Thursday, April 24, 2008

An Auction of New Chinese Art Leaves Disjointed Noses in Its Wake

ARTmostfierce keeps finding more good articles. Check this one out!
NYTimes also by David Barboza
Published: May 7, 2008
SHANGHAI — Sotheby’s auction house called it the “most important collection of contemporary Chinese art to ever come to market” — some 200 works by some of China’s hottest names.

And when the first half of the trove, called the Estella Collection, went on the block in April in Hong Kong, it brought in $18 million and set some record prices for artists, like $6 million for a canvas by the Chinese painter Zhang Xiaogang.

But the sale of the works has stirred indignation among many of the artists and their dealers and some curators.

Those artists and curators say that as the collection was being formed, they were duped into thinking that a rich Westerner was putting together a permanent collection and would eventually donate some of the works to leading museums.

Instead, they say, the buyers were a group of investors who quickly cashed in by selling the works last August to the Manhattan dealer William Acquavella, who is in turn selling them through Sotheby’s. (The second half of the collection is to be auctioned this fall in New York.)

Some of the artists say they sold works in the Estella Collection at a discount in the belief that the collection would gain long-term renown and help enhance their reputations.

“I feel cheated,” said one of the artists, Feng Zhengjie, 40, known for his gaudy portraits of fashionable, lushly made-up women. “I can’t believe it ended up like that, just for an auction.”

Michael Goedhuis, the New York dealer who formed the collection for the group of investors, said he never misled anyone and had expected his investors to hold onto the works.

“The story was the same to everyone: this is a collection we intend on keeping intact,” said Mr. Goedhuis, who traveled to China for more than three years to collect the pieces. “There was a change of direction for various reasons. It was a big surprise and it was out of my control.”

Mr. Goedhuis declined to identify his investors, but The New York Times has already named two: Ray Debbane, president of the New York investment firm Invus Financial Advisors, and Sacha Lainovic, a co-founder and managing partner at Invus. Neither Mr. Debbane nor Mr. Lainovic returned telephone calls seeking comment.

Mr. Goedhuis said that in any case the artists had no reason to complain because they had benefited from the exposure. “They’re riding the wave,” he said.

In a statement issued last week, Sotheby’s acknowledged that in the final weeks before the sale it “became aware that a few artists had sold their works with a different expectation about what would happen to them in the future.” It said it hoped “the international exposure during this exciting time in the market would be helpful in furthering their careers.”

Aggravating the controversy, the auction was announced just after the works had been exhibited at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebaek, Denmark, from March to August of last year. Had they known the Estella Collection would quickly be sold, officials at the Danish museum said, they would never have organized the exhibition.

“We seriously regret that it turned out to be mere speculation, and there was dishonesty,” said Anders Kold, the curator of the show, titled “Made in China.” “We didn’t have that information, and so as a consequence, we went on with it.”

To retain the public trust and ensure that they are not used as marketing tools, museums generally try to avoid exhibiting private collections that are soon to be sold.

The show also traveled to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, closing there shortly before the April auction in Hong Kong. "At the time that the museum made arrangements for the exhibition, there was no indication of any intention to sell the collection,'' the Israel Museum said this week in an e-mail. "The museum learned of this development only toward the end of the showing.''

Please read more about it . Click link below!

No comments: