Tag Archives: Sotheby’s

IWC Funds School For Underprivileged Thai Youth

It always feels good to give back to the community and those less fortunate. The wonderful folks at IWC Schaffhausen must feel the same. This year, the brand has chosen to work alongside Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth Foundation, as they usually do. The collaboration will bring the underprivileged youth of the country’s Karen population the necessary professional training.

With the opening of the Hospitality & Catering Training Centre in Mae Sot, the luxury Swiss watchmaker and the foundation are hoping to bring the future of the country’s minority population out of the poverty cycle. Bringing the youth into the hospitality sector not only aims to provide job opportunities but can also be seen as a way to inject manpower in the industry.IWC-CSR-Thailand-students-2016

The facility was made possible thanks to the sale of the Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Edition “Le Petit Prince” in red gold that was auctioned back in November 2015. Sold for $48,752 the auction was held in Geneva by the renowned auction house Sotheby’s. This is not the first time that the watchmakers have sold a timepiece to aid in a good cause. Back in 2013, IWC auctioned off a unique Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince” in platinum for $177,563. The sale of that timepiece, went towards financing two school buildings with a library in Ruluos, Cambodia.

Lesedi la Rona: Largest Diamond Fails to Sell

Some say bigger is better but in the case of the Lesedi la Rona, that may not be the case. Said to be biggest uncut diamond that has been found in more than a century and the second largest ever mined, the gem failed to sell in London earlier this week.

The public auction saw bidders wiling to part with a maximum of $61 million but alas it fell short of the minimum sum reserve price that had not been disclosed.  Sotheby’s, the auction house that helped to handle the sale of the diamond even predicted that it would fetch $70 million. One reason cited for the failure to create a successful sale, is that Lucara Diamond Corp went with an auction method that is less conventional.

While most diamonds of this size and quality are usually sold in a private auction, the company chose to go down an alternative path with a public auction. The failure to sell the diamond also saw the company’s stocks drop 14.5% after the end of the auction. There is speculation that the result may be attributed to the Brexit kerfuffle (pretty much everything is related to it at this point) where many a wealthy diamond lover may have seen a significant dip in net worth.

Still, it is more likely that suitors for his kind of stone prefer to play their hands in private. Private buyers may still have a chance to bid for the diamond because Lucara of course retains possession. The company is said to be considering distinctly non-commercial avenues for the diamond, such as loaning it to museums for educational purposes.

Sotheby’s Saville Sale Quells Brexit Fears

Fears about the British art market were alleviated at Sotheby’s when a resoundingly successful sale of Contemporary Art went down – it raked in a total of around £52 million. Ok that doesn’t go as far as it used to but why quibble? With all the economic rumbling coming from the massive fault line underlying the Brexit referendum, it is worth remembering that the world just keeps right on turning and in times of trouble, one can still enjoy art. The star of the Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction was “Shift,” the famous and altogether quite visceral painting by the anatomy-obsessed Jenny Saville.

“Shift” is a massive 330cm x 330cm painting depicting five or so bodies (there’s a bit of an extra one on the side) stuffed together onto the canvas like sardines. In a specifically Saville-esque way (although her style has similarities with the realist grotesqueries of Lucian Freud), the bodies are naked, raw, elongated, and are spread all around with moldy skin suggesting frailty and decrepitude. This comes together as a wave of flesh that seems to protrude out at any viewer – possibly the meaning behind the ‘Shift’ in the title. Mind you this is a painting so for it to be this visceral is breathtaking.

It had its debut in 1997 at a Young British Artists show entitled “Sensation”, organized by famed art collector and impresario Charles Saatchi. The show was viewed as particularly offensive by the public at the time, especially for a work by artist Chris Ofili – a painting of the Virgin Mary decorated with elephant dung and collaged images of female genitalia. Well, the public has never really had much patience for depictions of elephant dung anyway. A case in point is a showing in New York, where then-Mayor Rudolph Giulliani tried to shut down the exhibition. Needless to say, it was a great success (the show, not Giulliani).

Surprisingly, established art dealer Larry Gagosian was beaten to the final bid on “Shift” by the Long Museum in Shanghai – who paid around £6.8 million for it. Founded by billionare Liu Yiqian (who, by the way, made himself infamous for drinking out of a 500-year old historical cup), the museum specially showcases his art collection. Liu’s focus lately has been about nabbing International works of Art to showcase to the Chinese citizenry. He procured a Modigliani from Christie’s a few months back, much to the consternation of Western fans.

Other than the Saville, Keith Haring’s pop-art nightmare, “The Last Rainforest”, fetched around £4 million. It is one of his densest works, as it layers a sprawling violent cartoonish landscapes on yellow and red splatters. The other higher earners from the sale include Jean Dubuffet’s grimy abstract painting “Barbe de Lumière des Aveuglés” (around £3 million), Sigmar Polke’s acrylic and fabric work “Roter Fisch” (around £3 million), and a version of Andy Warhol’s famous Marilyn Monroe reproductions (around £2.8 million).

If there’s anything we’ve learnt from the past, it is that art and literature blooms in tumultuous times. This is not to buy into the idea that suffering is necessary to breed creative genius of course (no amount of suffering helped artists within the former Soviet Union who were under censorship). At the very least, trouble builds discussion, and as the original show by the Young British Artists proves, the artist always aimed to be the loudest communicator. Even in an economic slump, people will still admire, consume, collect, and create works that reflect the atmosphere.

Sotheby’s Auctions Remaining Pierre Berge Library

As one half of the duo who founded Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Berge is regarded as a fashion mogul. On November 8 and 9, the French philanthropist will be putting up the other half of his famous library for auction at Sotheby’s in Paris.

