A1 News Roundup

Megacollector Buys World's Priciest Dirty Painting (By Picasso, Of Course)

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Megacollector Buys World's Priciest Dirty Painting (By Picasso, Of Course)
Picasso's Le Rêve (1932)

— THE BIG STORY —

When things get rough—because of a breakup, trouble a the job, etc.—some people like to indulge in a little so-called "retail therapy," assuaging their internal pain by indulging in a shopping spree at the local mall or what have you. Other people, like SAC Capital billionaire Steve Cohen, who's at the center of an ever tightening federal insider-trading probe, buy a $155 million Picasso (and a $60 million oceanfront Hamptons house, perhaps to have a place to put it). Let's look at two of the most salient aspects of this impulse purchase at the heart of what New York magazine called Cohen's "Week of YOLO."

While not the single most expensive painting ever purchased (that would be Cezanne's Card Players, bought by Qatar's royal family for $250 million), Le Rêve is certainly the priciest borderline-pornographic picture ever sold. Painted in 1932 as a portrait of a sleeping Marie-Thérèse Walter, it is a testament to Picasso's erotic obsession with his 22-year-old mistress, who inspired the most sensual canvases of his career: lost in what seems to be a reverie (the "rêve" of the title"), Walter reclines as her blouse slides down, while her strategically placed interlocking hands suggest her privater areas. (Meanwhile, the shape of the pink color mass making up the side of her face indicates that her dream is not of the most innocent variety.) Clearly, the libidinal fireworks going off in this painting would be enough to make a less worldly collector blush.

The other thing to know about Le Rêve is, of course, that it was previously most famous as the victim of the ultimate party foul. In 2006, then-owner Steve Wynn—a casino magnate who was, as it so happens, preparing to sell the painting to Cohen for $135 million—was giving a tour of his Las Vegas office's art collection when, as a combined result of his tendency to gesticulate broadly and an eye condition that limits his peripheral vision, he drove his elbow right through the canvas. (Nora Ephron, who was on the tour, has the gut-wrenching play-by-play.) The value of the painting immediately plummeted, the sale to Cohen was called off, and repairs were hastily made.

Now, however, things are different. Iconic Picassos of Marie-Thérèse Walter have never been in more demand, as a result of the 1932 portrait Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust selling for a record-breaking $106.5 million at Christie's in 2010. And Wynn, perhaps, is suddenly willing to pay top dollar for a symbol of resilience—a reminder that, even when one's very fabric is torn asunder in a humiliatingly public way, it's possible to regain, and even surpass, one's former glory

— QUOTE OF THE WEEK —

"The clustering of hundreds of galleries in several neighborhoods has meant that a huge swath of the art world is continually being presented at our doorstep. That is changing, and changing fast. These days, the art world is large and spread out, happening everywhere at once. A shrinking fraction of galleries’ business is done when collectors come to a show. Selling happens year-round, at art fairs, auctions, biennials, and big exhibitions, as well as online via JPEG files and even via collector apps. Gallery shows are now just another cog in the global wheel. Many dealers admit that some of their collectors never set foot in their actual physical spaces. The beloved linchpin of my viewing life is playing a diminished role in the life of art. And I fear that my knowledge of art—and along with it the self-knowledge that comes from looking at art—is shrinking." 

Jerry Saltz in a long, deeply personal New York magazine feature about his fear that the globalized, Internet-enabled, art-fair-driven metauniverse that the art world has become is threatening the way brick-and-mortar galleries fulfill a community function by staging physical, hyper-local shows

— MUST READ — 

These Were the Biggest Exhibitions of 2012 — The Art Newspaper has released its annual museum-attendance survey, with the biggest contemporary shows including Daniel Buren outside Paris's Grand Palais (6,498 per day), Francesca Woodman at the Guggenheim (3,501 per day), and Cindy Sherman at MoMA (5,700 visitors per day). (TAN

“Don’t Even Think Horse” — That's a piece of Zen advice that artist Nick Cave gave to the dancers making up the 30 colorful horses he let loose in Grand Central Terminal for his new Heard NY performance, a collaboration with Creative Time intended to be a "transformative moment" for commuters passing through the famed hub. (NYT

Julian Schnabel Is Back, Baby! — It's official, the '80s enfant terrible and now accomplished filmmaker and expectant father (with model May Anderson) is staging the art-world comeback that everyone knew was bound to happen sooner or later… so get used to it. (Gallerist)

"Art History Without the History" — That complaint lies at the heart of critic Ben Davis's critique of MoMA's "Inventing Abstraction" show, which he says ignores the roiling context of total war and social sundering that Western abstract art arose from. (Artinfo)

The Art Behind Bioshock: Infinite? — This might be a bit of a stretch, but the focal statue of white-supremacist villain Comstock in the blockbuster new video game—possibly the most talked-about visual-culture event of the season—seems to owe an odd art-historical debt to John Steuart Curry's 1939 portrait of abolitionist John Brown. (NYT)

