Sotheby's

Mario Testino auctions his art collection at Sotheby’s London

On September 13, Mario Testino will auction 41 items from his personal art collection with Sotheby’s to benefit Museo MATE, the nonprofit cultural centre he founded in Lima, Peru. 

Testino is a voracious admirer and friend of many of the artists represented in the sale — from Richard Prince to Cindy Sherman to Wolfgang Tillmans —making this a rare auction that represents more than acquisitions. No wonder the title of the sale is “Shake It Up”. 

According to Testino, “it’s a big exercise to detach yourself from your belongings in order to satisfy greater ambitions. I’ve been collecting for over 25 years and I’ve never ever sold anything. Today is the first time that I’ve decided to sell something because I can see a reason to sell. It’s allowing me to give back to the community that gave me everything.”

Testino explains he came to know and love some of the works with which he’s parting: “in the art world, sometimes it’s not enough to like something; you have to be puzzled by it. You hang it on a wall and every time you see [it], you discover something new. Sometimes I would find a work and I felt it was difficult, but then I’d come back to it after some time and I’d understand it and love it. I think that culture has a particularly important role in society: we learn how to look at things differently, and it pushes our boundaries—that’s what art does.”

Renowned artists from 45 different nationalities will be represented across the auction, including Richard Prince, Georg Baselitz, Wolfgang Tillmans, Rudolf Stingel, Sterling Ruby, Gilbert & George, Adriana Varejão and Cindy Sherman.

The exhibition is on view from September 8 through September 13, 2017 at Sotheby’sGallery, 34-35 New Bond Street, London W1A 2AA.

Mario Testino’s art collection goes up for auction at Sotheby’s in Los Angeles

One of the most influential fashion and portrait photographers of our time, Mario Testino kick-started his photographer career as a freelancer for Vogue and Vanity Fair after a chance encounter.

In his 40-year practice as a photographer, he gained worldwide attention with his unique talent in capturing his subjects candidly and effortlessly. Testino has documented A-list celebrities, supermodels and artists, as well as many royals, including his most memorable sitting with Diana, Princess of Wales, commissioned for Vanity Fair in 1997.

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In 2012 Mario Testino established the not-for-profit MUSEO MATE in Lima to promote and support local and global culture in Peru. 

His impressive contemporary art collection is now at auction at Sotheby’s revealing the artist as collector, patron and collaborator. All proceeds will go toward the expansion of the centre’s programme of exhibitions, residencies and education initiatives, ensuring its success in the future.

Some of the artists include Adriana VarejãoRichard Prince, Georg Baselitz, Wolfgang Tillmans, Cindy Sherman, and Gilbert & George.

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The Shake It Up: Works from the Mario Testino Collection auction will be taking place in Los Angeles from August 15 to 17.

Tagsmart weekly discovery: the art of Dave White

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Born in 1971 in Liverpool, Dave White brings a fresh take to the traditional paint-to-canvas medium. He uses oil and watercolour to create works that are filled with expression, emotion and dynamism. Known for his animal series’, White captures creatures from the natural world with astonishing vividness, exploiting colour, texture and tonality to generate a unique aesthetic. His works are characterised by an energy of movement, achieved through the sharp splashes, drips and strokes of paint that fill the canvas.

Opening tonight, White is exhibiting his Apex series in the MIX: Summer Group Show 2017 at Lawrence Alkin Gallery

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The artist has also recently donated the edition number 30/30 of his Gold Leaf Tiger for Artsy’s online auction to raise funds for the Grenfell Tower victims. The auction runs until 1 August and the grant goes to The London Community Foundation

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White has also taken part in the largest installation of public art ever to appear in London BT ArtBox, designed the trainers for the American Olympic basketball team and worked alongside Nike, a collaboration which continues until today. His work has been exhibited at international art fairs and in New York, London, Shanghai, Miami, Rotterdam and Dallas, to name a few. 

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As his career continues to reach new heights, and his work attracts more and more attention, Dave White remains fundamentally a brilliant painter.