The other half of the collection raised $12.8 million (which we covered originally here) so it would be no surprise if this collection fetches just as much. While the full auction catalogue is only made available in September, the current list of items included would make any literature fiend happy. The 380-work collection is expected to include the finest works of 19th century European literature, including the Marquis de Sade’s last novella as well as Gustave Flaubert’s account of his tour through France’s Loire and Brittany regions in 1886.

Made up of mainly English, German and Russian language classics, the collection also includes rare edition works from poets such as Byron, Shelley, Wilde, Tolstoy and Goethe. The proceeds of the auction will go towards the Foundation Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent that Berge and his former lover Saint Laurent set up to support AIDS research.

Proust Archives Sells For $1.3 Million

The auction at Sotheby’s of archives belonging to the French writer Marcel Proust has passed, racking up a total sale value of $1.3 million. This, at least, is a sure sign of how great and rich – literally – a legacy Proust has left us. On the whole, the sale exceeded expert estimates for the collection, which was tagged at somewhere between $600,000 – $850,000. The trove of about 120 documents came from the writer’s 41-year-old great-grand-niece Patricia Mante-Proust.

The most valuable item in the sale was the original manuscript of In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, the second volume of Proust’s grand masterwork In Search of Lost Time. This fetched up to around $120,000, well beyond the estimates of around $22,000 to $28,000. The manuscript includes crossed out passages and corrections from the author.

An original edition of Swann’s Way (the first volume of the work) which was published in 1913 was also sold, reaching around $70,000. Besides that, the auction was a treasure trove of memories, featuring several photos and letters involving Proust, his friends, his lovers, and his family.

“The set of proofs represents the author’s writing in the midst of his creative flow, with all its successive edits,” Sotheby’s said in a statement. Perhaps this may be what the suitors in the sale were trying to get at – a  representative slice of the creativity and vivacity of life that Proust channeled in writing his novel. That sliver of ‘lost time’.

This story was written in-house, based on an AFP report. Image are courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Protect Your Wine In Hong Kong Bunker

While Hong Kong is growing into one of the major capitals for fine wine out there thanks to the incredible concentration of wealth (and the potential of China), there is of course the minor issue of space because the SAR is one of the most densely populated places on earth. Wine storage can thus be a bit of a hassle, creating an opportunity for people willing to provide protection for the wines of various collectors out there. In order to cater to the highest end of the spectrum, Crown Wine Cellars has converted an old British war bunker complex into a high-security wine cellar, perfect for protecting some of the finest wines out there.

The six Central Ordnance Munitions Depot bunkers, each spanning some 1,000 square feet, have been updated and transformed into state-of-the-art wine cellars. Security is so tight that clients are not allowed to enter the storage houses and can only view the collections in small rooms, where they’ll be watched closely by video cameras. Furthermore, staff must wear wetsuits when entering the cellars (to deter theft, not because they have an underwater level), and some vaults require three codes simultaneously inputted to open.

Safe as Houses

Why so much precaution involved? One can point to the fact that the cellar holds two of the world’s most expensive bottles of wine ever sold at auction: the Château Lafite 1869 that went under the hammer in 2010 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, fetching $232,692 apiece. And the client list will probably grow as time passes, given that imports are going up exponentially – to $1.5 billion in 2015, up from $206 million in 2007 according to Hong Kong Trade Development Council figures. The city also recently hosted the Vinexpo, Asia’s largest wine and spirits fair, showing their growing worth as a major hub for connoisseurs everywhere.

wine storage HK 2016

Even the government’s starting to take note – they’ve sought to encourage the storage industry by creating the world’s first Wine Storage Management Systems Certification Scheme in 2009. Crown happens to be one of the 37 companies certified, and has around 2,000 customers including major auction houses such as Sotheby’s. Gregory De ‘Eb, the company principal of Crown Wine Cellars, notes that there are “more than three billion Hong Kong dollars” worth of wine being managed by them.

Another such storage company is Wine Vault. Founded in 2008, they converted disused industrial space into individual climate-controlled wine storage rooms. The cellars span from between 40 and 80 square feet in size, and users can access their collection whenever they want, thanks to facial recognition software. All this adds up to a growing ecosystem to suit the various requirements and tastes of connoisseurs in the Asian city.

This story was written in-house, with an AFP report as the source and images from the AFP.

Download the Epicurio app on iTunes or Google Play now, to learn more about wines and purchase your very own bottle, today.

Top 10 Most Expensive Female Artists

When dealing with the notion of blue chip art, the names most people rattle off the top of their heads are those of Picasso, Warhol, Koons, and Hirst. While that indicates a certain inequality in things, at least compared with other creative areas (the name J.K. Rowling immediately comes to mind when you think richest author) – we’re sure that things are bound to get better someday. In terms of contemporary art, we already see improvements, as illustrated in this list.

Nevertheless, there are still plenty of institutional problems. The only thing we can do is to try and float those amazing works we find to the top while waiting for the stiff (ahem) mechanisms to loosen. In fact, Artnet News recently put together a survey of the most expensive female artists at auction, ranging from a variety of styles like Surrealism to Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art. So, without further ado, these are the top 10 women artists in the market to look out for:

Georgia O’Keeffe

Well-known for her lush and overwhelmingly Freudian pictures of flowers, O’Keeffe stands far ahead of the rest with the $44 million auction of her “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1” at Sotheby’s in 2014. It was purchased by the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas, and is a lovely display of greens and whites collaborating together in a singular depiction of a blossom of Jimson Weed. Her technique has some commonality with past figures, such as the flower paintings of Emil Nolde, and, of course, Van Gogh, but her embrace of clear depictions and controlled strokes makes her stand out as something completely different.

