz, an interior design site, has allowed persons and professionals who are in the process of purchasing items for homes to see the artworks and interact with me though forums.

Our regular posts on our blog, and the associated tags, allow people first to discover us through traditional Google searches, and then gain a sense of our scholarship on art in general. Interactions with readers via feedback allow us to answer questions quickly and add them to our databases.

As social media sites are ever-evolving, we constantly discover and experiment with new platforms which place prospective buyers and sellers within the same context. As more high-end buyers turn go online for their investments, brand familiarity and direct social engagement will be key in culling and keeping prospects and expanding market reach.

Reed V. Horth is president of Robin Rile Fine Art, Miami. www.robinrile.com.

Posted by Reed V. Horth on 6/3/13




Mercado de Imóveis e de Arte em alta em Miami

From: http://passportmiami.com/customers/detail/1058

Article

by Reed Horth posted November 16, 2012

 

De 6 a 9 de dezembro de 2012, a Exposição Art Basel de Miami Beach, o maior evento da temporada, aterrissará no sul da Flórida. A décima primeira edição da Art Basel de Miami Beach atrairá os colecionadores de arte mais importantes de todo o mundo. A chegada da Art Basel de Miami Beach é um bom momento para comparar o potencial do investimento em imóveis no Sul Florida com o do mundo da arte.

Ao longo dos últimos anos, o preço dos imóveis de luxo no sul da Flórida se valorizou não só em função da recuperação dos mercados globais, mas também porque os investidores estão sempre à procura de oportunidades de investimento com grande potencial de crescimento. Só nos últimos 12 meses, os investidores estrangeiros pressionaram os preços dos imóveis de luxo de Miami a um crescimento superior a 13%. Os preços dos imóveis em Miami Beach subiram até 27%, e os em Downtown Miami, até 19%. É impossível ignorar essa vigorosa recuperação dos preços do setor imobiliário do sul da Flórida aos níveis pré-recessão.

As notícias para os investidores do mundo da arte são ainda melhores. De fato, o mercado global de arte experimentou uma incrível valorização de 63% desde a crise do mercado em 2009, elevando-se a níveis superiores a 55 bilhões de dólares. Os mercados de arte moderna e contemporânea (que representam cerca de 70% de todo o mercado de arte) estão atingindo níveis superiores ao do boom de 2007-2008.

Em 2011, obras de arte originais de Clyfford Still (62 milhões de dólares) Gustav Klimt (40 milhões), Andy Warhol (38 milhões), Mark Rothko (34 milhões) e Francis Bacon (25 milhões) foram vendidos a preços semelhantes aos de mansões na Quinta Avenida de Nova York com sobrenomes emblemáticos como Getty, Vanderbilt e Guggenheim (entre 26 e 88 milhões de dólares). O volume total de vendas de Andy Warhol subiu 4% em um aumento 0,5% em lotes vendidos por um total de 325 milhões. Da mesma forma, as vendas de Picasso em 2011 totalizaram 314 milhões de dólares em 3387 lotes vendidos.

Benjamin Mandel, economista do Banco Central de Nova York, estuda as tendências do mercado de arte porque, diz ele, “é uma ótima maneira de estudar as avaliações de preços de bens” porque esse mercado, na verdade, não é parte da economia global geral. Ao contrário, é um setor da economia reservado exclusivamente a um grupo minúsculo dos super-ricos, muitas vezes não afetado por outros fatores de mercado.

Este tipo de investidor do mundo da arte deseja ter as obras mais importantes, em suas residências multimilionárias. Eles tendem a evitar os modismos da arte. Em vez disso, buscam artistas e obras de arte que alteraram de forma fundamental os conceitos da arte e, de certa maneira, o mundo em geral. É por isso que as listas dos preços mais altos pagos por obras de arte tendem a ser pontilhadas pelos mais importantes artistas do século 20, como Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Willem deKooning, Salvador Dali, Auguste Rodin, Henri Matisse, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollack, Amedeo Modigliani, Francis Bacon, Robert Rauschenberg e outros.

