A1 News Roundup

Contemporary Art Makes the Old Masters Look Cheap

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Contemporary Art Makes the Old Masters Look Cheap
The "Rockefeller Madonna" by Botticelli

— THE BIG STORY —

So much tumult has been occuring in the contemporary art world recently that its hard to pick one big story, so this week we'll take refuge in the calm, hushed preserves of the Old Masters, who last week were the subject of a slate of much-watched auctions. First, it's worth saying that one reason the sector is so soothing—imagine a cool stone-walled room in the Cloisters—is that there isn't mind-boggling amounts of money in it. Here are the numbers.

Sotheby's came out ahead with $80 million in sales, notching records for Pompeo Girolamo Batoni ($11.4 million for the 1751 painting Susanna and the Elders) and Hans Memling ($4 million for the recently rediscovered panel Christ Blessing).Meanwhile the Christie's sale achieved $62.6 million, setting records for Fra Bartolommeo ($12.9 million for his c. 1490 Madonna and Child), Botticelli ($10.4 million for Madonna and Child With Young Saint John the Baptist, aka "The Rockefeller Madonna"), and Dürer ($866,500 for his 1515 woodcut The Rhinoceros).  

That's right—both sales together took in less than half of the $400 million contemporary art sale that Christie's held last November, and all of those records mentioned together total less than the $43.8 million set by Warhol'Statue of Liberty. Wow, huh?

— QUOTE OF THE WEEK —

"There was no group or manifesto. It was just certain people at a certain time making art in London. I don't know if there's that much in common between us, apart from wanting to bring real life into art, and not just make art for art's sake.That said, before us, there couldn’t have been a Tate Modern. British art was very moribund but then somehow we came along and after us, art became a mainstream subject. It was central to people's lives, like with music, culture and fashion." — YBA sculptor Marc Quinn on the impact his raucous generation of British artists had on contemporary art

— MUST READ —

A Modest Proposal From Roberta Smith — In a piece that's sure to stir up conversation, the New York Times art critic suggests that museum curators display folk and outsider art—in which often untrained, solitary artists "translate[] intense personal visions into extraordinarily compelling artworks"—in roughly equal proportion to work by traditional fine artists, who have historically been ranked by their utter mastery (if not outward reflection) of academic techniques, or at least their thoroughgoing engagement with the art-historical conversation. (NYT

First Online Biennial to Debut in Spring — Former Documenta curator Jan Hoet will launch BiennaleOnline this April with virtual representations of works chosen by a passel of well-known supercurators, including the Guggenheim's Nancy Spector and former Venice Biennale curator Daniel Birnbaum. (Art in America

Updating "When Attitudes Become Form" — Alanna Martinez talks to curator Jens Hoffmann about his new show at MOCAD that pays homage to legendary curator Harald Szeemann's 1969 exhibition "Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form: Works-Concepts-Processes-Situations-Information," which introduced audiences to currents in land art and conceptual art. (Artinfo

The Met Goes to China — The Metropolitan Museum of Art has struck a historic partnership with two-year-old National Museum of China, sending 130 nature-themed pieces (how uncontroversial) to the institution for a show that opened on Friday. (NYT)

Artspace's Own Adam Fields Talks Collecting — The young collector who just happens to run our partner relations operation talks to Racked Chicago about his approach to buying and displaying art. (Racked)

Artist Jack Pierson Describes His Favorite Thing — And it's a chair made out of plywood and an orange crate. (NYT)

Why Museums Burn the Midnight Oil — Julia Halperin takes a look at the benefits and costs of the new trend sweeping the museum world: all-night admission (c.f. Christian Marclay's The Clock at MoMA). (Artinfo

Yalies Learn From the Masters — The already preeminent Yale art program has a new amenity in the newly remade Yale University Art Gallery's Levin Study Gallery, where teachers can assemble works from the museum's deep collection for use as object lessons—which is a good deal better than a slide show. (NYT

20 Must-See Art Documentaries — Artinfo has a lenghtly list, but omits several of the great older gems, like Cluzot's The Mystery of Picasso, as well as recent classics like the Ray Johnson doc How to Draw a Bunny. (Artinfo

— ART MARKET —

Christie's to Shutter Haunch of Venison — The auction house has announced that in March it will close the gallery it somewhat controversially acquired in 2007, absorbing its market activities into its own private-sales operation, and the fate of the artists the gallery representes remains unclear. (Bloomberg

The Outsider Art Fair Triumphs — So says Roberta Smith, who writes that with the 20-year-old event's first edition in the former Dia building in Chelsea "this fair has rarely made a better case for itself." (NYT)

Artists That the Market Forgot? —Shane Ferro has a list of artists who were once market darlings only to have the spotlight move on, from Bouguereau to Theo Van Doesburg to Donald Sultan, but knowing the cyclical nature of the market she might as well be pointing these artists out as savvy investments. (Artinfo)

20x200 Goes Dark — The low-priced editions site has gone offline, with reports and rumors swirling about a massive company shakeup, though details are still slow in emerging. (Artinfo and Artinfo)

— IN & OUT —

Tracey Emin's neons have begun lighting up Times Square (a coy play on the area's red-light legacy) as digital versions of her famous works have become the latest subject of Times Square Art's Midnight Moment series. (Press Release)  

London's Victoria & Albert Museum has launched a groundbreaking residency for video-game designers to create works that relate to pieces in the institution's collection. (Artinfo)

Spain has tapped Lara Almarcegui, an artist who explores themes of urban decay, to represent the country in the coming Venice Biennale. (Artforum)

The Brooklyn Museum has appointed former CUNY art-history professor Susan L. Beningson to be its new assistant curator of Asian art. (Gallerist NY)

Famed German artist Georg Baselitz sets a number of groups' noses out of joint (female artists, the media) in a lenghty interview with Der Spiegel. (Der Spiegel

 

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