Louise Bourgeois

Differing in most part from O’Keeffe, Bourgeois is stark in channeling her psychic pain into her creations. Her sculptures and installations are nightmarish in their explication of the darker sides of sexuality – pulpy forms, bloody paints, eschewed figures, and insect motifs. All this culminates into her 1996 bronze “Spider” sculpture, which was sold by Christie’s in autumn 2015 for $28.2 million. The massive arachnid towers with its crooked legs and also features a sac of eggs, acting as a twisted ode to maternity, and in Bourgeois’s own words, an ode to her own mother specifically. Its seminal importance (as well as the rest of her works) to feminist art gives it its stature -also it is really big.

Joan Mitchell

Mitchell was previously in second place, but drops by one this year due to the sale of “Spider”. Still, her work “Untitled (1960)” sold for just under $12 million at Christie’s. Her abstract expressionism is well-known for its ferocity of color and her subtle implications of landscapes and forms even amidst the chaos.

Berthe Morisot

Turning away from Modern and Contemporary art for a moment, 19th century Impressionist Berthe Morisot stands at number four. Her work “Après le déjeuner” sold for nearly $11 million in 2013. It remains one of the finest works of the movement, displaying a red-haired woman in a room while a view of vibrant greenery comes through from the window. The outstanding color is a cool blue that brings a calmness to the whole scenario, while the strokes create a delicate atmosphere.

Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova

As a member of the Russian avant-garde, Goncharova’s work is tailored by the revolutionary themes of the period, like the angularity and geometry of Futurist art and depiction of social classes. She stands fifth on this list with the 2008 sale of “Les Fleurs” at Christie’s for a little under $11 million. This simple still life of flowers is transformed into an explosion of fierce aggressive orange, yellow, and red hues mixed with jagged shapes. The rest of her output applies such stylistic vivacity to all her subjects, from social depictions to mythological ones.

Agnes Martin

An abstract expressionist but different from Joan Mitchell in her adherence to minimalism, Martin’s “Orange Grove” was sold at Christie’s for $10.7 million this year. While looking almost like a blank piece of paper from a distance, a closer inspection will reveal a grid of pale orange lines. Playing with such empty spaces comes from her interest in Eastern philosophy and Zen silences.

Cady Noland

Noland is notoriously reclusive, but well-known for her postmodern/Pop-Art installations that make use of various materials and found objects. She’s fallen into various controversies with dealers for ‘disavowing’ her work, and she’s been sued by them, but that doesn’t seem to have damaged her stature. Her “Bluewald” sold for $9.7 million in 2015 at Christie’s, surpassing a previous sale drawing $6.5 million in 2011. The work is a screenprint of Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald with various ‘bullet-holes’ in his form, and an American flag at his mouth as a ‘gag’ – creating a shocking political commentary that can be read in many ways.

Tamara de Lempicka

As one of the major artists of the Art Deco movement, Tamara de Lempicka represents all the gilt and glamor of the style – being both a painter and an exquisite and fashionable socialite. Her “Le rêve (Rafaëla sur fond vert)” sold for $8.4 million at Sotheby’s. This nude displays the strong shadows and erotic potency of Lempicka’s brush, which is characteristic across all of her works.

Camille Claudel

This sculptor both worked for and was in a relationship with Auguste Rodin, and so she displays an equal knack for capturing the sensuality of the form.  Her “La valse, première version” fetched $8 million at Sotheby’s in 2013, and features two figures enveloped in passionate dance, with one of them draped in flowing bronze-forged cloth.

Frida Kahlo

Finally we come to the surrealistic Frida Kahlo at number 10, for the sale of her “Dos Desnudos en el Bosque (La Tierra Misma)” this year. Her inclusion, as well as Martin’s, knocks the widely favored Yayoi Kusama off the list, who was ninth last year. She’s well known for mixing up primitive and natural motifs like animals and plants with as flagrant an approach to sexuality, brutal imagery, and femininity as Louise Bourgeois. The work mixes together a Dali-esque barren desert landscape, with a depiction of a wild jungle, and two nude women, one dark-skinned and the other light-skinned. The imagery is esoteric but implies a stew of various meanings, from commentary on race, to religious implications.

Guide: How to Successfully Invest in Art Part 3

In this third part of the series on truly investing in art with a blend of passion, vision and a healthy dose of rational research, the practical aspects of creating a lasting art collection come to the fore. Before I delve into these practical matters, a final thought after Singapore Art Week on the approach of successful art collectors.

Is there a common thread that binds these collectors; something that contributes to the lasting legacy of their connoisseurship? One factor that does stand out is the dedicated, deep research involved in the best collections. This combined with insatiable curiosity gives these collectors an enhanced ‘eye’. This level of in-depth research gives you an overview of an artist’s practice allowing you to select what you think is their best work. It requires a significant investment of time; an art advisor can be a useful asset in this regard. I take for granted my nerd-like love of detailed research. It was ingrained in me as a young trial lawyer regularly reading boxes of documents for ‘clues’ to help our story. Scientists and medics do the same. They read, review and consider vast amounts of material to burrow down into the answer or the better questions. This applies to art connoisseurship too.

Your collection expands beyond the wall space of your home – what next?

One clichéd definition of a collector is someone who has too much art to hang on their walls. If this is the case, where do you go from here? There are a range of exciting journeys your collection can embark on: collector’s groups; loans to art museums; exhibitions, books and online catalogues; a private museum or as collateral to invest in new works.

Private museums are increasingly becoming the destination for important art collections as the buying power of private collectors exceeds state-owned museums. Dallas’ Howard Rachofsky and Vernon Faulconer opened The Warehouse in 2013 to show their collections with a curatorial vision and an education department. Regionally, we have Dr Oei Hong Djien with three private museums in Indonesia to house his vast collection.

Other collectors loan or donate works to state museums. Uli Sigg, ground-breaking Swiss collector of Chinsese contemporary art, recently donated part of his collection to Hong Kong’s long awaited M+ Museum.