See Reed Krakoff's Art Collection — That the fashion titan is also a connoisseur of art and design is clear from this profile by Judd Tully, who visits his Upper East Side townhouse to tour the works by Gottleib, Dubuffet, Morris Louis, the Lalannes, and more. (Artinfo)  

Hidden Trove of Basquiat Treasures Emerges — While thousands of people line up daily to see the sweeping collection of Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings at Gagosian, it turns out that his work is also on view at another location in the city—the old 12th Street and Avenue B apartment of his ex-girlfriend, Alexis Adler, where he made paintings on a wall, a radiator, and a door and left other ephemera that are currently being catalogued. (Artinfo)

First Online Biennial Releases List — The novel event, called BiennaleOnline and boasting a roster of real-world supercurators including Daniel Birnbaum and Hans Ulrich Obrist, will include work by such international artists as Ragnar Kjartansson, Susan Hefuna, Hanna Liden, Anna Parkina, and Pavel Wolberg. (Artinfo

Meet Barry McGee, Reluctant Street Art Legend — Carol Kino has a lovely profile in the New York Times on the San Francisco artist that frames him as his city's most influential art star, but one whose gallery career still conflicts with his world-renowned legacy of spray-painting rooftops and other public surfaces under the name Twist. (NYT)

Dave Hickey Pissed Off Some Canadians — The vaunted and now ostensibly retired critic traveled to Canada's Guelph University and delivered a lecture lambasting his academic audience for being milquetoast betrayers of "Western civilization," insisting that they either quit or start running their schools less like theory factories and more like "an athletic department" where you "demand that your students can perform a jump shot." (Artinfo)

Know Your Anti-Art Mayoral Candidates — One of the pols vying for the New York office, deputy mayor Joseph J. Lhota, is primarily known in the art world as the as the "tip of an unbending Giuliani spear aimed" at the Brooklyn Museum during the censorship battle over its 1999 "Sensation" show, during which he threatened (in vain) to defund the institution if they didn't remove Chris Ofili's dung-and-porn-encrusted Virgin Mary. (NYT)

— ART MARKET —

Frustration Over 20x200 Collapse — The site has incurred a barrage of complaints from dissatisfied customers who placed orders before management turmoil caused the closure of the Jen Bekman-founded enterprise and have not received their paid-for artworks. (Artinfo

When There's NADA in the Frieze[r]... — Check the Fridge Art Fair, the latest to join next month's insurgent Frieze Art Fair week, taking place at the Lower East Side's Gallery Onetwentyeight and including 12 exhibitors from some lesser known art destinations, like Latvia and Stockholm. (Artinfo)

Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery Is Closing — The highly regarded Chelsea gallery, which represents artists including Amy Granat, Billy Sullivan, and Mika Rottenberg, is closing after nearly a quarter of a century in business, with the dealer citing her frustration with the speculation, market-obsession, and corporate-style professionalization of the contemporary art world. (TAN)

Paris Gallery Shuts Its Doors — After 19 years in the business, Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont—which has represented such artists as Jeff Koons, Keith Haring, and Shirin Neshat—is closing, claiming that the future of the business belongs to either niche or mega-galleries. (AiA)

Paul Schimmel to Hauser & Wirth? — That's the scuttlebutt Sarah Douglas hears, with the famous curator reportedly in talks with the megagallery about opening a Los Angeles outpost as his next gig (following his departure from L.A. MOCA last summer). (Gallerist)

— IN & OUT — 

The art critic and astonishingly capacious scholar Thomas McEvilley, today considered an indispensable force is changing the art establishment's perception of non-Western art from being a lesser, primitive source of inspiration for white artists to being towering, self-sufficient expressions of unqualified art, has passed away at age 73. (NYT and, movingly, NYM

Appropriation artist Adam Parker Smith's light-fingered show of artworks and other objects he "appropriated" (i.e. stole) from other artists' studios has gone on view at Lu Magnus gallery, and it's getting a ton of attention. (NYT

You've probably heard by now, but new paintings by much-buzzed emerging outsider artist George W. Bush have hit the Web, and while they're not quite as accomplished as the previous batch—which included the timeless bathroom self-portraits—they're not terrible! (Gawker)

Chuck Close and his band of artist representatives have returned to court to challenge a ruling knocking down California's Resale Royalty Act, which for 33 years entitled artists to a five-percent cut of auction sales in the state (a form of compensation widely practiced in Europe under the term "droite de suite"). (Artinfo)

Detroit's Museum of Contemporary Art has announced that Elysia Borowy-Reeder, formerly the executive director of Raleigh's Contemporary Art Museum, will become the new executive director of the seven-year-old institution, with a primary focus on heightening youth involvement and community engagement at the museum. (Press Release)

The CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts has announced that its new director will be Anthony Huberman, currently the head of the Lower East Side's tiny Artist’s Institute, succeeding Jens Hoffmann, who has been appointed a deputy director at the Jewish Museum. (Press Release)

The Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present  documentary, filmed by Matthew Akers around the time of the artist's MoMA retrospective of the same name, has won a Peabody Award. (Press Release) 

Watch Tilda Swinton take a nap in a glass box at MoMA

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