Published: March 20, 2001
Trade News from around the World
Verena Dobnik of the Associated Press, joining other voices in the media, writes that the decision by Henry Kravis, Sotheby’s board member, to sell his Renoirs with Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg is yet another sign of the emergence of Phillips as a major competitor in an art world long dominated by Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Having already stocked its ranks with some former Sotheby’s employees, Phillips is making another mark this spring. Construction is under way for the auction house’s new headquarters on some of the world’s most expensive real estate, near the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in Manhattan. “Phillips is the new kid on the block, and they have to run double time to attract new clients,” Nancy White, a Manhattan art dealer, told Dobnik. Phillips would not discuss the sale of Kravis’ Renoirs, which was first reported by The New York Times. The auction house is offering collectors such high monetary guarantees that it is out-pricing its competitors, says Scott Black, president of Delphi Management Inc. of Boston, and a collector of Impressionists. Kravis did not return a call to AP for comment.
Adding insult to injury, Sotheby’s Holdings, Inc., the parent company of Sotheby’s worldwide live and online auction businesses, art-related financial services and real estate activities, announced results for the full year ended December 31, 2000. For 2000 the Company reported total revenues of $397.8 million, compared to $442.6 million for the previous year. Net loss for 2000 was $189.7 million, or $3.22 per diluted share, compared to net income of $32.9 million, or $0.56 per diluted share for 1999. Results for the year ended December 31, 2000 were impacted by pre-tax special charges of $203.1 million, or $2.71 per diluted share, related to the Department of Justice antitrust investigation and related matters, and pre-tax restructuring charges of $12.6 million, or $0.14 per diluted share, recorded in the fourth quarter of 2000. Excluding special charges and restructuring charges, the Company reported a diluted loss per share of $0.37 for 2000. Total auction sales in North America decreased 17 percent to $1,043.2 million, principally due to lack of single-owner sales. In Europe, auction sales decreased 13 percent to $786.0 million. Excluding the unfavorable impact of foreign currency translations, auction sales in Europe decreased five percent. According to the firm, the decrease was primarily due to the rescheduling of the Impressionist Art and Contemporary Art sales in the United Kingdom from December of 2000 to February of 2001. Sales for rival Christie’s, on the other hand, rose 12 percent. Regarding the losses at sothebys.com, president and CEO William Ruprecht told Carol Vogel of The New York Times: “It’s still early days. It’s a new business and we’re optimistic. We’ve brought over 30,000 new customers into Sotheby’s because of it.”
A $30 million gift will enable the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., to buy a famous painting of George Washington from its British owner, who had said he was prepared to put it up for auction. Lawrence Small, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, told AP’s Carl Hartman March 13 that the portrait would be sent on a nationwide tour before the renovated gallery reopens in 2004. The “Lansdowne” portrait, often reproduced in school texts, is by Gilbert Stuart, who was born in Rhode Island and grew up in Newport. The grant to buy the portrait comes from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. Reynolds’ Donrey Media Group owned 52 newspapers in Nevada, Oklahoma and Arkansas, plus other communications outlets from North Carolina to Hawaii, when he died in 1953 and left the bulk of his fortune to the foundation. Of the $30 million, $20 million will go to the picture’s owner, Lord Harry Dalmeny, 33-year-old heir of a wealthy family. He was planning to sell it at auction unless the Smithsonian was able to pay $20 million by April 1. The remainder of the grant will be divided with $6 million to finance the tour and $4 million to pay for a permanent installation for the “Lansdowne” at the portrait gallery.
eBay Inc., looking for ways to grow in a tough time for online companies, is forming a strategic alliance with Microsoft Corp. that could help each company extend its reach, writes Brian Bergstein of AP. The partnership announced March 12 calls for Microsoft to incorporate eBay’s auctions into some MSN Web sites, such as the Carpoint auto-shopping service and bCentral service for small businesses. The arrangement will let software programmers use Microsoft Web-design tools to develop applications that work with the massive eBay site. That could help bring eBay’s auctions to pagers, Web-connected TVs and handheld computers, and to new places on the Internet, eBay CEO Meg Whitman said.
News of eBay’s deal with Microsoft came just days after The New York Times reported that three men working in conjunction to bid up prices on fraudulent artworks on eBay have been indicted on 16 counts of wire and mail fraud. The men allegedly tried to bilk bidders out of more than $450,000 using fictitious e-mails, online names, and stories.
eBay has also entered into a “marketing agreement” with artnet.com, announced March 19, which will allow artnet’s Fine Art Auctions Database to be accessed on eBay’s Premier site. According to a release, arnet’s services will be promoted on eBay, while Premier users may tap into “historical price data specific to each lot offered in the fine art category of eBay Premier, to enhance bidder confidence in making purchases…artnet.com itself will be promoted on a rotating basis on the home page of eBay Premier.”