A private museum is a huge financial and time commitment. An alternative is to hold periodic exhibitions of parts of your collection, alone or with a group of like-minded collectors. Singapore has seen some wonderful examples. Mr Yeap Lam Yang worked with the ICA and Rogue Art to put together a thoughtful exhibition and book of landscape works from his collection; ‘Thinking of Landscapes’. This show demonstrates his personal journey as a collector. The show brought together Chinese ink works from Chen Ping and Yu Peng, Latiff Mohidin’s representations of his interior mind-scape and contemporary works by Michael Lee and Debbie Ding; the former using architectural plans of buildings left unbuilt to invoked fleeting memories of imagined or forgotten landscapes. A group of collector friends recently hosted ‘Alchemy’ at Artspace at Helutrans featuring important regional artists, Yee-I-Lan, Dinh Q Le, John Santos and international stars, Olafur Eliasson, Wolfgang Tillmans and Theaster Gates. It was an interesting opportunity to see these works together in Singapore.

Alchemy Installation View; Image courtesy of Alchemy.

Alchemy Installation View; Image courtesy of Alchemy.

 

The common thread amongst these forms of display are that you are also advocating for your artists. As a collector and connoisseur, part of the allure is to be able to support and share the vision of ‘your’ artists with others. Renowned collector of Chinese contemporary art, Uli Sigg, developed a collecting plan in the early 1990s and then relentlessly sought out curators in Europe to take an interest in the Chinese contemporary scene and visit the artists’ studios. The aim of his collection was to capture a moment in contemporary Chinese history; it is an embodiment of the zeitgeist at the time.

If much of your collection finds its way into storage, then an increasingly popular route is to use the collection as collateral. Modern art is more suited to this than contemporary art as the values are more stable. Specialized banks such as the Emigrant Fine Art Bank in New York are willing to loan against Modern Masters. This allows a collector to take advantage of the increased market value of a work without divesting it; and to open up possibilities of collecting new works. Typically, loans are offered on works over a fairly significant price point, say $500,000, with specialists viewing the work and the storage arrangements.

It almost sounds glib but it is very sound advice to buy the very best you can afford. Many passionate collectors will stretch themselves; Marc and Livia Straus started collecting in their 20s when Marc was at medical school. One of their early purchases was an Ellsworth Kelly which took them three years to pay off.

Divesting works from your collection

Whilst I would advise all collectors to buy works you wish to hold for life, sometimes your tastes change. We change throughout life and as you look back at your early purchases, you can trace your own personal history; one of the joys of collecting.

It is generally harder to divest well than to buy well. There are a number of routes to divest successfully including (i) returning the work to the gallery you bought it from, (ii) traditional auction houses, (iii) private sales or, (iv) online auction houses.

During your journey from art buyer to collector to connoisseur, it is important to build relationships with galleries directly or via your advisor. Galleries like to work with collectors who won’t flip the art (buy and quickly re-sell at a profit at public auction). When it is time to divest, your first port of call is the gallery you bought the work from. They may have a long waiting list of buyers for the artist and will want to ensure the work doesn’t appear at auction at a bad time. Many galleries explicitly guard against collectors re-selling work too quickly by including resale clauses on the invoice. These restrict the buyer from selling the work publicly for 3-5 years or giving the gallery right of first refusal.

If this avenue is not fruitful, the traditional auction houses such as Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Guardian, Poly Auctions were historically the way to sell art (usually a generation or so after it was bought). Before buying or selling anything at auction, I recommend attending an auction to experience the unique magic of the sale room and to see how prices can sky-rocket or works can fall flat.

Untitled (1982) by the street art-inspired Neo-Expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $57 million at a Post-War and Contemporary Art sale at Christie’s New York recently. This price will include a buyer's premium.

Untitled (1982) by the street art-inspired Neo-Expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $57 million at a Post-War and Contemporary Art sale at Christie’s New York recently. This price will include a buyer’s premium.

Auction houses charge commissions at both ends of the transaction to cover their hefty costs and exemplary marketing machine. Christie’s do not reveal their seller’s commission and offer a sliding scale dependent upon how keen they are to consign a sought-after work. However, it can be up to 10%. The seller may also be charged for marketing, restoration, shipping and handling. The buyer’s commission is listed on all of the auction house websites and is known as the buyer’s premium. Sotheby’s buyer’s premium is 25% on the first $200,000 of the hammer (sale) price. There is a sliding scale thereafter, with the premium moving down as the hammer price moves up. To help buyers understand the true price of a work during the bidding process, financial blogger Felix Salmon launched an app, GAVEL, to calculate the actual cost to the buyer. In some countries the buyer must also pay an Artist Resale Royalty (a right of the artist or his heirs to receive a fee on the resale of their works of art). The advantage of the big auction houses is the marketing effort they lavish on their big sales and their global reach.

The last 10 years have seen an explosion in online auction houses. The bigger players are US-based Paddle8 and Berlin-based Auctionata. Saffron Art in India has a blended offline and online model and recorded the highest price paid for an Indian sculpture ever. The advantage of the new online model is the lower commissions for both seller and buyer. New York based, Paddle8 has a buyer’s premium of 15%, a 10% saving on Sotheby’s.

A final consideration is a private sale. These may be organized by auction houses or galleries or private dealers. They will effectively aim to match-make a seller with a buyer via their network. This ensures your privacy and a lower commission.

If you like this article, check out parts one and two below:

How to Successfully Invest in Art Part One.

How to Successfully Invest in Art Part Two.

This story was first published in Art Republik.

