New York

Tagsmart weekly discovery: Sara Shamsavari’s global identity

Born in Tehran in the midst of the Iranian revolution, multi-disciplinary artist Sara Shamsavari overcame childhood cancer while she and her family fled persecution.

Raised in London and educated at Camberwell School of Art and Design and Central Saint Martins, her experiences inspired her exploration of identity and engendered a profound desire to make a difference through art.

At a time of increased division, conflict and polarisation around the world, Shamsavari’s works explore and celebrate global identity. While each of her photographic series has a distinct focus, together, they all seek to encourage a deeper understanding of our nuances as human beings in contrast to the current popular narratives that misrepresent, malign and often succeed in dividing and ‘othering’ those in the minority.

London Veil was her first series, portraying young women wearing the hijab on the streets of London, Paris, New York and Toronto.

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Her series Britain Retold: A Portrait of London is an exploration of British identity as known by the diverse communities living in London.

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She has also contributed to series such as The Dandy Lion Project by curator Shantrelle P. Lewis, which challenges its audience to rethink the outlook of black men perpetuated in the media today.

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With a belief that artists can be leaders in social and spiritual progress, Shamsavari seeks to encourage both participants and viewers in transforming the way we view society and ourselves.

Shamsavari’s work has been featured across various media and publications including BBC, The New York Times, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Elle, i-D and Dazed & Confused. Her work has been exhibited internationally in galleries, museums and public spaces and she has delivered a number of talks at cultural institutions, including Tate Britain and Southbank Centre.

Marit Geraldine Bostad exhibits at Madelyn Jordon Fine Art

Marit Geraldine Bostad describes her paintings as “intuitive, rich in colour, and passionate”. Her work is largely emotional and has a significant process behind it, eliminating the unnecessary and capture only the essence of the subject, resulting in strong, dynamic, abstract compositions.

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This Thursday, August 10th, Bostad presents her richly coloured and textured works, imbued with a fresh, youthful approach and positivity, alongside Liz Tran and Gary Komarin, in the Body Electric exhibition at the Madelyn Jordon Fine Art

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While diverse in methodology, technique and intent, the three artists share a passion for a vibrant, high key colour palette which imparts a celebratory energy to their work. With range and depth, the exhibition defines how the artists are advancing contemporary art practice through time-honoured modes of art-making. The show runs until September 9th.

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Originally an Art Director with 10 years of visual projects within film, illustration and concept building, Bostad has exhibited her work in Oslo, London and New York. Since her debut at The Other Art Fair in London in 2016, she has received substantial attention curators as well as galleries throughout Europe for her vibrant, joyful and contemporary abstract paintings. 

Tagsmart was here: Adrián Villar Rojas, Soul of a Nation and Dreamers Awake

From the Series ‘The Theatre of Disappearance’
Adrián Villar Rojas

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Adrián Villar Rojas calls into question the supremacy of any particular artwork. For his first exhibition in London since 2013, the Argentinian artist presents a life-size marble reproduction of the legs of Michelangelo’s David. The simplicity and beauty of the replicated 15th-century sculpture contrast with two adorable kittens smooching by his feet.

This piece is concurrent with exhibitions on the rooftop of The Met in New York, the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Bregenz, Austria and the NEON Foundation in Athens, Greece. 

Marian Goodman Gallery, until July 21
5-8 Lower John Street, W1F 9DY


Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power

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“The biggest achievement of this exhibition is the recovering of the talented legion of artists who have been kept out of the American canon of genius in a way that is utterly unjust,” says Jonathan Jones of The Guardian. Art from the 1950s is predominantly represented nowadays by American icons such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. 

Above is a painting April 4, which marks the first anniversary of the murder of Martin Luther King with a cascade of purple tears. This piece is by Sam Gilliam whose artistic genius was forgotten until only recently, now in his 80’s. But Gilliam’s art is not the only artwork to come out the woodwork, there are copies of The Black Panther magazine to self-portraits of Barkley Hendricks entitled Brilliantly Endowed and Frank Bowling’s unforgettable paintings. 