Tom Toumazis MBE at PAIAM Conference 2017

Tom Toumazis MBE, Tagsmart’s Executive Chairman, was invited to speak at this year’s Professional Advisors to the International Art Market Conference, which took place at Sotheby’s Grosvenor Galleries at Aeolian Hall on 11 July. 

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He took the opportunity to discuss Tagsmart’s journey, which began with Steve Cooke, our Chief Innovation Officer, and renowned frame-maker Mark Darbyshire. Led by Tom, in the past couple of years we gradually assembled an esteemed board of advisers formed of the UK’s foremost security, art conservation, software and materials science experts. 

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Throughout Tagsmart’s evolution, we have endeavoured to create a solution which appeals and conforms to our clients needs and wants. We have worked extensively alongside scientists and conservators ensuring our Tag does not interfere with the artwork and is applied with ease. The outcome is our triple-lock solution for authentication encompassing the DNA Tag providing proof of origin, the Certificate sealing ownership and our digital Provenance Record acting as a digital passport over time. 

After a year since Tagsmart’s launch, we are pleased to be working with some of the UK’s leading artists including Mario Testino and Gary Hume and to have tagged over 5,000 works of art. 

We are honoured to have shared our story with other professionals in the field, discussing the challenges of establishing authenticity and how we believe technology is leading the way forwards in addressing this issue. 

JLT warns art dealers after £8.5 million painting forgery

Major broker Jardine Lloyd Thompson has warned art dealers against the impact of art forgeries after the painting An Unknown Man, thought to be by Dutch artist Frans Hals and sold for £8.5 million was recently declared fake. 

According to Sotheby’s, tests revealed that the painting was “undoubtedly” forged. The firm had “rescinded the sale and reimbursed the client in full.”

JLT warned that in many cases, collectors will not be able to claim against their insurance if they discover that their art pieces are forgeries. However, there are certain policies that cover these cases, according to Daniel Smith, a member of JLT’s Fine Art, Jewellery and Specie team.

“Although the take-up of this sort of policy is relatively low, I think we’ll start to see a significant increase as the possibilities of more forged Old Masters are uncovered,” he said.

Smith said dealers can purchase professional indemnity insurance to protect themselves from customers’ lawsuits resulting from art forgeries. However, most dealers don’t bother getting cover because of the costly nature of the policy, Smith noted.

“In light of this recent issue as well as a number of similar high-profile forgery cases this year, I would urge dealers to consider safeguarding themselves against the impact – both in terms of money and reputation – that cases such as these can have on their business,” Smith said.

Aboriginal artefacts in Sotheby's auction prompt questions over provenance

“I defy anyone to look at these and not feel uncomfortable,” says Indigenous artist Jonathan Jones of the broad shields listed in the catalogue for the Sotheby’s London auction of Aboriginal Art on September 21.

At first glance, the listing may seem relatively innocuous. However, little is known about how this particular shield came to be in private hands. 

Jones, along with National Museum of Australia senior curator Carol Cooper, is on a mission to find out exactly where shields like this came from, right down to identifying the people who made them. He has set up an informal group of Aboriginal elders from around south-east Australia who he consults when he and Cooper come across similar pieces at auction, in private collections or in institutions.

A number of 19th-century weapons such as boomerangs and spears are listed in the Sotheby’s auction catalogue, alongside pieces from the Fiona Brockhoff collection of early Aboriginal sculpture and contemporary Indigenous art from the estate of Gabrielle Pizzi.

Asked about the provenance of items such as the shield, Tim Klingender, a consultant on Aboriginal art to Sotheby’s London, said it was true some items had been taken as curios in the 18th century and had remained in private hands since, only to be rediscovered in homes in England and Scotland.

Regarding recent cases in which items had been returned by institutions, such as the Shiva statue repatriated to India by the National Gallery of Australia after it was found to have been stolen from a temple, Klingender says there is no comparison. Unlike the Shiva, there is no suggestion the weapons listed at Sotheby’s were stolen, nor their ownership history falsified. However, he says it is true that some ethnographers collected many items such as bark paintings without recording “a single name”.