Royal Treat: Louis XIII L’Odyssee d’un Roi

Always pushing the boundaries of exclusivity and luxurious design, cognac house Remy Martin, in collaboration with some of the biggest names in artisanal design, has come up with a full luxury set featuring its Louis XIII cognac at the heart. The aptly titled L’Odyssee d’un Roi (A King’s Odyssey because, of course) features a bespoke trunk by Hermes, pieces by silversmith Puiforcat, and glasswork by royal crystallerie Saint-Louis. It will be auctioned off in New York at Sotheby’s in September. The proceeds from the auction will benefit the Film Foundation, a non-profit that works to preserve and restore classic films. You might recall that Louis XIII enjoys grand theater, as evidenced by its efforts with the John Malkovich film.

The bespoke trunk by Hermes is entirely hand-stitched with fine leathers and bears the same design as a classic steamer trunk (fitting in with the Odyssey theme). Puiforcat has its hand in making the elegant white-gold pipette bearing the name and the logo. The beautiful decanter with its ridges on the side, as well as four serving glasses, were blown by a craftsperson, cut, and engraved with impeccable skill at Saint-Louis. The whole package comes with a book chronicling the global journey of the cognac that boasts a history stretching back to the 1870s. All of it added up together as 1,000 hours of labor split between 50 artisans.

Of course we have to take note of the cognac itself. The liquid gold in each decanter is the work of both the current cellar master Baptiste Loiseau and his predecessor Pierrette Trichet. The blend invokes tints and notes of myrrh, honey, immortelle, plum, honeysuckle, wood bark, leather and passion fruits. What we know from oficial sources is that this blend is not the standard Louis XIII offering, although it is still all Grand Champagne. Before the auction, the three sets created will be exhibited in New York, Hong Kong and London.

You can watch how the process of craftsmanship comes together below, and if you want to know more, you can check out Remy Martin’s website.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=timJRo58Lh0&feature=youtu.be

Oppenheimer Blue Sets Record Price at Christie’s

In what seems like a week of record-breaking auctions, the Oppenheimer Blue diamond has been sold for a historic $57.5 million. This final price at a Christie’s auction in Geneva easily overshadowed the $48.4 million price tag of the 12.03-carat “Blue Moon of Josephine” last year.

The Fancy Vivid Blue rectangular-cut gem, weighing an impressive 14.62 carats, was the lead item at Christie’s Geneva Magnificent Jewels auction at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, Geneva, May 18, 2016.

The stunner was named after its previous owner, Sir Philip Oppenheimer – a name synonymous with precious gems, largely because his family owned the legendary diamond company De Beers.

Set in a platinum ring, and flanked on either side by a trapeze-cut diamond, the Oppenheimer Blue’s VVS1 (Very Very Slightly Included) clarity grade is one step below Internally Flawless. This means that the gem only has minute inclusions that are difficult for a skilled grader to see, even under 10x magnification. Its very rare medium to dark tone has earned it the prestige of being labelled “the gem of gems”.

This result comes after the Unique Pink – a 15.38-carat vivid pink diamond –  was reported sold for $31.56 million at Sotheby’s.

Vintage Ferrari 250 GTE to Sell on Luxglove

Attention car lovers! The online curated marketplace Luxglove based in Singapore has announced a private sale of a vintage Ferrari 250 GTE on their website. This model is the 265th unit in a series of 954 units, and maintains the original Ferrari Red exterior and black interior from the first production run.

FerrariGTE_008

Ferraris have been on the rise lately among collectors, with the 275 NART Spider aiming to be one of the most expensive ever auctioned at Sotheby’s. In general, the Prancing Horse badge is now a mark of dependable collectibility. This is definitely a good opportunity to be a Ferrari collector, or, if you’re already a fan, to increase the stock of your current collection.

FerrariGTE_017

To find out more on how you can get your hands on this beauty, you head over to Luxglove where they’ll set you up for a sale.

Most Expensive: $31 million Unique Pink Diamond

Another diamond has hit the auction block, with a great deal of fanfare, but this particular rock has delivered on those promises with its unusual size and exceptional quality. The result was a record-breaking sale and a happy moment for the Asian collector who walked away with it.

The 15.38-carat vivid pink diamond, affectionately dubbed “Unique Pink” is not only the biggest of its kind to go on auction, it also sold for an eye-watering total of $31.56 million, making it the most expensive fancy vivid pink diamond ever to sell at auction. For some context, just look at the picture above and realize that the stone is about the size of the human eye.

Sotheby's Sale of Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels 17.05.16

The prized jewel, set in a simple ring, was sold to an Asian private buyer who was bidding via phone. “Exactly one year after having set the world record for a jewelry sale, Sotheby’s Geneva has raised the bar once again with a great sale and a great result for the Unique Pink,” said David Bennett, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewellery Division.

Sotheby’s, who valued the gem at $28 – $38 million, revealed that the Unique Pink was discovered less than five years ago in a South African mine. “It is difficult to imagine a diamond that better illustrates the term Vivid Pink than this outstanding stone. The color is simply astonishing and, for its size, it is in my experience truly unique,” Bennett added.

The Unique Pink (iii)

Tuesday’s auction also saw a 7.32-carat blue diamond being sold for $17.1 million. The magnificent spring jewel auctions continue in Geneva at Christie’s, where the biggest ever vivid blue diamond – the 14.62-carat “Oppenheimer Blue” – will hit the auction block at an estimated $38 — $45 million. The massive gem belonged to Britain’s Sir Philip Oppenheimer, a kingpin in the world diamond market for nearly 50 years at famed jeweller De Beers.

Oppenheimer Diamond To Set New Auction Record?

Tuesday, May 17 sees the Four Seasons des Bergues hotel in Geneva hosting a landmark sale of 280 lots from Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction. Valued at $113 million, the lots include several pieces from Gabriela zu Leiningen as well as the famous Oppenheimer diamond.

The 14.62-carat diamond is one of the star attractions of the auction as it may just beat the sale record set by rival auction house Sotheby’s late last year. Once owned by Phillip Oppenheimer, the man behind the De Beers mining company, the diamond is now valued at between $38 to $45 million. The record to beat is currently held by The Blue Moon of Josephine, sold for $48.4 million, to Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau.