Tate Modern, until October 22
Bankside, SE1 9TG


Dreamers Awake
Eileen Agar, Leonora Carrington, Lee Miller, Dorothea Tanning, Leonor Fini, Francesca Woodman, Hannah Wilke, Louise Bourgeois, Rosemarie Trockel,  Kiki Smith, Paloma Varga Weisz, Mona Hatoum, Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas, amongst others

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This exhibition of more than 50 contemporary and emerging artists, as well as well-known Surrealist figures, artfully riffs around what it means to live inside rather than gaze upon a female form.

The show explores surrealism through the eyes of women, such as Mona Hatoum who subverts the objectification of the female form with Jardin Public (1993) or Claude Cahun who plays with gender identity as a fluid construct in her iconic black and white self-portraits from the 1930s.

White Cube Bermondsey, Until September 17
144-152 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TQ

Grandchildren of Matisse's muse sue National Gallery for reclaim of 'stolen' portrait

The National Gallery in London is being sued by the grandchildren of Matisse’s muse over a painting they claim was stolen from their family in the aftermath of WW II.

The three grandchildren – Oliver Williams, from Kent; his cousin Margaret Green, who lives in East Yorkshire, and a third Germany-based cousin, Iris Filmer – accuse the National Gallery of displaying a painting that rightfully belongs to them.

The trio, through their lawyer, claim that a film last year, Woman In Gold – detailing the struggle of Maria Altmann, played by Helen Mirren, to reclaim family possessions that were seized by the Nazis – shows that such cases are legally sound.

On Wednesday they launched legal proceedings in a federal court in Manhattan, after five years of wrangling over the ownership of the painting. The case was brought in New York because, the plaintiffs argue, the National Gallery has commercial interests in the US and has profited from the work.

The trio want the painting returned, or $30 million in compensation.

The celebrated 1908 oil painting shows their trio’s grandmother, Greta Moll – who sat for Matisse in Paris. Moll’s husband Oskar had bought the painting in 1908, and the couple returned to Germany.

Considered a masterpiece of Matisse’s fauve period, it was deemed so significant that it was shipped to New York for a 1931 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, in Manhattan.But the Nazis were fiercely critical of the Molls’ art work, labelling it degenerate and bourgeois. From 1933 on, Oskar and Greta Moll were prohibited by the Nazis from exhibiting their art in Germany. Articles in newspapers and art reviews defamed them as degenerate and bolshevist artists. They lived in Berlin until 1943, when the city became subject to massive bombing attacks. On their return, after the War, they found to their delight that the painting had survived. But, given the looting and chaos in the aftermath, they accepted an offer from a former student of Oskar Moll, Gertrud Djamarani, to take the painting to Switzerland and leave it with an art dealer for safekeeping. Djamarani, who was preparing to emigrate to Iran, then sold the painting, kept the proceeds, and left for the Middle East, according to the suit.

When Greta Moll died in 1977, she had no idea what had happened to it.

“Unfortunately, because of its refusal to return the portrait to the Moll heirs, the National Gallery has left the Moll family no other choice than to file suit to recover this lost family heirloom.”

From Switzerland, painting was imported to the US in 1949 by Knoedler & Co in New York City – a now defunct gallery, which in February settled a $25 million case for selling a fake Mark Rothko to the chairman of Sotheby’s.

The painting of Moll was then sold to a private collector, Lee Blaffer, in Texas, before being bought by the Lefevre gallery in London - who finally sold it to the National Gallery in 1979.

Gallery sued over US$100K Chiparus fakes

A Manhattan art gallery is being sued for selling inauthentic sculptures by the renowned art deco artist Demétre Chiparus. The cost? Over US$100,000.

Christopher Rouse claims Elliot Stevens gallery attempted to convince him that the statues were made using original molds which was acquired after the sculptor died in the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Rouse maintains to have been told that the statues were for sale at a 75% markdown because the gallery owners were retiring. In reality, however, the Romanian sculptor lived and died in Paris, and an expert witness at the trial in a Manhattan federal court testified that the statues were most likely Chinese-made forgeries copied from photographs.

The gallery denies that it mislead Rouse, insisting that his version of events are not true. According to documents, the gallery describes the artworks as having been “cast and carved from an original model by DH Chiparus.”

Elliot Stevens CEO Steven Shalom was scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday but was forced to postpone his testimony due to illness. Shalom will testify in October, when the trial continues.

What we learned from the Knoedler fakes scandal

Are collectors “stupid” to spend millions of dollars on a work of art without personally investigating its authenticity? This is what Robert Storr, the former dean of Yale University School of Art argues.