Estes artistas são ícones reconhecidos instantaneamente. Para um bilionário com ativos superiores a 10 bilhões de dólares, gastar 10 milhões de dólares em uma pintura de um artista consagrado representa uma despesa de apenas 0,1% do seu patrimônio líquido global, e proporciona-lhe um bem que, além de conferir status, tende a solidificar e diversificar a sua carteira de ativos.

Durante o crash da bolsa de 2008, a fortuna do bilionário Eli Broad foi fortalecida pela sua coleção de arte contemporânea que, somente naquele ano, valorizou-se em 72%, ultrapassando 1,9 bilhão de dólares. Embora a idéia de ter US $ 10 milhões acumulados em um banco possa parecer atraente para a maioria, o simples prazer de ter um ativo na forma de uma grande obra de arte encanta esses investidores. A diretora de arte contemporânea da Sotheby’s faz o melhor retrato dessa situação em uma conversa com um colecionador americano anônimo a quem ela perguntou: “Você percebe que no mercado atual, podemos obter 50 milhões de dólares pelo seu Rothko?”. Ao que o coletor respondeu: “É muito bom saber disso. Mas, o que diabos eu faria com 50 milhões de dólares no banco?”

Com o dinheiro dos investidores retornando ao mercado global de arte, encontrar um marchand ao mesmo tempo ético e experiente nesse universo se tornou difícil para muitos investidores. Um contingente de novos “negociantes de arte” surge a cada ciclo ascendente do mercado, prometendo exclusividade e acesso às melhores obras do mundo. Apesar das promessas, o que oferecem aos investidores são sobras, obras a preços excessivos e o acesso a redes de intermediários, o que tende a tornar a compra tediosa e arriscada.

Para obter acesso direto a obras-primas de propriedade particular, um marchand tem que ter experiência, boa reputação e habilidades desenvolvidas ao longo de décadas, podendo assim lidar com o comprador e o vendedor de forma justa e direta. Esta é a melhor maneira de assegurar a um investidor acesso a obras de nível superior comprovado, a preços de mercado justos.

Além disso, um marchand experiente pode também avaliar as motivações, estilo e gostos específicos de um cliente, e pré-selecionar obras que ele apreciará e que se tornarão um bom investimento. Assim, um marchand opera de forma semelhante a um corretor de imóveis que seleciona residências e apresenta as melhores oportunidades ao cliente. Em suma, um marchand experiente e de boa reputação entende o mercado, e este conhecimento gera para o cliente os melhores resultados para seus investimentos em arte.

CONTATO:
Reed V. Horth
ROBIN RILE FINE ART
Miami, FL USA
www.robinrile.com
reed@robinrile.com
Tel.: (813) 340-9629

ROBIN RILE FINE ART

Reed V. Horth reed@robinrile.com Tel.: (813) 340-9629 Skype: reed.v.horth LinkedIn: www.linkedin/in/rvhorth Facebook: www.facebook.com/robinrile

Posted by Reed V. Horth on 11/19/12




Frederick Hart and Auguste Rodin, “Adam”

From: http://robinrile.com/blog/?p=1872

TEXT © 2012 Reed V. Horth, for ROBIN RILE FINE ART

French master Auguste Rodin’s path to notoriety came at a time when his counterparts and classmates were already conducting retrospectives of their work. He was, in the classical sense, a “late bloomer”. After continued rejection from the Academie des Beaux-Arts (Salon) in Paris, Rodin became despondent that his career would be as anything other than a craftsperson and stone-cutter to his better-known master Albert-Ernst Carrier Belleuse (French, 1824-1887). Rodin was rejected continually from the Paris Salon, in one case 11 times for the same sculpture. Heavily influenced by the frescoes of Masaccio (Italian, 1401-1427) and Michelangelo (Italian, 1475-1564) during his trips to Santa Maria Novella and the Sistine Chapel which exposed him to the frescoes depicting the creation and expulsion of Adam and Eve. To create his own modern (1976) “Adam”, he knew he needed to push the boundaries of what had to that point been conventional. Already 36 years old, he knew this might be his last opportunity to prove himself worthy to be accepted at Salon. Working in Brussels, he chose a lean Belgian soldier named Auguste Neyt to serve as his model. His goal was to depict a figure so close to life that it would seem as if he were to open his eyes and breathe. Bearing a wound on his forehead, he appears to be a warrior returning from battle, but Rodin removed peripheral objects from him as to avoid creating a concerted narrative text. He stands lone as the perfect specimen of man. So perfect, in fact, that Rodin was forced to defend himself against the accusation of taking of body casts instead of sculpting the work from scratch.