“It’s a fabulous diamond, the most beautiful I have even seen and it could set a record price,” said Jean-Marc Lunel, Christie’s jewel expert. According to Christie’s, the Oppenheimer diamond is the largest ever sold at auction in the exclusive Fancy Vivid Blue category, which groups rare gems of exceptional color and clarity. However, it must be noted that there is still a chance that the Oppenheimer diamond could have the same fate as the 9.54-carat blue diamond ring owned by Shirley Temple. With so much at stake, it is little wonder that this is an auction that many are keeping a eye on.

New York Art Auctions Clinch More Than $1 Bln

New York’s spring art auction season saw the market slow somewhat but not collapse, held up by buying from savvier collectors.

Since the fireworks of the $2.6 billion spring 2015 season, the market has played it by ear, destabilized by China’s economic slowdown. Total sales this season were in excess of $1 billion – in line with expectations.

“There has been a change. There’s a smarter population of people buying,” said Christopher D’Amelio, a partner at the David Zwirner gallery, which has two art spaces in New York and one in London.

“There’s not this kind of trendy euphoria that might have been before,” he said of the auction season.

Christie’s and Sotheby’s had approached the crucial week, which ended Thursday night, with caution.

“Bidding was measured, probably as measured as I’ve seen over the last three or four years,” said Jussi Pylkkanen, global president of Christie’s International.

“Curating remains very important,” he said, adding that it was important to “choose exactly the right type of works that appeals to the broad market.” The two auction houses managed to move a large proportion of their offerings, with the exception of Monday’s sale in which only two-third of the works were sold.

This season, it was contemporary art that attracted the buzz. On Tuesday, a giant painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat set a new record for the artist at $57.3 million.

Other record-setting sales for artists included a sculpture of Adolf Hitler on his knees, titled “Him” by 55-year-old Italian Maurizio Cattelan, which fetched $17.2 million.

A 1939 painting by Frida Kahlo depicting two nude women sold Thursday for $8 million, the highest price yet for any work by the iconic Mexican artist.

“There’s still a great deal of wealth in the world and … no lack of buyers. It’s just that you have to be fair with your buyers, you have to be correct with your pricing and you have to have good works,” D’Amelio said.

Asian buyers, who everyone feared would stay away, turned up.

“They have been active in the past few years but now they’re starting to understand other genres of art. Abstraction, minimalism, things that were not natural when we started showing there,” said D’Amelio.

“There’s a real growth and a willingness to understand and an appetite and I think I’ve seen the effects of it” at the auctions on Tuesday and Wednesday, he said.

The Basquiat painting was purchased by Japanese online shopping entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, who spent nearly $100 million in two days on purchases including lesser-known works like a painting by Romanian artist Adrian Ghenie.

Asian buyers are interested in works by abstract painters Willem de Kooning and Joan Mitchell, and the minimalist Donald Judd, said Saara Pritchard, head of contemporary art at Christie’s.

“We’re really focusing on engaging a whole new client base,” Pylkkanen said. “They particularly see 21st and 20th century abstraction through fresh eyes.”

D’Amelio said the Asian buyers’ interest is sincere, and that the trend was “just beginning, actually.”

Large Basquiat Sells for $57 Million at Christie’s

Untitled (1982) by the street art-inspired Neo-Expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat has sold for $57 million at a Post-War and Contemporary Art sale over at Christie’s New York, making it the top lot of the sale. The entire sale fetched a total of around $318 million across its 61 lots, outdoing the lackluster Impressionist and Modern art at Sotheby’s that only managed $144 million across 62 lots.

“This painting drew intense competition that dispelled questions of a market contraction. We are particularly happy that the work was acquired by a collector in Asia, demonstrating the global scope of the masterpiece market” commented Brett Gorvy, the Chairman and International Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art. The other top seller of the auction was Mark Rothko’s No. 17, which managed around $32 million. The sale established five new world record auctions for artists other than Basquiat: Agnes Martin, Mike Kelley, Richard Prince, Kerry James Marshall and Barry X Ball.

Basquiat is well known for his wild frenetic style, mixed in with his own eccentric visual language drawing from a rich symbology – skulls, masks, crowns – and other hermetic motifs that seemingly refer to his African heritage. In this Basquiat painting, he utilizes a drawing of a blackened skull fitted with horns, with colorful streaks dripped at the side, and a swirling ambiguous background of pinks, blues, and browns. The stripped down and cartoony style of the skull places the work firmly in pop art as well, which Basquiat was deeply influenced by, being one of the members frequenting Andy Warhol’s Factory studio. The whole painting is 94 by 197 inches, giving an epic propensity to the artist’s inner struggles.

The oeuvre of Basquiat fits well into the Neo-Expressionist movement of the late 20th century. Calling to mind the influence of earlier expressionists such as Edvard Munch, Egon Schiele, and Emil Nolde, these painters drew less figuratively and gave more psychological weight to every stroke, splaying color across the canvas to disfigure the body or landscape. While the past expressionists didn’t exactly cross over into full abstraction, and many still kept to capturing forms, albeit tortured; Neo-Expressionism comes after all that, and brings a full array of contemporary influences to the table.

The influence of Basquiat has spread to countless street artists, painters, even carrying over into our digital era. Blogger and artist Sammy thrashLife has a style that’s frequently compared to the art of Basquiat, especially his works that blend writing together with drawing. Indie and experimental comic artist Sarah Horrocks cited him as influential to her in how “he’d put something in his paintings, and then visibly hide it—that art could be a public secret to yourself—it’s like exhibitionist pain”.

With Picasso failing to sell and Basquiat going strong, the narrative seems to be inverted. Basquiat himself was originally greatly influenced by Picasso’s style.