Storr was speaking at a panel hosted by Ifar (International Foundation for Art Research) in New York in July about the issues raised by the Knoedler fakes scandal, which resulted in the illustrious New York gallery’s closure. Knoedler and its former director claim they were duped by the forgeries of paintings by Rothko, Motherwell and Pollock, among others, as much as their customers were.

The question of who should investigate authenticity remains hotly contested. “If you’re dealing with a reputable dealer and getting… promises and information, you should be able to rely on that,” said John Cahill, who represented two Knoedler plaintiffs, at the event. Adam Sheffer, the president of the Art Dealers Association of America, believes that the buyers of the Knoedler fakes could have done more. “They could have worked with the gallery to ask questions… Everyone needs to take responsibility,” he said.

Portrait of Diana Vreeland stolen from Chelsea Hotel

A painting of the legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland by artist Bradley Theodore was taken from the lobby of the Dream Downtown Hotel in New York earlier this week. The thief, who was drinking at the hotel bar, paid his tab at 2:45 am, then grabbed the portrait and absconded. However, at around 7 pm the next day, a parcel containing the painting was delivered to the hotel by an anonymous messenger.

Jeff Koons' Gazing Ball sculpture at centre of legal tussle between art dealers

Lawyers for Blue Art Limited filed an amended complaint Wednesday night  against David Zwirner and his gallery, which Fabrizio Moretti says failed to deliver a work of art he bought for $2m. The new complaint comes after Zwirner’s motion to dismiss named the previously anonymous purchaser and called the lawsuit “a case of buyer’s remorse”. In response, Moretti’s recent court filings reveal the work at the heart of the case—Jeff Koons’ Gazing Ball (Centaur and Lapith Maiden) (2013), from the gallery’s show that year. And while he previously asked for the original purchase price for the work plus fees, Moretti’s updated suit seeks $6m in total damages.

In the new filing, Moretti’s lawyers say Zwirner and the gallery played “a kind of ‘three card monte’ in which the numbered casts of the sculpture”—an edition of three, plus an artist’s proof—“were distributed to their buyers willy-nilly”.

On 24 June 2014, according to the complaint, Moretti made a purchase agreement and soon put down a deposit of $400,000 on edition 2 of 3, his lawyers say. By early 2015, the gallery told Moretti that the sculpture was nearly complete and the collector started paying off what he owed. In April 2015, the work was ready but instead of being delivered to Moretti, it was labelled as edition 3 of 3 and taken to the Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Sotheby’s in May, where it carried an estimate of $1.5m to $2.5m—and failed to sell.

On 29 June 2015, the court papers say, Moretti paid the final $200,000 he owed and around that time, another sculpture was completed. This one, however, was labelled edition 1 of 3 and went to another buyer, who still owed the gallery $1.6m. Moretti, faced with a bad art market and a sculpture from a series that had now been unsold at auction, says he still had not received his piece by the time he filed his lawsuit on 4 August this year.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the editions that were made are not the same as the one shown at the Gazing Ball show at David Zwirner Gallery in May 2013, the complaint says. That is now classified as a “prototype” and the dimensions of the sculpture ready for collection by Moretti are different from the object he purchased, the collector says.

Moretti’s amended suit alleges that Zwirner’s dealings violate the New York Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, updated in 1991 to “augment the laws protecting art purchasers from the slippery practices of some art dealers”, according to the court papers, and to outline the information that must be provided to the buyer of a sculpture. Moretti is seeking additional damages because Zwirner violated the law in the vagueness of the purchase agreement and in the editioning, the court documents state. The complaint also accuses the dealer and gallery of breach of contract and fraud, among other charges.

Alec Baldwin, the Bait-and-Switch and ‘Original Copies’

News broke this weekend of actor Alec Baldwin having been duped into buying a copy of a painting, Sea and Mirror, that he had long admired, when he thought he was buying the original. But it was an original that he bought—just not the original he had hoped for.

Fake or Fortune: is this a genuine Lucian Freud?

In 1997, Jon Lys Turner was given a Lucian Freud painting by his friends and mentors, the artists Richard “Dickie” Chopping and Denis Wirth-Miller. Turner had just entered one of the British art world’s bitterest feuds. 