(LEFT) Michelangelo Buonarotti (Italian, 1475-1564) “Dying Slave” (1513-1516) marble, Louvre Museum, Paris. (CENTER) Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917) “L’Age d’erain” (The Age of Bronze) (1876) bronze (RIGHT) Frederick E. Hart (American, 1943-1999) “Adam” (from Washington National Cathedral) (1976) bronze

Later, during the construction of what became Auguste Rodin’s signature work “The Gates of Hell”, he purposefully depicted his Adam and Eve as exaggerated and tormented, perhaps as a sub-conscious method of ensuring a similar controversy did not erupt regarding any of his subsequent works. Rodin contrasted his soft, almost Pompeian Eve with an over-muscled Adam. He is pointing to the underground, just as Rodin’s St. John the Baptist did towards Heaven. This foreshadows the fate which awaits all those he sup from the Tree of Life; perhaps too, a reference to Michelangelo‘s life giving gesture of God to Adam in the Sistine Chapel. Rodin pays homage to Michelangelo by paying keen attention not only to the Sistine Chapel, but also his bonded slaves and the grotesque torso twisted Christ in his Florentine Pieta. Rodin’s “Adam” has a head twisted nearly perpendicular to his shoulder. Rodin later recalls and amplifies this torture in the Three Shades which were created to sit sentinel atop the completed gates. The taut muscles and ambiguous positioning appear to signify man’s ultimate helplessness against the omnipotent and angered God. As has become Rodin’s craft, the left hand falls diagonally to rest near the right knee, as if pulled by an unseen string. He believed that the entire theme of The Gates of Hell could be summed up in the figure of Adam and the Shade. All of the worldly suffering man undergoes from the birth to death. In 1889, the critic Gustave Geffroy described the Gates of Hell as the endless reenactment of the suffering of Adam. The Plaster of Adam was the first figure from the Gates to be exhibited as a single sculpture, at the Salon of 1881, released under the title The Creation of Man.

Lysippos (Greek, Sikyon, 4th Century BC) “Apoxyomenos” (The Scraper) (c. 330 BCE) marble

At Washington National Cathedral, Frederick Hart found himself as an outsider seeking admittance to a closed circle of Italian stonecutters who had generationally been working at the cathedral since it first broke ground in 1907. Hart’s stonecutting master, Roger Morigi (Italian, 1908-1995), was cut from the steely cloth of the old country and gave Hart no quarter in his apprenticeship. It was not until Hart proved himself worthy with a small gargoyle, that Morigi relented and allowed him to cut the precious Indiana limestone of the cathedral walls and pediments. After winning the commission to complete the six main sculptures on the Western façade, Hart endeavored to create his own perfect depiction of man, “Adam”. In 1975, model Robert Parke was chosen to assist Hart in creating the perfect amalgam of Michelangelo’s bonded slaves and Rodin’s “Age of Bronze”. Hart’s “Adam” remained elementally bound to the mountain of his making. He “emerges” in a pained contraposto, rather than being fully formed, as Hart borrowed the philosophy of early 20th Century Jesuit theologian Pierre Theilhard de Chardin (French, 1881-1955) who said that mankind was in a constant state of what he called “becoming”. Eyes closed, he is born of the elements, and emerges as a perfect specimen. One hundred years after the unveiling of Rodin’s statement of perfection “L’Age d’erain” (1876), came Hart’s “Adam” (1976).