Images courtesy of CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LTD. 2016

Rodin Sells Big At Sotheby’s, Picasso Falters

Sotheby’s achieved mixed results for their Impressionist and Modern Art auction. While they managed to sell Rodin’s Éternel printemps sculpture for close to twice the estimate, other top-billed lots failed to attract the interest of any buyer. One of these was Fauvist André Derain’s Les Voiles Rouges, which was one of the highest estimated at $15-20 million. The other highly estimated Fauvist work, Maurice de Vlaminck’s Sous-Bois, managed to hit $16.38 million.

Other big names that failed to sell include Picasso, Edvard Munch, Marc Chagall, René Magritte, Egon Schiele, and Paul Gauguin. Monet remained spectacular, with a painting selling at $9.8 million (the estimate was $3-5 million). The total raked in for the auction was $144 million.

On the other hand, contemporary art seemed to be better off, with Christie’s Bound to Fail auction pulling a total of around $78 million for 39 lots, managing to sell all their provocative stock, while their Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale raked in around $318 million. Stars from the former includes Maurizio Cattelan’s infamous Hitler sculpture Him which went for around $17 million (slightly above its estimate), and Jeff Koons’ One Ball Total Equilbrium Tank by Jeff Koons, reaching over $15 million. In the latter sale, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s large Untitled made a big splash, going for around $57 million.

Sotheby’s, as a whole, seems to be going through rough times, with Artnet reporting that the revenues for the auction house fell by almost one-third during the first quarter of 2016. With two more contemporary Art sales coming up for them, perhaps they’ll strike lucky next time.

 

This story was written in-house, based various reports, including one from the AFP

Most Expensive Diamond: Lucara Constellation

In the diamond industry, all eyes seem to be on Lucara. They’ve just sold an 813 carat diamond, named The Constellation, for $63 million, which is an all-time record for the sale of a rough diamond. That isn’t the end of it, though. They’ve got an even bigger 1,109 carat one on its way to Sotheby’s in London on June 29. Anyway, what this sale does is set the benchmark for the coming sale, which is now leaving all collectors, observers and probably Sotheby’s auctioneers drooling at what possible unprecedented heights the next auction could reach.

The Constellation name was created as a part of a partnership with rough-diamond trading company Nemesis International DMCC, who, as a part of the sale, will ensure that Lucara will retain 10% interest in the net profit received from resultant polished diamonds sold. Both The Constellation and the Lesedi La Rona are considered Type IIa diamonds, making them some of the rarest and purest out there.

“We are very pleased with the result from the sale of this magnificent 813 carat diamond as well as the opportunity to further participate in profits earned when the polished product is sold. The sale of the 813 carat diamond is the highest price ever achieved for a rough diamond, breaking all records. This achievement solidifies our reputation in the jewelry industry as one of the most important sources of diamonds of the very highest quality. We look forward to the next stage of Lucara’s development with the sale of the spectacular 1,109 carat, Lesedi La Rona diamond which will take place at Sotheby’s London on June 29, 2016” said President and CEO William Lamb.

The effect was immediate. Lucara shares had soared by 8.58 percent by mid-afternoon on the Stockholm market. With high expectations abound, the sale of the Lesedi La Rona is sure to be something to anticipate.

New York Auction Season Set to Open Strong

It’s an art extravaganza for collectors this season, with 1,500 artworks set up to go under the hammer in a mere five days of auctions kicking off Sunday. The main events are various contemporary and modern art sales going down over at Christie’s and Sotheby’s held in the evening. From the most boundary-breaking contemporary art to the most delicately wrought modern art, these are some of the most interesting offerings up on the sales.

Christie’s – Bound to Fail (8 May)

Viewed from the back, a smallish child-sized figure kneels innocently. Walk to the front, and you’ll discover it’s actually a model of the infamous dictator Hitler. Maurizio Cattelan’s Him characterizes a lot of the works in this 39-piece specially curated sale. Creative vision can sometimes be at the expense of critical acclaim and commercial success, and that’s what the works over here aim to show. The name itself stems from Bruce Nauman’s dedication to the sculptor Henry Moore with his sculpture Henry Moore Bound to Fail, depicting a bound torso.

Other pieces on display includes: Marcel Duchamp’s infamous version of the Mona Lisa featuring a goatee; a crucified cartoon frog by Martin Kippenberger; a single basketball submerged in a tank by Jeff Koons; and David Hammons prints made with his body.

Sotheby’s – Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale (9 May)

A good selection of art takes centerstage at this Sotheby’s sale, with famous names such as Picasso, Magritte, Monet, and Gauguin competing for attention. The stars of this sale will probably be two paintings by French artists Maurice de Vlaminck and Andre Derain.

Both artists were a part of the Fauvist movement from the early 20th century that eschewed the normal colors of impressionism for bold brush strokes and bright colors. Derain’s Les Voiles Rouges (estimated $15-$20 million) depicts boats with red sails over a body of water – though the water has been done up with countless strokes of red as well, complementing the sails. The sky also exists as a meld of several colors. Vlaminck’s Sous-Bois (estimated $12-$18 million) is an exuberantly vibrant depiction of natural scenery, with red, blue, green, and yellow mixing into trees, leaves, and grass. These two paintings have never been auctioned before.

Also for sale is Rodin’s L’Eternel Printemps – an exceptionally rare marble sculpture of embracing lovers, estimated to go at $8 – 12 million.

Christie’s – Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale (10 May)

In this sale, Mark Rothko’s No. 17 (estimated $30- $40 million) and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (estimated $40 million) stand as the strongest entries. It also features selections from Richard Prince and rarely seen mobiles from Alexander Calder.