Beginning in a Suffolk art school in 1939, and rumbling on past Freud’s death at the age of 88 in 2011, it would involve the painter’s family, art experts and auction houses. At its heart was a single question – was the portrait of a man in a black cravat painted by Lucian Freud? 

For Turner this is more than an abstract debate about provenance. Chopping was a highly regarded illustrator responsible for the original James Bond book covers. Wirth-Miller was a brilliant tutor, but his career as an artist had not been dazzling. Acolytes of Francis Bacon, the two men were life partners and, like Freud, had both studied at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing at Hadleigh in Suffolk in the early 1940s. Somehow in this creative wartime milieu, Chopping and Wirth-Miller came by the picture. Turner still can’t pinpoint a specific incident that led to the enmity between Freud and Wirth-Miller, but its fierceness is beyond doubt. 

As late as 2003, Wirth-Miller – who also died in 2011 – was writing lists of “reasons I hate Lucian Freud”. Freud was one of the most distinctive portraitists of the 20th century, and this early work hints at what lies ahead. 

Could it really be that his hatred for Wirth-Miller was so strong that he would deny his own work? Or was the painting actually a fake? For more than 20 years, auction houses and experts have told him he owns a genuine Freud, only for them all to change their minds. 

Now, thanks to Fake or Fortune?’s line-up of art experts and scientists, the matter can finally be settled. Turner admits he has grown to like the mystery of owning a painting that might or might not be by Lucian Freud. If it is genuine, will he sell it? “I think so. Then I’d have fulfilled my pledge. It wasn’t about the money for Dickie and Denis. It was a matter of honour. For them, it was about the feud.”

Freud’s famously fleshy nude, Benefits Supervisor Resting, sold for £35.4 million in New York last year – the highest price that has ever been paid for a painting by a British artist. 

Fake Monet, Renoir paintings cost dealer US$31M and his reputation

Alex Komolov, the owner of the Alskom Gallery in Manhattan, is in the midst of a six-year legal battle against his former business colleagues for allegedly selling him more than US$31 million worth of fake art. He’s seeking to recoup his money and restore his name.

Komolov claims David Segal and Mohamed Serry tricked him into buying US$30 million worth of fraudulent Monet, Vlaminck, Picasso and Manet paintings, among other antiques, between 2007 and 2009. Komolov purchased the works through his company High Value Trading and also claims Segal and Serry, owners of Artique Multinational, skipped out on paying US$4.2 million for his New York City condo in 2007.

In a second suit, Komolov is targeting Universe Antiques owner Jack Shaoul for allegedly selling him a fraudulent Renoir painting in 2011 for US$1.2 million.

Manhattan gallery sued over fake Warhol prints

Scandal has rocked the prominent Lower East Side Woodward Gallery as the art dealers now face a lawsuit from an irate former investor.

85 year-old Oregon resident Nira Levine claims the gallery’s owners, John and Kristine Woodward, doctored authenticity documents for 90 Andy Warhol prints from the “Space Fruit” series they sold her in 2008.

Now Levine has filed a suit against them to discover whether the details of her other investments with the gallery, which include stakes in over 50 modern masterpieces, were also falsified, reports the New York Post.

The petition, filed in New York Supreme Court on June 30, stipulates that Levine either purchased the pieces outright or co-owned them with the Woodwards, who then resold them and evenly split the proceeds with Levine.

Two more antiquities may have to be returned by the National Gallery of Australia to India

Two more Asian antiquities in the National Gallery of Australia’s collection may have to be returned to India, with news of a new arrest in relation to an Indian art smuggling ring. Another antiquity trader has been arrested who may be involved in the looting of two pieces – an 1800-year-old limestone carving showing a scene from the life of Buddha and a 12th century statue of the Hindu goddess Pratyangira.

The report says investigators believe antiquity trader Deena Dayalan sold these two sculptures to disgraced New York art dealer Subhash Kapoor, who is awaiting trial in an Indian prison. Kapoor sold the pieces to the NGA in 2005, which paid $800,000 for the Buddha and nearly $340,000 for the goddess Pratyangira.

Following an investigation by the NGA of its Asian art collection, the uncertain provenance of the works had already been flagged in the Crennan Report, released by the gallery in February, which identified at least 22 works under suspicion.