Stan Klos’ Gallery of Fame, Inc., a Pittsburgh, Pa. business, and Kaller’s America Gallery, Inc., the New York City manuscript dealer, have given up their fight to keep a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence, the State of Maine announced March 15. The firms agreed to turn over possession of the document to the town of North Yarmouth after new information about the chain of ownership surfaced during a legal battle, James Henderson, state archivist, told David Sharp of the Associated Press. The poster-sized document was one of the copies of the original Declaration of Independence that were sent to the 13 colonies and to churches to get the word out in 1776. At the time, Maine was part of the state of Massachusetts. It was discovered by auctioneer Kaja Veilleux during preparations for an estate sale at the home of Nellie Leighton, North Yarmouth’s volunteer historian, who died in May 1999. Veilleux sold the document for $99,000 to Klos and Kaller about a month later. The document, which was addressed to Pastor Gillman in North Yarmouth, is believed to be one of a handful of broadside copies issued by E. Russell Printers of Salem, Mass. “No. 16” is stamped on the back. “In the final analysis …our primary goal is to preserve America’s historic documents, whether in public or in private hands,” Seth Kaller said in a statement.
Louis Faurer, 84, a photographer who captured images of the street, died March 2 in Manhattan. He worked as a fashion photographer from the 1940s to the late ’70s for magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Flair. Although Faurer wasn’t famous, those in the photography world knew his work. Photographer Edward Steichen included Faurer’s photographs in the 1955 “Family of Man” exhibition. Born on August 28, 1916, in Philadelphia to Polish immigrant parents, Faurer developed an interest in art when he was a boy, purchasing his first camera in 1937 from photographer Ben Somoroff. After studying commercial art, he painted advertising signs and worked as a photographic technician in portrait studios. In the late 1970s and early ’80s, Faurer received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim Fellowship and taught at various schools, including Yale University and what was then the New School for Social Research. His photographs will be shown in a retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, January 20 to April 14, 2002, reports AP.
According to The New York Times, sculptor Helen Beling, 87, died March 12 in Bandon, Ore. Her work has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at the Whitney Museum of American Art and is in the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. Beling worked first with wood before moving to stone, bronze, and steel.
Patrick McCaughey has announced he will leave the directorship of Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Conn., on June 30 to “seek new opportunities in the arts and to undertake a period of research and writing.” He will, according to YCBA president Richard C. Levin, pursue his interests as a senior research fellow of the center during 2001-02. McCaughey has served for the past five years as director of Yale Center for British Art. He arrived at Yale after a period at Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, Conn.
The Buffalo Bill Historical Center Board of Trustees has elected Richard B. Cheney and Victor J. Riley, Jr. to their board at a recent board meeting. Richard (Dick) Cheney is the 46th vice president of the United States under George W. Bush. He was White House chief of staff for President Gerald Ford and secretary of defense for President George H. W. Bush. Victor J. Riley, Jr. is Chairman Emeritus of KeyCorp. He retired in September of 1995 after shepherding the growth of KeyCorp from a banking corporation of $1.2 billion in assets with 89 offices to one of nearly $67 billion in assets and more than 1,300 offices. Buffalo Bill Center executive director B. Byron Price commented, “Vice President Cheney has been a member of the Buffalo Bill Historical center since 1980 and is a longtime supporter of our museum.”
Comedian and actor Steve Martin will display his collection of modern and contemporary art April 7 at the Bellagio hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Why a Las Vegas casino? “The real reason,” Martin says in a catalog to be sold at his first-ever show, is “it sounds like fun.” Martin’s show of 28 pieces will include works by Georges Seurat, Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso, David Hockney, Edward Hopper and others. Two works, by David Park and Neil Jenney, that Martin previously donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, will also be shown. “The juxtaposition of great art in Las Vegas seems almost like an oxymoron,” Alan Feldman, spokesman for MGM-Mirage Resorts, which owns Bellagio, told the Associated Press.
AboveStream.com has announced that it offers an online library of more than 500 full-length art-related streaming videos addressing every major art period. The firm permits other Web sites to cut and paste links to these videos into their pages. The videos then play directly from the page of the new site so viewers are not directed away.
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