The large Basquiat stands 2.30 meters tall and 5 meters wide, depicting a devilish mask in the center flanked on both sides by violent splashes of paint. Uses of mask, skulls, and other funerary art themes are common in the late-Haitian artist’s work. Rothko’s painting is one of the painter’s rare “blue” canvases, and features his trademark combination of minimalist color blocks.

Sotheby’s – Contemporary Art Evening Auction (11 May)

Francis Bacon’s self-portrait, expected to go up for $22-$30 million, is one of the main attractions here, but also included are works from Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, and Basquiat.

Two of Twombly’s paintings are also highly valued, going for possibly more than $40 million dollars and more than $20 million dollars respectively. The first, Untitled (New York City), is a part of his “Tableaux” series. It depicts squiggles on a drab background and shows Twombly’s place at the intersection of Pop Art, Minimalism, and Abstract Expressionism. Another painting from the same series went for a staggering $70.5 million at another Sotheby’s auction last autumn. The second piece, Untitled (Bacchus 1st Version V), is a part of his Bacchus series, and uses a stark blood-red pigment in rigorous strokes to invoke the mythic quality of the namesake god.

Christie’s – Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale (12 May)

The last evening of Christie’s auctions will be dedicated to Modern and Impressionist Art with 52 lots.

The sale is led by many of the standard great names, especially two works by Monet representing the best of his early art, a mousquetaire (depictions of swashbucklers) by Picasso, and a portrait by Modigliani featuring a young girl with a flower.

Lesedi la Rona Diamond at Sotheby’s Auction

If you have more $70 million in spare change just lying around and don’t know what to do with it, then maybe you should head down to Sotheby’s London on June 29 and convert it into something easier to handle. The auction house will be hosting a stand-alone auction for the largest rough diamond in existence on that day. How big is it? Just look at the picture above for some context!

The find is one of high significance as this is the largest gem-quality rough diamond to have been discovered in more than 100 years. At 1,109-carats, the gem comes from the Karowe mine in Botswana and has been named Lesedi la Rona or “Our Light “in the Tswana language. Boasting exceptional quality and transparency, the diamond is thought to be somewhere around 2.5 to 3 million years old. Experts at the Gemological Institute of America have found that the color and transparency of the gem ensures there is no nitrogen or boron present in the gem. Only 2% of all gemstone-quality diamonds fall into this highly prized category.

“The Lesedi la Rona is simply outstanding and its discovery is the find of a lifetime” said David Bennett, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s Jewelry Division. “It is a huge honor for Sotheby’s to have been entrusted with its sale. Every aspect of this auction is unprecedented. Not only is the rough superlative in size and quality, but no rough even remotely of this scale has ever been offered before at public auction” he added.

It remains to be seen if the gem will be able to yield the largest-top-quality diamond but the likelihood of it resulting in in a “D” color polished diamond is high. The only other rough gem diamond to beat the Lesedi la Rona is none other than the Cullinan Diamond from South Africa that weighed 3,106.75-carats. Mined in 1905, the diamond produced nine diamonds that now sit in the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. The most significant of the nine diamonds, is none other than the Cullinan I or Great Star of Africa at 530.20-carats, that is still the largest top-quality polished diamond known to man.

Who knows, maybe the Queen would like to add to her collection of gems, much like her grandfather King Edward.

 

Proust Archives to be Auctioned at Sotheby’s

Nowadays, reading Marcel Proust is usually seen as some sort of literary milestone – another mark to tick off on the must-read classics checklist (and something that this writer admits he has yet to achieve). That’s one of the downsides of having your novel be widely known as the ‘longest novel in the world’. Of course, anyone who takes a peek into the one-million-words-plus of Remembrance of Things Past knows that the writer holds much more than that mere record.

Arguably, this mammoth work is the most important single novel ever published in the Western world. To honor the writer’s legacy, Sotheby’s announced that it will be holding a sale of some 120 items from Proust’s personal archives in Paris (sold by the writer’s 41-year-old great-grand-niece Patricia Mante-Proust) – including a hand-corrected proof, photographs, and letters. The auction will commence May 31.

Remembrance of Things Past stands as a gigantic tome that defies any genre classification or convention, being partially autobiographical, though also fictional, and collecting together memories, dreams, events, and philosophical ideas into one great tapestry. Scholars have been excavating the book for ages, trying to track down the real life analogues to the characters, places, and works of art that Proust describes. Thus, pieces from the archives will probably be of great interest to any serious fan.

Some of the notable items are the photos, which depict Proust, his family, and close friends Lucien Daudet and Reynaldo Hahn, who were also his lovers. These hold special literary interest as well, since Proust’s sexuality was only revealed after his death, and it is widely speculated that the author hid traits of his lovers within some of the main female characters of the book. One of the images shows Daudet casting a dreamy gaze at Proust, while leaning an arm on the writer as another friend stands off to one side. The 1896 picture was deemed compromising, and the writer was ordered by his parents to get back any prints of it in circulation.

Also of literary note in the sale are letters from Proust to his father, who did not accept literature as a proper profession. The narrator’s relationship with his parents is also a theme in the novel, which famously opens with a description of his night terrors as a child and his dependence on his mother for comfort.

The crown jewel of the sale will most likely be the actual handwritten proofs for “In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower”, the second part of Remembrance, that includes crossed out passages and corrections. An original edition of “Swann’s Way”, the first volume of Remembrance, which was published in 1913, will also go up for sale. Experts estimate the entire collection will go for 520,000 to 740,000 euros ($600,000 to $850,000).

The daunting Proust has held a certain appeal for decades, and will probably continue to do so until someone churns out the next humongous tome worth looking at (though, the contender for the Proust of this century is the Norwegian Karl Ove Knausgård and his six-novel long autobiography). And for those who haven’t poked at it yet, perhaps it’s time to take a dip into “Swann’s Way”…

This story was written in-house, with an AFP report as background and multiple sources. Image courtesy of Gallimard