 

(TOP) Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917) “L’Age d’erain” (The Age of Bronze) (1876) bronze (BOTTOM) Frederick E. Hart (American, 1943-1999) “Adam” (from Washington National Cathedral) (1976) bronze

 

“Adam I portray as man the singular individual, the finite man, fully emerged yet still in a state of becoming, still part of the ongoing phenomenon of Creation”. ~Frederick Hart

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Posted by Reed V. Horth on 11/9/12




Frederick Hart and the legacy of Rodin (part of a series)

From: http://robinrile.com/blog/?p=1795

(L to R) Frederick Hart (American 1943-1999) Torsos: Male (1994) Bronze, Edition of 12, Dimensions: 39” x 16” x 9”, Torsos: Female (1991) Bronze, Edition of 12, Dimensions: 41” x 14” x 12”.

By Reed V. Horth, for ROBIN RILE FINE ART

 

One senses the figures as passing by the tree line and, caught in the presence of the wall, turning to gaze upon it almost as a vision.”~ Frederick Hart.

 

While examining new interpretations of classical themes, Frederick Elliot Hart (American, 1943-1999) continually defaulted to the Greek and Roman ideals of beauty and proportion. Men were muscular, but not overtly so. Women lithe, but neither waiflike nor buxom. The simple beauty of form became more pleasing to him than modern notions of supermodels and bodybuilders. This, in turn, allowed him to create transcendent beings, capable of transporting the viewer to any century he or she wished, while still remaining grounded in the present. The training under Italian stone-master Roger Morigi (1908-1995) at Washington National Cathedral continually inspired visions of past masters and masons in Hart. He said “It’s like touching hands with a generation that is no more.” The overwhelming sensitivity to his surroundings at the Cathedral, which took nearly 100 years to construct and adorn, was a constant reminder that Art is simply an avenue which allows the present to commune with the past.

In almost a direct contradiction to the classical ideals, French Master Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917) deconstructed models and plasters in his studio in order to find an entirely new breadth in them and revitalize the waning power of sculpture in the late 19th Century. His powerful “Walking Man” was, in and of itself, a deconstruction and rebuilding of his “St. John the Baptist Preaching”. “Walking Man” was, in turn, deconstructed again to become its simplest of parts, “The Torso”. “Recently I have taken to isolating limbs, the torso” He notes. “Why am I blamed for it? Why is the head allowed and not portions of the body? Every part of the human figure is expressive.”

(L to R) Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917) “St. John the Baptist Preaching” (1878) bronze, “Walking Man” (1878-1900), “The Torso” (1878-1900)

While some have hypothesized that the “Torso” and “Walking Man” were studies for the “St. John”, photographic and documentary evidence shows that Rodin deconstructed the modele to its simplest parts in an effort to illustrate the decay of time. Rodin presented us with a perfect classical Cathedral and then reduced it to ruins. In doing so, he opened the doorway to modern sculptors who had never imagined a contemporary sculptor endeavoring to create a ruins from the start. This innovation gave rise and inspiration to modernists such as Bourdelle, Archipenko, Brancusi and Arp to further simplify and modernize their own works to an even greater extent. An item of classical beauty can seen as a broken rock to another set of eyes.

(L to R) Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917)”Torso of Adele” (1879) Jean Arp ( 1886-1966) "Torse des Pyrénées" (1959), Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957) “Bird in Space” (1932-1940)

 

Man’s naked form… belongs to no particular moment in history; it is eternal, and can be looked upon with joy by the people of all ages.” ~Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)

 

Where Rodin opened the doorway for modern artists to explore simpler forms in art, architecture, writing and music, Hart called for a return to the classical precepts of beauty. According to Hart, artists in all genres should have schooling in the classics before they move into the minimalism evocative of the modern world.

Only once you know the rules, can you break them.

Posted by Reed V. Horth on 10/24/12 | tags: pop traditional sculpture realism landscape abstract surrealism figurative modern





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