Jones, whose research focuses specifically on shields, says the lack of detail is deeply problematic. “It’s a challenging idea. If something was sold was it under duress? Were people in a position where they could refuse a sale?,” he asks.

Caveat emptor: why the art world is a legal landmine

It is a privilege afforded to lawyers to observe the problems faced by individuals, families and trustees in respect of their assets and seek to find solutions. Disputes concerning art, antiquities and cultural assets – sometimes more colourful and interesting than the object in question – can be particularly emotive.

One aspect that differentiates the market for art and antiquities from the trade in other valuable assets is that it is largely unregulated; anyone can buy and sell freely without having to comply with any prescribed formal requirements. As the value of such assets increase and the stakes get higher, so does the potential for things to go wrong. This can lead to interesting issues concerning, provenance, attribution, legal title and forgeries (to name a few examples).

The provenance and attribution of an artwork or antiquity are often key considerations. A connection to a well-known historic collection, or authorship by a renowned artist or maker can enhance desirability and thus add significant value. Of course, the reverse is also true in cases where the provenance or attribution turn out to be incorrect.

One can imagine the disappointment of finding out, as one of our client’s did, that artworks, which had been sold as being by a highly regarded artist whose works were in a European royal collection, were actually by a minor artist of no significance and worth many times less than the price paid.

Navigating between fact and ‘sales puff’ can often be a challenge. Does a statement that an artwork is of exceptional quality mean that it is unusually good, or is this just a statement of opinion by the seller? Buyers of art have to be cautious about readily accepting statements made about it. Even pre-eminent experts can sometimes have differing opinions. Matters such as attribution, and the physical condition of an artwork can be difficult to assess when restoration and underlying issues are not always visible to the untrained eye.

The case of Thwaytes v Sotheby’s provides a noteworthy example. Mr Thwaytes consigned a painting, The Cardsharps, to Sotheby’s for sale by auction, putting them on notice that it may be a work by the renowned old master, Caravaggio. Sotheby’s experts examined the painting, but took the view that it was a copy by an unknown artist. The picture could, of course, have sold for many multiples of the sale price had it been sold as a work by Caravaggio.

The buyer, a renowned art scholar, later identified the picture as being an autograph copy by Caravaggio himself. Mr Thwaytes sued Sotheby’s for negligence, but was unsuccessful; the court found that Sotheby’s had not breached their duty since there was nothing that would have been visible on a visual inspection that should have counteracted Sotheby’s view that the painting did not have Caravaggio ‘potential’. The case illustrates just how subjective authenticating a work of art can be.

Unscrupulous sellers - of which, unfortunately, there are a few around - will often make grandiose statements about the artworks/antiquities they are selling in order to secure a sale. It is, therefore, vital for any buyer to make sure that the object being sold is what it purports to be, or at least ensure that there is adequate protection in place should things go wrong.

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.

Museum admits all paintings in high-profile exhibition are fake

The Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts publicly apologised for failing to verify the authenticity of 17 paintings on display at an exhibition that have been confirmed as fake.

A panel of famous artists and experts and officials found 15 of the paintings, supposedly the works of legendary artists such as Nguyen Tu Nghiem and Bui Xuan Phai, were copies.

Two others were found to be works of other artists. At least one living artist, Thanh Chuong, has claimed one of the two paintings as his.

All the paintings at the show are owned by Vu Xuan Chung, who claimed to have acquired them from Jean-Francois Hubert, a known expert on Vietnamese art and a former senior consultant for giant auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

Here's why this small painting costs $20 million

This month, New York will once again host a “gigaweek” of postwar, impressionist, modern, and contemporary art auctions, where hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of paintings and sculptures will sell every night for five days in a row.

The current narrative sending jitters through the art world is that the market, especially at the high end, is experiencing “a correction,” which is a polite way of saying that wildly expensive paintings are becoming slightly less so. Still, the evening auctions have more than enough multimillion-dollar, museum-quality artworks that will (if they sell) quiet naysayers—at least for now.